Monday, July 4, 2011

Robert W. Smith, Student of Cheng Man-ch'ing

Martial arts historian Robert W. Smith passed away July 1, 2011, in North Carolina. A man with a voracious appetite for learning---whether intellectual pursuits or martial arts---Smith combined those interests adeptly over many decades of involvement with the Asian arts of judo, taijiquan, and other disciplines.
Smith met Cheng Man-ch'ing (Zheng Manqing) while posted as a CIA analyst to Taiwan in the late 1950s. He wrote about Cheng, whom he felt to be the most accomplished of all of his teachers:
"Zheng was unique, a happy aberration. He was able through tedious practice (much of it so arcane that it is a safe bet that it resides now in no living person) to take an intelligent and creative mind and to soften, reduce, and even empty it in the service of a none-too-robust boddy. From this synthesis came an absolutely unparalleled art of health and protection of health." (Martial Musings,p. 323)
Together, Smith and Cheng wrote T'ai Chi: The "Supreme Ultimate" Exercise for Health, Spoort, and Self-defense (Tuttle, 1967). This book presents taiji philosophy and Cheng's particular views, and the taiji form with detailed photos.
Smith's delightful memoir Martial Musings: A Portrayal of Martial Arts in the 20th Century (Via Media, 1999) is a mix of social, cultural, and personal history and commentary. Smith also featured Cheng in his book Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods (Kodansha, 1974).

See further reports and links for Robert W. Smith on the Taijiquan Journal blog.