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Shifu Ma

Ma Jiangbao

Anyone who had the pleasure of knowing Ma Jiangbao personally, knew him as a kind, humble, and respectful figure. He was open-minded and socially orientated. He had an affectionate way of association about him, and was always ready to help others. But there was another side to him as well. He was passionate, driven, and demanding, with a keen eye for detail. In short, all the makings of a first rate professional and inspirational figure.

Ma Jiangbao came into this world on the 31st of October 1941. As the third son of Wu Yinghua and Ma Yueliang, he was born into one of the major taijiquan families of China. As a child he loved martial arts and started training taijiquan at a very young age under the watchful eye of his parents, especially his father’s.

After graduating from High School he applied to the Shanghai Music College, on the bases of his beautiful singing voice and musical talent. Nevertheless, he eventually chose to enter the Jiangxi Medical College wanting to continue the medical tradition of his family. Unfortunately he was not able to finish his studies, due to sickness. As a result he devoted all his time and effort to taijiquan.

It is during this time that he received a lot of extra attention from his mother, Wu Yinghua, further boosting his natural ability, making great progress. In the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution he frequently toured throughout China with his parents to demonstrate taijiquan. During these demonstrations he often paired up with his father, a renowned expert, to perform tuishou (pushing hands). This also brought him to Europe. On invitation, he and his father travelled to Germany to demonstrate their family’s art. Afterwards his father returned to China, but he stayed behind and eventually took up residence in the Netherlands (1986).

This was the beginning of a fruitful career. He founded the European Association for Traditional Wu Tai Chi Chuan, which became the foundation to promote his taijiquan throughout the whole of Europe and far abroad.

One of his most impressive qualities as a teacher, besides his vast knowledge, was his willingness to share. In his very strict, methodical, but hands-on approach, he would not only explain the how’s, but also the why’s. Something which might be considered his biggest contribution, that is, the ability to test the validity of one’s actions. With this, he reduced taijiquan to its purest essence, linking every intricate part, resulting in an experience in which taiji communicated with the student on its own merit. His conveyance of the art was characterized by a unprecedented degree of accuracy and an abstinence of unnecessary or fancy movements. Something he applied in all of his teachings. It goes without saying that he loved taijiquan, but he had a predilection for taiji spear and tuishou. Especially, playing tuishou always put a smile on his face. Probably, because of this, he excelled in this area of taijiquan. You could never detect any resistance or hardness within him, notwithstanding that he still was able to direct you in any which way he liked. It was as if he could anticipate your intentions and deflect them beforehand. He considered tuishou and the solo practice of the long-form as inseparable. To him, these two facets embodied the nucleus of taijiquan and the keystone for all other facets of the Wu style for that matter. That is why he never taught them independently of each other. Although his health remained an issue, his resolve to promote his family’s tradition never wavered, and he kept on teaching until he was finally unable, passing away in autumn of October 2016.