Back to Basics in Beijing (A Journey of Discovery with JinLi's Training in China 2017)
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Want to feel like a beginner again? Go and train in China.
Remember that night back when you started your Taiji journey? For most of us it happens somewhere around the fourth lesson. You finish a class feeling
like it’s all too much, you’re legs are aching, and a little voice in the back of your head is saying “maybe this isn’t for you”, but you push on because
you are going to crack this thing, no matter how hard it seems and no matter how long it takes you. I remember that feeling vividly, because I just
experienced it all again, four years into my Taiji journey, after training for two weeks at Beijing Sport University.
When our group arrived in Beijing we were prepared to work
hard. We had all agreed that this trip was about training first, and sightseeing second. Expecting spartan accommodation, we were pleasantly surprised
to find the University had provided us all with single rooms, each with a private bathroom and western toilet. I must admit, when I saw our rooms I
worried we were going to be pampered in the classroom as well. My worries were unfounded...
Our first four days were spent with Professor Wang Xiaojun studying the Dao Yin Yang Sheng Gong Shi Er Fa.
Most of us had met Professor Wang last year at a Health Qigong seminar in Melbourne, and were blown away by his knowledge and skill. It was fast paced,
but we felt we handled it like Pros. After all, Master Tara works hard in Instructor training to make sure we’re familiar with TCM concepts, and we’re
no slouches when it comes to learning a new form. 12 movements in four days? No problem. Can we have as much detail and theory as we can please Professor?
We all walked away with copious pages of notes, which we are all still in the process of compiling.
The Dao Yin Yang Sheng Gong Shi Er Fa is an all-round qigong for health promotion, developed by Professor Zhang Guangde for the Chinese
Health Qigong Association to showcase the best of the Dao Yin methods. The Dao Yin style is categorised by rounded movements, a focus on co-ordinating
breath with movement, as well as strong internal visualisation.
By the end of Day Four we were all reasonably comfortable with the form, partly due to Professor Wang’s expert instruction and willingness to answer all
our questions in depth and partly due to our diligent practice and review in the hotel foyer every night with one of Professor Wang's Masters' students,
as we knew Professor Wang had to fly out to the provinces of China for another teaching engagement, and our treasured time with him was limited.
At this point, we were all a little physically and mentally
tired, but eager to start work on Taijiquan fundamentals with Professor Liu Xiaolei. In her talks with Professor Wang prior to the trip, Master Tara
had relayed our desire to work on the fundamentals of Yang style taijiquan, rather than learn another form. We all have forms to spare in our cluttered
“I know just the teacher for you”, said Professor Wang, and we were lucky enough to be squeezed into Professor Liu Xiaolei’s gruelling teaching schedule.
Assembled and ready for our first session, in walks Professor Liu in track pants and runners, not silks and Taiji shoes as you might expect. She’s only
5’2”, but with that strong bulldog walk you see in people who have spent a lifetime in Wushu. We line up and can barely hear her when she utters the
customary class greeting; she is very softly spoken, and we salute with trepidation. What have we gotten ourselves into?
“For warm up, you will go through the ‘Shi Er Fa’”, she utters.
And ten minutes into walking it hit us... we are about to be broken.
All of us know how to Taiji walk. There’s not a single one of us that hasn’t won at least a medal in an Australian competition and many of us have taken
medals internationally. But like so many Westerners, we have spent our time studying competition/health style Taiji, and Professor Liu is teaching
us Taiji as a martial art.
Theoretically, there is little internal difference between competition/health style Taiji and Taiji done purely as a martial art, much as there is little
difference between Yang and Sun style internally, but externally they feel worlds apart when your muscles have memorised moving one way, and you’re
trying to force them to move in other ways. But we all knew this was the good stuff, “pure Taiji” as it were, and it was exactly what we had asked
for. Wasn’t it?
So we set to work, and for four hours a day we walked slowly up and down that room. We looked at the fundamentals of “Part the Wild Horse’s Mane”, and
“Brush Knee”, and “Repulse the Monkey”, and we learnt how every tiny part of each movement can be applied martially.
It worked our legs and body in ways we weren’t so used to, and we had to create entirely new circuits in our brains, but we worked at it
hard in class, and in the foyer of our hotel. On our few afternoons off we strolled around the grounds of the Summer Palace, the Hutongs, the 798 Arts
Precinct, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, and we talked about what we were learning; digesting it, assimilating it, living it.
I, however, didn’t feel like I was getting it at all. I mean, I understood what Professor Liu was talking about. That made sense, but I just couldn’t get
that feeling of doing it with my body. Up and down we walked, back and forth, and Professor Liu would correct us time and time again. It was our second-last
class when I decided I was going to quit. I was halfway across the room in the middle of walking, sweat was pouring from my brow, my legs were aching,
my body was stiff all over, and I had no idea how to make my body do what she was saying. I obviously wasn’t cut out for Taiji after all. Then I felt
it. For a fleeting second, I felt the power flow up my body as I Parted the Wild Horse’s Mane and stepped forward. I felt relaxed, grounded, powerful…
I’d got it.
I hadn’t got it, of course. I immediately lost it and went back to struggling. But all of a sudden I didn’t feel totally hopeless.
On our final session with Professor Liu I felt reasonably confident and relaxed, and was excited about working hard when I returned to
Melbourne and one day, maybe, nailing it.
At the airport in Shenzhen, waiting for a transfer to get back to Melbourne, I shared this moment of crisis with one of the other guys in the group, and
he reminded me that we’d both been through it all before, many years ago when we started our journey, and that Master Tara is always talking about
how we’re all going to be eternal beginners. It takes several lifetimes to master Taiji, and whether this is my first, one in the middle, or last,
I’m loving the journey; missteps, moments of despair and all.
JinLi conducts intensive training programs in China on a regular basis. They are an opportunity to extend your qigong and taiji knowledge, or to simply enjoy being in a professional training environment for an extended period of time. When we travel, we try to ensure you are in the best of environments, with opportunities to relax and experience all that is China, as well as have the highest level of tuition available. If you are interested in joining us on our next Training Experience please feel free to CONTACT US.