Name of the Father
Dragon Spécial TaiChi Mag
Kathy Yang is the daughter of Master Yang Jwing-Ming, master of Qigong, Taijiquan and Kung-Fu very well known in France. Aged 39, she lives in Boston and travels to France every year for the past few years to share her knowledge of traditional Chinese martial arts and energy.
During her December 2019 seminar in Vincennes, she agreed to share this interview with us.
Hello Kathy, please introduce yourself. Where and when were you born? How were you raised?
My parents are from Taiwan, where my father learned martial arts. They immigrated to the USA before I was born. I was born in the United States and grew up with my two brothers, whom I am still very close to. We were raised with respect for strong family values. Martial values also greatly influenced us. We practiced together, as a family, and my father’s school in Boston was like a second home for us. The students who trained there were like a second family.
At what age did you start martial arts? In which discipline? Who was your teacher?
My earliest memory of Kung Fu dates back to when I was six years old. I wanted to see what my father taught his students and he took me to a class. To train them to develop the strength of their legs, he had the students form circles and jump over one another. At my age, I thought it was a game of “leap frog”. I asked my father if it was Kung Fu. He said yes. I told him it looked easy. He said to me “in that case, you should go try”. At first, the students were on all fours, and even for a little girl like me, it was easy to jump over 10 adult men. I was very proud of myself, smiling. My father quickly increased the difficulty of the exercise. The students sat down. I could no longer pull myself over their shoulders. From the first try, I fell. I was so ashamed that I started to cry. My father comforted me right away.
This is an example
of how my father wanted
to instill martial morality in us throughout our lives.
This experience was a great exercise in humility for me. This is an example of how my father wanted to instill martial morality in us throughout our lives. He often quotes his White Crane Kung Fu teacher, Master Cheng Gin-Gsao, who said “the taller the bamboo grows, the lower it bows”. This experience made me start the children’s Kung Fu classes at my father’s school.
The training was provided by my father’s advanced students. George Dominguez, one of my father’s disciples, is the one who influenced me the most. He is the one who inspires me, through his actions and deeds, to take my training seriously, especially when I began to participate in martial arts tournaments during my adolescence. When I got older, I started to learn more and more from my father, by attending his many seminars, but also through personal learning with him. He was the one who introduced me to Qigong and Taijiquan.
Do you train every day? What is your usual training program?
When I was younger, I was able to train every day whenever I had time off from my studies. It’s always easier when you’re a student. As I got older, I had to reduce my training hours a little to balance other responsibilities in my life. In addition to martial arts, I am also a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, which occupies a good part of my time. I also teach seminars in the United States, Europe and in South America, and I write.
My goal is to ensure at least two training sessions each week, trying to keep the pace as fast as possible. In general I start with a brief warm-up, stretching, then physical strengthening exercises for an hour. I follow afterwards with one hour of sequences or technical work. If I can, I add partner training to that. During the day I also try to practice therapeutic Qigong to maintain and circulate my body energy.
Do you train weapons? What is your view on this practice?
The styles my father passed on include training in classical Chinese weapons – staff, saber, sword, double short rods. The practice of these weapons is therefore an integral part of my training. I appreciate the practice of weapons because it requires that the mind be highly concentrated and sharp in order to be able to manifest the internal energy – Qi – and direct it for each technique. We can practice weapons for combat, to condition the body, but also as an exercise in self-cultivation and internal development. Personally, I appreciate the combination of the beauty and power in martial arts movements, especially when they are manifested with advanced skills in weapons.
As a woman, are you interested in self-defense? Have you ever had to defend yourself?
Self-defense is a subject that interests me greatly. I think it is important for everyone to have the knowledge and skills how to protect themselves. I have never had to defend myself physically against an assault, but I am convinced that the techniques and skills that I acquired during my Kung Fu training allowed me to develop an intuition that helped me to avoid dangerous situations in the past. Knowing how to avoid aggression is an important part of self-defense, perhaps even more so than the techniques used to respond to it.
You practice several martial arts. Is there one you’d prefer? For what reasons?
When I was younger, I preferred to practice Long Fist Kung Fu (Chang Quan) because it allowed me to develop and express my physical strength. Over time, I was able to develop my understanding of martial arts and how to use my mind to direct physical strength and that of Qi. My preferences gradually grew more toward the internal arts of White Crane Kung Fu, Taijiquan and Qigong. These softer styles allowed me to develop a different type of strength, one that is more flexible and more precise in power. These styles require more internal work, as well as a very strong connection between the body and mind.
What do you think of your father? How was he as a parent? And as a teacher?
One of the things I appreciate about him is that, although martial arts is his great passion, he never forced us to train.
He always encouraged us to seek our own path and never give up on our dreams.
My father is a unique person. I am both happy and grateful that he is part of my life. He is the one who taught me the life lessons that are most precious to me. As a father, he was attentive but distant, strict but kind at the same time. He always did everything necessary so that our family did not miss anything without much consideration for his own time and efforts. I know he loves us.
One of the things I appreciate about him is that, although martial arts is his great passion, he never forced us to train. He always encouraged us to seek our own path and never give up on our dreams. As a teacher, he is both a role model and an inspiration to me. The martial values of his school, those of which were transmitted to him by his own teachers, are at the heart of his teaching and he always encouraged his students not to be just good martial artists, but to be good people.
What I find incredible about my father is that he always illustrates the essence of martial arts in the most mundane activities. I remember one day he asked me and my brothers to open a jar of pickles. The jar was sealed so tightly that even by forcing we couldn’t unscrew it. My father took the jar with a smile and told us to watch. He relaxed his arm, took a deep breath and told us that we should lead the Qi, wait for it to arrive. Suddenly he closed his hand and gave a powerful shake of his waist. With a loud “pop”, the cover was unscrewed. For us, this demonstration was a lesson on the force that one could develop by Qigong and internal work. It was also an illustration that martial arts is not only practiced in the training room, but is part of every moment of our lives.
Your name is well known in the martial artist community. Do you feel an obligation due to this?
My father dedicated his life to ensuring that the Chinese martial arts – and in particular those which have been transmitted to him – do not lose quality in this modern world. He devoted his life and energy to this cause, through the large number of students he was able to train, his publications and translations, his seminars around the world and the long training programs in his retreat center in California. It is surely a heavy burden that I can only try to carry in turn.
Even if I think that my own reputation is still rather modest in the world of martial arts, I carry the same desire to transmit what I have received.
Even if I think that my own reputation is still rather modest in the world of martial arts, I carry the same desire to transmit what I have received. Beyond the family heritage, my investment is deeply rooted in what I see as unique, beautiful and precious in these ancestral practices. It would be a real waste for us and for future generations if these treasures should be lost.
If I hadn’t practiced martial arts, I’m sure I would still have practiced a profession related to health, probably medicine as a doctor or acupuncturist.
If you hadn’t practiced martial arts, what profession would you have wanted to practice?
If I hadn’t practiced martial arts, I’m sure I would still have practiced a profession related to health, probably medicine as a doctor or acupuncturist. I have always been drawn to life sciences, healing and wellness in general. As I previously explained, I am a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. I am currently working on combining my knowledge in traditional Chinese medicine and clinical exercise physiology with my knowledge in martial arts. I also run a site on traditional Chinese medicine and my teaching activities on martial arts and energy (tcmtime.com).
If you could sum up the essence of martial arts in one word, what would it be?
Yang’s Martial Arts Association brings together schools affiliated with the teaching of Master Yang Jwing-Ming. A list of all schools is available at the following address: ymaaschool.com/locations
The following schools regularly invite Kathy Yang to France for her seminars, do not hesitate to contact them to be informed of her events.