A Short Account of my Training by Tony Henrys.
I trained in Karate and Judo from the age of sixteen but did not become truly interested in the arts of Taijiquan and Qigong until the late 1970’s. I was always seeking something more - that ‘Spirit’ or certain something that is always talked about in Martial arts but rarely found. At that time, I was a Detective in what is now the Serious Crime Squad, had been involved in scores of real-life fight situations and was naturally interested in the defence aspect of the arts. However, I came to seek a further dimension to what I was doing and travelled to London to find someone who could authentically transmit the art of Taijiquan without deviation.
In the early 1980’s, I commenced training in the art of Yang style Taijiquan with Master Chu King Hung, the European representative of the late Grandmaster Yang Sau Chung, the eldest son of the late Grandmaster Yang Cheng Fu (1880-1936). Master Chu’s power and presence immediately impressed me. I had believed myself to be proficient in the fighting arts yet found myself incapable of dealing with the prodigious and overwhelming power of this art. I became hooked and regularly travelled to London and later to Leicester to train at the local branch of the International Tai Chi Chuan Association, of which Grandmaster Yang Sau Chung was President until his death in Hong Kong in 1985.
I trained like this for four years and attended monthly advanced classes at the London HQ of the International Tai Chi Chuan Association, spending the equivalent of a week’s wages per month for the privilege. I subsequently became Assistant Instructor of the Leicester branch of the International Tai Chi Chuan Association, and, after a year of asking Master Chu, was given permission to receive private tuition from his Chief Instructor, Mr. John Solagobade.
I continued intense training in Taijiquan and Qigong and later made contact with Erle Montaigue of the World Taiji Boxing Association, based in Australia. I trained with some Instructors in this Country, and was subsequently appointed an Instructor with the World Taiji Boxing Association. I was awarded my Instructor's certificate through visiting Australian Instructors with whom I trained.
My own intense training continued in Leicester and London where I decided to seek out as much knowledge as possible. To this end, I had planned to study with Grandmaster Yang Sau Chung, but following his death, I resolved instead to visit Asia to seek further knowledge of my chosen style of Taijiquan.
As time passed, I became more and more disillusioned because of the vast amount of the differing expressions of the Yang style, and more convinced of the necessity to visit mainland China. My research led me to believe that the highest living authority on the art was Grandmaster Fu Zhongwen, Head of the Yong Nian Taijiquan Association. He was the nephew and sole surviving disciple of the great Master Yang Cheng Fu (third generation Yang family) and a teacher of Yang Zhenduo.
My first attempt to study with Master Fu almost ended in disaster due to the political events at the time: I arrived in China in June 1989, four days before the Tiananmen Square massacre, and was subsequently arrested at gunpoint, interrogated and ejected from the Country by the Chinese authorities. Although I managed to practise with some other Masters of Taijiquan and Qigong during my visit, I returned to England somewhat disappointed by the missed opportunity to meet Grandmaster Fu.
I returned to China in May 1990 and on that occasion I met Grandmaster Fu. It was everything I had hoped for and more. Fu, then eighty-four years old, had a remarkable radiance about him and embodied Taijiquan. Here was the man who, from the 1930’s and onwards was famed throughout China as a formidable exponent of his art. As one observer of the day commented, “No-one ever got past him". He was made aware of my previous attempts to see him, and, in a typical Chinese fashion, was impressed by the tenacity I had shown.
I soon learned that there are three kinds of Taijiquan: Simple (or Shortened) Taijiquan as performed in the parks by the masses; Performing Taijiquan practised by Wushu students in competitions; and Classical Taijiquan practised by Masters, disciples and students of the few original great styles of Taijiquan which have been perfected through the generations. Grandmaster Fu had zeal and passion for transmitting 'real' Taijiquan handed to him by his uncle, the great Yang Cheng Fu. He taught me what Traditional Yang style Taijiquan is and what it is not in accordance with the definition and desire of his Master and emphasised the health and well-being aspects of the art whilst not neglecting the defensive aspects.
My interest in Qigong has also endured and deepened over many years. I have practised with approximately fifteen Masters in China and had insights into some of the leading styles of Qigong. Many styles exist, some placing great emphasis on healing, some on increasing power to aid martial skills, and some concentrating on all the varied aspects of our being. My own favourite is Wudang Shen Quan style Qigong, originated by the legendary Taoist Immortal Zhong San Fong (Chang San Feng), who is also credited by many with the founding of Taijiquan in the Fourteenth Century. The art has been handed down from master to disciple through the centuries and was taught to me by Master Wang Zhigang, Director of Wudang Shen Quan Qigong Scientific Research Association, Shanghai, China.
It is my desire to communicate these great arts as accurately as possible. The desires of my Teachers are that they be practised with elegance and with sung (looseness and emptiness of mind and body). This method of practice will cultivate the correct but formidable powers and forces for our highest benefit. These powers are everywhere present and in abundance in our bodies. They can only be realised through persistent yet unmotivated practice which should under no circumstances be harsh or aggressive. Their message is one of softness and gentleness which should never be mistaken for weakness. To ‘invest in loss’ means to give up rather than to pursue. Only in this way may we truly know the vast richness, depth and marvellous subtleties as desired by the incomparable founder of the arts.
My primary concern now is with healing, defensive applications and internal principles of the arts in all their varied aspects. It is my desire to honestly transmit the ‘insights’ and ‘realisations’ of these great arts to anyone requiring more than a superficial knowledge of the forms and theories, to anyone who is open to receive the ‘supreme ultimate’ innate knowledge the arts convey themselves through sincerity and simplicity.