February 23/24th Maple Ridge workshop.
Well first of all, this was my first time meeting Sifu Chen and I meant to write this as soon as I got back from the workshop and everything was fresh in my. I say that only because the sheer amount of information taught in this weekend seminar is astounding. In almost every other case you could never hope to learn quite so much on many diverse subjects in this short time for such a low cost. It’s very clear that Sifu Chen is very passionate about just teaching the real deal.
I have a martial arts background and I think people on the outside tend to forget that ‘tai chi’ was originally intended as a martial art. Ive heard of people staying away from the practical method simply because “it’s too martial for me”. The truth though, is that you do not need to go out and fight people with it to see a great benefit. However, a lot of the physical and mental benefits I believe are only retained or learned by practicing the art the way it was intended, as a martial art in nature. By being faced with an opponent (or partner) who is trying to push us over, we have to either be very large and strong, or learn the truth of how the body can be used physically in Taiji to stop them. Sifu Chen gives an extremely thorough and scientifically backed up explanation of every way that the body has to work to generate not only power, but balance, stability and structure. All things that greatly benefit our bodies physically, and from a health perspective in a way that simply waving your arms around with no intent in a park can only give you a fraction of.
This was my first time meeting and training under Chen Zhonghua and my general feeling on the whole weekend after the fact is that i am blown away. I am somewhere in the six foot and above range, 250 plus pounds, and I have a very large build and I have always been strong physically. I am not a push over by any means to most other people that I’ve trained or sparred with. Chen Zhonghua is not a large man by any stretch of the word, he is in fact quite small in comparison. He has learned a mastery over every joint and muscle in his body to such a degree that touching him feels like touching an actual machine. That is the only way I can describe the feeling. Humans have created all kinds of machines over the last couple hundred years based on science and physics. Axis points, gears, screws and wheels power all of our modern machinery. Anyone who has ever worked with gears and pulley’s or any heavy equipment knows the power that is behind them scientifically. We know that if you get your clothing caught in the gears of a machine at work you cannot stop yourself from being dragged in, so we have developed a lot of safety features to kill the machines in these circumstances on many job sites. What it seems we aim to learn through the study of practical method is to use all of the natural gears and axis points in our bodies to utilize real science and physics to maintain control over ourselves and our opponent in a confrontation.
From my experience, to try and push over Sifu Chen, is like trying to over power the gears on a modern machine. The things he is capable of physically actually appear to be magical, or something from the Chinese legends. He was able to manipulate me in any way he wanted and toss me in all directions even when he would tell me first, and allow me to prepare to fight it. All while drinking a Pepsi in the other hand.
Another great thing about my experience from this workshop is that absolutely everybody is given the opportunity to touch the master.
This is something Chen Zhonghua actually talks about quite often and has a very clear opinion against those who only use one student to demonstrate on, or make excuses not to touch new people who could over power them. From the minute we started he was teaching me hands on. Showing me different adjustments, and having me push on him to demonstrate different concepts. His skill is real, and it only takes touching him once to know that without any doubt. He will touch with you as often as you ask him to, and help with any question you can think of.
We did a lot of form practice and basic skill and power training, structure and learning how the gears in the body need to work. He also teaches some very deep and insightful lessons on life as a whole, and we spent some time in front of the white board learning all kinds of deep. A lot of time was also spent practicing these methods on an unwilling partner, which is crucial to actually understanding how it works.
All in all, Chen style practical method is a very complete and scientific approach to martial arts, and to life. This was a very eye opening experience and I highly recommend coming to a workshop and feeling it for yourself, no matter what background you come from. Especially if you already train another form of Tai Chi. I had a fantastic weekend, and met a lot of really great people. Maple Ridge has a very strong and devoted core group and I am glad to be a part of it.