During the week of March 14-19, Master Chen Bing visited Europe for the first time after the COVID-19 epidemic to offer his students a training course in Chen Tai Ji Quan.
With great joy, his students from all over the world gathered in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, where it was organized by the head of the school, Edmond Budakyan. Apart from Greece, where our school participated with 3 people, there were Master Chen Bing’s students from France, Spain, Great Britain, Israel, Germany, Palestine, America and of course Bulgaria.
The seminar was very detailed with 5-6 hours of daily practice in the morning and afternoon and included a very wide range of topics.
This time Master Chen Bing went into depth on the philosophy and the essence of Tai Ji Quan. He explained to us the significance of the hand position even of the greeting itself and the importance that Chinese culture places on the ethos of the practitioner. He then spoke to us about the 3 breaths during the exercise and the gradual transition of the student to reach inner peace.
He also spoke to us for the first time about the inner meaning and psychology behind the ancient symbol of Taijitu and how to use it philosophically to improve our practice. This symbol is the original depiction of the symbol that today evolved into our familiar Yin-Yang and the Taoist philosophy of transition from the initial Wuji to the final Taiji.
Another separate thematic section included the difference of Tai Ji Quan from other sports by explaining to us the way in which they approach the psychology and attention of the athlete in comparison with the unifying approach of Tai Ji Quan to body and spirit.
Theory teaching was replaced by practice where we put into application everything we previously discussed, about freeing the body and Qi through relaxation techniques. Master Chen Bing is a proponent of this theory and has compiled a series of exercises (Fang Song Gong) which we repeated throughout the seminar for deeper understanding. As he claims, in order for the body to be able to produce speed and power that will come from the flow and concentration of energy, it must be completely relaxed. This is something that must be practiced systematically and also applied during the performing of Tai Ji Quan routines.
The subject matter of the unarmed routine that comprised the first part of the seminar was the primary and basic routine of Chen Tai Ji Quan which is none other than Lao Jia Yi Lu, the "first road of the old form". But the surprise that was in store for us could not have been imagined! For the first time, in addition to the detailed explanation of the movements, the Teacher proceeded to practical application of the techniques hidden behind each movement of the routine.
So, all of a sudden, we found ourselves with the partner on the ground or in joint locks which filled the room with laughter and conversation, and the teacher going around between the couples correcting the details of pressure points, of the foot position and the body. It was a great experience to learn new fighting techniques of the form's moves, as each one has different variations that you can apply.
Before the first part of the seminar ended, Master Chen Bing spoke to us about the changes that are coming to our style and the progress of research being done in China to further develop and make Chen Tai Ji Quan accessible to more students. Let us recall that after the declaration of Tai Ji Quan by UNESCO as one of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the community of great Tai Ji Quan teachers committed in China to gather and homogenize the immense wealth of diversity that exists in China in order to make it easier to understand and spread to more and more people. Although currently millions of people around the world practice Tai Chi, there is a very large portion of the world that does not know about it and of course does not enjoy its benefits.
Then and closing the first part, he presented us in detail the Form of Harmony which was "forged" and inspired by him. He showed us different executions both in an analytical execution with the transition of positions in a slow tempo and also with the application of Fajin (energy release) which is characteristic of the Chen style.
And just like that, as the first part ended, the second began, with an entire section of the seminar dedicated to creating energy and releasing it through movement. The movements that are part of the routines and that are taught at gentle paces, but all of them can, with the right relaxation, be turned into energy-releasing practices.
Within these frameworks in addition to innumerable movements of the basic form itself (Lao Jia Yi Lu) we also performed repeatedly the Form of Powers (with the 8 forces and 5 directions created by Master Chen Bing).
After this admittedly tiring and intense part of the seminar we moved on to the coveted part of the King of Weapons in Chen Tai Ji Quan practice. This weapon was the favorite of the founder of Chen Tai Ji Quan, the great grandfather of Master Chen Bing, the legendary Chen Wang Ting who very often in his depictions carries the Guan Dao.
Guan Dao or Kwan Dao is associated with the mythical hero General Guan Yu from the Chinese novel of the Three Kingdoms as it was the weapon he carried on horseback into battle. Dao in Chinese is the blade. At first the weapon was called Yanyuedao (Crescent Moon Blade) as it appears in historical texts. In Chenjiagou Village, however, another later name, ChunqiuDaDao, prevailed and it meant the Spring and Autumn Crescent Moon Long Blade of the Chen Family. The name probably refers to the Chinese historical period of "Spring and Autumn" which has a deeper meaning of change in life such as the changes of seasons within the sun's cycle and people's lives.
Just as all the moves in the Chen style routines have names, the moves in this particular weapon routine have names inspired by General Guan Yu and his exploits in battle. The purpose was obviously to glorify the hero and by repeating the form and saying the name of each movement to re-enact scenes from the novel.
In the hands-on part, we repeated countless times warm-up techniques and the use of the weapon until all trainees were comfortable with it. This weapon has a lot of rotating movements of both the weapon and the whole body in coordination with the weapon as well as horizontal and diagonal cuts simulating mounted combat. It is not by chance that it is designated as the king of weapons in Chen Tai Ji Quan, as the practitioner, in addition to skill in handling the weapon, physical condition and spatial awareness should at all times have the flexibility to release energy (Fajin) at several points of the routine.
When on Sunday late afternoon the learning and the repeated presentations of the routine were completed, we were all left with a sweet feeling of tiredness. Curiously, in a masochistic way, we wanted to keep on going as if we wanted the seminar to never end.
Afterwards, we took the customary commemorative photos and all hurried off to get ready for the evening meal, as we had the pleasure and luck that this day coincided with the Master's birthday (the basis of the Western calendar) and a big farewell meal sealed the end of this seminar.
Unfortunately, the time to say goodbye has come once again, leaving as always wonderful memories and a wealth of information to process and study. Until next time!