Old Cheng Hsin Handbook











At the time this handbook was created, the full scope of Cheng Hsin was studied in one school directed by Peter Ralston. Although the Cheng Hsin work is still available, the handbook is presented more as an historical document than a guide to current activities. Master Ralston teaches on a smaller scale now, and prefers to do a modest number of workshops so that his time is freed for various writing projects.


This handbook was written by the Cheng Hsin apprentices to give new students a broader view of the Cheng Hsin School and what it is that we pursue. We know that it is often difficult to realize the tremendous range of opportunities available through your study here. Many courses or workshops are offered only once a year and some no more than every other year. To get the most out of your training, you might want to look into all that Peter Ralston has to offer. Cheng Hsin is more than just a martial arts school or a cool place to learn a set of movements. It is about all that we are. It is a school of Being.

Questions may arise out of reading this material. We encourage you to ask us, but also to consider and contemplate on your own. We are here to serve you in your own learning.

Cheng Hsin Staff


Cheng Hsin itself is not a thing or an art. It is both the source and the occasion of all that appears to “be.” Used as a name for our endeavor, Cheng Hsin represents both a school and an investigation into the nature of being. The Cheng Hsin school is a place to investigate, study, and question what being is, and what being alive is — in every form in which human “beings” appear or “be.”

Being appears to us in many ways or forms. For example, being appears as some thing — as a body. It appears as functionally and purposefully directed — as alive. Being appears as awareness and as creativity. It appears as “mind”– as thoughts, emotions, sensitivity, and concerns. Being appears as interaction, movement, and process. It appears both as limited and as open possibility.

At Cheng Hsin we want to address the entire event in which we appear and live. In order to investigate what being alive is, we must include every aspect. We work with what we have at hand: the substance, abstractions, and the processes of life. At the same time, we stay open to possibilities beyond our beliefs and assumptions about what these things are. We use the psycho-physical practice of martial art as a ground for investigation and as a place for practice and transformation. We use various specialized meetings, dialogues, workshops, and intensives to investigate mind, interaction, ability, emotion, and any other non-objective aspects of our being.

We use contemplation, confrontation, consideration, practice, and training to break through the entrenched assumptions of being that we’ve adopted, thus creating the insight to transform into fully free, conscious, and more powerful beings. This is the Cheng Hsin endeavor.

The Uncarved Block
When we first come to Cheng Hsin for a class or workshop, we are usually looking for something in particular — perhaps a practice that will improve our health or self defense abilities, or give us a way of moving that feels good. Although these things are to be found here, Cheng Hsin has much more to offer.

Cheng Hsin is like an “uncarved block.” Although the block is straightforward and simple, it also contains every possible distinction or way of “carving it up” inherent in it’s uncaved state. Consciousness of all that Cheng Hsin entails is immense, it contains every possible distinction that can be made regarding being.

Therefore we address this work through separate courses, classes, and workshops in order to focus our attention and do justice to the importance of each particular aspect of being. Nevertheless, they are all part of a whole and so are interconnect to one another and empower one another.

What is practiced in a Cheng Hsin study of movement is more than movement. We undertake an investigation into being alive and we practice a development that is aligned to the principles of being a body. When someone joins us in this study, perhaps he or she comes with some openness to what this process might look like, what will happen to them, what it will feel like to do an “internal” martial art. But with Cheng Hsin they will find far more than they imagine. To empower, enhance, and actually understand the movement classes, we address body structure and design, awareness and life-force. We address effective physical interaction, and the principles responsible for it. We consider our mental and emotional make-up, and the principles and nature of “mind.” We look into physics, metaphysics, psychology, ontology, or any avenue that empowers our investigation.

All of these avenues are investigated in the trainings offered at Cheng Hsin. The Principles of an Effortlessly Effective Body-Being Course, The Principles of Effective Interaction Workshops, the Mind Course, and the Empowering Transformation Workshop, are the cornerstones for our investigations. These empower the whole pursuit of Cheng Hsin.

Zen Warrior
At Cheng Hsin we study arts that demand a transformation of being. An image that can help convey a sense of this might be that of the Zen warrior. Legend suggests that certain Samurai advanced their arts by studying Zen. This made the context for their sword fighting a consideration of “being.” We can see how useful this might be. Since mind is an issue in swordplay, especially when death is a possibility, a Zen warrior probably would have undertaken trainings similar to Cheng Hsin’s Ontological work. Body principles are involved, so something relating to the principles of body-being would have been addressed. And ability is certainly required, so the considerations and information found in the Principles of Effective Interaction Workshops would have been sought out.

It is clear then that mind, interaction, physics, metaphysics, and body-being are all active components that must be studied and understood in order to master swordplay. Everything that was a consideration for the Zen warrior is taught at Cheng Hsin.

But some of us may not want to be “warriors” in the sense that we don’t want to fight, and we may even be turned off by fighting. This is fine. We cannot deny, however, that life seems to demand that we live in interactions, and skillfully relating to these demands is similar to a Zen warrior relating to swordplay. Most of us are interested in our relationships, personal projects, and occupational pursuits, and we can certainly approach these with more or less clarity and effectiveness. Once we realize that we are working to transform our very lives it becomes easier to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into our studies.

Ralston requires that his students be responsible for their own learning, for the correction of their misunderstandings and for challenging their limitations, for training, exploring, questioning, and observing for themselves what is so. He asks that we try on what he is teaching, make it real for ourselves so that we have our own experience.


Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou – The Art of Effortless Power
Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou is an art of blending with and effortlessly handling the force and activity of others. It is found in the many techniques of “uprooting” (projecting another’s body off his feet and through space) and throwing (dropping or flipping his body to the ground). It is mastered in games of freeplay which allow for a real development of skill and sensitivity in ever-changing activity. The ultimate aim of the art is a transformation of being and relationship. The primary goal is the development of “effortless power” which is only possible through grasping and experiencing the principles which found body-being and psycho-physical interaction.

Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou and the solo sets of movement are interwoven. When we do T’ui Shou, another person is there either as a partner or an opponent. This interaction demonstrates the functional use of the solo movements and provides a real training ground for the principles.

A fundamental consideration in T’ui Shou is being present with what is happening . This involves sticking to or “following” a partner so that we are never removed for any time from the movement and intention of the other (nor ourselves). This way of being in relationship to a partner is essential for those who want to be skillful in the art. We need to allow ourselves to be present with what is happening and follow it without prejudice or force.

Peter has created the art of Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou as a map to open up many of the possibilities available in three-dimensional psycho-physical interaction. Through the study of this art we learn to handle our own body-being and the body-being of another. New students may well ask, “What’s so special about this? Aren’t we already handling our body-being?” Yes, but how consciously? How effortlessly? How sensitively? How powerfully? Peter has created Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou to be the primary study for the school. It has great depth, and all of the considerations presented in the set classes, the Principles, Function, and Mind courses, and the ETW come together and can be studied and trained in this art.

T’ui Shou allows us to train and master relational interaction on many levels. We are working with the body, emotions, thinking, intention, and the will of both ourselves and another. Basically it is a fighting art; we learn how to handle another in a way that is advantageous to ourselves. The real training, however, is not in fighting, but in consciousness. This is important to realize, both because it is powerful to know what our purpose is, and because it opens up this art as a possibility and training ground far beyond any interest we may have in fighting skill.

It is possible that we could train relational interaction by studying dancing, but fighting offers something different. When we fight, there is an unpredictable element that allows us to finely hone our awareness. When we are dancing with someone, we expect that both of us are intending to move in harmony with each other and we don’t want to take advantage of each other. There is more room for falling asleep on our feet and not being aware of that happening. On the other hand, during freeplay with another, when we fall asleep on our feet we soon find ourselves on our bottoms!

It should be said that one of the first things we learn is sensitivity to such a level that we do not hurt each other in our practice. We train power with little danger of injury. We learn to distinguish between the move that will hurt and the move that will move another without harm to them. We learn to allow ourselves to be moved without resistance, which allows us to be pushed and thrown without harm to ourselves, and allows us to powerfully move with our partner and use their energy to uproot or throw them. It is an exciting and exhilarating way to play.

The T’ui Shou techniques represent a multi-dimensional approach to the use of “effortless power” in pushing, pulling, spiraling, throwing, and joint techniques, as well as the neutralization of the above. The study includes the practice of just eight basic techniques that are learned and trained in over 100 “formal” techniques (out of which can come thousands of variations). It also includes many educational games and various levels of freeplay. The practice is ritualized only in the sense that the techniques have a specific form and energy that must be trained. But even in this ritualized practice, there is constant variation presented by a diversity of partners and by variations in pressure, angle, speed, form, intention, presence, and grounding. This list represents just a few of the distinctions that must be made in order to stay on top of the game. T’ui Shou can be a lot of fun as we learn to handle bodies and forces effortlessly by being present with others in an intimate and powerful way. Mastery in the art of T’ui Shou guarantees ability in handling all aspects of relational skill.

In T’ui Shou, how we view our partners-what we think about them and what our interpretations of their actions are-is an integral part of our play. For example, whether we believe ourselves to be capable of doing a technique or not, how much fear we feel, whether we like or dislike our partner, or our willingness to be aware every moment, all influence our participation and therefore our skill. These issues are addressed more directly and deeply in the Mind Course and the ETW. Practicing T’ui Shou is more than a physical activity. It is a psycho-physical activity: an activity that involves all of our being. Getting good at it requires an in-depth investigation of what we call mind, being, and being alive.Through such investigations, T’ui Shou becomes an event of consciousness.

Of course the main aspect of Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou must be training, training, and more training. It is only out of training that an understanding and transformation will occur. It is only out of training that insight into the principles will emerge and be useful and that skill will manifest. It is also only out of our training that the intangible qualities like a pure and unreasonable joy or an ecstatic sense of oneness with things and forces can arise.


Solo Movement Classes:

A Series of Movements
Usually when we say that we are “doing” T’ai Chi or Hsing I-Pa Kua, what we mean is that we are doing a “set” of movements. There is no “thing” that is T’ai Chi or Hsing I-Pa Kua, and speaking as if there is reduces our power in relation to that study. A set of movements is not T’ai Chi! How can we understand such a radical statement?

We usually hold a set of martial arts movements as knowledge, as something known. Do you know the T’ai Chi set? This is not where the power of doing a set lies. Without understanding the functional component around which the movements were designed, we really can’t understand the movement.

If we are going to do movements, why do the teacher’s movements? We say because the teacher “knows” the moves. This reveals our assumption that movements are like facts that our teacher knows. Yet we might be more accurate in saying that he or she has an experiential understanding of the function and purpose of the movements and so creates them with more precision and depth. In relation to the purpose for doing such moves, the teacher designs his movements more accurately than does the beginner. And yet the set of movements is not like a fact that once learned is done with.

We are learning the set of movements as a doorway into something more. This is also true of the Principles, Function, and Mind Courses, and of the ETW. These are doorways not only into martial arts but, more importantly, into the consideration of this whole event of being, and the possibility of becoming skillful, even masterful, in our living.

Many of us don’t think about becoming masters in a martial art, it seems so out of reach and beyond our capacity. But what about becoming masters in our own lives? The depth, richness, profound simplicity, and skill, the way of being that is the life of a Zen warrior, is available to us. Besides, what is there better to do?


Creating The Set of Movements
When we know a movement like a fact, then how does it live? It lives like something learned, like something outside of us-it doesn’t live as something that needs to be created by us. Then even if we “know” everything there is to know about a move, it is still outside of us because we have never taken full responsibility for creating it.

The set, when learned as a collection of facts, is always foreign, always “outside” and only “known.” We could teach somebody exactly what we know, but then if we are challenged with “Why that way?” all we can say is “Because I learned it that way.”

And yet, one of the fastest ways to get better is to copy our teacher exactly. Consider, even when we are copying the movements of our teacher (which is a necessary thing to do), who is copying the movement? Who is actually doing it? Who is creating it to look the same as the teacher’s movement? Yet we must not stop there.

What is the value of doing different movements than what we would make up on our own? What is the value of creating movements on our own? When somebody else says it is done “this” way, it empowers us not to follow our own patterns. When we are doing it exactly the way they are doing it, we have become responsible for creating something outside of our own habits and patterns. When we have trained extensively and begun to make certain distinctions, we are then creating the movement from “inside,” so to speak. The movement exists as a pure, honest, and functional process.

Our teacher droops his hand for some purpose. His movements are sourced from an experience of their function and purpose. We need to know and experience the function and purpose for the movement as well. When a Cheng Hsin master lifts his hand, his feet are in his hand, as is his whole body. The use of intrinsic strength, energy flow, sensitivity to timing, and perception all move powerfully and with integrity through him or her.

Here is something Peter had to say about his own practice:

When I am doing the set of movements, I am mostly aware of the presence or absence of integrity. Is my body broken anywhere? Is my energy flowing in a powerful and purposeful way? Are my thoughts distracted — am I thinking of things that don’t serve the purpose of the movements I’m doing? I have some sense of what the purpose is. When I am on purpose in my body movement and in my thoughts, I feel different in the body than I do when I’m not on purpose.

It sounds like I am noticing lots of negative things about myself in this way, but it is not a negative experience at all. The set of movements has purpose and function, and this is a consideration that takes all of my attention and demands that I create the actual feeling of the function in my body in a way that is so real that I can feel when I am functioning powerfully and when I am “missing the mark.”

The complete study of Cheng Hsin offers a real opening — something possible, not superficial and pretentious. It offers us an opportunity to move beyond where we are now.


Set Classes at Cheng Hsin
Although T’ai Chi and Hsing I-Pa Kua are grounded in the same considerations, their approach is different. They are different art forms and they are different ways of fighting. However, they both require that we move outside of our own patterns, and that we redesign our body and mind. They are both sourced in the same principles-principles that can be found and trained in an infinite variety of methods or forms. Among these infinite forms are Hsing I-Pa Kua and T’ai Chi Ch’uan.

The roundness of T’ai Chi movement and method of interaction, joining and blending, appears in contrast with the linearity, circular mobility, punching, and a bit more “boxing” emphasis of Hsing I-Pa Kua. We might want to study both of these forms to balance the possibilities in movement. At Cheng Hsin both of these arts are trained around the design of the human body, the laws of physics as we know them, psycho-physical interaction, perception, effortless power, etc. — in short, the most effective and efficient use of body mechanics and the principles and dynamics of interaction.

Sets are a place to practice what we learn in the courses, a way of grounding new possibilities. How can we know our movements fully? We need to learn T’ui Shou, we need to do Principles Course, Function Course, and Mind Course in order to fully understand the whole endeavor that is found even in a simple movement. It doesn’t matter what we do; how we do it makes a big difference. It is in this way that we see what we are up to in the event of being alive, without which we cannot fully understand the sets.


T’ai Chi Ch’uan Set Class
T’ai Chi Ch’uan is a Chinese art which has been passed down through many centuries and which is currently studied at the Cheng Hsin School as a Way of Being. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan “set” is a graceful series of movements that have many varied benefits. The practice of T’ai Chi promotes strength and suppleness in the body as well as relaxation, sensitivity, and an integrity of the whole body function.

The Cheng Hsin T’ai Chi short form, consisting of 64 movements, is taught in the set classes. Instruction for the long form is also available for those who are interested.

We use the set of movements to develop body-energy integration, centering, and intrinsic strength, but the study of T’ai Chi is not merely learning and practicing the set. T’ai Chi is attention in motion. It is bringing the Absolute to form. One may say that the purpose of T’ai Chi is to expand the sense of self and to realize the fundamental design and function of our own event of being alive. T’ai Chi Ch’uan as taught at the Cheng Hsin School is a powerful beginning to this endeavor.


Hsing I-Pa Kua Set Class
Hsing I Ch’uan, “the Appearance of Mind Fist,” is an internal or esoteric martial system, as is the more popular art of T’ai Chi. Simply put, internal arts are complete and wholistic transformative arts that produce personal power and functional effectiveness without sacrificing openness and sensitivity. At Cheng Hsin we combine Hsing I with Pa Kua, the “Eight Trigrams Palm.” Hsing I-Pa Kua appears immediately to have a “boxing” orientation. Hsing I is the oldest of the Chinese martial arts still practiced today.

Five fundamental movements are the basis of Hsing I-Pa Kua. They are various methods for achieving effortless power, which is the tap root from which all our actions stem. In learning the form, emphasis is also placed on the relationship between body and mind. From this integration comes a wholeness that allows energy to be freed and used to achieve what you want. Hsing I-Pa Kua classes place an appropriate degree of emphasis on training the use of the forms in a fighting context.


Free Fighting
Boxing is both a challenging and a threatening event. As human beings we add a lot of conceptual activity when we are in challenging circumstances. We add emotions (like fear, anger, hurt, rage, sadness, glee, pleasure). We add thinking (Where should I dodge? What punch should I use?). This is just like life, isn’t it? We are always adding our emotional orientations, interpretations, opinions, judgments, beliefs, and fantasies to what is simply so.

The game is simply a matter of constantly seeing what the other is doing with his body and what he intends to do, then moving our own body into an advantageous position in relation to his. The challenge, and so the training, is that this must be done without the time necessary for the process of thinking or figuring it out. This is also where the joy is found in such a practice.

Free-fighting class offers us a wonderful opportunity to investigate the activities and the nature of the mind. Our skills and abilities move out onto the testing ground, in an opportunity that is unique and valuable to students concerned with honesty and the truth of what we’re up to in our lives. We too often fool ourselves about what is truly happening. We might think we are sensitive to another’s movements and intentions when in actuality we are only sensitive to what we imagine they are doing, not to what they are actually doing. We might think we have found the principles of relaxing and grounding, or the functional skill of outreaching another, when what is truly happening is that these feelings are only in our imagination and not in our real feeling-attention. Distinctions like these begin to become apparent with the solid smack of a punch.

Both T’ui Shou and Free-Fighting Classes offer an opportunity to integrate all that is taught at Cheng Hsin. In many ways, free-fighting is more wide-open and confrontive than T’ui Shou. For one thing, boxing is not as ritualized as the T’ui Shou practice; we don’t learn a whole series of specific techniques. Boxing is less predictable; it is faster, there is less leeway for error, and the results of errors are harder to take (you get punched!). Where we are with body-being, mind, function, and mastery are all revealed when we are boxing. T’ui Shou runs us through many possibilities in relation to another, but free-fighting gives us an even clearer look at where we’re at in relationship.


Freeplay with the sword is another functional art or practice. It is a great testing ground and training for so many of the things we’re here to train. One of the beauties of sword play is that strength and gender don’t have nearly as much influence as they can have in the other practices. A blade, whether it’s pretend or not, equalizes characteristics like size, weight, strength, etc. The skill of fluidly maneuvering changes in both sword and awareness decide the victory.


Additional Specialized Classes and Courses:

San Shou
San Shou is practiced as a choreographed fighting set for two people. We learn to move with our partners’ movement and intention instead of moving away from or against them. Moving with another is perhaps the opposite of our normal tendency or reaction when faced with an opponent, and it is a fundamental quality of internal martial arts. Developing a calm presence and an ability to join with a partner can lead to a real breakthrough in being in relationship. San Shou gives us the opportunity to make this breakthrough.

San Shou practice establishes a functional basis for our choreographed sets of movements (in T’ai Chi or Hsing I-Pa Kua), deepening and solidifying the understanding of these sets. Doing a set with a partner immediately changes our orientation to the moves we learn. Instead of only being concerned with our own body, all that we do takes on a functional meaning so that our gestures are purposeful and utilitarian. The timing of the movements shifts beyond simply a measure of grace to being a quality of appropriate interaction. The requirements for excellence in San Shou are the same as those in T’ui Shou: outreaching, blending, neutralizing, relaxing, being calm, and staying grounded.


Sword Course
The Sword Course is an opportunity for the Cheng Hsin student to develop familiarity and skill with weapons. The sword used in this class is the straight, double-edged Chinese Kim. The course is designed to take the student from the beginning basics to an intermediate stage of skill. First, basic handling skills are taught and then the T’ai Chi Kim set, which is the basis of Cheng Hsin sword fighting. Next, a short two-person set is taught, designed to introduce the students to basic principles of sword fighting. Finally, we study freeplay with swords to develop fighting skills. Intermediate and advanced students also have the option to learn the Lung Feung Kim, a longer Mo Tang sword set with a more advanced character of movement than the T’ai Chi Kim.


In a private lesson you have the opportunity to study intimately with one of the world’s masters of internal martial arts; a master who plays in his art for the purpose of questioning reality and being. If fortunate enough to receive a private lesson with Peter, he will work with you at whatever level of skill you have. You can work on forms, such as T’ai Chi or Hsing I-Pa Kua sets, or on interactive skills as found in T’ui Shou or Boxing, or look into ontological issues, such as thinking, perception, learning, or any of the endless aspects of being. Peter works privately with students so that each can receive as much of what he is communicating as possible and then put it into practice.

Have you ever looked at a picture of a leader (in any field-education, martial art, psychology, Zen, or someone living on the frontier of an endeavor), and noticed their students? They are all ordinary in the sense that you and I are ordinary. They all have some emotional orientation (“this is great,” “how did I get here?” “am I good enough?”), they all have beliefs about the teacher’s skill and personality. Everyone is ordinary, including the master. We often let ordinary limitations stand in our way. What is not ordinary is the opportunity. Allow yourself to be one of the students of one of the best.

Private lessons are by far the fastest and most accurate method of learning. You still need to practice and pay careful attention to your art, but private lessons will enhance your study in a powerful and dynamic way that is virtually unavailable elsewhere. Peter is very good at getting to the core of what is limiting you and dealing with that. If you decide that you would like a whole series of lessons, you will find the instruction gets deeper and reaches further into your framework of learning. Quite possibly your framework will also be challenged for the purpose of teaching you how to learn more quickly and with less effort.

Not only will Peter give you individualized attention, but as he is doing this he will speak to you about your style of learning, about ways to hold what you are doing that empower you, and sometimes he even tells stories about his learning and his experiences. It is hard to say all that might be covered in a private lesson; it is totally dependent on what is appropriate and needed for you. It is by far the most effective and efficient way to make progress in your studies. Private lessons will enhance both what you learn and your capacity for learning so that your skill level can advance geometrically. If you want to take advantage of the most valuable opportunity for study available, speak with Peter and ask to set up an appointment for a private lesson.


The Cheng Hsin work is addressed through separate courses, classes, and workshops in order to focus our attention and do justice to the importance of each particular aspect of being. Nevertheless, they are all part of a whole and so interconnect to one another and empower one another.

The Principles of an Effortlessly Effective Body-Being
The human body is designed in a particular way. Given this basic design certain capacities and limitations in movement and function are inherent. Some ways of movement are more effortless, more powerful, and more in harmony with the basic or original body design than others. Most of us have gotten out of alignment with that original design through various processes — injury, trauma, ignorance, or bad habits.

The purpose of the Principles Course is to introduce the student to the functional design of both the mechanics and energy of the human body. A simple example of this is found in recognizing the difference it makes to keep our knees pointing in the same direction as our toes. The knee is designed to be a hinge and is not designed to rotate. We can rotate it, but by doing so we lose power and hurt ourselves in the long run. In this example we can see that the possibility of having more power in our movement does not exist as some abstract event available to us somewhere else or in the future. Already, right now, our knees are designed to be hinges and we can align ourselves to using them in this way. Thus “effortless power” is realized in the re-alignment of our actions and habits with the design of the body.

In the field of Being we make distinctions. One major distinction we make is the distinction called objects. On some level objects are always part of our experience. For most of us, our body is an object existing among other objects. Our “being” is distinguished as an object via our body. To be inclusive, Peter uses the term “body-being” instead of simply “body.”

Whenever we are pressed to the wall about how we know we are alive, how we know we “are,” the bottom line for us is often that we have bodies. Or we say that it is because we are aware, that we have awareness, feeling, and sensation. It is not so difficult for us to consider that sensation, maybe even awareness, is a body experience. When we think about it, it appears that all feelings may be bodily experiences. The Principles Course begins with an investigation of our bodies. Generally, we tend to be abstracted from a powerful body experience, and so also from our feeling and our sensations. As such, we don’t enter into possibilities such as feeling our hearing, feeling our seeing, feeling our tasting, feeling our smelling, or even feeling our feeling.

The whole feeling realm or dimension referred to as “energy” or “life force” is brought out in the Principles Course. We take on an exploration of the principles in which our “feeling” relationship to the body occurs. The body itself is an occurrence that is, for the most part, a feeling.

The feeling realm is not just emotion and sensation, although it includes emotion and sensation. We could say it is the possibility or principle in which emotion and sensation appear. Our entire relationship with the body occurs in the feeling realm; that’s how we move it, how we relate to it and, aside from looking at it, the only way we know it’s there. Our sensory, feeling experience is the experience of the life force, which is simply the force of being alive. Since we are investigating the event of Being at Cheng Hsin, the event of being a body and the feeling relationship to the body is a fundamental part of our experience and so requires our attention.


The Principles
The human body has a specific design that functions most powerfully and effortlessly through principles that are studied in this course. We discover that there is a lot we ignore in our bodies; by acknowledging that we ignore things, we immediately become more open to possibilities outside of our habits. Through experiential exercises we have an opportunity to take a look at the assumptions we have about movement and about our bodies. If we are able to create for ourselves the experiences that are suggested in the various exercises, then we are creating a grounded opening into questioning the nature of body-being.

It is difficult to talk about principles. On the one hand, we could simply say that the principles of an effective body-being are: being calm, centered, grounded, relaxed, and moving in a whole and total way. But the actual principles are essentially unspeakable. They are the governors of our experience, not the state of experience itself. So when we experience relaxation, we could say that our experience is occurring inside the principle of relaxation. Or we might say that we create the experience of relaxation out of the principle which allows for that state.

One way to speak of relaxing is “the letting go of the activity we call tension.” Tension is a constant “doing.” In relaxing we stop “doing” that. At first we get floppy and limp to give us an idea of how our bodies can be without tension. It is useful for us to go through this stage; however, relaxation is not a particular form or way of appearing. It is a way of being that does not require any extra “doing” on our part.

We need continuous questioning, such as: “What is the principle that gives rise to relaxation?” and “What is the principle that allows me to create relaxation?” and “Why relax at all?” so that we remain open to questioning the nature of the different principles.

Have you ever noticed that things fall down and that your feet are on the ground? Obvious, right? But have you ever really noticed this? What is going on? Gravity you say? What is gravity? We all “know” about gravity but for the most part we take it for granted. We don’t feel the pull of it, and we unconsciously fight the pull. Because we don’t feel it, we can’t consciously align to or blend with it and so can’t make full use of it in functional situations (like shifting under the ground and uprooting someone in T’ui Shou). In the Principles Course we notice distinctions like gravity and we do exercises to enhance alignment to principles such as grounding.

In physics we learn that any mass has a center of gravity and this center of gravity is the balance point for the mass. Our bodies are a mass and they have a center of gravity that is located in the middle of the body just below the navel. It is valuable to put our attention on this center and move from this place, because moving from our center automatically and efficiently moves our whole body.

True grace always has a wholistic quality-consider how graceful a master dancer is, or a T’ai Chi master. Their bodies always seem to be one fluid event where no piece moves on its own. There is more power in everything we do if our whole body is behind our actions. For this to be the case, we need to be aware of every part of our body.

Calm mind enables us to bring our whole being to an event or interaction so that we are only doing what we are doing. Calm can also be called presence. Calm mind means that we have the capacity to keep turning whatever arises into what we are doing rather than be distracted or removed from what we are doing. In this way we are always present with what is occurring.

Since we are working with our bodies, we must make a distinction between the body and what we think about the body. The power of transforming the body lies in the experience of the body, not in our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. If we make a distinction between these two activities, we can progress towards mastery in any endeavor. Discovering principles of body-being and studying psycho-physical interactions must move beyond mere remembering (which is an abstract, conceptual event) and into the ability to be present with the entire process unfolding in each moment.


The Training
Really taking on the Principles Course changes many aspects of our body-being experience. It changes the way we move our bodies, the way we relate to the ground, the way we stand in our feet, how we turn, what we feel, and the way we feel and hold our awareness of objectified reality.

To make the considerations we take on in the Principles Course effective, we move beyond abstract conceptualization. For example, alignment with the principle of grounding appears in part as a heaviness below, which brings into our experience a giving “weight” or preference to what is below over what is above. All the exercises are like this. They all give us a conceptual image that points towards the possibility of a new experience, but only if we create them as real in our body-being. This, however, takes training.

Because of the experiential nature of the course, the results of the exercises do not disappear as soon as we leave. In addition, Peter facilitates us in actually taking charge of the investigation and throwing ourselves into it so that we have greater access to questioning our experience and investigating the event of body-being on our own. We are constantly encouraged to discover for ourselves the truth of the matter. We are not asked merely to believe what is offered — we are asked to try it out, to find out what is so. Through our participation in this course we begin to create for ourselves the communication of the nature of being a body.

The Principles Course is the most basic course and is appropriate for beginners, yet the material addressed greatly serves advanced students. This course is a must, and is the first step in mastering all of the Cheng Hsin body awareness and skills.


Functional Concerns and Ability
Much of what concerns us in life is related to our ability to interact with others. Getting results in our relationships and interactions is an issue of ability, but not one that we commonly recognize as such. Beyond the effective functioning of our bodies, we must look into being effective in our interactions and relationships. There are two workshops that move us into this work: The Principles of Effective Interaction, and Transforming Our Experience of Relationship. See the Workshop section below for more information.


Mind Course
In the Mind Course we look into all that constitutes our experience. We consider the possibility that our entire experience may appear conceptually, and that conceptualizing is an activity of mind. When we put our attention on what is present, be it another person, a thought, a tree, or a memory, we notice that on some level we are interpreting, identifying, and describing. “This is a tree.” “This is a person.” “This is my body.” We have no choice about making interpretations-nor would it necessarily be desirable not to make them-but we can choose to understand what it is that we do and how it affects us. It is possible that there is nothing within the realm of usual human experience that is not conceptual, that in fact we have no direct experience.

So what is the relationship between the experience of being a human and the mind? We often fail to consider that the mind is active in all of our experiences. We may think that the body has nothing to do with mind, or that emotions are “instinctive” and therefore not necessarily related to mind. We speak of “gut-level feelings” that are not directed by the intellect. On the other hand, what if all of these were indeed mind activities, or at least strongly influenced by the activity called mind?

Attraction, repulsion, loving, hating, knowing, believing, judging, assuming, having opinions and attitudes, sadness, anger, fear, and everything we can think of that is part of our human experience, is open for consideration in the Mind Course. Our experience is not optional, it’s what we live in. It is what we hold as reality.

Do you ever notice that you hold emotions as things thatare, that exist as something there to which you simply refer or experience? Do you ever wonder what emotions actually are? Have you ever considered that emotions could be conceptually based, or based in our thinking?

In the Mind Course we inquire into the nature of any emotion, and just through the inquiry itself we develop a different relationship to emotions. Our assumed understanding of emotion is questioned. The questioning creates some openness about what the nature of emotion really is. It can be tremendously freeing and empowering to consider what fear, sadness, anger, happiness, etc., actually are.

We know things. We have a lot of “knowing.” All of our knowing is conceptual. Most of us don’t like not-knowing. We tend to think it is “wrong” or “bad.” Certainly we have the inclination to quickly fill in our not-knowing so that we are constantly in the process of “knowing”.

In the Mind Course we look into the power of questioning and the power of not-knowing. What is the power of not-knowing? In part, it is the only place, or way of being, from which we can truly learn. If we “know” everything then there is no room for learning, “our tea cups are full” so to speak, and there is no room for more tea.

The power of questioning, what true questioning is, and the primary nature of questioning are addressed throughout the course. To create openness we question everything about our experience. The Mind Course is not about answers! Opening up to look freshly at ourselves and our relationship to the world is certainly a challenge. Those who truly apply themselves to the issues covered in this course are in for a mighty encounter with reality.

The distinctions made in all the Cheng Hsin courses are sourced from the experience of Nothing, and from the position of Being that is not-knowing. For a clearer and more powerful position in relationship to our lives and to others, we need to get in touch with what is actually occurring, with whatever is present, as distinct from our thinking, opinions, and judgments. This clarity and not-knowing presents us with new possibilities in each moment.

The Mind Course serves as an opening to being open. Being open is enlivening, exhilarating, exciting, vulnerable and alive! Mind Course is traditionally an eight-month or 30 session commitment, but a shorter version can be done, still requiring a commitment. This is to say that participants must commit to be present for and involved in all of the meetings of the entire period.


All the courses and classes in different ways address the event of Being. For instance, in the Contemplation Intensive all of our effort and attention is devoted to achieving a direct experience of the source of being, beyond any program, opinion, or belief. In the Principles of Effective Interaction workshop, the primary investigation is about ability or being effective. How we hold ability is totally determined by the things we unconsciously hold to be true, what we assume to be already “fixed” as reality. Although the focus of the Empowering Transformation Workshop (ETW) is not the design of the body, techniques for fighting, or sets of movements, it puts us in a conscious relationship to the creation or “fixing” of our experience of reality.


The Empowering Transformation Workshop
In the Empowering Transformation Workshop we pierce the principles of experience, and so are empowered to get to the truth of the matter in every endeavor. The ETW covers the most important ontological considerations of our work at Cheng Hsin and offers us the opportunity to enrich and unify all that we study here.

The ETW is not about transformation in the conventional sense, as something outside ourselves. It is about the nature of our experience-that in which everything exists for us. It is about being alive, being creative, being open; it is about questioning, and discovering or creating the possibility of a new way of being, thinking, feeling, and acting. It is about being, as opposed to living from a collection of opinions and beliefs.

We begin by moving deeply into an experience of what is already so for us. We investigate the design and make-up of the self, the foundation assumptions that create self, and the forces and dynamics that run us. From this experience we can proceed to address the matter of our own being very differently.

We can easily observe that we are at the effect of conditions. This is to say we are affected by the world around us, by others, and by our own feelings and thoughts. Looking into the many impulses and patterns that run us reveals the root of our activities and reactions. We discover that the source of all that we do, see, feel, think, etc., is based on a very central dynamic that we might call “self-survival” or our determination to persist as a particular “self.” Understanding the mechanisms that govern and entrap us in this dynamic is the first step in getting free of these effects.

The workshop continues to push us to get to the bottom of our experience of life, of relationships, work, study, etc.. We examine interpretation, cognition, and perception, making new distinctions regarding the nature of our experience, thinking, and activities. We use contemplation and communication to create an opening from which all other branches of inquiry and forms of pursuit are empowered and enhanced.

The problems or barriers that we encounter in life usually take a long time to work through. By addressing the habitual assumptions and beliefs out of which these barriers arise, the ETW gets to the truth of the matter much more quickly. Things that bogged us down clear up.

The purpose of the workshop is to create an opening for us to step into an authentic experience of the generative power of our own being, such that transformation appears as a real possibility rather than as an unattainable fantasy.


Contemplation Intensive
A Contemplation Intensive is similar in some ways to an intense Zen retreat. Throughout the entire workshop, the participants ask or “hold” a question such as “Who am I?” “What am I?” or “What is existence?” for the purpose of directly experiencing who or what the truth is. Such an experience, in Zen terminology, is called an enlightenment experience.

There is no “data” in this workshop, nothing to memorize, no formulas to live by, nothing to understand, or new distinctions to be made. New distinctions and breakthroughs are likely to occur, yet they occur solely out of the participant’s own work and contemplation. This kind of intensive is highly structured and requires discipline, yet the actual “technique” or method used is extremely simple.

The main exercise done throughout the intensive is the Contemplation and Communication Exercise (CCE). This is a 40 minute period in which two people sit facing one another, with one person acting as the listening partner and the other as the contemplating and communicating partner. Every five minutes the roles are reversed and the listening partner becomes the contemplating and communicating partner, and the contemplating partner becomes the listening partner. This goes on, back and forth, for 40 minutes.

The fundamental endeavor in a CCE is to set out to directly experience who you are. As a result of this immediate contemplation in which you are opening up in that very moment to experience your self directly, something will come up. By “come up” we mean that some thought, feeling, idea, sensation, memory, or some sort of experience will fill the space of that openness. Or you will directly experience who you are.

Whatever comes up for you when you set out to directly experience yourself is communicated to your partner. Regardless of what it is, you get it across to your partner honestly, exactly as it is. The listening partner receives it without comment, without judgment, without any kind of feedback at all, subtle or gross. This gives you the freedom and space to communicate anything, without concern about its correctness, how good or bad it looks, or whether it will be judged or not. When the communication has occurred, you once again set out to experience who you are; you contemplate and then communicate what comes up as a result, repeating this process until your five minutes is up. At that time a bell will chime and you will be instructed to reverse roles; you will then become a non-judgmental, open, and silent listening partner for five minutes.

A day begins at 6 AM. Throughout the day many CCE’s are done (12-15). Vegetarian meals are provided. Two walking contemplations (30-40 minutes), one solo contemplation (30 minutes), a rest break (40 minutes), a lecture/talk period, and a few other short exercises will occur during the day. The meals will be light, but relatively frequent. Everything will be a contemplation. For example, “eating contemplation” and “sleeping contemplation.” The participants are instructed to “hold their question” every minute of the entire day. Sleeping contemplation begins close to midnight.

This general schedule occurs for several days (usually three or four). In such an intense environment, where you have no concerns but to directly experience yourself, people move through a tremendous amount of stuff. Mental, emotional, and physical “barriers” can come up. This is to be expected. Consider it part of the process and keep your intent on directly experiencing who you are, no matter what it takes or what comes up or gets in the way. The purpose of this intensive is to have an enlightenment experience — to directly and authentically experience the truth and nature of Being. This is the heart of self, of being alive, of consciousness, and the entire event that you are and are living. Through repeatedly plunging into the question, we are immersing ourselves in the questioning and openness that is at the heart of Cheng Hsin. It is worth going for.


The “Effective Interaction” Workshops
The two Effective Interaction Workshops — The Principles of Effective Interaction and Transforming Our Experience of Relationship — are committed to deepening our understanding of what it takes to create ability or effective interaction. These workshops tackle the very principles and dynamics that determine ability — or prevent it.

Getting results in our relationships and interactions is not often recognized as an issue of ability. When we talk about ability we are talking about interaction. We are also considering how we think about, perceive, and act in relation to who we think we are. The purpose of this work is to transform the event of self such that we have access to effective interaction and creating relationship.

Imagine that you are so aware that you respond to every moment creatively, skillfully, and powerfully. Imagine that all of your relationships work in a way that you never thought possible before. Imagine that you have access to ability beyond what you have dreamed possible. Training people to be alive, skillful, powerful, and to relate with greater capacity is the endeavor of these workshops.

This work should not be confused with learning specific techniques such as for martial arts. This study offers the possibility of empowering all our functional and relational endeavors-in short, just about everything we do in life. The benefits gained from these workshops are many and varied. Self confidence improves as the participant becomes more capable of fully perceiving situations and responding appropriately.

In both workshops we play games of interaction and do excercises to study our habits, tendencies, and beliefs about relationship. We look for possibilities rather than for “knowledge.” We make distinctions, such as the distinction of a response versus a reaction. And then we train to align with what is most effective. Using games and confrontive situations, we have the opportunity to observe and experience how we interact-in a real, immediate, and unrehearsed circumstance.

The issues of relationship, interpretation, distinction, purpose, action, and ability reach deeply into our whole lives. These workshops offer an opportunity to empower these areas and thus the entire scope of our living.


The Principles of Effective Interaction Workshop
The PEI workshop addresses skillful or effective interaction such as that found in competition, recreation, or business.

How we do this:
First, we look into the self-design: the structure of thinking, emotion, interpretations, reactions, beliefs, and opinions that design you as a particular self and also provide the degree of ability and limitations presently experienced by you.

We discover the fundamental principle of effective interaction and address the barriers and the tools necessary to accomplish a breakthrough into this principle.

We begin making the distinctions necessary to redesign our experience and perception so that our actions can be truly effective.

We take on the state of mind and awareness out of which our actions — and therefore ability — are determined.


Rethinking Ability
It is likely that effective interaction is not what we think it is. Ability may not be what we commonly hold it to be. Most of us think of ability as some thing that is had in varying degrees, including not having any at all. We consider it to be rarefied. “He has a lot of ability, much more than I do.” “I could never do what she does because I don’t have the ability she has.” Actually, ability may not be personal and it may not be rarefied.

We may all have tremendous ability for everything that we do. Reading these words right now represents incredible ability, or walking across a room without bumping into anything. These are actions we all do all the time and take for granted, and therefore usually don’t consider that they have anything to do with ability. It is somewhat different to realize that we already have access to ability, right now, without having to do anything except to hold reality in a different way. Ability is an issue every moment of our lives and we don’t have any choice about this. There is no living without ability. Yet we are not clear on what ability is and how it comes to be.

In the event of being, we find that interaction, relationship, and ability are primary concerns for us. These are the places where we really live and exist. Relationship is not an option, interaction is not an option, ability is not an option, and yet we hold all three as optional. We cannot survive without ability, we do not live without interaction, we do not interact without relationship and we do not relate without ability. Ability is always an issue, whether we think our ability is crummy or outstanding.

What if ability is simply appropriate interaction? Then we are left with the question, what is appropriate? Action is appropriate if it is appropriate to the purpose. Now for most of us, most of the time, our purpose is already a given: it is survival. Appropriate interaction for us is interaction that has us survive, and we are very good at it. For example, it is amazing how good people are at driving cars. At a stop light with five cars in front of you, you know when the first car moves and the second, etc., and you know exactly when and how fast to start moving your own car. You take for granted what you are doing. The multitude of distinctions you are making and the ability involved are taken for granted. We are committed to survival. It is the purpose that determines the appropriateness of our interactions, and we serve this purpose with a fantastic display of ability that we don’t even recognize.

In the PEI we dig into what designs our self — and so our interactions — and then work on discovering as an experience the “principle” that governs effective interaction. We continue by making and clarifying some new distinctions (experiences of reality) that help redesign our thinking, feeling, and actions by redesigning our perception of things.


Transforming Our Experience of Relationship Workshop
The TER workshop is about relationships such as we find in marriage, friendship, or various other personal encounters. We delve into the heart of relating to gain access to a much greater intelligence for our relationships.

Have you ever noticed that your relationships often do not work as well as you would like them to? Even so, you probably have not stopped to question the nature of relationship. Relationship is about one and an other. If we live primarily within our own concerns, it is as if our relationships are determined out of relating with our selves. In the TER workshop, we discover cyclic patterns of ineffective strategies and behavior, and learn to break free of them. By going beyond normal social and cultural assumptions, we are empowered to “create” our experience of relationship rather than “suffer” it.

Everything is relative: everything appears in relationship. What seems to be most workable is to operate from the most accurate interpretation of relationship possible. This demands both honesty and an openness to what actually is. Coming from this position, appropriate action may occur naturally. To go one step further, relationship is fundamental to our existence. We experience reality by distinguishing between “self” and “other.” We know something exists because it is separate from other things. We exist because we are separate or distinct from everything else. Our experience of relating, then, defines much of what we experience as our self, especially as a social being.

In the TER we look at relationship and how relationship lives in our interpretation. The way we relate to everything, to people, events, and ideas, is determined by our interpretation. We need interpretation. How are we going to get home or turn on a light switch without interpretation? Yet to be effective our interpretations must be in alignment with what is actually occurring. One of our foremost concerns is how we relate to others and, as a result, how we see ourselves in the relating. Often we assume that this is a more or less fixed event, and that the only recourse we have is to try to be a “better” person in our relating. Yet in the TER we find that much of what limits us in our relationships, or brings us to unsatisfactory results, is born of unseen mechanisms. Once we uncover the dynamics that restrict our relating, we can learn to shift our interpretation of others and events dramatically and free ourselves from old patterns.

We often fail to make necessary distinctions, such as recognizing what the other person is up to, the purpose behind their actions, or the purpose of our own actions. For example, once your purpose is clear to you, your actions will fall into alignment with this purpose. If your purpose for an interaction is clear, and you are aware of where you are relative to where they are, you will immediately adjust your attitudes, feelings, and behavior to fit the purpose of the interaction. You will be “moved” in that way. Your actions will arise appropriate to the event.

The TER is a confrontive but safe and very effective workshop that exposes the games, programs, and dynamics that have determined our relating, and then opens within us new possibilities for experience.


The Pleiades Workshop
Pleiades is an awesome workshop. It is a passionate, thirteen-day investigation into the nature of Being. It is not an intellectual endeavor; it is participatory and experiential. As in the ETW, we thoroughly investigate the design and make-up of the self, the foundation assumptions that control our experience, and the forces and dynamics that run us. We examine interpretation, cognition, and perception, and we “experience” the very nature of experience. We use contemplation and communication to dive into the actual creation of self. We probe the very heart of Being.

The fundamental question is “What is Being?”-What is being alive? What is being human? What is thinking, feeling, and relating? What is an object? Who am I? What are you?-These are all questions found in questioning the nature of Being. We look at everything! In so doing, our lives are deeply affected.

We contemplate beyond the conventional and comfortable assumptions that we have about the world. Through dialogue with Peter we are personally invited to explore our assumptions and make eye-opening breakthroughs. We do many diads and experiential exercises to move us in a direction of openness and to create the possibility of directly experiencing the nature of Being. Constant contemplation is a primary feature of this workshop. All the activities of the workshop, even our eating and sleeping, are done within the context of our inquiry.

We operate from a collection of buried conclusions and assumptions. The relentless intense questioning in this workshop breaks us free of the limitations created by these convictions. Our experience of being alive is very different after participating in this mammoth workshop. Just so, it is not a “get better” workshop, or a new philosophy to believe; it is a rigorous investigation of “Being.”

After the Pleiades Workshop the studies at Cheng Hsin take on a new depth, because we have a glimpse of what the real teaching is about and also where it comes from. When we are moved beyond our present limitations we are able to throw ourselves more fully into what we do.

As Peter has said about the Pleiades Workshop:

It is perhaps the only event in which I do not have to hold anything back — I can go as fully and deeply into the matter of Being as I’ve always wanted to.


Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou Camp
Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou is mainly rooted in three traditional arts: T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Aikido, and Pa Kua Ch’ang, with influence from arts such as Judo, Jujitsu, boxing, and others. T’ui Shou is an art of throwing and uprooting. The student learns to neutralize aggression, blend with forces, disrupt the balance and power of attackers and project them through space or throw them to the ground. Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou also incorporates the ground-breaking explorations which have distinguished the teachings of Peter Ralston, and embodies the spirit of the following statement:

“A warrior is measured according to this:
That he learns from the dregs of the ancients
and extracts clear liquid from them.”

Chosan Shissai, 18th Century Japanese Swordsmaster

The Art of Effortless Power is unique and special because it gears itself to meet any situation by being founded on understanding the principles in which all interaction takes place. It has been designed out of a deep and profound experience of the principles of effortless power and effective interaction.

A Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou Camp is usually a week-long, live-in event in which we study and train the art all day. Such intense immersion into an art provides the best ground for breakthroughs and leaps in ability. Seeing the art unfold in its entire form day after day is an opportunity that’s difficult to duplicate in a piecemeal fashion.

The Principles of an Effortlessly Effective Body-Being is an integral part of this art and so study and training in the mechanics and energy of the Cheng Hsin Body-Being is woven into the course. Also included are the basic Principles of Effective Interaction, some work on questioning and contemplation, and — just for fun — some sword play. Training lasts about seven hours each day.


T’ui Shou Workshops
A T’ui Shou workshop is designed to teach and train some aspect of the art of Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou. Each workshop follows a theme appropriate for the skill level and interests of the group. It can be designed as an introductory course for all new students, or perhaps we will address uprooting, intrinsic strength, freeplay skills, a catagory of techniques, listening or joining. Whatever the focus, the extended class time provided by a workshop allows us to delve into the art in an intense six to eight hours of training. These workshops usually range from one day to three and a half days.


The Apprentice-Instructor Program represents the committed heart of Cheng Hsin. Apprenticeship has traditionally been used as the fastest and most complete way to learn an art and to move into a position of mastery in relation to that art. At Cheng Hsin the art we are studying is questioning the nature and experience of Being. Our endeavor here is to constantly deepen our consciousness of Being and thus increase our level of freedom and effectiveness.

As apprentices we actualize our commitment and realize what is being taught through taking responsibility for the school. Each program is another step that requires more responsibility for — and a bigger commitment to — understanding and communicating Cheng Hsin.

For those who want to be instructors or facilitators, or who simply want to use a powerful method towards personal transformation, this program is the place to be. The Apprentice-Instructor Program provides another level of growth for any student who is committed to questioning and challenging their own experience. Because it addresses the whole being, the program requires courage. It uncovers the most hidden aspects of ourselves and demands that we expand beyond previous limits. It touches the very core of our being.

The program is confrontive, direct, and demanding; it is the most powerful means for transformation available at Cheng Hsin. As Apprentice-Instructors we are responsible for the care of the school, for communication between staff and students — basically every facet of running the Cheng Hsin School of Being. An integral part of the program is the realization and creation of effortless and powerful ways of being responsible.

The purpose of these programs is to move us closer to an experience of Consciousness. This shift in being is marked by the experience we have of moving beyond our all too familiar limitations into a more powerful and workable way of being in relation to others and to ourselves. Participants in this program have an opportunity to look at the assumptions and beliefs that they hold. Shifting out of these creates openings and new possibilities, not only in understanding the work at Cheng Hsin but also in daily life.


Apprentice Basic Training – Level I
The Apprentice Basic Training is an investigation into what we already are, and what we can be as human beings. It makes powerful demands for us to encounter and challenge ourselves in a personal and direct way. In the Level I program the fundamental consideration is being awake: to yourself, the environment, others, and relationship.

Participation in this five-month program facilitates a very real and grounded change in behavior and thinking. The basic focus and objective as an apprentice is to support the communication of Cheng Hsin. In Level I this centers around keeping the school clean and functional, and providing the services that the student body requires to make the communication of Cheng Hsin available. What shows up in taking on this task is how we typically are in the world. Observing how we do this work then becomes the field in which the Apprentice Trainers can reflect apprentices back to themselves. It is a life encompassing endeavor in that anything and everything in our lives is available as transformative material. As well, the nature of the program is such that our whole life is touched.

The purpose of the program is realized by getting and demonstrating distinctions such as commitment, accountability, keeping one’s word, creativity, and excellence.

After completing this program possibilities exist that were not there before, along with a sense of clarity about how we are in the world. We are more awake with much more power and possibility arising from what we now express.


Advanced Training – Level II
This program encompasses the purpose and goals of the Level I Program and more. Members of this program assist Level I participants in making the distinctions that are at the heart of Cheng Hsin. Since we must have a deeper experience of these distinctions and also the skill to communicate our experience to others so that they can get it for themselves, Level II apprentices face a much greater demand and expansion in our own transformation. All the teachings arise from the same place and the apprentice needs to get the source, as well as the particulars of the different courses and classes.

Participation in the Level II Program clarifies and makes real our understanding of the Level I program.


Apprentice Level III
The Apprentice program at level III is where we find the seriously committed students of Cheng Hsin. Peter Ralston’s promise to those who enter the program is that in three to six years they will have the bulk of Cheng Hsin ability and understanding. The program itself occurs in three stages — Internship I, Internship II, and Residency. Each stage is done in one or two 11 month commitments. The goal is mastery.

Level III apprentices master the skills and understanding necessary to facilitate others. They are asked to be present, aware, alert and available for student concerns. This necessitates letting go of much self-importance. They become the resource people of Cheng Hsin; like the hub of a wheel, they relate to the whole and function as the focal point.

Completing this program significantly changes the life of the apprentice. Once Cheng Hsin is mastered, it can be taken into the world and communicated to others while, at the same time, personal growth and maturity continue to unfold. This program is the fastest and most complete way to achieve a real facility and experience of Cheng Hsin in the Arts and in the Ontological work. It is geared toward a high level of transformation.


The degree system created by Master Ralston for the Cheng Hsin Arts provides insight into the elusive natures of these arts while producing an exciting series of goals. There is no better way to guarantee progress and insure genuine movement toward mastery than progressing through the degree system. Each degree is accumulative: the material in each prior degree must be demonstrated at a higher level. Comparing it to a Japanese ranking system we might say that Degrees One through Three are similar to Yonkyu through Ikyu; Degree Four is “black belt” Shodan/Nidan; Degree Five is black belt Sandan-plus; Degree Six is Godan; and Degree Seven is higher still. However, the degrees are actually quite different in nature and are geometric in progression. Students are encouraged to progress through the degree system as far as possible.

T’ai Chi Mini-Set (12 Postures)
T’ui Shou Techniques I (Basic Practice)
Falling: Standing and Rolling Falls
Demonstration of the basic Cheng Hsin Body-Being
T’ui Shou Feeplay: Game A

T’ai Chi Short Form (64 Postures)
Pa Sik Po (footwork)
T’ui Shou Techniques II
Falling: Breakfalls
T’ui Shou Freeplay: Game B

T’ai Chi Short Form (improved)
Wu Tsan Ch’un
T’ui Shou Techniques III
T’ui Shou Freeplay: Game B (improved)
Interactive Skills: Demonstrated in techniques, freeplay and effortless striking.

T’ui Shou Techniques IV
T’ai Chi Kim (Sword)
T’ui Shou Freeplay: Game C
Interactive Skills: Demonstrated in techniques, freeplay, multi-person, and boxing skills.

T’ui Shou Techniques V
San Shou
Basic Ontological Understanding (Demonstrated)
T’ui Shou Freeplay
Interactive Skills: Demonstrated in techniques, freeplay, multi-person, boxing, and Choy Lin freeplay

T’ai Chi Short Form (“mastered”)
Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou — Create Techniques (Minimum: 10)
Choy Lin and Free Fighting Skills
Sword Play
Interactive Skills (all)

Cheng Hsin T’ui Shou — Create a Domain of Techniques
Huan Sheng

Cheng Hsin Mastery

(For a detailed list of the current degree requirments see: Degree Requirements)


A. We have a degree system for the Cheng Hsin Arts. For requirements please see the bulletin boards. Exams are given three times a year for students wishing to earn their next degree. A pre-exam must be passed prior to taking the exam. See the activities calendar for exam dates. Exams are fun, exhilarating, and educational. You are invited to attend exams whether you are testing for your degree or not. Your attendance is also supportive of all those students who are testing.

B. Always show respect for the instructors and fellow students of the school. Wear proper attire. Bow when you enter the school, before stepping on the mat, and again upon leaving. Bow with the instructor to begin class and to close class. Bow to your partner before training with them. Say “Thank you” and bow after working out with a partner or after being taught by an instructor. In short, bow a lot. Also, please assist in keeping the school clean and “conscious.” Be friendly and helpful to visitors and new students. Keep an open mind.

C. Train, train, and train.