This article originally appeared in the Pa Kua Chang Journal

I think that everyone who has ever studied the internal styles of Chinese martial arts has envisioned the martial arts "master" as a highly skilled, humble, wise, old sage-like individual who is intelligent, virtuous, and of high moral character. Unfortunately, in today's world, this ideal teacher is very much the exception instead of the rule. During the past six years, I have interviewed dozens of internal martial arts teachers in the United States, Canada, Europe, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mainland China and I have only met a few who would come close to having a character as described above. That is why it was so extremely refreshing for me to meet Zhang Yi Zhong (he romanizes his name as Chang I Chung). He is a man who emphasizes the development in sage-like qualities in his teaching and, more importantly, he embodies these qualities himself. Zhang is a highly skilled, intelligent, bright, humble, joyous, generous man who professes that through the study of internal martial arts one's aim should be becoming a sage, not a warrior. Being In his company is an absolute pleasurable and a completely positive experience.

I met Zhang Yi Zhong for the first time in January, 1996, however, I had heard about him for years. Every time I have ever interviewed any of Wang Shu Jin's early students, they have always pointed to Zhang as having been the "cream of the crop" (for more information about Wang Shu Jin, please see Pa Kua Chang Journal, Vol. 2 No. 2 and Vol. 5 No. 6). Whenever I tried to gain information as to his whereabouts, I would be told that he was somewhere in the United States, but I could never track him down. Luckily, last year I was put in contact with Joe Deisher, Zhang's student for the past 30 years, and was able to set up a meeting with Zhang. Although Zhang lives near Los Angeles, all of his teaching is done using Joe Deisher as his translator (they both speak fluent Japanese). Therefore, all of Zhang's teaching occurs in the Santa Cruz/San Jose area of California. Zhang has been teaching right in my backyard for years and I never even knew about it! Zhang Yi Zhong is a true treasure in the world of internal martial arts and it Is of great importance that a man of his skill, intelligence, and character is here in the United States teaching these arts. I hope that this article will help expose Zhang Yi Zhong and his teaching to more practitioners in the United States. He is a rare individual and what he has to teach needs to be preserved.

Zhang Yi Zhong's Background

Zhang Yi Zhong was born just West of Shanghai, China, in 1921. His martial arts career started with the study of Shaolin while he was still in elementary school. Zhang attended middle school and high school in Shanghai and during that time also started studying Wu style Tai Ji Quan. Zhang says that when he was in high school he had heard about the arts of Ba Gua Zhang and Xing Yi Quan through the reputation of Sun Lu Tang, but he did not study those arts. Another subject that Zhang studied while he was in Shanghai, which would prove valuable later in his life, was the Japanese language.

When Zhang was in his early twenties he got a job working for the Nationalist Government in Shanghai. World War II had just ended and with the Japanese withdrawal from Taiwan, the Chinese government needed to go to Taiwan and take things over from the Japanese. Zhang Yi Zhong was part of the contingent that went to Taiwan from mainland China in 1946 to help establish the Chinese government there. Zhang says that he was literally on the third ship to leave Shanghai after the end of WWII.

Historically, the internal styles of Chinese martial arts did not really begin appearing in Taiwan until 1948-1949 when the Northerners began fleeing the Communists in mainland China. Therefore, when Zhang arrived in Taiwan in 1946, the martial arts which were primarily being taught there where the Shaolin arts that had come over to Taiwan from Fu Jian Province. Zhang said that when he arrived in Taiwan, he continued practicing his Wu Style Tai Ji on his own, however, he was still very interested in continuing his study of martial arts in Taiwan. Since there was no Tai Ji, he went around to various instructors and learned whatever arts they were teaching. He says, with a slightly embarrassed expression, that as a young man he had a dream of being a martial arts movie choreographer, so he thought it would be good to study many different styles of martial arts.

Zhang's first exposure to the internal martial arts in Taiwan came from Wang Shu din's teaching of Chen Pan Ling's integrated Tai Ji system. At the time, Zhang was working for the treasury department. Next door to his office was the tax department. Zhang said that many of the individuals working in the tax department were interested in learning Tai Ji for health and so they contacted the local Martial Arts Association to see if they could get an instructor to come to the office and teach. Chen Pan Ling, who was the head of the Martial Arts Association, sent Wang Shu Jin.

When Wang showed up to teach at the government offices there were about 100 people interested in studying Tai Ji from him. Zhang said that he watched what Wang was teaching, and although he had never seen the particular form that was being taught. He thought it looked good, so he began taking the class while continuing to practice his Wu style Tai Ji on his own.

After Zhang began studying with Wang at work, he found out that the Martial Arts Association also had a weekend gathering. Zhang began attending these gatherings to further his study with Wang Shu Jin. At one of the practice sessions, Chen Pan Ling picked Zhang out of the crowd and began showing him some corrections and teaching him some new things. Zhang said that although Wang Shu Jin was the functional teacher at these classes, Chen Pan Ling and some of the other elders would occasionally give advise and suggestions. It was at these weekend gatherings that Zhang also studied Xing Yi Quan and Ba Gua Zhang with Wang Shu Jin.

When asked about the teaching styles of Chen Pan Ling and Wang Shu din, Zhang said that neither of these gentleman provided a great deal of detail in their teaching. He said that both teachers were highly skilled and very strong, however, they did not analyze and provide details about what they were doing, they just did it. Asking questions of the teacher was discouraged. Zhang said that if you asked a question, the teacher would become angry, so you really had to be clever to figure things out. Zhang said that these teachers would show the movements of the forms and give a small bit of explanation, but it was up to the student to practice hard and explore his or her own realizations about the movements and techniques.

In addition to Wang Shu Jin's Ba Gua, Zhang also studied another system of Ba Gua which was taught by a man named Wang Jia Rui in Jia Yi. Jia Yi is a town in Taiwan which lies between Tai Chung and Tai Nan. Zhang said that when he met Wang Jia Rui, he was already teaching himself, however, when he saw Wang perform at a martial arts demonstration he really liked what he saw and asked Wang if he could study from him. When Zhang met Wang Jia Rui, Wang was already in his seventies. Zhang said that Wang was skilled at both Ba Gua and Tong Bei and that Wang Jia Rei's Ba Gua was more complicated than the Ba Gua he learned from Wang Shu Jin. He also said that Wang Jia Rei's teaching was more application oriented.

In 1964, Zhang Yi Zhong and Wang Shu Jin were both invited to attend a martial arts event in Japan (Wang had been traveling to Japan to teach since 1960). During the event, those Japanese who were interested in learning the Chinese styles of martial arts were pleasantly surprised to find out that Zhang could speak their language. Eager to learn more than they could absorb during a short visit, a group of Japanese martial artists asked Zhang if he would stay in Japan and open up a Chinese martial arts school. Zhang agreed to do so and spent the next eight years living and teaching in Japan. Understanding why Zhang decided to stay and teach Chinese martial arts in Japan is to understand Zhang Yi Zhong, his teaching, and his philosophy.

Teaching the "Sage Arts" in Japan

Most Chinese of Zhang Yi Zhong's generation do not have many positive things to say about the Japanese. When the Japanese invaded China in the late 1930's through the end of WWlI, they were very brutal to the Chinese people. The Chinese people who lived through the tragedy still remember the brutality well and hate the Japanese aggressors for what they did to their country and their people. So why would Zhang Yi Zhong, a man who saw the Japanese brutality first hand during the war, want to live with these people and teach them his martial arts just 20 short years after his country was at war with Japan?

Zhang's long time student, Joe Deisher, who met Zhang while Zhang was teaching in Japan in 1967, says that the main reason Zhang wanted to teach the Chinese internal arts in Japan was to show the Japanese that gaining strength and power through aggression was not the way to live life or solve conflict. Deisher further explains that the Chinese character, wu, (the "martial" in "martial arts") combines the symbol for "spear" with the symbol for "stop." Thus the character "wu," which is central to both the Japanese and Chinese phrases for martial arts, refers to "stopping weapons." Zhang believes that "wu" of "martial arts" should not be about conquering an enemy, but about resolving a conflict. In Zhang's view, resolving the conflict does not mean that their must be a violent confrontation. The resolution can best be reached through nonviolent means. Zhang's purpose in teaching the Japanese about Chinese internal martial arts was to show that brute force, rigidity, power and aggression were not superior to flexibility, suppleness, refined skill, and intelligent employment of passiveness. True to his teaching and beliefs, when Zhang opened his school in Japan he called it a "Sage Arts" school instead of a "Martial Arts" school.

Zhang Yi Zhong says that it was not easy running a Chinese martial arts school in Japan in the 1960's. Many of the Japanese martial artists, proud of their martial tradition, came to Zhang's school challenging his abilities and questioning what he meant by calling his school "sage arts." Zhang certainly met these challenges, but he never viewed a challenge as a conflict where one person needed to "defeat" another. In conflict, if one person is determined to prove himself superior to the other, he might do so, however, the conflict is really not fully resolved. The person who was defeated might go away, but he will probably still hold resentment. Therefore the conflict remains. The one who was "defeated" might always want to come back and try again. The "way of the sage" is to resolve the conflict in such a manner that the opposing sides both feel as though they have gained something from the experience. In order to do this, one must give up the idea of being a victor, a winner, a conqueror, a warrior, and think about becoming a sage. This is why Zhang calls what he teaches the "sage arts." He says that the study of internal martial arts is not about becoming a warrior, it is about learning the way of the sage.

Zhang explains that when someone confronts you or challenges you in some way, you have entered into a relationship with that person. You must decide what you want from the relationship. If your idea is to defeat that person by physically harming him. humiliating him, or otherwise beating him down, you do not have the attitude of the sage. If someone comes to take away your money and you think, "I must beat this person so I can keep my money," then you have created a situation which leads to a "win-lose" confrontation. If you beat the person and keep your money, you win and he feels defeated. If he beats you and takes your money, you have been injured and have lost your money. Zhang's solution to this confrontation would be to just give the other person your money and walk away. Zhang says, "He feels good because he has your money, but you have really come out ahead in the long run. He will take your money and buy unhealthy food, cigarettes, liquor, and drugs. Eventually he will kill himself and you will still be healthy and happy." Zhang continues, "Look at me, I do not own many things, I do not have much money, but I am seventy-five years old and I am very happy and healthy. I am looking forward to the rest of my life."

Because Zhang wanted to teach the Japanese his philosophy of the "sage arts," when other martial artists came to Zhang's school to challenge him, he never took it as a personal challenge. The relationship he choose to have with these challengers, no matter how aggressive they were, was one of sharing and friendship. He would always meet their request for a physical demonstration of his skill and he was always able to show that he and his art deserved respect, but he also always showed compassion for his challenger. He was never brutal or excessive, even when the challengers tried cheap shots and dirty tricks. His challengers always went away feeling a bit humbled by the experience, but never felt "defeated." Zhang always made new friends Instead of enemies in these situations.

Zhang Yi Zhong taught his martial arts in Japan until 1972, when he returned to Taiwan. While Zhang was in Japan teaching, his family remained In Taiwan. During the summer, when his kids were out of school, Zhang would go back to Taiwan for one month to spend time with his family. When his daughter was old enough to attend college, she went to college in Japan, graduated with a degree in agriculture, and then moved to the United States. In 1972, his son entered the military in Taiwan, thus leaving Zhang's wife home alone. At this point, Zhang thought it best to move back to Taiwan to be with his wife. When he returned to Taiwan, Zhang reinstated his teaching in Tai Nan.

In 1979, Zhang moved to the United States at the invitation of Joe Deisher and a group of Tai Ji students on the Northern California coast. When the group submitted the paperwork to apply for Zhang's VISA to bring him to the United States as a martial arts instructor, as part of the VISA granting process, the American Embassy sent a young burly Chinese man to visit Zhang and verify his qualifications as a martial arts instructor. The man met Zhang and, with appropriate courtesies, told Zhang he had to test his ability as a martial artist. He said, "We have to know that you are real." The man tested Zhang's skill and was fully satisfied that Zhang was a martial artist. Later, when Deisher checked with the federal office through which the VISA was issued he was told that there was no doubt in their minds that Zhang was a fully capable martial artist. Zhang was issued a VISA to enter the United States as a professional martial arts instructor.

Zhang Yi Zhong's Teaching Method and Philosophy

Zhang Yi Zhong teaches the internal martial arts, what he calls the "qi arts" in order to give his students culture, a model for relationships, and a lifestyle philosophy. What he primarily uses as the vehicle for this teaching is the Tai Ji system which was developed by Chen Pan Ling and various other instructors at the Central Martial Arts Academy in Nanjing during the 1930's. He primarily learned this form from Wang Shu Jin, with Chen Pan Ling giving advise and direction on occasion. However, Zhang says that over the years he has made some slight modifications based on his personal experiences. In Ba Gua, Zhang starts students learning Wang Shu Jin's system and then later teaches them the more complex system of Wang Jia Rui.

While it is true that Zhang was a student of Wang Shu Jin and no doubt learned a lot from him, I do not get the impression that Zhang would give Wang Shu Jin the credit for the art he teaches today. The physical framework of Zhang's teaching was derived from what Wang taught, however, the depth of Zhang's teaching comes from his seventy-five years of personal experience, research, and study. Zhang has spent his entire life intensely researching and studying martial arts, health maintenance, diet, and philosophy, and continues to do so today. Zhang tells his students that they must never be content with what they have learned from him. They should always continue to study, practice, research and illuminate. He states that if his students do not take what they have learned from him and continue to take the art, culture, philosophy, and self-cultivation process beyond what he has shown them, then he will have failed in his teaching.

Zhang considers the information he passes along to his students as a base, a foundation. He says that he provides his students with a base of principles. From these principles. integration, discovery, variation, and change emerge continually. It is a never ending process of growth and maturation. This changing and growing keeps the art alive and limitless. Zhang says that when students only copy without trying to create, the art becomes lifeless. He gives an example of two people drawing a picture of a third person. Although the two drawings are of the same object, they will not be exactly the same. He explains that the "art of drawing" lies in the differences between the two pictures because the differences define the individual interpretation and creativity. He says, "The difference is what gives it life. The art is in the difference. If the two drawings were exactly the same there would be no art." He feels that it is the same in martial arts. If two individuals interpret and execute a form or application exactly the same, there is no art, there is no life. Zhang says, "The martial arts have life in the projection of personal interpretation of principles. The principles form the root and the trunk of the martial arts tree. Individual interpretation is expressed in the leaves and twigs. The leaves and twigs can blow freely in the wind without disturbing the trunk."

Drawing from the Yi Jing (Book of Changes), Zhang continues with his discussion of foundational principles forming a base for limitless variation and creation by saying that although the principles of the Yi Jing do not change, the individual response to circumstance always changes. Zhang explains that there are three aspects to the Yi Jing: One is that which does not change, the next is that which continually changes, and the third is simplicity. The fundamental principles form the aspect of "that which does not change." Individual interpretation and constant change in response to circumstance forms the aspect of "that which continually changes." Lastly, Zhang says, "simplicity is the essence of skill and taste. The Dao adheres to simplicity, that which is complex does not follow the Dao."

To illustrate the nature of simplicity in practice, Zhang referred to a question posed by a student at a seminar Zhang had taught on the afternoon I met with him. The student had asked about using the mind to move the qi in the body. He asked about the mind moving qi from the dan tian, along the body's energy pathways, out to the limbs. Zhang's response was that all of that mental imagery is far too complicated. It is not in accordance with the principle of simplicity. Zhang said, "Clear your head and don't think about all of that stuff! Your energy will follow its natural course if you relax your mind and place your intention on your hands. "Where there is sickness, it will naturally he cured. Where there is no sickness, it will naturally be strengthened. Because it is simple, it is natural. The more complex it gets, the less natural it is!"


Zhang Yi Zhong's Thoughts on Diet

      Zhang Yi Zhong believes that in order to have a strong. energetic basis for the practice of internal martial art one must maintain a well managed diet. He feels the the foundation for qi in the body is diet, and thus those who are practicing the "qi arts" should be very concerned about diet. The strength of your energy and the health of your body will be a direct reflection of your diet. Zhang maintains a very strict diet which he has devised base on years of personal research and experimentation. The following are some guidelines that he recommend concerning diet (this is an excerpt taken from a "Dietary Information Guide" printed in the Tai Chi Natural Healing Club Newsletter which is produced by Zhang Yi Zhong group in Santa Cruz, California):

    1. Eat whole, natural, unprocessed foods. Whole foods are found in as close to their whole natural state as possible. Vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits can be prepared with very little altering or processing, retaining nutritional benefits. These foods can be creatively and attractively prepared to please the most discriminating palate.

    2. Eat for Minerals and Vitamins. The vitamins and minerals obtained from the foods you eat work to maintain the proper functioning of the internal organs. They are essential for normal metabolism. The relaxation and rotation of the waist and abdomen in the Tai Chi practice nurtures the internal organs. Vitamins and minerals also nurture the "vital organs." Good food sources for minerals and vitamins are vegetables (especially green), whole grains, sea vegetables, seeds, nuts, and unrefined salt.

    3. Eat early in the day. Give your system a little time to wake up before you "breakfast." A main meal of the day around 10-12:00, or "brunch" will give you the nourishment you'll need to move through the day. A lighter meal later in the day should be sufficient for the evening "wind down." Eat several hours before you go to bed. This gives the organs time to rest and regenerate during your sleeping hours. If you eat right before bed much of your body will still be working all night digesting food.

    4. Eat lightly, chew well. No matter how wholesome your diet is, it is important to not over eat. Overeating burdens the organs, making digestion, assimilation, and elimination inefficient as well as uncomfortable. Chewing well not only lets you savor the taste of good food, but aids in the digestion and assimilation of food The enzymes in the saliva mix with the food and start the digestive process immediately.

    5. Eat Alkaline. Clean blood and good circulation are important factors of preventative and abundant health The pH of the blood is slightly alkaline. Keeping the acid/alkaline balance of the blood relatively stable and slightly alkaline provides the best environment for the cellular building blocks to function effectively. Foods that lean toward acid in the body are meat and refined foods, especially refined carbohydrates. See #2 for foods that lean towards alkaline.

    Make any changes in your diet gradually. Be sensitive to your body. Understanding why and what you're doing and experimenting slowly and carefully is the most sensible and safe way to make lasting changes!"

The Dao adheres to simplicity, that

which is complex does not follow the Dao.

Most of the above mentioned information is not news to anyone who has read or studied any number of health food diets. However, after reading the above guidelines, I wanted to find out more about Zhang's ideas on diet for two reasons: one, I knew that his personal diet was much stricter than the guidelines listed above would indicate, and two, I was very interested in this alkaline versus acidity concept alter Zhang had mentioned it to me several times during our interview. In order to discover more about Zhang's Ideas on diet, I met with his student Joe Deisher to explore the diet theories in more detail.

Joe told me that in order to fully appreciate Zhang Yi Zhong's study of diet, the story really needs to go back to his life in Shanghai before World War II. Prior to WWII, Shanghai was becoming, in many ways, a very Westernized city. Visiting Shanghai today, one will notice that many of the buildings that were constructed early in this century have a Western style architecture. When Zhang Yi Zhong was a young man living in Shanghai, it was popular to eat Western food, study Western science, and visit Western doctors when one got sick. Zhang Yi Zhong studied Western science (chemistry), visited Western trained doctors, and ate Western food, however, even when he was in his twenties, he was careful about what he ate. His friends in Shanghai would tease him and say that he was going to grow up to be a dietitian.

Even though Zhang was careful about what he ate as a young man, his deeper study of traditional oriental diet did not begin until years later after Zhang had moved to Taiwan and had children. When one of Zhang's children was very young, the child became ill. Like most educated people in Taiwan, Zhang and his wife took the child to a Western trained doctor. The doctor could not find the source of the child's illness and could not help the child get better. The problem continued for three months and then suddenly went away. Zhang was curious about how the illness could have just disappeared. When discussing the situation with his family, his mother-in-law admitted that three days prior to the child's recovery, she had taken the child to a traditional Chinese Medical doctor. Zhang said, "How could this man cure in three days what the Western doctor could not cure in three months!" Determined to find the answer, Zhang went and visited with the Chinese doctor. What the Chinese doctor had done was simply alter the child's diet according to the theories of Chinese medicine.

Prior to this event with his child, Zhang, like many of the Chinese of his generation, had written off the old Chinese ideas as being less advanced than Western science. The incident with his child and the discussion with the Chinese doctor made him wonder. At that point in his life he decided to begin studying the old Chinese traditional theories on diet and health maintenance. However, instead of simply reading about the old theories and believing them, he used Western scientific research, personal experimentation, and his background in chemistry to try and figure out why the old theories worked. He wanted to discover the underlying chemistry for the ancient dietary advice. For instance, in one source book Zhang read that "the sages do not eat the five grains." Through experimentation and research, Zhang found that the chemistry of seed crops is such that they are very energy rich. Individuals who are older, or not physically active, do not engage in the amount of physical activity that is required to burn this energy and thus they waste strength in digesting these foods. It would he analogous to running your car with the carburetor mix set too rich.

Zhang discovered that for older people, or people who do not do a lot of hard physical labor, high carbohydrate food weakens the qi because of the extra energy needed for digestion. This is what the classics meant by "the sages do not eat the five grains." Zhang is not alone in his pursuit of modern day explanations to ancient dietary concepts. A number of Western trained doctors and scientists in Japan have also merged technology and science with tradition and there are many published works in Japanese pertaining to these topics. Zhang, who is fluent in Japanese, studies all of the documented results of this research in Japan that he can obtain.

Zhang's advice for those studying the internal martial arts is to eat a mineral rich diet because minerals manage the body's electrolytes. When Zhang began to study the body's biochemistry and its re]ationship to food and internal energy cultivation, he was interested in exploring the electrical side of body chemistry. He discovered that if the body is kept a slight bit alkaline, it runs an abundance of electrons. The abundance of electrons in the body keeps the body energetically charged instead of energetically depleted. Things that tend to create an acidic state in the body are diets high in meats and refined carbohydrates, tension, stress, and bad moods. Things that keep the body alkaline are mineral rich diets, and a relaxed, clear mind. Zhang believes that the internal martial arts practice aids in keeping the body relaxed, posture correct, and the mind clear while the proper diet helps maintain a biological foundation for the practice.

The problem most individuals have in following a diet which is high in minerals is that the majority of mineral rich food, such as seaweed, is not very tasty. Zhang's answer to this was to study ways of preparing the mineral and vitamin rich foods so that they would taste good. He says the study of culinary arts is the same as the study of martial arts. The crude aspects of the art are easy to learn, while the highly refined and subtle aspects are very difficult to master. In martial arts it is very easy for someone to learn how to use brute force and club their opponent with their fist, however, it is not so easy to learn the refined and subtle motions and applications of internal boxing. But in the end, practice of internal boxing will be much better for one's health and longevity. Zhang is fond of using a similar analogy in the use of weaponry. He says that the straight sword is called the "sages weapon" because it takes a great deal of skill in order to be able to wield one correctly and effectively. The broad sword is called the "peasants weapon" because it is very easy to learn how to hack at someone with a broad sword. Cooking Is the same. It is very easy for someone to throw a slab of meat on the grill and have it come out tasting good. However, it is not so easy to make a meal of seaweed and raw or pickled vegetables and have it be as palatable. Zhang has learned how to eat very simply and still enjoy the food he eats.

In addition to the dietary guidelines outlined previously, Joe Deisher adds the following suggestions to those wanting to try to explore Zhang Yi Zhong ideas on food:

  1. Make changes gradually.Give your biochemistry time to adapt. Life tends to be a conservative phenomena: don't hurry, don't hesitate.

  2. Begin thinking about food and eating: Do you eat to live or live to eat? Do you eat for your palate or your stomach? What are the internal and external consequences of what you eat? Do you eat for your bones? your brain? your consciousness? your beliefs?

  3. Abandon eating chemicals. Eat organically.

  4. Make sure your water source is clean and mineral rich.

  5. Move away from eating meat, fish, and animal products (milk, eggs, etc.); protein and fat are way overrated as dietary necessities.

  6. Include sea vegetables in your diet and whole sea salt for flavor: there are no better source's of organic minerals.

  7. Breathe as though your life depended on it; deeply, unhurriedly, steady.

  8. Recognize fruits as entertainment for the mouth,they are mostly sugar and water.

  9. Let go of heating your food. Take a look at pickling foods. Heat changes the enzymes and diminishes the food value.

  10. Eat lightly, live lightly. Fleshy bulk, be it muscle or fat, is a burden to the qi.


Joe Deisher's Relationship with Zhang Yi Zhong

An article about Zhang Yi Zhong would not be complete without discussing his relationship with his long time student Joe Deisher. They have been together for nearly thirty years, all of Zhang's instruction in the United States since 1979 has been through Joe Deisher's translation, and, true to Zhang's teaching, Deisher has taken what Zhang has given him and explored it on his own terms, arriving at some very interesting theories of his own about the relationships between internal arts practice, the mind, the emotions, culture and lifestyle. In this section, we will discuss Zhang's history with Deisher and then talk about some of Deisher's interpretations and explorations of Zhang's teaching.

Joe Deisher and Zhang Yi Zhong met in Japan in 1967. Deisher had moved to Japan in 1964. He went there specifically to study the game of Go and learn Aikido. Deisher had been a math major in college and the mathematical strategy of Go intrigued him. He had not studied Aikido prior to going to Japan, but what he had heard of the art gave him an interest in pursuing its study. One of the things that drew him to Aikido was a quote by its founder, Morihei Uyeshiba, which stated, "If you cannot keep an open heart when a person is swinging a sword at your head, you will not be able to cope with him." The meaning of this quote is that Aikido is an "open hearted" self-defense system.

While Deisher was in Japan he taught English two hours a day, five days a week to make enough money to support himself. He also studied the Japanese language along with his study of Go and Aikido. He eventually became very proficient in the language, earned a black belt in Aikido, and earned a similar "dan" ranking in Go.

During his second year in Japan, Deisher went to an "all-Japan" martial arts exhibition (in April 1966). Zhang Yi Zhong demonstrated his Tai Ji Quan at the exhibition and Deisher was very impressed with what he saw. This was not the first time he had seen Tai Ji. Deisher had taken a trip to Taiwan in 1965 and studied a bit of Yang style Tai Ji while he was there. After watching Zhang's demonstration in Japan, he was interested in studying what Zhang had to teach and so he went and, in the traditional manner, "stood on his doorstep." Joe went to Zhang's studio about once a month and simply watched the class. In June of 1967 Zhang invited him to practice.

Deisher says that Zhang began the instruction with a set of basics such as simple standing and arm swinging exercises (moving from side-to-side while rotating around the body's center). He said that the standing practice was first performed with the arms hanging down by the sides. Deisher says that Zhang believes that a beginner is not ready to assume the standing postures which involve holding the arms up; they will always hold too much tension. Zhang starts beginners with the simple standing practice while the arms are relaxed so that they can learn how to relax the body and explore the skeletal structure while holding the correct body alignments. After a set of simple basics, Zhang moves his students directly into the Chen Pan Ling Tai Ji form. However, every class began with at least ten minutes of standing meditation.

I asked Joe Deisher why he wanted to study from Zhang Yi Zhong. He already knew some Tai Ji, he was already studying Aikido, why learn something new? Deisher said that it was not the form that he wanted to learn from Zhang, he wanted to study with Zhang because he was impressed by the man. He was impressed by Zhang's kindness, righteousness open heartedness, and self-discipline. Deisher said, "Zhang was living a disciplined life, living with the correct attitude and teaching by example, not preaching at his students. He treated everyone with kindness, even those that came into the school to challenge him. He had the open-heartedness which Uyeshiba spoke of in his quote about Aikido. Whenever he demonstrated an application of Tai Ji, whether it was during a challenge. or to a student, Zhang would create a situation which clearly demonstrated that the opponent was open, he would make the connection, but he would never apply enough power to injure the person. It was his kindness and righteousness that attracted me to him."

True to the teaching of his tradition, Joe Deisher has not only taken from the art which he studies, he has given back to it as well. He explains that Chen Pan Ling and the group which developed the Nanjing Tai Ji form were able to take the essence of proper physical structure and naturally efficient body motion and synthesize it in creating the Tai Ji form. Zhong Yi Zhong took that physical knowledge and added to the transmission by diligently researching and passing along his ideas about diet. From this base of knowledge, Joe Deisher has moved on to explore the emotional energetics of internal arts practice. Like his teachers exploration of diet, Deisher has studied and continues to study the dynamics of emotional energy and its relation to physiology.

Deisher says that through the self-cultivation and self-management process of the internal martial arts, a person can learn take an emotional state, be it fear, anger, joy, sorrow, grief, etc., and use the energy of that emotion to energetically charge the body instead of energetically deplete the body. The key Is in recognizing that the emotion is an internal energy state and not try and attach it to an external object. If you say, "I feel angry because . . .," it is a mistake. You are then attaching your emotion to an external object. Deisher recommends that people learn to stay with the emotion long enough to convert the energy into a positive thing. The tough part is learning how to stay with the emotion long enough to convert the energy state. People tend to want to look outside to attach or blame the state on something external, that is the easy way out. The hard way is in looking inside for the source of the emotional state and transforming that state into a positive energy. Learning how to cultivate oneself by looking internally and developing internal awareness during martial arts practice is a way to begin the energy transformation process.

Deisher has a very wide ranging view of the benefits of Internal arts practice. He sees this practice as away to develop the spirit, increase the fields of imagination, provide a basis for cultural advancement, and offer a lifestyle philosophy. He says, "In this country, we have educated people, but not a traditional culture. People cannot survive long without a culture. What we have developed in the place of a traditional culture is a culture by coercion. Ours is a culture based on controlling people by scaring them into doing the right thing, this is not the way to produce a smooth and functional society. What is needed is a philosophical base that will help people loose their fear." Deisher continues, "A lot of things in life you have to figure out for yourself. You provide your own answers to your lack of knowledge from your philosophy. If there is no philosophical base, no root, no stable reference from which to make decisions, people can feel as though they are lost." Deisher believes that the Daoist philosophy and approach to culture can work in our country because it is clean enough that it can be presented with out entanglements.

The internal martial arts and its accompanying philosophy can provide a stable reference from which people can make decisions and gain experience. Deisher says, "If this stuff works on a battlefield, it will work anywhere." He continues by saying that, "If you have a root, you can absorb the pushes and pulls of everyday life. You will have slack, cushion, play, and flexibility. This applies to the physical body, diet, and lifestyle." As an example Deisher said that if you maintain a balanced and stable diet and there were an occasion where you did not get something to eat for a period of time, the stability of your healthy body would allow your body to continue to function normally until you got something to eat. You would not be susceptible to the wide mood swings experienced by people who have an unstable diet.

Zhang's Paradise

In closing my interview with Zhang Yi Zhong, his last comment was, "Paradise is within us." He explained, "Thinking belongs to the earth element. The "Yi"' of Xing Yi Quan relates to the earth, the stomach, and the spleen. If my thinking is correct and I accept natural things, then my stomach is clean, my thinking Is clean. If I eat correctly, my visceral earth is also clean. A place of earth which Is clean and pleasant to live is paradise. The good earth (paradise) is in oneself: in one's thinking, in one's stomach. You do not have to go to China or India, eat cleanly and think cleanly and paradise will be inside of you. A pleasant place to live is in me. I don't have to go anywhere."


1. The Nanjing integrated Tai Ji form, also commonly known as "Chen Pan Ling's Tai Ji." Was developed by a group of Tai Ji instructors who were teaching at the Nanjing Central Martial Arts Academy and its associated Provincial schools. The Central Academy had instructors from all of the major systems of Tai Ji on their teaching staff. However, they did not want the students to have to learn all of these various styles and forms as part of the curriculum. To solve the problem, they brought all of the instructors together to create one form which integrated the various characteristics of all the Tai Ji styles. Chen Pan Ling was one of the individuals who helped create the form. This form incorporates the rough outline of the Yang style, the small frame of the Wu style and the characteristic twisting of the Chen style.

2. The Daoist which is referred to here is the philosophical Daoism of Lao Zi. This Daoism does not have the ritualistic and ceremonial entanglements of the religious, folk, or pop Daoism.