|The Chinese Internal Arts
|*** this issue has been archived off ***
|( only selected articles remain)
One of our students (Neil) took some time to do an extensive research into origins of Taijiquan and traced its roots all the way to ancient Rome. Here we can see Bacchus in what the Chen family later called "Lazy About Tying Coat" - 'Lan Zha Yi' (corruption of which gave us the word 'lazy'). It is also clearly the root of the "Silk Reeling" exercises. Please note the extensive 'dantian' development that comes as a result of such practice. The 'qi ball' in his dantian is clearly radiating out through his skin even after all those centuries! Qigong students who recently had the good fortune to get acquainted with the 'Sacred Turtle Paddles' qigong exercise will be pleased to see the original Sacred Turtle. Note its concentration and the free flow of saliva that this exercise engenders.
Guan Dao or Da Dao is a popular name for the Spring and Autumn Leaf Broadsword. It is named after General Guan (Kwan) - China's greatest warrior and the legendary "patron saint" of the martial arts. Those interested in General Guan's heroic exploits can find it in the Chinese epic "The Three Kingdoms" written by Luo Guanzhong in the 14th century. It recounts the tumultuous period during the fall of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE) and the successive Three Kingdoms period (220-265).
Guan Dao is not a particularly elegant weapon and doesn't seem all that practical (unless you are seven and a half feet in height as General Guan was reputed to be!) - but the benefit of practising with such a weapon is not its value for self-defence but to train whole-body use. A sword can be manipulated with a wrist, a broadsword with an arm and a spear with two arms - the larger and heavier the weapon, the more of the body needs to be engaged in wielding it. Practising with Guan Dao forces you to use the whole body. This is not only because of the weight but also because of its size - to accommodate the 'broadsword' at the end of the pole, you have to move your body around. Moving the Guan Dao round is done by turning the body; pulling it is done by sinking and shifting of your body weight - in other words by exactly the same principles as in other forms. But whilst it is easy to 'cheat' in other forms, it is not so easy with the Guan Dao. The body habits acquired in Guan Dao practice can greatly benefit practice of the hand forms and other weapon forms.
General Guan's most outstanding feature (apart from his massive physical stature, red face, phoenix eyes and eyebrows like nestling silkworms) was his long, black beard. Today, when most Guan Dao practitioners begin their form, they make a blocking gesture that invokes General Guan throwing his mighty beard over his shoulder, just before fighting - see picture below (taken during local earthquake).
When my move to the Channel Islands was confirmed, one of my first tasks was to phone the Guernsey Adult Education Centre to ask for details of local Taiji classes. "If only we could find a teacher" was the reply! Nearly a year later, in January 2002, I found myself standing in front of sixteen strange faces, all looking at me expectantly. Terrifying - for them and for me! I was soon to realise that learning Taiji for yourself is one thing, teaching Taiji is another.
This was the first lesson of an eight-week introduction to Taiji and Qigong. After my initial nerves, my confidence grew and I really started to look forward to the Monday evening sessions. I'm now halfway into the 2nd course, got some private lessons and still teaching half of the original group on a Wednesday evening too - and really enjoying it. It's certainly a great way to keep my own enthusiasm going, now that Karel and Eva are so far away.
In January I also started a course to gain the City & Guilds 7307 Stage 1 Teaching Certificate, which I have now successfully completed. I would highly recommend this course to anyone that is thinking about teaching adults. Learning about teaching methods and techniques together with the 'how to cope with nerves' hints and tips has been invaluable.
I have found both the Taiji teaching and C&G course a great way to meet new island friends. But I have to say ... I still miss my old ones!
Last year I gave a workshop on Chen style Taijiquan in Taiji Caledonia in Stirling University. One of the students, Elisabeth Duncan, who has studied Yang style for about twenty years enjoyed the challenge of learning the graceful and beautiful moves of Chen style so much that she invited me to give a seminar in Chen Style Taiji in Edinburgh in order to continue her studies. Elisabeth organised the first seminar for February of this year. The seminar went very well as it was mainly attended by experienced practitioners from other styles. There seems to be quite a large Taiji community in Edinburgh but this is the first time they had an opportunity to try out Chen style. All the participants were keen to continue with the new style and so Elisabeth organised another seminar early this May. Attendance at this seminar was up on the first one and so we have decided to carry on a regular basis - perhaps four times a year. The next seminar is scheduled for June and the early indications are that the numbers will go up again!
Edinburgh is a great city, I have made new friends there and I enjoy teaching Taiji. What more can I ask?
Here are some of the participants of the first Yiquan and Qigong Residential weekend in Bournemouth in May 2002 (unfortunately, not everyone is here - some people had to leave early to catch a train or a plane connection).