June has been a busy month. It began with seven days of intensive training with Grandmaster Chen Xiao Wang at his annual gathering in Reading organised and hosted by Karel and Eva. Since learning to drive last year (better late than never!) travelling to and fro each day was much easier than in previous years when I relied upon unreliable public transport. As usual Master Chen’s teaching was impeccable and his Tai Chi simply awesome. I had the pleasure of attending both his busy seminars (Master Chen is very popular!) and a number of intimate small group sessions.
Only in recent years has Master Chen offered instructor certification in all aspects of Tai Chi and so this year, in light of his impending retirement, I decided to take the plunge. Myself and two friends Phil and Mark, both fellow instructors from around the country, arranged to be assessed and examined by him on the Friday afternoon. With two hours set aside for the exam we met up beforehand to practise for a few hours, the consensus being that we were all at least a bit nervous to have our Tai Chi critiqued by such an expert. On the other hand we were very excited at such an excellent opportunity to improve and receive plenty of hands-on corrections from the main man. The time to begin rapidly came around and Master Chen immediately put us at ease with his calm presence, regaling us with anecdotes about his family history and the ups and downs of teaching and practising Tai Chi. He also grilled us on our own knowledge of Tai Chi history.
After this he beckoned us to start and we began by demonstrating all the basic exercises and foundational movements so essential for good practise. His feedback was invaluable giving each of us precise insights into how we deviate from correct movement principles, and more importantly, how to improve. Once this was over we had a brief rest and then went through Laojia or long form. At each tiny step Master Chen was on hand to adjust our posture, movement and focus. To go through the form so, so slowly was an arduous process indeed but nonetheless very rewarding. Some people have the impression that in Tai Chi you just drift off into some kind of reverie whilst waving your arms around perhaps listening to ‘Return to Innocence’ by Enigma….I wish! This is a great misunderstanding. Tai Chi is easily the most physically and mentally challenging pursuit I have ever undertaken bearing in mind that when I was a teenager I used to happily smash out a ten mile run, benchpress more than my own body weight and then swim a mile.
Anyway, back to the exam. It was over all too quickly and Master Chen happily announced that we had passed the exam with flying colours only to solemnly conclude that there was lots of room for improvement. The result: big smiles all round and I am now even keener to practise, enjoy and promote Tai Chi. For years I have spent most of my time either practising or teaching Tai Chi and to receive such close quarter expert tuition was absolutely brilliant. I told my brother, a very good guitar player, that it would be like him getting to have a guitar lesson with Jimi Hendrix and thus very exciting. So that said I am looking forwards to seeing Master Chen again next year!
And so, for those of you in the vicinity, all of our ten week summer Tai Chi courses start from the first week of July which I am really looking forwards to. We will be offering lots of classes in Chichester, Midhurst, Lavant and Arundel open to beginners and improvers. It would be great to you. All the details are on the new website: http://www.sussextaichi.co.uk