Big Trouble in Little Iowa

by Brennan Toh on 2018/08/05

Group Positive CircleWhat brings 40 people and 16 disciples to the little city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa? For over a dozen years, Master Chen Zhonghua has been visiting the American Midwest to teach Practical Method and introduce people to Chen Style Taijiquan. Students visited from New York, Texas, Hawaii, Arizona, Colorado, Arkansas, Ohio, California, and Canada to train and learn.


Master Chen covered a wide array of taiji concepts ranging from proportional movements, rotation, and fixed points in the body. He further clarified the difference between “fighting” and “not fighting”, and the difference between “tight” and “loose”. Yilu details, applications, jian (sword) form, Hunyuan Qigong, and push hands were all areas covered throughout the workshop.

Organized by disciples Levi Sowers and John Upshaw, the schedule at the camp was set to mimic the training done by full-time students in China.

6:00am – Hunyuan Qigong

7:00am – Foundations

8:00am – Breakfast

9:00am – 12:00pm – Foundation corrections, theory

12:00pm – Lunch

2:30pm – 5:30pm – Yilu practice

5:30pm – Dinner

7:00pm – Sword form

8:00pm – 10:00pm – Push Hands

At this workshop, we were lucky enough to be part of the Discipleship Ceremony of Nathan Heinz, Spencer Jones, and Edward Liaw. All of whom have completed full-time training at Daqingshan Mountain in Shandong Province, China.

Discipleship180728 - 10

A little about discipleship here:

With so many disciples, many of the students were able to get one-on-one instruction or break out into small groups to go in detail through the form.  Many of the disciples lead groups of their own in their areas.


From personal experience, here are a few ideas to get the most out of the workshop:

  • Train. The purpose of the workshop and the benefit of having Master Chen teaching is not to watch you train, but to allow you to learn (physically and mentally). Ideally we should consistently be training so that when we attend workshops, we are physically capable of making changes as instructed.
  • Understand the vocabulary.
  • Know the first 13 moves in Yilu.
  • Write notes to review later. I have often found that things Master Chen has said to me often don’t make sense until years later. Or I gain a deeper understanding of things I thought I had a grasp on.
  • Get a hands on feel of Master Chen. As much as possible! Don’t be shy – volunteer yourself!

Thank you to Master Chen for visiting Iowa, and the opportunity to learn from him. I am very grateful for the opportunity to continue training with him, and to train with all the disciples and other students who attended. Everyone seemed so energized and full of ideas on how to continue their training over the next year!


For more specific notes on the workshop, here are some compiled notes:

About Brennan Toh

Brennan Toh is a 20th generation practitioner of Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method and disciple of Chen Zhonghua. He began learning Practical Method in China in 2011, and has returned to Daqingshan many times since. Located in Canada, Brennan has assisted as an instructor in workshops in Europe, Australia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

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