I have been wanting to write about how I started learning taiji for a while. I guess everyone has his/her own story, and I will share mine here. When I looked back at it, I always felt that it was fate and luck with all the stars aligned to be learning from Master Chen.
I didn’t have much martial arts background. If I remembered correctly, I took 5 lessons of judo when I was 14 or 15, and that would be it. I didn’t even get a chance to buy and wear the uniform before I stopped going. In the fall of 2009, I happened to watch one TV series and one movie related to Taiji. TV Series: 太極 Movie: 龍威父子/ Legend of the Dragon They both made an impression on me. I really liked the TV series, as it presented the idea how taiji could be used to fight. Although the movie wasn’t particularly good, it talked about a man who left his family to study taiji. Around that same time, I learned that someone was teaching taiji in the gym at work for free. I went together with a couple of my friends for the first class. The instructor was teaching Chen Style Taijiquan. At the time, I didn’t even know that there were so many different styles of Taijiquan. I just followed along, and I found that it was a good exercise as I sweated quite a bit. I played basketball for an hour once a week, and I only did other sports for pleasure occasionally.
My friends stopped going after once or twice, and I continued to go. For the most part, I was able to remember the chereography of the moves I learned, however, I wanted to look for a video online to remind myself anyway. I searched for “Chen Style Taijiquan”. Oh man, I then found there were so many: Old Frame, New Frame, Large Frame, Small Frame, Lao Jia, Xiao Jiao, and besides there were also Yang, Wu, Sun, Hao, and many others. However, I couldn’t find one that matched mine for a while. I started to watched quite a number of taiji videos, and I still do today. Finally, I found the one, which was Chen Style Hunyuan Xinyi Taiji 24. I liked Chen Style because it was more Kung Fu-like as inspired by the TV series. During the class, I started asking questions about the reasons for certain movements (I guessed I was trying to understand their applications, so I knew why I needed to do them in a certain way).
One particular movement I asked about was why I needed to make a small circle with my left wrist with the fingers kept touching the belly button (It was part of six sealings four closings). I couldn’t figure out the significance of that movement myself. Unfortunately, the instructor couldn’t satisfy my curiosity either. I started thinking that I should probably go to a formal school. For convenience I looked for a school in my area, and there was only one. The school taught a number of different styles, and the website was fairly informative about their differences, but the new class wouldn’t start until Jan 2010, so I had to wait.
While I was waiting, I stumbled upon Master Chen’s videos. The one video that stood out was the basic foundation trailer shot at Victoria with beautiful fall colours. That was more like a professionally made video than an average taiji video available on YouTube. The name Practical Method also made an impact. Wasn’t that what I was looking for? Another important element was that he was coming to Toronto in 2 weeks. It was a 5-day workshop on Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, and it cost $500. It was certainly quite a bit of money, and I would have to take time off from work to attend, and it wasn’t in the format that I was expecting (the usual weekly class). I reviewed all the Toronto workshop trailers available at the time, and found them to be interesting and very different. Master Chen was very hands-on, he would let his students touch him to feel his actions. He would cover Taiji theories by drawing things on the board. He let the students push him, and they would be bounced back or react seemingly in an uncontrollable fashion by themselves.
I was also impressed by Master Chen in this video how respectful he was to his teacher. At the end I decided to go. During my first workshop (Toronto 3 workshop), I asked the same questions any new comer usually would, e.g. how would a taiji practitioner react if someone really big punches you this way? He ended up with his hand at my throat. They were mostly irrelevant as I know now. I didn’t remember most of his teachings in this workshop. I found that out when I watched the recorded videos much later again. There was too much new information to me. I probably tuned out after the first two days. It was very tiring too with all the yilus that we had to do. One demonstration he did that I vividly recalled was: he put his two wrists touching together with the hands open like a flower, in which I placed my fist, and tried to punch, I felt as if a huge wall was pushing against me in front. There was no way around it, and no way to avoid it.
Master Chen kept mentioning that the things taught in this school were different. Some people might regard this as non-taiji. To me, taiji or not, it didn’t matter anymore, as Master Chen had abilities that I would like to possess, learning from him would be the only way. Master Chen once said, in a different workshop, Taiji was the way to give an ordinary person an extraordinary ability. According to Master Chen, I was like a paper when I started. When he tried to demonstrate on me, I was too weak to withstand it although I didn’t really feel that way. Hopefully I have made a little bit of progress over the last two years, and will continue to do so. I feel I am a little less skinny, and get sick less. As I do yilus more frequently these days, the joints seem more lubricated, and the actions seem less restricted. Taiji principles may sound simple, but yet they are very difficult to realize in the body, and there is no end to the quest. The goal is to do 10,000 yilus. Back to more yilus…