Port Alberni Gathering

by Camille Lipford on 2022/09/15

A rather spontaneous gathering of West Coast taiji people happened September 9-12 in Port Alberni, British Columbia, Canada.

September 9

Sooyeon Zacharias arrived in the afternoon. After visiting and dinner we went to the Beaver Creek Community Hall. Alex Hasenfratz joined us as we set up the hall and practiced some forms. We were ready to sleep when Steve Doob rolled in with Shifu about 10pm. We were all tired, but it was hard to sleep with one bank of lights we did not manage to turn off.

September 10
We did a little training before breakfast. We were joined by Gina Lipford, Elaine Mantua, and Brian Simon. We proceeded to alternate from forms training, to individual move corrections, and partner excercises. Main idea was to keep the center unmoving. Stretch out the ends, use the fulcrum to go over. We helped lock Steve’s dantian and forearm so he could experience expanding a line and rotating it.

We might train here in the future!

Shifu corrected everyone’s double push down. Brian needs to lose his angel wings. The shoulders disappear into the back, the chest moves backwards. After a one minute correction we were exhausted! The vertical line is lengthened, and we expand horizontally when we cave in the chest, smooth out the back/ lose the shoulders. Talked about the two layers: front and back. To get to someone’s back layer, you need to get closer to them (step in).

Port Alberni Forest 20220910 – Steve and Sooyeon

Cooked lunch for each other, and enjoyed nap time. Trained a bit more before deciding to go across the road to Stamp Falls to see the salmon as they swim upriver to spawn. Shifu photographed many trees and fish. Hopefully he will share his photos!  Listened to Shifu compare the scale of a gnat’s life to a human life, remarking that they were very similar.  Went down the road to Camille’s forest, soon to be home. Went to town for a sushi dinner. As we came out, 2 bears were playing across the river, so Shifu crossed directly to the railing and took more photographs (never mind the traffic!). They did some push hands too. Some people chose to shower, then we headed back to the hall. Did we train before sleeping? I don’t remember. We did figure out how to turn the lights off.

Bear Encounter Port Alberni 20220910 – 6

At 2 am I woke abruptly to a loud knocking at the front door.  I jumped up and locked the door immediately. We had left it unlocked for the people sleeping out in their vehicles. The people at the door would not identify themselves, but asked me to open the door. I issued from dantian a strong “NO!”, and decided to end the interaction.  Luckily, the people moved on after a couple minutes, an the only harm was interrupted sleep.

September 11
We practiced yilu with a sudden stop for each move. The stop enabled us the time to feel our alignment, line up, and stretch in opposite directions .  To go towards or go away are all the same if on the same line. Discussed empty and full. When you find the perfect alignment it is empty. 3 spots are full, which is empty, because there are only three points, and everything else is empty.  Empty is so solid that energy can go through without restrictions. First thing to do is line up (the physical feeling is stiff. When you are extremely stiff that’s soft). Full also equals straight, also equals “I don’t want to be in front of you”.

Bear Encounter Port Alberni 20220910 – 4

John (last name?) visited us from Rage’s Farms.  He came for breakfast and stayed the whole day training.  Must have been hooked by the breakfast story time. Shifu covered fate, agression vs. passivity, the five bows of taiji all moving backwards, and balance as a state of being.

Bear Encounter Port Alberni 20220910 – 5

By the end of the day, we were playing a bit with push hands. Shifu described the 4 parts:

1. Touch- initial contact, usually forearm
2. Stick – get in, normally elbow or kua
3. Link -a light touch from the inside (kua, knee, elbow)
4. Follow – in and out with foot
In terms of distance: hand has least move
                                      elbow has a bit more
                                      kua even more
                                      foot has the greatest range (dramatically)
Hong said “Foot move is nine times larger than the hand move.”
When we were tired from pushing, more story time. Shifu described 2 influences on Chen Wangting. He read a female immortal’s book “Cannon of the Yellow Courtyard – Inner Vision”, and this enlightened him and changed his taiji. He also trained with Shaolin people, and this influenced our art.

Port Alberni Salmon Run 20220910 – 5

We ate leftovers for dinner, transformed into sandwiches, and decided to visit Sproat Lake before it became dark. Of course there was a lesson on the shore, as the bats swooped for bugs, and sky became darker. I was too tired to document that one.

September 12
Everyone was up by 4 am. Steve and Shifu needed to leave early. Sooyeon and I trained forms until we had to clean the hall, and also leave. Back at my home, we trained some more, then parted after breakfast.
Overall, it was a good balance of hard work with extremely awkward corrections, and play. Taiji is so hard, that if we focus only on that it will be too easy to quit. I especially enjoyed being together in one spot, so there was a natural flow of resting and working, training and meal preparations, sleeping and waking. Some may have preferred a set itinerary, but it was not to be.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Camille Lipford September 15, 2022 at 6:06 pm

Thanks for adding photos!


Steve Doob September 20, 2022 at 9:49 pm

Great recap!


Elaine Mantua October 14, 2022 at 6:09 pm

I am very grateful to Camille for organizing this workshop at a very busy time of her acreage development and move. I am equally grateful to Master Chen for coming all the way to Port Alberni for our small group. I loved how the events of each day had a seamless flow from one thing to another. Lots of variety, including a few side trips to nearby places.

Master Chen instructs, even when he’s not instructing. I think he is equally gifted as a story teller as he is martial artist. I may not remember everything he says, but I remember the awe I have at his mastery of language and the scope of his knowledge.

It was wonderful to see familiar faces and make new friends, as well. Thank you everyone.


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