Cheng Man Ching’s 37 Forms of Tai Chi
The 37 Forms of Tai Chi have today become synonymous with the Tai Chi of Professor Cheng Man Ching. Although Professor Cheng never referred to his Tai Chi in this way, but rather a shorter version of the Yang form, it has become a popular title to use. Some still use “Cheng Style Tai Chi”, a name first coined by my teacher Wu Kuo Chung but later copyrighted by others. Professor Cheng, however, would certainly not have approved of such a name. In truth, the 37 Forms bear close resemblance to the Yang forms, yet have quite a few subtle differences made by Cheng. As is well known, the primary reason for Cheng to develop this shortened version was after being tasked to teach the Chinese military in a short space of time. He felt the Yang style of 108 forms to be too long. This is also a reason why this style of Tai Chi has been popularised around the world.
Origin of Zuo Style Tai Chi
Much mystery has surrounded the origin of the Zuo style of Tai Chi that was treasured by Professor Cheng Man Ching but little shared with his disciples. Master Wu Kuo Chung was passed down some of the secrets of this art by Professor Cheng in the final months of his life. His premature death, totally unexpected at the time, meant that he was probably unable to impart all his knowledge of the Zuo style. This meant that the existence of Zuo Tai Chi was emphatically denied by Professor Cheng’s other students. However, Master Wu continued to affirm that it did exist and in his early writings mentioned its place of origin in China as recounted to him by Professor Cheng. The story goes that a famous martial artist called Zuo Lai Peng learnt the art from an unknown Taoist priest in Shanxi Province, China. It was here that the root of the Zuo style of Tai Chi was founded, in a place called San Qing Guan (三清觀) beyond the East Gate near the township of Taiyuan. It was here that Professor Cheng’s teacher, Zhang Qin Lin, studied with Zuo Lai Peng after returning from Beijing. Surely then the discovery of San Qing Guan could prove the existence of Zuo Tai Chi.