On October 1, 2007, YMAA celebrated its 25-Year Anniversary. There were many phone calls, letters and emails of congratulations.
But, this important event passed quietly, as Master Yang was busy preparing for his annual Fall tour of Europe. He again taught in the UK, France, Belgium, Poland, Italy, Spain, Portugal and this time included Chile and Qatar. He has traveled like this to teach twice a year since the 1980's. The man is a machine! Truly a man on a mission.
25 Years. What does this anniversary really mean? In fact, Dr. Yang started teaching long before October 1982. We've all read his epic biography or heard it in interviews; he taught his fellow students in his early training and during college and the Air Force, he formed Martial Arts training clubs wherever he went, he taught while he got his Ph.D. at Purdue, until he was forced for a time to stop teaching when he began his career as a mechanical engineer. During this dark and depressing period he had to work long hours for little reward, his training and teaching stopped, and his health suffered. Then he went for it, and jumped out of the matrix. He decided his life would be his own, and thus began the long uphill battle to teach and publish and inform the world about the true nature and depth of the Chinese martial arts. And he has succeeded.
Slowly YMAA has grown from the first classes in Dr. Yang's driveway in the North Shore of Boston into an international organization of 55 schools in 18 countries, with the help and hard work of countless others, including Mei-Ling Yang and the Yang family, Robert Was and Adam Wypart (Poland), Erik Elsemans (Belgium), Victor Marques and Pascal Plée (France), Ludi Romeo, Vincenzo Russo, and Alessandro Iori (Italy), Pedro Rodriguez, Victor Casqueiro, and Tony Chee (Portugal), Corlius Birkill (South Africa), Alex Kiesel, Jeffrey Pratt, James O'Leary, Jim Noble, Leslie Takao, Joe and Carol Best and many, many others in Boston, MA and elsewhere in the world.
And so, for over 35 years, Dr. Yang has taught, while simultaneously writing two or three books and videos at a time, and somehow managed to travel the world teaching classes in dozens of countries. Hundreds of thousands of YMAA students and attendees at seminars, lectures and demonstrations have seen him perform, learned from him, and felt his intense love for the Chinese martial arts, Qigong, and Meditation. He has changed so many peoples' lives for the better, and through this very hard work, he has achieved his goal of planting the seed for future worldwide continuation of the Chinese arts. Now, at age 61 he will focus his energy towards the California Retreat Center where a few select students will become immersed in the daily study of an expanded YMAA curriculum for the next ten years. This new goal is to transmit all his knowledge to an even deeper level than what he has previously achieved.
In order to preserve the Chinese martial arts to the profound level as in ancient times, a student must live and train in an environment similar to that in ancient times. The Retreat Center will be a model for the development of other intensive training centers around the world.
Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming
Instead of slowing down, progress for Dr. Yang and YMAA has recently gained momentum. In 2003, David Ripianzi, a long-term student of Dr. Yang from the early years, purchased the publishing company so Master Yang could free up some of his limited time and energy. YMAA Publication Center, Inc. is committed to continuing the tradition of releasing high-quality instructional titles, based on Master Yang's comprehensive models. In 2005, Roger Whidden of Massachusetts was conferred the title of Taiji Master, which by definition makes Dr. Yang officially a Grand Master, and makes Li, Mao-Ching, our Great-Grand Master. Many other senior YMAA instructors are working toward completing their chosen curriculum, and may become masters themselves, fulfilling Master Yang's dream of raising the standard of Chinese martial arts and popularizing them throughout the world.
YMAA means In-Depth. When people see YMAA on a book, seminar, DVD, or on a teachers' credentials, they know they have found an authentic source of detailed instruction. We all have Dr. Yang to thank for setting such a high standard. Dr. Yang has not only passed on his love for the arts and for teaching, but also his tradition of publishing. Ramel Rones, a disciple in Boston since the 80's, has performed with Dr. Yang in many books and videos over the years and has gone on to become an author of best-selling books and DVDs himself. And, he works as a Mind/Body Consultant using the healing arts of Qigong and Taiji to help people dealing with cancer, arthritis, and other common ailments. Kathy Yang, who is now finishing her studies of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the UK , contributes her qigong medical theory knowledge as a co-author in the new Five Animal Sports Qigong DVD. Taiji Instructor Jeff Pratt of Boston has become a sought-after writer of editorials. Chin Na Instructor David Grantham is co-authoring an upcoming book on Taiji Ball. The students at the Retreat Center will also be encouraged to study the process of transmitting the knowledge that they learn into published works.
Though there are far too many to mention, other accomplished students of Master Yang include acupuncturist and teacher Tai Ngo, composer and conductor Dr. Russell Steinberg, senior Shaolin Instructor currently in the US military George Dominguez, Director of the US Martial Arts Council Sifu Jeff Bolt, and thousands of others.
Many students from the early generation have moved on to pursue their own dreams and raise their families. Their contributions, twelve-hour training days, and friendship to YMAA and fellow students remain a permanent part of our legacy. In the mid 1980's, Master Yang purchased a run down building (Chinese Restaurant, Laundry mat), and with the help of this generation of students, was able to transform the building into a large open space training studio, keeping the New England weather outside! Thank you Reza, Mike, Christer, Fu, Rosie, Jay, Jim, John, David, Mark, Gil, Bob, Steve, Rami, Wen, Foster, James, Joe, Jeff, Jenny, and so many others. One nail, one board, one bucket at a time.
The building remains strong.
How many people have current or future careers as teachers, writers, healers, and martial artists based on their studies at YMAA? How many people incorporate the principles learned at YMAA, martial morality and self-discipline, into their daily lives? All because Yang, Jwing-Ming decided one day as a teenager "Some day, I will be a martial artist."
Where would we all be if we weren't a part of YMAA? How have YMAA and Dr. Yang changed your life? He is living proof that "If you can see it, you can be it." What have you accomplished in the last 25 years? What will you accomplish in the next 25?
When Master Yang teaches the Qigong and Martial Arts that he loves so much, the audience shares his fascination and excitement about the subject matter. Discussions often digress into a deeper conversation about life, the universe, and everything. Many of us have had mind-expanding philosophic conversations during classes with Dr. Yang about Taiji, and Wuji, and physics, (and extraterrestrials) and ways to become a better person and realize your full potential.
Above all, Master Yang always encourages each of us to ponder and search for the meaning of our lives, establish goals, and then to follow our dreams with determination, humility, and a high spirit.
So, congratulations and thank you Master Yang. Congratulations to everyone involved in Yang's Martial Arts Association, and to everyone who is teaching the arts they've learned through YMAA, and helping others to enjoy a better quality of life. Master Yang, not only have you planted the seed, this 25-year accomplishment is the deep root and strong trunk of a massive tree that will continue to grow and benefit humanity for centuries.
In reality, YMAA has only just begun.
This article was originally published in YMAA Newsletter 84.