Interview with Jane Yao
Jane Yao (Yao Pei Ching) is a San Francisco based teacher of Hao and Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua Chang, and Chi Gong. Yao Sifu has over 60 years experience in internal arts, with more than half of that time spent studying Tai Chi Chuan and Ba Gua Chang full time. She lived, studied and taught in Shanghai until moving to San Francisco in 1986. Following her arrival in the United States, she became an active member of the American Chinese Chi Gong Association where she continues to serve as a consultant and master instructor. She led the San Francisco Martial Arts Delegation to the 2nd Overseas Chinese Martial Arts tournament in Los Angeles. There she won first place awards for both Tai Chi Push-hands and individual Tai Chi performance. Many of her students won honors at the top 5 Shanghai Tai Chi Push-hands contests. Delegations of the Japanese Tai Chi Chuan Association frequently visited Shanghai to receive her instruction. One of her American students attended the 7th World Cup International Martial Arts Championship in Hungary in 1999 and won the Overall Internal Grand Champion by performing Ba Gua Chang. She is frequently a judge at different kung fu competitions in the San Francisco area and elsewhere.
This interview was conducted by Andrew Yee, a student of Yao Sifuís now living in Melbourne.
Yao Sifu, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.
You are most welcome, it is my pleasure.
How did you become interested in Tai Chi Chuan?
When I was a young girl in Shanghai, my Grandmother would practice Chi Gong at our home. As children normally do, I began to imitate her movements. My Grandmother was delighted and became my first teacher. At the age of 7, I started training with a Buddhist abbot in meditation and Chi Gong. Later, as an adult, one of the elders taught me some martial arts and I became increasingly interested in these practices. When there was nothing more for him to teach me, I looked for other teachers.
Who were the teachers you found and what did you study?
I first learned Wu Chien Chuan Tai Chi Chuan (Wu Style) and push hands from Master Ma Yu Liang and his wife Master Wu Ying Ha. After many years of practice with Master Wu and Master Ma, I met Master Hao Shao Ru and studied Wu Yu Hsiang (Hao Style) Tai Chi Chuan with him, eventually becoming a disciple. Later on, I studied Ba Gua Chang and Hsingyi Chuan with Master Chi Chin Shan. In addition to these, I also studied Wu Dang Tai Chi Chuan with my friend Master Pei Hsi Jung and Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan with Master Feng Zhixxian.
What is the curriculum in your school?
Students begin by learning Tai Chi/Chi Gong based on the Hao style. The purpose of this form is to build up the internal aspects of the student as well as develop physical coordination. Western students tend to have tight muscles and joints, so it is necessary for them to learn to relax and increase their flexibility before progressing onto other forms. There are also supplemental nei gong and wai gong exercises.
Once they have a basic foundation, they will move onto Wu Chien Chuan Tai Chi Chuan or Ba Gua Chang depending upon individual aptitude, personality, and interest. In the Ba Gua Chang training, the stepping method is begun on the straight line then progresses to the circle walking. Students must master the stepping method before advancing to the palm changes and animal forms. Paired exercises and/or push hands are not taught until a student has developed a strong foundation.
What is your philosophy towards teaching?
The focus of my teaching is the internal training. The aim is to be able to grasp not only the methods of strengthening the tendons and bones for self defense, but also the ways of connecting the spirit to benefit chi and set tranquility into motion. One then achieves the point where both the static and dynamic sides combine into one identified unit. This is an excellent method for improving health to prevent illness, treat many chronic diseases, promote rehabilitation, and increase longevity. It also enhances the function of the nervous system to allow clear thoughts and increased ability for self-defense.
Thatís certainly a different approach to Tai Chi Chuan training. I see many groups focus on external training Ėthe biomechanics if you will or learning many forms, but not many placing the emphasis on the internal aspects.
The internal is harder to learn and teach.
What brings you to Melbourne?
I will be attending the 8th World Cup International Martial Arts Championship in Tokyo at the beginning of October. Two of my students will be competing, one with Tai Chi Chuan and one with Ba Gua Chang. After this, I travel to Shanghai to visit my family, then on to Melbourne to visit another student. My student and I thought it would be fun to share with others while I was visiting Melbourne, so he put together the seminars.
Yao Sifu, I want to thank you for sharing your time.
Jane Yao will be conducting a series of seminars/workshops in Melbourne in October 2001. For more information, please contact Andrew Yee on 03 9593 6923 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org