The Colours of China

Keep your eyes open for a documentary called, “The Colours Of China” due to be completed at the end of this year. The filmmakers have been in Chenjiagou for 2 days filming for the color “black,” - black/white, yin/yang, north, water/flow, and more aspects of how this color plays out and integrates within Chinese culture. They are super folks and it has been interesting watching them work. They are interviewing Chen Zi Qiang, Chen Xiao Xing and taking loads of film and photos. The kids (and us too) were fascinated with the drone buzzing high ahead over the training fields yesterday afternoon. They filmed our morning session yesterday with Grandmaster, which was admittedly rattling! The last thing one wants is to be the person who gets to be shown all over the world in several languages jumping up out of Standing while being corrected or having your rump stick out while practicing form. There is only so much editing that can be done after all.

Those who know Grandmaster and my relationship know I’ve never been shy about question time with him. During one session this week I had no questions. We all laughed when he said, “that’s unusual!” The film crew was still filming during question time yesterday. CXX asked if we had any questions and he looked right at me, piercing and direct. I knew I’d better ask. I walked up to him and began my movement sequence. His hands landed on me and the correction cycle began. Lucky for all of us it was one of the movements I understand the least: “Jade maiden works the shuttles” Xinjia version. He had plenty to correct. Flying my mistakes into the camera was a wholly unnerving experience but it was simply one of those times I had to rely on my training, doing my best to represent.

After the filming and class was over I was preparing my get-a-way when one of the film crew approached me. He asked, “Do you get a lot out of coming here?” I was glad to see I was not being filmed. I told him oh yes I do. Chenjiagou is a very compelling place, it is the heart of Taijiquan and this place holds the heart of that heart for me.  I added that even so, the real reason I come all this way is very specifically for this teacher and the long intensives I get to experience here. He seemed a bit surprised at this so I added, you saw what happened, all the hands on we get. This type of learning and transmission is very traditional and is becoming less and less common. Grandmaster is the best I’ve encountered; it is of great value to me to receive it. They said, yes, they know most of the Grandmasters about are retiring. “Not Chen Xiao Xing,” I added, “as you can see, he is a working man!”

I asked more about the film and its intent. I was happy to learn they are avoiding political and economic issues and focusing wholly on culture. I noted it must be interesting for them to film a group of foreigners practicing in the traditional way. They said actually they were hoping for a group of Chinese to film but indeed this worked out very well. The reality we noted is true: Chinese traditional culture, apart from the machinations of politicians and economists, is very interesting and valuable to people all over the world. Even as an American, I thought, I get so much out of my small experiential slice of it, it good to be able to represent and as China and the world go on in their modernization, to do my small part to keeping a bit of it alive. 

Today is day nine of our training. We are all physically tired but our team is holding together very very well. It is an excellent group of mature practitioners, both physically and emotionally. There is no tension or drama, everyone knows how to take care of themselves. I’ve taken a couple of mornings off from group breakfast just to have a longer shower and some personal time. Everyone is sharing their creams, tapes, rollers and stories. We have loads of fun walking around the streets at night and especially enjoy shopping. They have really upped their style game in the Village this year. I have a whole new wardrobe! Still, these next two last days are really when it counts. It is not so much pain now, it is fatigue of body and mind to manage. The advantage though is the body is malleable and receptive; my first teacher used to say this is the time real training begins. So even though we are thinking of home, of our regular food and beds and family, we all must continue to stay present, to soak in all we can. To remember every move, every correction, every rooster call. Day nine begins shortly. 

Banner photo of morning practice at the school.