North American Taiji Training Camp 2017 Notes

by Clevenger on 2017/08/09


July 28th – July 31st

Hiawatha Iowa


John Upshaw and Levi Sowers

Regions Represented:

United States : Arizona, Illinois, Arkansas,  California, Georgia, Colorado, New York, Washington, Wisconsin, Florida, Texas

Canada : Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan

Total Participants:


Take Home Points :

  • Gongfa
  • Stretch until it turns
  • Engagement : On – Off / On – on / off – off
  • Front leg post into ground on steps > drag to posted leg
  • Stationary circle
  • Creeping over in pushhands
  • Taiji Trinity
    • Principle : Separation of Yin and Yang
    • Concept : Indirect Power
    • Action : In with Elbow No Hand, Out with Hand No Elbow
  • All Taiji positions are uncomfortable, we train to make them comfortable


The North American Taiji Training Camp was held from July 28th to July 31st 2017, John Upshaw and Levi Sowers put together an amazing event at a wonderful location (the Prairiewoods Retreat) for us all. The staff and volunteers at Prairiewoods were also very accommodating and helpful as we took over their center.

I got in late on July 28th, so I missed the trainings on Friday. We started at 6am on Saturday with Gong-Fa (foundations) and yilu practice led by disciples in the brisk air for August. After everyone was warmed up Levi Sowers worked with us on how to develop our own “wall” during push hands by having a solid base and locking a point on the body, this training will allow someone to feel as if they have a wall at their back and move their hands freely when pushing. Later, Kelvin Ho led us through drills related to moving around a fixed point. This dot can be anywhere as long as it doesn’t move. We practiced having it at the palm of our hand, pressed into our opponent, stretching our fingers over the dot and at a point along the forearm during the Positive Circle.

After Breakfast we were led through yilu by Brennan Toh. Brennan covered how each move of yilu stretches until it is forced to roll into the next move we covered this primarily in two sections of the form; the opening and White Crane Spreads Wings. Once everyone had a firm grasp of the concept Brennan led us in partner drills of Six-Sealing Four-Closing and Positive Circle using the concepts from before.

After lunch there was a review of how to fall properly, then were paired up for 2-minute bouts of push hands. This allowed those of us unfamiliar with push hands to get introduced to it, and the rest of us to get warmed up. The afternoon was dedicated to push hands drills and practice.


Sunday training before breakfast started with a webcast of the group following as Master Chen guided us through Foundations drills.

After breakfast Master Chen covered that what most of us think of as a transition is actually activation of the part we are trying to transition to. Most of us try and switch the engagement from one body part to another, for example from the front qua to the rear qua, when what we should be doing is keeping the front qua engaged while ALSO activating the rear qua.  We were then given drills to work on related to this.

Master Chen explained to us the importance of doing the drills and exercises exactly as described. Many of us tend to wander and go on to the “next” application or principal after a relatively short amount of time, which isn’t enough to properly engage with the material presented to us.

The training sessions after lunch were again dedicated to push hands and drills emphasizing “Clean” techniques. The idea being that before we had even engaged with our opponent we should know the move we are going to attempt, and just go for it, without taking into account our opponent’s move. If the move fails, we reset, and try another technique.

After the training sessions we discussed Taiji theory for a while and asked questions of Master Chen. Two salient points are that Taiji positions are inherently uncomfortable and we must train to make the comfortable and the “Taiji Trinity”

Principle: Separation of Yin and Yang

Concept: Indirect Power

Action: In with Elbow No Hand, Out with Hand No Elbow



Monday morning training began with Foundations and yilu practice before breakfast. After breakfast we worked on drills involving “posting” the front leg and positioning the rest of the body around that “post” without compromising the center.

In the afternoon we worked on more push hands focusing on the idea of “creeping over” our opponents to obtain an advantageous position. Master Chen made corrections when we became stuck and helped us get the feeling of being in where we needed to be to execute a move.


If you attended please comment below include your notes to help us all remember and spread our collective knowledge.


On a personal note; it has been amazing to watch the growth of the “Midwest Practical Method Gathering” from just a few of us, within driving distance to Iowa City,  meeting up in the summer to practice taiji in a focused manner to the point where this year we had over 40 people from across the United States and Canada and we could call it the “North American Training Camp”.  I look forward to seeing everyone and more next year.



About Clevenger

Disciple of Master Chen in Houston, TX

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Hugo Ramiro August 9, 2017 at 11:43 am

Hi Jeff, thanks for a great article which I will reread again a couple of times!
A geographical note, however – while Ontario is the best, we can also add at least two other locations: Alberta (Edmonton – Master Chen), and Saskatchewan (Saskatoon – Brennan).


Clevenger August 9, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Changes Made, also made it clearer. If I’ve missed anyone else please let me know and I will update it. It is a factor of my poor memory.



John Upshaw August 9, 2017 at 10:39 pm

Thanks for the summary Jeff!


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