A computer scientist and T’ai Chi Ch’uan master, Kai Sung, came to Rochester to work at RIT. Master Kai Sung had studied T’ai Chi Ch’uan for many years under the tutelage of the most accomplished Chinese T’ai Chi Ch’uan teachers in Taiwan and was an expert at a T’ai Chi Ch’uan form developed in China before the Second World War. The chairman of the committee developing this combined form was Master Chen Pan-Ling. This 99 movement form, which incorporates the Yang, Chen and Wu styles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, was intended to be the new standardized Chinese national form. Even with all of these styles harmoniously brought together, the overall classification is the Yang style of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. When the communists took over China, Master Chen and most of the great T’ai Chi Ch’uan masters left China. Kai Sung brought the Chen Pan-Ling form to the Rochester area to what would become The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center.
Kai Sung taught using the ancient Chinese method of “follow me” and do what I do. Many of his students became very accomplished. One of these students was Jim Ransom, who with others founded the Rochester T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center. Jim and the others wanted to teach T’ai Chi Ch’uan to as many people as possible, but the 99 Chen Pan-Ling form was very difficult for the average beginner. In order to reach more western students and to teach T’ai Chi Ch’uan in a western style, Kai Sung developed the remarkable 4 directions and short form of Chen Pan-Ling. This was a much better introduction to T’ai Chi Ch’uan for beginners. They are remarkable forms because they use all the principles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan in compact learnable forms.
Jim Ransom became the first president of the Rochester T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center and helped to make it a successful T’ai Chi Ch’uan school.
The Rochester T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center was incorporated in 1982 and is governed by a board of directors consisting of 5 to 7 members. From these members the board elects a president, vice president, treasurer and secretary. The president’s term is for no more than 2 consecutive years. Mackenzie Stewart became the second president of the Rochester T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center in 1982.
Under Mackenzie Stewart, the Center grew very quickly to around 75 regular students. This number of students enabled the Rochester T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center to bring great T’ai Chi Ch’uan masters such as T. T. Liang to Rochester to conduct workshops. The Rochester T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center even started a national magazine, The Tai Chi Ch’uan Journal (Publications ceased in 1989).
Mackenzie left the Center in 1990 to pursue a career in Eastern medicine. At that time Alan Adair became the third president and the Center’s only instructor. With Mackenzie’s departure the student numbers dropped greatly, so the Center relocated to smaller and less expensive quarters.
After several moves, Alan placed the Center at the Village Gate Building on North Goodman Street. All of the students worked to remodel this space into a very nice, but small, studio and maintained a small but dedicated group of students. Alan trained senior students to become teachers which enabled them to teach additional classes. More classes and advertising helped the Center to grow.
Dave Robins became president in 1992 and Karen Niles took over the treasurer’s duties. They, along with the entire board of directors repaid the debts which incurred during the former expansion period, rather than seek alternative financial relief, thus maintaining the Rochester T’ai Chi Center’s high standards of integrity and honor.
The Rochester T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center began to build a new base of students. Through all of this period the teachers worked as volunteers without compensation. This has remained a tradition to this day.
In 1994, Peter Herman was elected president of the Rochester T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center. At the end of that year Alan suddenly left and the Center was without a senior instructor.
Peter Herman and the Board of Directors held an emergency session and unanimously decided to find ways to continue the Rochester T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center. The Board wanted the Center to be affiliated with an established, well recognized T’ai Chi Ch’uan master. The Board also wanted to attract new students at the same time. There were potential benefits in being affiliated. All the students could learn from a senior T’ai Chi Ch’uan instructor.
The solution came when Frank LaManna, who studied under Grandmaster William C. C. Chen agreed to teach us his T’ai Chi Ch’uan form. Grandmaster Chen was a disciple of Professor Chen Man-Ching the student of Yang Chen-Pu, the grandson of Yang Lu Chuan, founder of the Yang style of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Frank helped the teachers to become skilled in Master Chen’s form. This form was excellent for both beginners and experienced students. It was adopted as our primary teaching form for everyone beginning T’ai Chi Ch’uan. The Chen Pan-ling style was taught to advanced students who had mastered the basics of the T’ai Chi Ch’uan principles.
Many of the teachers were able to travel and study under Grandmaster Chen directly. Only after years of training did the majority of the senior instructors complete the requirements to receive Grandmaster Chen’s highest diplomas of teaching certification.
During the years from 1995 to 1999, the Center became financially strong, increased the number of students and teachers, hosted workshops conducted by nationally known teachers and outgrew the Village Gate location. Brian Bruning, who had studied the Chen Pan Ling form privately with Jampa Mackenzie Stewart, became one of our teachers and helped us to keep that form as part of our curriculum.
Guy C Prentice, the president, and the Board of directors moved the Center to the 80 Rockwood Place location. The new studio was 3000 square feet of empty warehouse space. The board members turned this empty space into a fully equipped and comfortable place to learn T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Three to four classes may be conducted simultaneously five days per week. This enables beginning students to take 5 classes per week for the tuition fee.
Also in 2000, the T’ai Chi Center had the good fortune of the addition of Dr. Katherine M. Gill who joined the staff after moving here from Boston where, for twenty years, she had studied Grandmaster Chen’s works with both one of Grandmaster Chen’s senior students and Grandmaster Chen himself. Kathy also brings with her Native American spiritual experience and knowledge of Qi Gong as student of Ken Cohen.
At this time, too, the Center connected with Y. W. Chang, one of Chen Pan Ling’s direct students and a close personal friend of Chen Pan-Ling. Y. W. Chang recognized the quality of work that the Center was doing in accurately maintaining the Chen Pan-ling form, and, from his deathbed, certified a number of teachers and extended the certification to enable them to certify others. In 2006, the Center was able to connect with Grandmaster Chen Yun Ching, Chen Pan-ling’s son, who came to the Center to teach his father’s form. Chen Yun Ching was pleased with the work that the Center was doing and encouraged the Center to continue with its teaching of his father’s form. Master Chen has since inducted teachers Brian Bruning and Jim Ransom into his Ling Yun Pai family as Inner Door Students.
John Wagner, a serious student at the Center became an active teacher and devoted much time and effort offering classes at times that would be attractive to students. He also became a board member, worked on the facilities and has held a number of offices on the board. He is the driving force behind the teaching of the Wm. Chen Sword form.
Marian Early came to the RTCCC as a student and has become not only a teacher, but an award winning competitor in the area of form.
The Rochester T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center is fulfilling its goal of bringing only the best T’ai Chi Ch’uan to as many people as possible not only at the Center, but also through its “out reach” programs. Through this program our teachers are bringing T’ai Chi Ch’uan to 20 school continuing education departments, town recreation centers, private businesses, health clubs, senior living centers and nursing homes.
The Center is currently working with promising students in order to; hopefully, add them to our teaching staff.
The Rochester T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center also publishes books and training CDs. It obtained the rights to the original translation of Chen Pan-Ling’s form book. The translation was done by Col. Yuan Wei Chang (1916-2002) and Ann Carruthers. The Rochester T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center re-published his book and now sells it on the world wide internet. It also sells CDs made by our instructors and William C. C. Chen’s books, tapes and articles. Since 2001, the Center has hosted local T’ai Chi Ch’uan schools in the World T’ai Chi and Qigong Day celebrations.
Some of the teachers and students have won gold, silver and bronze metals in international T’ai Chi Ch’uan competitions. Teachers also conduct workshops both locally and nationally. They have been invited to perform demonstrations at martial arts festivals and tournaments. The instructors are constantly improving their T’ai Chi Ch’uan abilities by studying with world renowned teachers. Frequently, the expense for tuition and travel to accomplish this is paid for by the instructors themselves.
The Rochester T’ai Chi Ch’uan Center is truly a service organization. It is dedicated to bringing T’ai Chi Ch’uan to as many people as possible, so that they may receive the many benefits that T’ai Chi Ch’uan offers.