Master Kai Ying Tung
Academy of T'ai Chi Ch'uan
Master Tung Kai Ying
Born in the ninth month of 1941, the eldest son of the third generation of Tung Family martial artists, there was never a time in his life when Master Tung Kai Ying was not learning Tai Chi Chuan. He began his formal training in the village at the age of six under the supervision of his uncle while his father, Master Tung Hu Ling, and grandfather, Master Tung Ying Chieh, were down south establishing their school. Fully immersing himself in his studies from the onset, he quickly proved that he was more than ready for the great task that lay before him.
When he reached the age of fourteen he was invited to come live with his grandfather in Hong Kong in order to receive deeper training in Tai Chi Chuan. It was there, in recognition of his clear ability and bright potential, that his grandfather gave him the honorary name of "Kai Ying," which in Cantonese means "Succeeding Ying" and plainly reveals the deep level of trust that existed between the great master and his young apprentice. The grateful Kai Ying spent the next several years in very close contact with his grandfather and learned his entire system of Tai Chi Chuan, not only how to practice and apply it, but how to teach it as well. He eventually came to preside over the majority of classes in Hong Kong at that time, often giving the bulk of instruction while his grandfather would quietly watch on from the side.
The final phase of his early training began in 1961, when his grandfather passed away and his father, Master Tung Hu Ling, returned to Hong Kong to assume the head position at the Gymnasium. In the following year, when it came time for Master Tung Hu Ling to go back to Singapore and Malaysia in order to resume the instruction of his many students there, he sent his son, Master Tung Kai Ying, in his stead. His students were deeply impressed by the enthusiasm and skill of their new teacher, and the size of the classes grew rapidly. Subsequently, Master Tung Kai Ying spent the next several years traveling back and forth between Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, continuously practicing and teaching, gaining invaluable experiences, and significantly deepening his insight into the meaning of the fist.
So by the time he arrived in Los Angeles, California, in 1971, Master Tung Kai Ying could not have been more prepared for the difficult task of bringing the traditional Chinese art of Tai Chi Chuan to the modern Western world. Initially earning a living as an acupuncturist, he set up classes in Los Angeles and San Francisco and began to build his initial layers of students. Immediately gaining the respect of the fledgling Tai Chi community of the Western States, he appeared on magazine covers and festival stages more than once and was well known for his elegant demonstrations, friendly displays of power, and open readiness to share what he knew. The number of students in his classes grew steadily as martial arts enthusiasts from all around came to see what they could learn from him.
Never one to dwell on his successes, Master Tung Kai Ying has simply continued to practice and teach, selflessly helping his students to find their strength. In 1984 he was invited on his first of many teaching trips to Europe, via Denmark and France, and in accpeting, opened the door to a fruitful relationship with yet another continent. Also in that same year he hosted his first of many intensive Tai Chi Chuan "camps" in the redwood forest just south of San Francisco. Here, dedicated students were given the opportunity to study Tai Chi Chuan in the traditional manner of living with the master and practicing several times a day.
Before long he was teaching in Italy and Scandinavia as well, all the while faithfully maintaining his Asian contacts and continuing to cultivate his ever-growing American school. His many students around the world began to number in the thousands. Students became teachers and began generating students of their own -- all held together by the Master's keen eye and strong guidance. From Hong Kong to Singapore and Thailand to Hawaii, from California to Colorado and Arizona to New England, from Sicily to Paris and Finland to Greece, Tung family Tai Chi Chuan has almost completely encircled the globe.
The full circuit was finally achieved in September of 1999 when Master Tung returned to his home town of Xing Tai, one of the oldest cities in China, with an entourage of 216 Western students from 8 different countries. There he was greeted with the highest honors from the mayor at a festival held in his name at the center of town. There were over 20,000 people in attendance, all eager to witness the return of the master. None were disappointed by the caliber of the demonstrations and the sincerity of the speeches. The mayor praised Master Tung not only for his supreme skill in the martial arts, but also for the invaluable service he has done the world by so effectively sharing and communicating the cultural wisdom of China.
Although still climbing towards the peak of his long and illustrious career, Master Tung Kai Ying has fully realized his grandfather's dream and successfully established the legitimate presence of Tai Chi Chuan on the world stage, entirely unabridged and unadulterated. Over the years, there have been many great practitioners of Tai Chi Chuan, but very few of them have been great teachers as well. Continuously radiating a calm and vital blend of modesty, confidence, joy and perseverance, he has touched and inspired countless lives with his steady and patient efforts. Many people who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to learn authentic Tai Chi Chuan, thanks to the considerable accomplishments of Master Tung and his family, are now able to enjoy the great fortune of its timeless gift.
-- by Christopher Kiely, Vermont