in August 2011, a dream of learning Tai Chi in China with the one of the acknowledged world’s leaders in Tai Chi came true for 18 TCA Instructors and students.
An invitation-only Training Course led by Grand Master Chen Xiaowang, the 19th generation successor of Chen family Tai Chi and custodian of the Chen Style, was held from 18 to 25 August 2012 in Anda, China.
Sightseeing also took place in Harbin before they flew home. The highlights were Central Street, the old Russian and foreign buildings such as, Saint Sophia Cathedral and the night market.
Grand Master Chen Xiaowang is the 19th generation successor and custodian of Chen Style Tai Chi. He travels the globe teaching the traditional Forms and Forms he has created himself. Each August, since 2011, Anda, a town in north east China has hosted annual seminars/workshops conducted by Grand Master Chen.
Last year our own Grand Master, Han Jin Song himself a 20th generation disciple of Grand Master Chen, was invited to attend the first Anda seminar/workshop. Eighteen instructors and students from Tai Chi Australia accompanied him and received intensive training in Silk Reeling Quigong and the Chen 19 and were warmly invited to return in 2012.
As part of Tai Chi Australia’s 24th China Tour six instructors and students from Tai Chi Australia returned with Song to Anda. Over four days they received training in Silk Reeling Qigong and the Chen 38 Form.
On the first morning we rose at 5am and were transported to the People's Park. At 6am the Welcome Ceremony began. This included a demonstration of Chen Style Tai Chi Forms by several hundred locals, various speeches by local eminent people and a speech and demonstration by Grand Master Chen himself.
After breakfast, there was another Welcome Ceremony in a local sports Hall.Similar to last year, there were speeches and demonstrations by various people, including Grand Master Chen. There was media coverage and many photos were also taken. Training commenced in earnest after lunch.
The training regime for the next three days was as follows: breakfast, 3 hours training, lunch, 3 hours training, dinner. We trained in the hall with many local and international Chen Style practitioners from America, Russia and Korean. Grand Master Chen routinely took us through warm-ups and Quiet Standing, timed at 25 minutes on one occasion, followed by Silk Reeling and the Chen 38 Form. His presence was impressive, his instructions patient, his demonstrations clear and his Qi powerful. It was a challenge for us to complete the Chen 38 Form in the short time we had but we did and some of us have been fortunate, since returning to Melbourne, to revise the Form with Song.
Apart from the last morning, warm-up exercising to music at 5.30am in People's Park was optional. We all enjoyed moving in the large space with the locals. How many laps we completed each day is hard to calculate, as our concentration was focused on the different movements with the changes in the music. There was also the opportunity to shop in the local market en route to or from the People's Park.
Learning Chen style Tai Chi from Grand Master Chen was an unforgettable experience as we received the highest quality training. It was enhanced by the people from Anda, the nourishing food, skilful massages and the accommodation.
The Anda people are not used to foreigners and were generally warm, friendly and welcoming. It was the local Minister of Sport who told us the meaning of ‘Anda’. In Mongolian, ‘Anda’ means ‘friend’ and it lives up to its meaning in every way.
The food was beautiful and healthy, with many varied dishes provided each meal. Mealtimes also provided an opportunity to develop and strengthen friendships. We even learnt a few words of Russian from our new Russian friends.
Our accommodation was superb. We were the first guests in a posh, new hotel. In fact, so new, it had not been officially opened. Our rooms were spacious and contained all the usual mod cons, which were connected during our stay. Beautiful lotus and fish images decorated the wash-basin and a ceiling light cycled through various colours. The staff had been trained to ‘greet and farewell’ and to ‘assist with alacrity’, to the point of pressing the elevator button for us but may have learnt from us to be more relaxed by the end of our stay.
Each evening after dinner we returned to our favourite massage place, which we discovered last year. I alternated between a foot massage and whole body massage. After all the training these massages were blissful and restorative. In fact, the combination of hours of Tai Chi, nourishing food and a skilful massage daily, made me feel the healthiest I had all year.
On our last evening in Anda, after dinner there was an impromptu singing round led by our new American friend, Derryl, who had a beautiful singing voice. In the general mood of conviviality, special arrangements were made for an impromptu visit to a renowned local ‘paper-cutting’ artist, Ms Sun Xiu-Ying. She gave us a tour through her gallery and a quick demonstration of paper-cutting. Her work ranged from the relatively simple to the highly intricate and elaborate that would take many months' work. Framed examples of these were like paintings. We all left with a booklet of paper-cuts of Chinese zodiac animals, gifted by the Anda local government (see more paper cuts by Ms Sun ). We even managed a massage before we returned to our rooms for our last sleep.
In Harbin, we met with an old friend of Song's, who was very helpful to us during our time there. We reacquainted ourselves with the Dumplings Restaurant, the sights of Harbin including, St. Sophia Square and Cathedral and surrounding streets and shops. As usual, we went to a martial arts shop where we purchased Tai Chi clothing, shoes and weapons. A highlight was revisiting the Teahouse. This year we enjoyed an interesting, delicious tea-themed dinner. We tasted a range of teas and were taught the etiquette of drinking tea.
My last memory of Harbin relates to Tai Chi. We went to Zhaolin Park to practise our Tai Chi Forms. We discovered a couple of local Tai Chi practitioners practising. One moved fluidly and the joy he felt was clearly displayed on his face. He performed a Form using an umbrella that was particularly delightful. We also saw a 97 year old man who was brought and taken away in a wheelchair by his family. He managed to stand for the entire time it took him to get through a routine with two swords.
Training with Grand Master Chen is a dream for most of us. We strongly believe it is an experience that every Tai Chi practitioner should have. We were delighted to be invited to return to Anda again in 2013. This training can be accessed at Chen Village in March or Anda in August this year and brochures will be available during Term 1, 2013. If you are interested, enquiries can be made to Song at email@example.com.
Qigong increases vitality, impacts positively to improve medical conditions and in this way will improve and prolong the quality of life. Health Qigong is taught at Tai Chi Australia and you can read more about it here or contact Tai Chi Australia.