Last night I attended the New York premiere of “the Professor: Tai Chi’s Journey West” directed by Barry Strugatz at the Museum of the Moving Image June 9th, 2016 in Astoria, Queens New York. I have anticipated this release of this feature documentary for some time now. I learned of the film a few years ago while perusing kickstarter.com. When I learned the NY premiere was to be shown in Astoria Queens I knew I had to check it out.
Cheng Man Ching was William C.C. Chen’s Tai Chi teacher. My Tai Chi teacher Bob Klein was a student of William C.C. Chen. I am a daily practitioner of William C.C. Chen‘s sequence of Cheng Man Ching’s short form.
This was the first time I had attended the Museum of The Moving Image. When I entered the museum I noticed moving images being projected on the wall. As I walked by the wall I could feel my equilibrium being affected. The motion was a good way of letting you know you were in fact in the Museum of Moving Images. I was impressed with the museum and noticed quite a few people congregating in the lobby. Immediately I was glad to see there would be a good turnout for the premiere.
Upon entering the small theater I noticed the curtain was a pattern of images giving the optical illusion of vibration, this was distracting to me as the main focal point since you are basically looking forward most of the time. Quickly the theater filled with people and the conversations around me seemed to be about Tai Chi and which of Cheng Man Ching’s students and family were in attendance.
“and if it had no truth in it, it won't last. Whether it's professor Cheng or not, it doesn't matter. If it has that, it will stay up for ever, there will be other people picking it up.”
– Ed Young
I was hoping the feature documentary was not a compilation of all I had previously seen surfing Cheng Man Ching on the Internet. I have also read quite a few books written by Cheng Man Ching and his students. I had good knowledge of the life of Cheng Man Ching and many stories of his teachings. As the documentary began I realized that a lot of the photos and footage I had already seen online and in books, however, the quality was much better so it was definitely worthwhile to see. I don’t think there was anything I learned that I didn’t already know about Cheng Man Ching’s life from the film. I learned more about Cheng Man Ching and his interaction with students such as Maggie Newman, Ken Van Sickle, Carol Yamasaki, Ed Young, Robert Morningstar. The film really showcased what it was like being introduced to Tai Chi in New York’s Chinatown in the '60s and how Professor Cheng’s students carried with them his teachings throughout their lives. During the film I really enjoyed the commentary from the students, the commentary was immediately followed by film or still photos of the students interacting with Professor Cheng Man Ching during his Tai Chi classes.
For any practitioner of Cheng Man Ching’s short form, this is a must see. Anyone interested in Tai Chi or learning something more about the life of Cheng Man Ching I think you will enjoy it.
What really enhanced the viewing of the documentary was the QA at the end of the film. Ed Young, Kevin Van Sickle, and Barry Strugatz answered questions fed by the audience. Seeing Ed Young, Robert Morningstar, Kevin Van Sickle, Bill Phillips, and Cheng Man Ching’s children added to the effect of the film. I am glad I got to see this film at this venue.