Tai Chi Australia trains with Grand Master Chen Xiao Wang
In the late winter of 2009, Tai Chi Australia’s chief instructor, Master Han Jin Song and Chen style specialist instructor, Justin Fulton were invited to attend a workshop being conducted by Grand Master Chen Xiao Wang in the remote village of Chen Jiagou – the birth place of Tai Chi. As they drove through Central China’s sprawling farm land they were unprepared for the incredible journey they were both about to make.
Hidden deep in Henan Province, Chen Jiagou is a two hours’ drive from Zhengzhou north of the Yellow River. Its location is so remote that many participants found it hard to find. It has no nightclubs, bars, markets, department stores, public internet access or karaoke. As it is free from all distractions, it is a haven from urban stress and an ideal venue for Grand Master Chen’s workshop.
Grand Master Chen Xiao Wang is the nineteenth generation, keeper and standard-bearer of Chen style tai chi. He was chosen at the end of China’s Cultural Revolution to educate the world in Chen style tai chi. He spent his childhood in Chen Jiagou. Chen style tai chi became his way of life.
Grand Master Chen Xiao Wang coaching Master Han Jin Song
The Chen family created Chen style tai chi over 400 years ago by combining traditional Chinese martial arts with Chinese Medicine and deep breathing exercises.
Grand Master Chen Xiao Wang watching as Justin performs
Master Han and Justin were the only Australians of 50 participants who came from eleven countries in Europe, UK, USA and Asia. They had various ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and languages. For six days they lived, trained and shared the experience of learning from Grand Master Chen together.
Master Han said it took him back to his childhood training in Jilin Province in northeast China. ‘When I was a little boy in the early 70’s I was training in Wushu - kung Fu. We’d wake up to the crowing of roosters and barking of village dogs.
‘The lifestyle in Chen Jiagou is relaxing. The people are pure. They don’t have many worries. Their experiences are limited. They don’t expect much. In the West life is more complicated. I have lived in Australia for nearly 25 years. Things are always hectic. The people in Chen Jiagou have a much healthier lifestyle and they live longer. I was able to completely focus on my tai chi,’ he said.
Master Han was overwhelmed to be invited to attend Grand Master Chen’s workshop. ‘He is a humble man with wonderful communication skills and so much knowledge. He is easygoing and approachable.’ Master Han believes Grand Master Chen understands everything there is to know about Chen style tai chi and said, ‘You can ask him any questions about martial arts’ application or health problems and he will patiently explain how to improve yourself.’
Master Han Jin Song and Justin in front of Zu Shi Tang
Grand Master Chen puts his students at ease with subtle cues that are simple and effective. Master Han said his mantra is ‘calm down’. ‘When we are preparing to practice a Form Grand Master Chen raises his voice slightly and gently on the first word, ‘calm’, like someone asking a question and then soothingly trails his voice on the second word, ‘down’. We all automatically relaxed and were able to absorb more easily what he was teaching.’
Master Han said he had an epiphany during the workshop. ‘I realized that I was not always using my ‘chi’ effectively. Grand Master Chen adjusted my posture and told me to concentrate on the correction. I had not been sinking the ‘chi’ down to my ‘dantian’. Suddenly, I felt the change. My energy started to flow. Now whenever I train I try to get that feeling and maintain it.’
Grand Master Chen Xiao Wang demonstrating
Master Han also said that now when he feels stress he closes his eyes and does a few basic postures and it calms his mind. ‘I wind down. I feel the ‘chi’ sink to my dantian. Chen style tai chi talks to me. I understand it. This is what I need to teach my students.’
The course included Tai Chi Fundamentals – Chan Si Gong (Silk Reeling), the Philosophy of Chen style tai chi, The 19 Form and Laojia (Old Frame) 1 and 2 Forms. Master Han and Justin also visited the original place where the creator and Father of Yang Style Tai Chi Yang Luchan learned Chen Style Tai Chi from the Chen Family in Chen Jiagou, and the Chen family tombs where they paid tribute to the Chen family ancestors. Local schools also gave Wushu and tai chi demonstrations.
‘It was hard to leave Chen Jiagou. I wanted to freeze time. Everything was perfect,’ Master Han said thoughtfully. Justin readily agreed. Both hope to have the opportunity to return one day.
Grand Master Chen Xiao Wang and Master Han Jin Song enjoying the training