Upon enjoying a Kripalu weekend qigong workshop with Master Yang a couple of years ago I was inspired to join his Scranton summer camp. As a Yang-style student of taijiquan, now for 26 years, I am struck by how easily I could join in the Chen-style camp activities.
As I look back three big lessons come to mind.
First, I experienced what I’d often heard, that the principles underlying all taijiquan styles are the same. In his book Master Yang shares the 12 Principles of his teacher, Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang. Half of them closely resemble the principles I’ve long followed in Yang Style (from GGGrandmaster Yang Cheng Fu). This Chen perspective helped me see and practice in a new light. This was enriching. “Search for soft and smooth,” for example, helped me recognize an abruptness in my stepping that I softened (to the delight of my knees). At the same time the common principles across the styles made learning the Chen moves easier. Like all new students I scrambled to absorb the mechanics of the Chen moves. However, once I got the hang of a move it felt rather easy to feel my way into balance, relaxation and coordination throughout my body.
Second, how intriguing and fun it was to be introduced to silk reeling! In my reading I had come to see silk reeling as “the gem of Chen style,” and here I got to try it! Throughout the week I experimented both under Master Yang’s guidance and with help from his more experienced students and staff. This was a neat new perspective on taijiquan for me, for the principle here is much less visibly presented in Yang-style training. It was like seeing taijiquan from a new angle. In fact silk reeling was the only significant distinction I noticed between the styles. Any other differences seemed minor to me, as small as the differences between the two Yang-styles I have studied.
Third, to my surprise and delight I was able to learn a complete Chen-style, seven-movement form in just a week! Achieving that felt like a nice accomplishment for all of us at camp. More importantly, though, taking a complete form home to practice makes it easier and more motivating to continue practicing. Having tried all the form moves with Master Yang at camp also makes his DVD a powerful home learning aid.
In summary I entered camp having been ankle deep in Yang-style taijiquan. During that delightful week I got to stick my little toe into Chen-style and discovered, to my delight, that my whole foot was simply in taijiquan! And so I come away aware that there are other horizons of taijiquan that are more accessible to me than I thought.
One other reflection: camp was a blast, a weave of wonderful teaching and pace, simple setting, and diverse community of learners-become-friends. Today my primary practice and instruction remains Yang-style but I have added to my practice the Chen form, qigong exercises and DVD learning. I intend to seek EBQ/T certification and I am looking forward to next year’s camp!
About the Author
As evidenced above Jim holds taijiquan practice central to his life's practice. Equally vital, at least, is his connection with his three adult children, Alex, Laurel and Mackenzie. He runs a private practice in providing organizational and leadership development services, including coaching, to biotech and higher ed clients. He aspires to teach taijiquan to needy folks and also applies it in his leadership development work. Jim currently lives in Harvard Square, Cambridge Massachusetts.