Though classes begin at 9 we all show up about 15 minutes early. Everyday CXX arrives early too and so we always begin early. No one in our group is ever late. For 25-35 minutes depending, we receive three strong corrections to our standing. After our short break we begin the session’s lesson on Xinjia, 3-5 movements, depending. We all have been studying Xinjia for many years so Grandmaster focuses almost exclusively on the internal mechanics that generate and integrate our movements. Our bodies are primed for this material from the deep standing corrections we receive. He clearly demonstrates Qi movement and intention, clarifies weight change and waist power, how it all manifests arm and hand rotations, and more, in each and every movement. It is generous, it is a lot to take in, and even more to take in that each time he shows something, it is a new tip of a much bigger iceberg.
During a break CXX introduced me to a visitor from L.A., himself a Chinese man and Taijiquan practitioner. He was visiting Chenjiagou for the day. I do think it takes the Chinese a little adjustment to see non-Chinese here studying with the Grandmaster like we are. I could see the gentleman’s wheels turning when I said I have known Grandmaster for 15 years, hosting him in Seattle and studying with him here. It is not prejudice by any means, it is, I believe, a greater awakening to the vastness not just of the art form but its reach into humanity. Sometimes when I think about my life, the twists and turns, the ambition and luck, the hard work and the “Yuan Fen,” the “fateful coincidence” that has brought me here, in all ways here, I am overwhelmed with emotion.
Occasionally my ego thinks, “all this time, all this training with the best in the world, and such little improvement!” Progress is so gradual in this art, all the teachers say this. And all teachers say it all comes down to practice. Sometimes I grasp some little nugget that has been fed me for many many years. Sometimes I see something for the first time and a cascade of understanding floods in. Sometimes what I know vanishes and here I am again, completely naked, undone, dissolved. “You have to trust in the method,” David Gaffney said as we walked back to the rooms after our morning session. Yes. At lunch we all joked that we came here as beginners and this trip has affirmed that fact. Yes.
After Grandmaster instructs in the session’s movements, root, principles and nuances we practice over and over again together. We practice over and over on our own. Then we weave the new material into what has been conveyed in prior sessions. Over and over again. Each day the weave becomes longer as we progress through our form. Each thread carries today’s new material integrated into the prior. Each thread carries messages that go back several hundred years into Taijiquan and several thousand into Chinese thought and history. The tapestry and us, we become part of each other.
Today is the last day of our training here in Chenjiagou. Down coats and hats have been replaced by light training shirts and pants. I cannot say it has been easy by any means. To some degree this has been the most challenging trip to date for me. It is ironic since the conditions are so vastly improved. With the exception of the one 1/2 day where we blew the grid, we have had power, internet, great VPN and as many hot showers we could ever want to take. The toilets flush perfectly each time. The food has been simple but clean and nourishing. No one got hurt, no one complained, it is an extremely harmonious and fun group. And its been just wonderful to hang out with the shop owners we have known now for years. The Chen’s are extremely friendly, CZQ has gone out of his way for us. And as you have read, CXX’s classes have been superlative.
I do not know what has been so challenging then. I would like to blame my age but I can’t do that. I have been corrected like a teenager and my body has remained in tact. My psyche has remained in tact too. In fact, I feel this trip has been a bit of a redemption run for me after the past year, clearing out all the pain of my mother’s death and all that meant for me. I feel at once unwoven and renewed. I guess, like the art form I love, if we go for what we love in this life as robustly as we can muster, life is simply challenging. Perhaps along with some old body holding patterns I have simply let go of any belief it is otherwise. Its not easy to wake up everyday and show up on the floor, be it life’s floor or the training floor. The tile is hard, the air is cold, the lessons are not simply given, they have to be intentionally grasped. Somehow I think this must be at the root of joy, though. And what a joy it all is.
Thank you all for reading my blogs for the first time or as yet again. They are an adjunct practice for me when I am here and I am grateful for your audience. I’ll drop in one more time later tonight after completion. The rooster calls. Time for a hot shower before Day Ten begins.
Banner Photo is taken in the Gou, the Ditch. It, along with everything else is in the process of complete renovation. Its closed at the time, but thanks to CZQ we were able to get in yesterday and have a look.