The First One is Always the Deepest

Good morning from Chenjiagou!

We arrived in the village after a nice drive out of Zhengzhou, through the countryside, and across the Yellow River. A big change - all along the way there are signs showing the way to “Chenjiagou, Birthplace of Taijiquan”. We navigated our way to our dorms at Chen Ziqiang’s school with a little help from a scooter escort and a talented bus driver who backed through an alley only taking out a small branch of a tree. We got all checked in, tested the AC and got on the wifi (priorities!). We got our WeChat group organized for group comms and headed for lunch.

Most of our meals will be in Chen Ziqiang’s school. The food is excellent. There are lots of choices, fresh vegetables nicely spiced and flavored, rice, and everything is plentiful and filling. After lunch we walked to the main school where we will do our training. We visited with Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing and had a warm welcome with tea and apples. We arranged our curriculum and schedule then it was off to afternoon training!

Let me say here that we really got a break with the weather yesterday. It was in the 80s, breezy and overcast with occasional drizzle. The school isn’t air conditioned, and the occasional breezes that came through the windows were most welcome. We started right away with 30 minutes of standing followed by 30 minutes of reeling silk. The standing was different for me this time. I vibrated and shook and sweated like never before, and I guess I was releasing all of the years of work tension, truly feeling my retirement. I never had any pain or muscle cramps, but never stopped shaking the whole 30 minutes. I didn’t see the others but during the break heard of similar experiences. Something about the qi here…

The corrections by Grandmaster CXX are always amazing. He has the ability to show you a depth you can’t achieve on your own, and for that we keep coming back. He is so generous, clear and unrelenting when he’s teaching - such a valuable experience. Being so fully in one’s body is not something available to most of us during our every day lives, and being able to stand like this, on the ground of the Chen family ancestors, mingling our qi with theirs, is an experience I will always treasure.

Bill and I were interviewed by a Wenxian television station during the latter part of the training. We were taken to the museum and temple grounds by CZQ’s younger son who acted as our translator. He just graduated from high school last month so this was a chance for him to practice his English. The interviewer asked us questions about how we got into Taijiquan, our daily practice, how it’s affected our lives, and information about our school. They filmed us doing some taiji in front of the statues and the museum. I don’t know if we will see this interview, but it was fun to participate!

After training, we were treated to a wonderful dinner with CZQ along with the Argentines who are also here training. We all piled into two large tuktuk vehicles and sped down the road at 2-3 mph to the outdoor restaurant. We had great food, beer, soda and orange juice under the stars (artificial stars strung up above us but still.). We were showered and in bed by 9pm.

I am honored to be here training with Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing. Someday these masters will be gone, and we are so lucky to have had these opportunities to study with them over the last 20 years. I will soak it all in over the next few days!

A side note - the blog will likely be without pictures due to the spotty internet connections. Pictures will be posted directly to facebook for your viewing pleasure. Thanks for your understanding!

The Heat Inside and Out

Day one is done! We are working our way through Laojia yilu with Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing. The format is familiar. He shows us the moves, flows with us a few times, takes questions, then we practice. I love his demonstrations. He demonstrates four times allowing us to focus on different things each time. I watch his dan tian, his hands, his chest, his eyes. I also love to watch him correct students. He sees everything and sometimes he uses his hands and his breath to guide people through the movements. When you are being corrected in this manner, there is no need for a translator. It’s all completely clear. If only we could do it ourselves!

The heat is relentless and I am struggling. I’ve never done well in the heat and here is no exception. The highs projected for the rest of our trip will top 100 degrees. The Wednesday breezes were a fond memory yesterday. It was still and humid. We were indoors - not sure which is better, in or out. With no breeze it didn’t matter. The kids were outside doing their workouts all day - running, jumping, sparring. They are better adapted than me, apparently. We decided to do the 30 minute standing only in the morning because people are pretty wiped out after, leaving little energy for the form. Between the heat of the day and the heat generated from the standing… we could have fried some eggs. The irony is that at night we are cold under the air conditioning. At least there is that!

Four more days of training. Eat, sleep, train, shower. Repeat.

Surprise Side Trips

We had quite the treat this morning! There is a big national competition in town at the stadium. It’s not a taiji competition, but the opening ceremony featured taiji demonstrations from the local schools. Our teacher GM Chen Xiaoxing led a group of 50 players in a beautiful performance of Chen style taiji, doing a demo form that combines elements of laojia and xinjia, and yilu and erlu. We marched to the stadium with the performers, which ended up being sort of like a second line march. People were taking pictures of us all and grabbing stealth shots next to our teacher. The performance was amazing and made us all really proud to be a part of this school. After the demo, we returned to the school for our usual morning class. 

We were asked to have lunch with our teacher and his sons and daughter and all of the performers at a local restaurant. It was celebratory as this was apparently a big demonstration opportunity. There was lots of toasting and alcohol and some interesting food, then it was nap time. 

Class is in a room with fans today. The main hall is too hot. The temperature today got up to 101. We are all feeling it - drinking lots of water and being given watermelon by our teacher on all the breaks. Training is good - our joints and muscles are all supple and loose. 

I have lots of videos and will post a photo album once we get home. Two more days then we become tourists for a few days.