Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Carry Tiger to Mountain

Over the weekend, I had the chance to participate in something extraordinary – a two and a half day tai chi seminar with Master Yang Jun, who happens to be the sixth generation descendant of the creator of the Yang style. To say I was excited would be an understatement. To say I was nervous would also be an understatement. After all, he holds the title of “Shanxi Province Famous WuShu Master” by the Chinese WuShu Academy.

I knew it was going to be an intense weekend (three hours on Friday night, five hours on Saturday, and five hours on Sunday), but not until I went through it did I realize how intense. Master Yang Jun not only covered the proper way to execute each posture of the form, but also described the energy flow (sending and stopping) and demonstrated how some of the postures worked in relation to martial arts.

Having started his training at the age of five, he was clearly totally connected with this martial art form. His combination of strength and softness was amazing to watch. Each nuance of every movement had meaning. There wasn’t anything that was done without purpose.

As a teacher, he was patient, kind, and relentless. He made us use parts of our bodies that we hadn’t used before; pay attention to parts of our bodies that we ignored before. I don’t think I’ll ever look at pushing open a door the same way again. He would have us start to execute a posture but then stop us in the middle. And then, as we all stood frozen like statues, he would ask us to check if our heads were facing forward, shoulders relaxed, backs rounded, arms bent, and so on. This checkpoint was fabulous for taking a quick inventory before moving on, but holding some positions were really rough, especially if we were standing on one leg at the time. He would also walk around and make adjustments to our still life poses. And then we would do the posture again. And then several more times before moving on to the next one.

When discussing the postures, Master Yang Jun would call them by their English names, such as Single Whip, Grasp Bird’s Tail, Diagonal Fly, and Carry Tiger to Mountain. But when we ran through portions of the form, Master Yang Jun would call out the postures in Mandarin. I began to imagine all of us being in a public square somewhere in Shanxi, doing our daily morning practice before heading off to work.

The respect we had for him and the humility we felt in his presence, I believe, were truly genuine for us all. It was not just because we were asked to begin and end each day’s session with a traditional martial arts greeting – “Yang lao shi, hao!” (general translation: “Hello, Teacher Yang!”) and “Yang lao shi, zai jian!” (“Goodbye, Teacher Yang!”) – accompanied with the right fist to left open palm. And in return, he was gracious and compassionate.

By Sunday afternoon, I wasn’t sure how much longer I could physically and mentally hold out. Already, several people were sitting on the side resting, and some people had administered massages during the breaks. Yet, when it was all over, and we all received our certificates for completing the 103 Hand Form, I was filled with sadness and emptiness and didn’t want to leave. But the good thing is that I can take what I learned with me, and the essence of the class will be there, a part of me each time I practice the form.

1 comment:

  1. You continue to inspire and impress me with your dedication to whatever you put your energy into! And what energy you have my friend!! So glad you had this opportunity! This experience will stay with you forever and will be reflected upon often.