Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Visit to Master Chen's (4/25)

During my recent visit to NYC, I had the chance to drop by Master William CC Chen's studio. Lincoln, who visited me at my school earlier in the year, encouraged me to drop by and arranged for me to attend both the Long Form and the Push Hands class. I was a bit unsure of how I would be received - I hadn't been there in a long time and, in the interim, have adopted a different style of Taiji - but I needn't have worried, I was remembered and warmly welcomed and had a great evening.

In the first class - the Long Form - not only were my (former) fellow students Lincoln and Anna there but so was my (former) instructor Alex. It was great to take class with everyone. Master Chen focused a lot on me that class - he didn't try to correct my form but rather focused on principles and pointed out places where I was popping up (uprooting myself), keeping tense, and generally losing structure/power. It was a bit embarrassing at first but he was doing it because I don't get the chance to work with him often and I really got a lot out of it.

I wasn't sure what to expect at all from the Push Hands class - I had never taken one with Master Chen when I studied out there - but it was also a great experience. Master Chen worked with me for quite a while to begin with, pointing out places where I tensed up and generally trying to get me to relax and loosen. He even demonstrated some effortless power that sent me flying, which was also a really cool experience. He then paired me up against various students in the class and emphasized loosening drills based on what he had been teaching me. I met some very cool people that session - there were about 20 altogether - and even got to push with Lincoln and with Alex (who is, as expected, really good). The last guy I pushed with - Jordan Forth - was somewhat younger then the other students and, after some basic practice, Master Chen told us to play free. Jordan is really good - very flexible/loose and rooted - and I had to use my ILC training to counter him and we even got into some moving step as well. I had a lot of fun pushing with Jordan - he's a cool guy with a great attitude - and it turns out he has several gold medals in push hands and was in training for a san-shou tournament when I visited.

At the end of the evening, Master Chen told me that I had improved a lot since the last time that he had seen me and, if I focused on loosening, I would improve a lot more. Adam Mizner said the same thing to me about loosening at the end of his workshop too. So I'm now starting to focus on loosening, which brings me eye-to-eye with the classic Taiji Paradox - how do you work on relaxing?

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