A little knowledge is a dangerous thing!
This is the section where Master Chen Zhonghua offers online information and classes on Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method. There are mini lessons, discussions and student evaluations.
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- Twisting the towel
- Fetch Water
- Six Sealing Four Closing
- Positive Circle
- Negative Circle
- Double Positive Circle
- Double (together)
- Double (alternate)
- Positive-Negative Circle (Pole shaking)
- – Moving Step
- – Moving Step
- Six Sealing Four Closing – Moving Step
- Double – Moving Step
- Double (alternate) – Moving Step
- Positive-Negative Circle – Moving Step
At some point one evening during the 2016 Iowa seminar, in Levi’s basement, a discussion occurred regarding the front kua and a particular orientation of it during a particular move. A statement was made about this requirement, followed by crickets chirping. Sensing that the moment was dying, I decided to wade in and stake my claim; to place myself at risk and bleed, hopefully. “I can do that! I can totally do that!” I crowed. It had been John Dahms, one of Master Chen’s senior disciples, who had stated the requirement. He said, “ok show me”. I sprang up and did something, as best I could, and his response was quick and direct – “You’re not doing it”. As deflated as possible I said “ok” and sat back down (I will come back to this). The discussion continued with some new indications and some new material, revitalised (with the help of my blood, I imagined). That moment still resonates with me many months later as I continue to work on the requirements laid out by John for that move on that evening.
The truth is I lied. I knew I couldn’t do it when I offered myself up, but I also knew something else: if I felt psychologically prepared during the teachable moment I would not really be listening. Somehow I had to create a situation inside of myself where I would be truly receptive, and I knew from Master Chen that two useful qualities in this respect were a. obvious failure (“Invest in Loss”) and b. confusion (“I don’t know”). Even if I simulated these by artificially elevating myself and then coming crashing down in front of everyone it would be better than being ‘very competent’ during the learning process or even not offering myself up at all. The emotional risk is necessary – in other words, I must be ready to put myself aside, no matter how bad it feels so that I can have a chance at real learning, which is always in an unknown and uncomfortable place.
I invested in loss, and in doing so, with John’s careful and attentive instruction, I invested in myself.
I had an interesting experience lately. I took singing classes with a professional classical singer. It was only one single event, but I learned two important things in those one and a half hours which are not only reflecting back on my Taijiquan but also on my life in general.
Western Learning Methods
Everything is about intellectually understanding things. After listening to my singing for a short time and before the teaching started I got two or three pages of text describing how the breathing organs work and how those relate to singing. Doing Practical Method for a while now and being in contact with eastern learning methods I just skipped through the pages to see if there’s something useful. I asked the teacher whether knowing this stuff is of any importance, especially in the beginning. She said, being a little puzzled, that most people want to know what they are doing, first. Intellectually. I explained, that I do PM and I trust her as a teacher to lead me through exercises which she figures are important for me at my current state. She started teaching me.
With different exercises she tried to get me in a mode where the voice was full. She put me on a stepper on which I had to walk while singing. At some point I had to lean forward in a shoulder wide stance. Singing “dui dui dui” up and down the in this position felt strange and she directed me saying “try this” or “try that”. At some point my voice felt awkward. The setting of my muscles in my vocal tract was so wrong. I even got a little scared somehow. I stopped after being in this state for not even a second. Suddenly the teacher almost shouted at me: “why did you stop?! That was wonderful! Do it again!”
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that setting during the remaining 15 minutes of the lesson.
This moment, when the awkwardness was on its peek was the moment when the door opened. I didn’t step through it, but now I know it’s there, at least. Even if I would have find this door without the teacher, I would be convinced that it’s the wrong door.