Steve Doob

By the time I first met Master Chen at a Phoenix workshop in 2015, I had already studied martial arts for a long time, since 1963 to be precise. So, I had strong opinions about what was correct and what wasn’t. I thought (and still do) that tai chi is called a martial art for a reason. It’s not called a health, meditative or energy art. Martial means it can be used to kill, but at the same time the killing has to be done artfully. Just clubbing someone to death doesn’t qualify. Read more

Once again Master Chen found it necessary to tell us how to learn. Many of us were practicing as he was teaching. And of course, I was one of them. He was giving each of us a private lesson and we should have been listening intently. At that point, practicing was just a distraction. Yes, practicing is totally necessary, but not when the teacher is telling us the important things that other teachers would call secrets and probably wouldn’t even teach. If we’re at all smart, we’ll take advantage of the wonderful opportunity Master Chen is providing. Read more

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I haven’t heard too many people praising the pandemic, but for me at least, it’s been great. I mean, I’m not fond of wearing my N-95 mask in buildings; it tickles my nose and fogs up my glasses when I talk. But these are minor problems compared to the boost it’s given my tai chi training. Read more

Probably the biggest thing had to do with the learning process: The questions that arise in my mind are usually off topic and I think their purpose is to distract me from paying full attention to what Master Chen is teaching at the moment.  By asking them out loud I’m distracting everyone else too.  My mind doesn’t want to give up control.
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I just attended Chen Zhonghua’s Phoenix workshop last weekend.  As usual, I thought I was pretty good thanks to all the practicing I had done since last year in Iowa, and as usual, Zhonghua threw my confidence into the toilet.

It was a great workshop, although overwhelming.  At least I’m more comfortable with what I think is the most important thing that was taught, namely don’t think.  Just follow the directions and don’t question them.  This is a big thing for me, someone who is always up in his head comparing and questioning.  Turns out that thinking is just a distraction from practicing, which is the only way to learn what is being taught.  How to get out of my head?  I think the answer is to practice as intently as I can.  When I do that, I notice interesting things and have occasional exciting insights.  It’s that excitement that keeps me going and that keeps practicing tai chi from becoming like a diet, where it takes willpower to force me to do it.

The second biggie I came away with is the need to segregate all the parts within each movement.  I learned that when two parts within a movement go at the same time they are double heavy.  I had not been separating the parts, which made for a prettier form, but was not leading me in a good direction.  So far, I’m just working on the part up to the pound mortar of the first section of yilu.  It is so hard!  But it’s starting to feel right, especially if I practice it with stalking power.  With that power, each segment of each movement seems to slip into place.

These two things are enough for me to practice right now.  I’m already starting to feel  human again and it’s a given that my confidence will be back by this summer in Iowa, just in time to be destroyed by the master again!

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I’m extremely pleased at what I’ve taken away from the camp. I have a lot to work on between now and the next Master Chen Zhonghua workshop, for instance:
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