Persevering in Practical Method Method

by John Upshaw on 2020/03/21




PicsArt_11-25-04.25.43I started learning practical method on 2005. I had a lesson once a week from one of Master Chen’s disciples. At that time I practiced maybe once per week.

In 2007 I attended my first workshop with Shifu. The second workshop I attended was in 2008, in which I had my first private lesson. That was a rough private lesson. He spent over two hours with me on correcting the first posture of the yilu. He asked me what martial arts I had studied? I gave him my list of 2 different styles of Kung Fu and Ninjutsu…and immediately afterwords he said “you have no martial ability”. To practice Martial Arts since I was 15 years old, and to have studied Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method Pactical Method for 2 years, not make it through the first posture during a 2 and half hour private lesson and to hear “you have no martial ability”, my ego was totally deflated… yet, I wanted this more than anything…. I PRESERVED…I would do “whatever it takes” to get this!

In 20O9 my Practical Method teacher informed me that he was going to stop teaching. This was a dilemma…a huge dilemma!!! This was during a time I didn’t have the resources that we all have now. Videos were on a compact disc, practical method teachers were not as available, Master Chen’s internet presence wasn’t available like it is today…what would I do…I PRESERVED! I identified my resources and made a plan. I contacted Tim Duehring from Milwaukee Wisconsin and he agreed to do what he could do to help me. I ordered the Energy Alignment and Yilu applications collections and I studied them daily. I started practicing more often. I connected with Gene Hess and Levi Sowers from Iowa City and I occasionally trained with them…I would do “wherever it takes”!

In 2009 Tim agreed to drive to Iowa with his students to work with Levi and I for a weekend. Following that we met a few times a year either at my house or at my family cabin in northeastern Iowa. I continued to study Shifu’s videos and discuss them on line with others.

In 2011 Levi and I drove through a blizzard that covered 3 states to attend a week long workshop with Shifu, hosted by Richard Johnson in Arkansas,. Cars and trucks were in the ditches all along the way there. Yet nothing was going to prevent us from going. Tim sponsored Levi and I as disciple applicants. Levi became his 80th disciple in Arkansas and in 2012 at New York City I became his 92nd disciple. Again, during that workshop, I learned how little I knew…Yet…I started taking away lessons learned and I PERSEVERED!

Tim moved to China to work for Shifu on Daqingshan. I started practicing daily and connected with Kelvin Ho. Internet improved by then. We started meeting online through Google messenger to do yilus. We encouraged each other, challenged each other to do more yilus and gave each other corrections on our forms. Kelvin and his family made arrangements to drive to my family cabin in Iowa from Toronto to attend a gathering led by Levi, attended by Jeff, Erwin, Gerry myself and our families. I felt things were coming together but I wasn’t even close to where I wanted to be…hadn’t even scratched the surface!

Levi and Erwin accompanied me to New York City to attend a Master Chen workshop hosted by Michael Calandra. This was my second time seeing Shifu in NYC. I had a private lesson with Shifu at 6 am in the hotel parking lot. I went through the postures…Shifu corrected me…I listened…and I could follow instructions…and that is a big deal! I made it through the 1st 13 postures and Shifu pointed his finger at me and said “you’re going to get it” with a smile on his face! 8 years of practicing, 8 years of walking away from lessons with Shifu or training with my Taiji brothers thinking “my Taiji SUCKS” and now….a glimmer of hope! Persevering has paid off!

Levi and I started hosting workshops in Iowa City. For the first 3 years a large group of taiji brothers and I would sleep in Levi’s basement. Shifu told Levi and I to find a location to host the next workshop. We found one and organized the North American Practical Method Training Camp at Prariewood Retreat Center in Hiawatha Iowa. Over a third of the participants are disciples of Master Chen from all over North America. In the 3 years we had the camp, I have experienced my abilities in Taijiquan grow from the teaching of Master Chen and training with my Taiji brothers. I leave the camp knowing where I made progress and the areas I need to work on. I appreciate Shifu being hard on me, pushes me, gives me hard truths that I need to hear…last year significantly higher than other years…yet I persevere because I am willing to do “whatever it takes”!

Throughout the years, reading a poem by Grand Master Hong has kept me on track…kept me going.

Three-Character Cannon On Learning

Contemplate Frequently
Practice Regularly
Follow the Rules
Seek Progress
Don’t Rush
Without Knowing
Ability has Increased

I use many quotes by Shifu that I collected over the years to motivate me…that I pass down to my students. This Practical Method journey is not an easy journey! It is very difficult, it is very long, and it seems impossible! However, I have made close brothers and sister along the way. I have risen to the challenges. I have made continuous progress. I have PERSEVERED!

I have a long ways to go…I am no where near where I want to be. To assist me with this I create “training plans”, which will be the focus of my next article. So until then, PERSEVERE and keep on seeking progress!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John Upshaw March 22, 2020 at 8:23 am

So one of the reasons why I wrote this is because Taiji is a template on how I live life. All patterns replicate themselves in everything we do. If we persevere in Taiji, we persevere in life…and we all need that now.


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