We were at the Sydney Practical Method workshop. Master Chen was demonstrating a partner exercise with me, to show the attendees. The exercise was to fix the front foot, and I had my right leg in front of his left leg.
“Today, just anchor the foot. Whatever I do, he’s not moving the foot.” he said.
Master Chen gently pushed and pulled on my right shoulder, chest and back. I followed, trying to keep the front foot fixed. Everyone was watching.
“This is actually very good. We can just do this all day.” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
“I don’t know about the cost here, but in Canada, a good practitioner will charge three hundred dollars an hour. A beginner, ninety five. That’s a masseuse. You’re getting a good massage, right?”
“I charge by the second.” Everyone laughed, as we continued the exercise.
“First fifteen seconds are free. And I think, I made enough money. Just go like this.”
Master Chen casually touched my right elbow. The next thing I knew, I was flying backwards in the air. My instinct kicked in, as my arms grasped in the air trying to catch something solid. But there was nothing. Master Chen tried to catch me, but it was too late. I fell backwards and landed on my back.
Everyone laughed seeing the accidental situation, and moved on.
But as the person experiencing it, there was more to it. What had happened?
Photo: Master Chen Zhonghua Sydney Workshop Saturday 3 Sept 2022 Afternoon
This was a friendly student-teacher interaction. Firstly, Master Chen was in a playful mood, and I believe had no intention to make me fall sharply. Secondly, we were physically occupied going through the motions of the exercise. Thirdly, he was mentally distracted by joking with the group. He happened to already have his left hand on my right shoulder.
As he casually touched my right elbow, I was totally caught without knowing it. I already knew his foot was behind me, so I thought I was prepared. But when he touched me, I lost all solid footing. The feeling was that of not being able to hold onto anything.
“I was supposed to use one hand, to pull your knee, then you stumble, lose balance.” Master Chen explained. “But somehow I was talking, and my other hand touched you. When my other hand touches you, I am double heavy, I’m going to fall. And I readjusted, the double heaviness went onto you.”
Master Chen has said before, the real intent is no intent. In my view, this story shows the very high level of Master Chen’s abilities, honed through decades of training. The ability to make Taiji actions without even knowing it.