I was talking to one of our Wu Dao Gong instructors about how wonderful the movements of my teacher, Fei Wang were when he demonstrated to us : his posture straight but not tense, his waist turning to the point w here his body was almost side on and yet it still looked natural, his arms held in difficult positions but so relaxed. He was sitting low on his legs which showed a strong, curved structure indicating strength and springiness and his overall energy radiated power and ease. It was similar to seeing the inspiring works of Leonardo Da Vinci or Michelangelo’s statue of David.
Qi is an ancient Chinese term for the basic building blocks of the universe. In traditional Chinese medicine, it means energy. Usually, it is associated with the breath. However, it is more subtle than the breath. Without an appropriate analogy, it is a challenge to explain such an intangible thing as qi. In our Tai Chi and Wu Dao Gong classes, we have exercises called qigong (energy work). Fontane has been conducting a special Qigong program for a group of dedicated practitioners for over 4 years. She also runs Qigong workshops and short courses to benefit students in general.
Once again, 25 students made the scenic five and a half hour journey to SIBA, a very tranquil retreat centre. To make the effort to travel so far and spend 5 days at a location had better be worth it! The drive from Canberra through Bombala and Cann River is very special. The rolling open plains from Cooma to Bombala give you the feeling of expansiveness. The pastel colours merging with the oranges, greys and blues of the sky are glorious. From Bombala, you travel through the national forests down to the Cann River and the green coastal pastures.
When my main teacher watched my early demonstrations of forms that I had previously learnt, he said that they looked nice but they were empty. I asked, “Empty of what?” He said, “Most people are only imitating the teacher’s movements. If the teacher does not have the essence, there is no chance that the student would have it.” At this stage I had already trained for many years and had thought that my forms or movements were quite good. I was to learn that there was a lot more to these practices than meets the eye.
It is good to see that students are enjoying the Hun Yuan Tai Chi system! Although we are only a few weeks into the term, the response so far has been very positive and encouraging. Students have reported an openin g up of shoulders, back and waist. More and more students are beginning to feel qi, internal energy, in their hands and in the body centre, the Dan Tian.
In the last couple of trips to China, Chief Instructor Brett Wagland was very glad to have the opportunity to meet Chen Xiang. Before training in the Hun Yuan system, Chen Xiang trained in Chinese wrestling. He is now a senior disciple of Grandmaster Feng Zhi Qiang, founder of the Hun Yuan system. Chen Xiang is an inspiration. He is accomplished in free fighting yet he is gentle and humble. Through his internal training, his hands, to the touch, seem as soft as cotton. He is deeply immersed in the philosophy of Lao Tzu.
Wu Dao Gong is a traditional Chinese kung fu training. It has been introduced to Australia through Fei Wang, traditional Chinese medical practitioner. When Fei first introduced this training method, students could not quite grasp its significance.
Chen Xiang is Grandmaster Feng Zhi Qiang’s most accomplished disciple. Chen Xiang, who is in his 50s, has trained with Grandmaster Feng for more than 10 years and has achieved an excellent level of skills. Before he began practising Tai Chi, he was an expert in Ba Ji (Eight Ultimates Boxing or commonly known in China as the Bodyguard Style) and Shuai Jiao (Chinese wrestling). When he is demonstrating, Chen Xiang becomes the epitome of relaxation and power. It is very obvious that he has reached a high level.
One of the many highlights of our China tours is the opportunity to visit and train with highly accomplished masters of the Chinese internal arts. Last year (2006) in Wudang, we trained with the Head Coach of the Wudang Taoist Martial Arts Institute for four morning sessions. In 2005, we trained with Chen Xiang, Grandmaster Feng Zhi Qiang’s most accomplished disciple in the Hun Yuan Tai Chi system. Chen Xiang kindly shared with us his insight into some of the Tai Chi principles and practices.