Tuesday 28 June 2011

Just Follow the Rules!

Chen Xin

"Follow the rules in all respects, and a narrow beam of understanding will appear"          -   Chen Xin

Every discipline has its own rules that have to be mastered if you are going to progress to a higher level. In music you have to learn the scales, etc ... Why do so many people find this so hard to understand? You give a simple instruction - "lift your head up" and the response is "but what about my feet"? ..."in my Japanese martial arts class we do it like this and the teacher says its ok"... "but I feel more comfortable when I do it my way"... and on and on and on!

Chen Taijiquan has a clear and progresive syllabus that has been passed down and developed for more than 300 years. Everything in it is there for a reason. In his notes from the 1986 Taijiquan Theory  convention  in Chengdu, China Chen Xiaowang advised:  "Don't discard any aspect of it before you have full understanding!"

An early shot of Chen Xiaowang
He went on to say that "Chen Taijiquan's theory is the accumulation of many years and many generations of study and experimentation. What has been passed down is their "sweat and blood" in order for continuity in future generations. Sixteenth generation Chen Xin spent over a decade of hard work and toil to record the theory solely because he wanted Taijiquan to be transmitted to those who possess virtue and martial committment. Each generation of Chen family has produced excellent martial artists,this bears witness to the efficacy of this theory".

So all you have to do is to have confidence in your system (otherwise why are you doing it in the first place?) and follow the rules!

Friday 10 June 2011

"Village Style" Taiji!

"Village Style" training in Chenjiagou with Chen Xioaxing

I've just finished reading a post in the newsletter of Kim Ivy's Embrace the Moon Taiji school which really struck a chord with me. She wrote of training "Village Style" with Chen Xiaoxing during his visit to her school. Village style she explained as being given one or two movements and then practicing them for an extended time. My own group have been going to Chenjiagou to train with him for nearly a decade now and this is the how he teaches. A few movements, and then you train and train and train with corrections from him. First time we took a group it was in the winter of 2003 where we spent 19 days on the Laojia Yilu routine.  A few years ago Stephan Berwick wrote a really nice article about Chen Xiaoxing and his training method entitled The Simple Wisdom of a Village Grandmaster. The following is a quote from the article: "Chenjiagou training is highly focused on the basics of boxing practice. At a recent U.S. east coast seminar, he pushed the students through 2 hours of practice on just 3 seemingly simple silk reeling exercises, which the students found excruciating, but deeply satisfying. Speaking no English, he did not have to rely on words to get his point across. The next day, the seminar participants completely understood the lessons in body structure and rootedness he imparted".

During Chen Xiaoxing's visit to our school last year - his first visit to Europe - he taught a group a weekend worshop on the Laojia Yilu. The group was an experienced one everybody knowing the form, many being teachers. So, he said that there was no point just running through the sequence and taught in his usual way. Everyone training, with him working through the group giving personal corrections. Most people loved it, but I was really surprised to get negative feedback from several people who thought he should be standing at the front leading the group. Is it a coincidence that one of those dissatisfied spent most of the time sitting at the side while everyone else was training? As Kim put it in her newsletter:   "I find my teachers respect their students when they feel they have the enthusiasm and tenacity for "the Village." Indeed, instructional generosity appears to be commensurate with how few moves one asks to be corrected and how deep one can plumb with only small & precise corrections in tow".

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