I treasure every learning opportunity if I go to see Master Chen or he comes to stay with me (in Phoenix, Arizona). Unfortunately, I am such a slow learner, I won’t get sudden enlightenment. My goal of attending workshops is to learn one thing at a time.
So, what did I get from January’s Maple Ridge workshop? Shoulder down! Yes, yes, yes, I have heard that millions of time, from the very beginning (in the 1980s), from the very beginning when I learned Chen style new frame, Yang style long form, even Shaoling long fist, xingyi, bagua. I thought I understood. No, I didn’t. (That’s why I’m a slow learner.) The turning point for me was in this January when I went to Vancouver to attend Maple Ridge (monthly) workshop. Saturday morning, when we were doing our regular positive circles. Master Chen stopped us then lectured us about shoulders. How many times has he been doing this? Ever since I met him 10 years ago. But this time was different.
The difference was not that he taught differently. He taught exactly the same. The difference was that I responded differently. Yes, it took me 10 years to notice I do have shoulders, and they were always up. Now you see how slow I am. So, I know now what it really means when Master Chen says shoulders down.
Again, we always know what he means. Without practicing, it remains as an (good) idea. This time, I do try to squeeze my shoulder toward the hip. After a month’s practice and squeezing, I do start to feel the body as a rough “gear box.” But only when I try to teach my students about what I feel then I totally realize the shoulders should not move, only rotate. By squeezing the shoulder toward the hip, the intention here could prevent the shoulder to move, a true shouldercould happen. I use “could” here, because it doesn’t come automatically. My students could not do the yet. (I do put my hands on their shoulders to feel the action.) Only through the practice you can understand the principles. Hope my students won’t take 10 years to understand “shoulder down”.
Continuously learning from attending workshops is important. I wish I could go to more workshops. Meanwhile, I have plenty to practice and take time for my body to digest.