So, I've been thinking about writing again for some time. I looked in my old blog files, and I was appalled to see that it's been almost four years since I've spoken up. Life has been very busy, but mostly good stuff. To sum things up, here's what's been happening in my tai chi world since my last post:
Weapons: Tai chi is an internal martial art that also includes weapons. With the hand form, we learn how to send out energy from our root (feet), up through the legs, waist, and out through the arms and hands. With a weapon, we learn how to extend the energy out past the hand to the end of the weapon's striking point. So, over the past few years, I have been learning how to use various tai chi weapons, including single fan (there is also a two-fan routine called mulan fan that I haven't tried yet), short staff (both single and two-person), sword, and saber.
Push hands (tui shou): Push hands is a two-person hand technique where we learn to feel and work with another person's energy, using the basics from the solo tai chi hand form. It explores the martial arts aspect of tai chi. I found push hands to be quite challenging, so after awhile, I told myself that I wasn't ready and decided to temporarily put it on the back burner to work on other aspects of my tai chi practice. However, I'm at the point where I would like to work on push hands again, hopefully this summer.
Ranking: 2011 was the year that I decided to enter the ranking system. The Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Ranking System has nine ranking levels:
Eagle levels - copper, silver, gold
Tiger levels - copper, silver, gold
Dragon levels - copper, silver, gold
We are not required to rank, and it certainly isn't necessary to rank to enjoy practicing tai chi. But I really wanted to work on my tai chi skills, and the best way for me to grow was to set ranking goals for myself. Most people need to set goals to push themselves to excel, and I certainly am no different. The ranking test covers both a written exam on the history, theory, and philosophy of tai chi as well as a demonstration of the tai chi hand form in front of a panel of nine judges. As you attain higher levels, more is expected of you, regarding your knowledge of tai chi theory, proficiency in executing the form, and proficiency in using two tai chi weapons, the sword and saber. I currently have a gold eagle ranking.
More seminars: Every chance I get, I like to learn from the Masters. Master Yang Jun returns to our neck of the woods every couple of years or so to give seminars, which are intense, eye-opening, and informative. I have also attended a seminar by Master Chen Xiaowang in 2011 to learn more about silk reeling, or spiral energy.
More performances: Our Michigan Tai Chi Center performs annually for World Tai Chi and Qigong Day. This is a worldwide event that is held on the last Saturday of April at 10:00am local time. As each country/area reaches 10:00am, tai chi demonstrations begin, so that there is a full day of tai chi energy emanating around the globe. If you have never been to this event (preferably in your local time zone!), it's well worth attending. I remember going to my first WTCQD in 2008, right after we first started taking tai chi classes, and I was in awe of all the demonstrations in Yang and Chen style hand form and weapons as well as push hands. It was then that I became hooked.
China: Ah, I've saved the best for last. The International Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Association has a tournament in Shanxi, China about every five years for both competition and ranking. People from all over the world attend. My husband and I went for the first time in 2012, and it was an exciting experience. We met people from all over the U.S. as well as other countries - France, Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, Madagascar, Malaysia, Romania, etc. Although we were not there to compete (too many people there that have been practicing tai chi for far longer than we have!), we did participate in the opening ceremonies, tested for ranking, and cheered our friends on as they tested for ranking, too. We also were there to celebrate Grandmaster Yang Zhen Duo's 87th birthday. (Grandmaster Yang Zhen Duo is the Fourth Lineage Holder of the traditional Yang-style tai chi chuan.) The Chinese sure know how to party!
So as you can see, VERY busy. But now, I hope to spare some time to share more thoughts on my tai chi journey. So much has happened, and so much more is yet to happen! I don’t want another four years to go by silently.