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C.K. Chen & His School in Taiwan

“When I was a young child, I had to wake up at 5:00 am every morning to practice Tai Chi for several hours before I went to school. My father would watch me while I was practicing because he had already done his practice before I woke up. He always said “you have time when you make time.” The way he made the time for his practice was to wake up earlier than everyone else. This is the kind of commitment that he brings to everything, and especially to the practice of Tai Chi Chuan.

I remember as a teenager that there were some nights when I came home in the very early morning the next day. My father knew that I had come home very late, but he still woke me up to practice. He did not care how late I had come home. He only cared that I get up at the same time to practice. He told me in no uncertain terms: “if you cannot wake up at the same time in the morning, then you cannot come home late anymore.” Given my sense of duty to him, it became clear that I had no choice but to wake up at 5:00am in the morning and practice my forms. This unwavering discipline, the hallmark of any great coach, has shaped a positive destiny for many people—including me, of course.

I can still hear his teaching about one of the Tai Chi forms: “Open your steps as far as your shoulder, relax your upper body, bend the knees slightly, and then sink your root (weight) down. Imagine yourself as a tree. When you make your root deeper, you stand more stable, your foundation is better, and the result you get from your Tai Chi practice is clearer.” By using such simple instruction, easy movements, and clear ways of thinking, he has helped thousands of people to become physically healthier, to let go of unnecessary suffering, and to achieve new control over the mind and the body. This is the essence of my father, C.K. Chen, the founder of the Ru-Yu Tai Chi School”

Words from Kuan Chen (Median)

C.K. Chen was born into a scholarly family in Puzi, Chia Yi County, Taiwan in 1944. His grandfather was the first generation of intellectuals in the very early days of Taiwan as a country. His early school days were very challenging. He was a very good athlete growing up. He also liked to help people when they got into trouble—and this sometimes led him into physical conflicts. As a result he became particularly interested in the martial arts. Unfortunately, fighting as a student forced him to change schools several times. Yet, this mobility enabled him to learn a variety of martial arts techniques and provided him extensive practical experience in how to apply martial arts to real situations.

He yearned for the romantic “mariner’s life” and dreamed, from childhood, to travel around the world. So, after finishing his schooling at the age of 25, he became a mariner and started his world traveling adventure. Two and half years as a mariner gave him an immeasurable treasure of life experience. These experiences, including living on a ship and contemplating the vast expanse of the ocean, inspired his later practice of Tai Chi Chuan and also piqued his interest in Chinese philosophy. He was introduced to the Dao philosophy of learning and teaching as perhaps best represented to Western Civilization by Lao Tzu in the book the Tao Te Ching.

At the age of 27, C.K. Chen began to search for a solution to a bothersome health problem—allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal passages due to allergens.) As a result, he started to practice meditation to successfully control the allergic reaction. At the same time, he began to study acupuncture with Master Chen Yi Kui, and practiced as an intern in the Taipei Acupuncture Free Clinic. From these experiences he learned more deeply about the body’s energy (Qi) meridians and the circulation of Qi throughout the body. Of equal importance, he discovered the amazing physical treatment effects arising from the use of the philosophy, predictive symbols and theories associated with the ancient practice of acupuncture, e.g., Midnight-Noon Ebb-Flow theory (a methodology for needle placement based on the time of day), and Ling gui Ba Fa, or “the 8 points of the Sacred Turtle” (a methodology to align needles for maximum healing effects that has been well supported in recent medical studies). This new knowledge deeply stimulated his motivation to learn more about the Tao Te Ching and other Oriental philosophy.

On one special occasion, C.K. Chen met the Chinese calligrapher Liao Zhen Xiang in the New Park of Taipei. Liao Zhen Xiang had studied Tai Chi Chuan with Zheng Manqing and introduced C.K. Chen to Wu Guo Zhong, another Zheng Magqing master, in 1978. Thus C.K. Chen became a third generation student of the Zheng Manqing style.

“Ten years of Tai Chi practice without leaving the home.” This is an old description of how long it took to be a master in Tai Chi Chuan. C.K. Chen did not agree with this point of view; instead, he said, “If the method is wrong, even if you spend three lives it is not enough. But if the posture is right and the foundation practice is enough, it might not really require ten years”

Due to his martial art talent and hard practice, C.K. Chen quickly became famous on a local level. More and more people came to him regarding various health problems as well as questions on how to best practice Tai Chi. Some of these individuals were even well-known professors and Tai Chi instructors. The renowned professor Dr. Ching-Tse Lee, after studying Tai Chi with C.K. Chen for several years, published an article entitled “Where Did the Qi Come From?” in a prominent newspaper. It created a very large national response in Taiwan. After its publication, C.K. Chen started to receive questions from all over the country almost every day. He was very happy that people became much more interested in Tai Chi.

Nevertheless, he was shocked to learn that people were seeking ways to get healthier without the needed time and effort. He wanted to make his Tai Chi practice even deeper and more effective so he could truly help others with their health. He came to the realization that he needed time to clear his mind. He also wanted to return to the fundamental learning points of the martial arts. So he chose to withdraw from society and live in the mountains.

After living in the mountain for three years, and due to many students’ requests, he moved back to the city. He established Ru Yu Xing, a Chinese “art of the tea” store in Chiayi City, in 1983. In the front of the store he served tea and demonstrated the art of the traditional Chinese tea ceremony; in the back, people practiced Tai Chi. The idea was to create a place to allow people to practice Tai Chi and also be able to sit down to discuss news, music, art, philosophy, and Tai Chi.

Due to the rapid growth in the number of its Tai Chi students, Ru Yu Xing moved to a new location in Chaiyi City in 1985. Because of the bigger space and the increasing number of students, a more formal agenda of instruction gradually evolved. Eight years later (in 1993) C.K. Chen moved to his current location--a large, two story building with a total of 18,000 sq. ft. of indoor space and over 10,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space, standing within the bright green rice fields of Shui Shang Town in Chaiyi County. Here, he finally established his private Tai Chi school, the Ru Yu Tai Chi School. Today it is widely known as the largest and most accomplished Tai Chi private school in Taiwan.

In the same year, C.K. Chen also established a non-profit cultural and educational foundation in order to promote local traditional arts, such as music, calligraphy, tea ceremony, Chinese medicine, and the Lao-tzu philosophy. It also supports Tai Chi Chuan sports competitions, including athlete training and physical education instructors training. In addition, he and his students have initiated a “Do not occupy a hospital bed” movement in Taiwan. His admonition is to “practice Tai Chi to make you healthy and give the bed to people who really need it.” His work for the general health of the country and the development of the Tai Chi Martial Art has been widely acknowledged throughout Taiwan.

C.K. Chen was never formally trained in how to sell himself and how to run the marketing for his school. The only marketing for his school is by word-of-mouth. He has said, “I just make the people who come to the school feel the amazing effects of Tai Chi. This is the most practical way of advertising.” Nevertheless, today he has more than 30,000 students just in Taiwan.

Even though C.K. Chen started his own Ru Yu Tai Chi School, he still very much appreciates the work of Zheng Manqing in Tai Chi—the style he learned from his first mentor, Wu Guo Zhong. So, when you walk into his Ru Yu Tai Chi School, you see a picture of Zheng Manqing right away. You also see a big wooden sign hanging on the wall saying “Zheng style Tai Chi”. However, he has brought his own unique thought and emphases into different practice elements within his Tai Chi training. The way his students preform the 37 forms is slightly different than the original Zheng-style Tai Chi. People in the Tai Chi field can tell the difference between them quite easily. People outside of the school have come to call C.K. Chen’s style as “Ru Yu Style”.

How did C.K. Chen come to choose this name for his school? It requires a brief understanding of Chinese language, symbols and philosophy. Ru means “like” in Chinese. Yu means “fish”. Yu is pronounced and symbolized very similarly to Yi or Yao (Yin and Yang). Therefore, Ru Yu means like fish or like Yi (Yao). Since long ago, people have used black and white fishes to represent Yin and Yang in the Tai Chi symbol. C.K. Chen named his school “Ru Yu” in order to convey his hope that both he and his students would keep practicing and developing Tai Chi just like the Yin and Yang fishes in the Tai Chi symbol assist and complement each other continuously. Thus, the “ten thousand things” (a saying meaning “all of creation”) can be constantly re-nourished and flourish forever. He also hoped to use the flourishing life-force of jumping fish to encourage himself and his students to keep practicing and developing Tai Chi as same as the endless life-force of changing Tai Chi.

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Reference: Ru Yu Tai Chi School (