“When you learn martial arts, you learn the way of life.” - Master Cheng, Gin Gsao (曾金灶)
Dr. Yang, Jwìng-Mǐng (楊俊敏博士) began training at age 15 with Master Cheng, Gin Gsao (曾金灶), learning Shaolin White Crane (Bai He) Kung Fu (Gongfu). After a year, because Jwìng-Mǐng had a painful ulcer since childhood, Master Cheng recommended he might learn Taijiquan (Yang Style) because he had heard of its healing benefits for the internal organs.
This shows how special and open-minded Master Cheng was, suggesting another teacher at a time that the martial arts were still considered top secret, when most students trained with only one traditional, conservative master to protect the details of the techniques. In those days it was common and expected that a student would study daily with a teacher for a minimum of three years to build the foundation of the style. No money was exchanged; being accepted by a master was an honor and a very serious commitment.
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During thirteen years of study (1961-1974) under Master Cheng, Gin Gsao (曾金灶), Dr. Yang became an expert in the White Crane soft/hard style of Chinese martial arts, which includes both the use of bare hands and of various weapons such as saber, staff, spear, trident, two short rods, and others. Master Cheng also taught White Crane Chin Na, Tui Na and Dian Xue massages, and herbal treatment. Qìgōng exercises were taught in the form of jin (jing) patterns, to build the body’s structure and qi circulation to withstand the fast jin power emission of White Crane Kung Fu.
“The taller the bamboo grows, the lower it bows.” - Master Cheng, Gin Gsao (曾金灶)
Master Cheng’s Early Years
Master Cheng was born November 15, 1911 in Xīnzhú (Hsinchu) 新竹 located in northwestern Taiwan, which was Jwìng-Mǐng’s hometown, surrounded by 18 mountain peaks. He was the second male born in a family surnamed Chen. According to an agreement between his father and his grandmother, he was adopted into Cheng's family to carry the name of Cheng after he was born. Therefore, even though his father was an expert in Taizuquan and some other styles, he never had a chance to learn from his father. In order to protect the secrecy of the style, usually a master would not pass the secret of the art to people other than his own family. He learned some of the Taizuquan from his brother, but he said the depth was shallow.
When Grandmaster Cheng was 15 years old, he found Grandmaster Jīn, Shào-Fēng (金紹峰) living as a hermit in a deep mountain place. He was accepted as the ninth student at that time. Grandmaster Jīn was from Mainland China. His major expertise was Southern White Crane. He also knew Five Ancestor Fist (Wuzuquan) which includes the styles of White Crane (Baihequan), Taizuquan , Dazunquan , Luohanquan , and Monkey Boxing ( Houquan ). Master Cheng’s high levels of expertise were Butterfly Palm (Hudiezhang ) and 18 Luohan Hands (Shibaluohanshou). These two internal/external styles of martial arts were the high level of training in Dazunquan and Luohanquan.
After 23 years of living and training with his teacher, Master Cheng only moved out after Grandmaster Jīn, Shào-Fēng (金紹峰) passed away.
A Farmer on Strange and Marvelous Peak
Master Cheng was married with three children, living in a small house near the top of a mountain named Guqifeng, “Strange and Marvelous Peak”, and working as a farmer. This is where he accepted students and trained them, including Yang, Jwìng-Mǐng. Each afternoon after school, Jwìng-Mǐng would run about 35-40 minutes up to Master Cheng’s house early for class to hang out there in the beautiful natural setting and train Kung Fu.
Master Cheng lived such a rural lifestyle he rarely wore shoes, but was powerful enough to kick the bark off a tree. The secret to his unbelievable strength was lifetime of training Qìgōng Grand Circulation, which increases the Qì circulation and develops Qì/Li, muscular strength supported by abundant Qì.
Master Cheng had previous smaller generations of students prior to Jwìng-Mǐng’s class, and some of the older students were still there when he began training. Of the second generation of 19 students training with Master Cheng, Jwìng-Mǐng was the last one accepted and the youngest in class. The group would arrive whenever they got out of school and work to stretch, warm up, and practice, with older students teaching. After Master Cheng’s dinner around 7:30pm he would come outside to observe and check on student’s progress. Jwìng-Mǐng trained whenever he could with Master Cheng for 13 years.
[Dr. Yang: there is a story which affected the thinking of my life greatly. One day I went to see Master Cheng after school. I saw him sitting in front of his house playing his huqin (a type of Chinese guitar), his favorite musical instrument. I approached him and asked him a question. I told him that I felt frustrated because my learning was so slow and my understanding was so shallow compared with my classmates. He looked at me with a kind face and said:
“Why do you look around? If you like to plow it is because you want to plow. You don't care if other people look at you or not. You also don't care if you are faster than others or slower. It is the same for your learning martial arts. Simply bow your head and keep digging. Don't look around. If you look and see you are ahead, then you are proud of yourself and are satisfied. If you are behind, you are depressed. So simply bow and keep digging. One day when you are tired and take a break, you will see that you have dumped all others behind you so far away that you cannot even see them.”
I did not completely understand and feel what he said until years later when I came to the USA.]
Unfortunately, because he focused his life on hard work and external style training, Master Cheng died May 5, 1976 of a stroke, resulting from Sangong, energy dispersion. This is common for those who do not balance external (hard-style) training with internal (soft-style), such as many martial artists before muscle/tendon changing and bone/marrow washing Qìgōng became more widely known.
Master Yang, Jwìng-Mǐng (楊俊敏博士) has said that although he was an illiterate hermit, Grandmaster Cheng, Gin Gsao’s deep understanding of the meaning of life came from one of the brightest minds he has ever seen.