Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Xingyiquan workshop - 31 January 2010

Fresh from his latest training visit to his teacher, Chen Yun-Ching, Shifu Dan is holding a workshop on Chen Pan-Ling's xingyiquan (hsing-i chuan) on 31 January 2010.

The purpose of the workshop is to introduce this little known variant on xingyiquan.

Xingyiquan (form/mind boxing) is one of the 3 major "internal" or soft martial arts systems of China (the others being taijiquan /tai chi chuan and baguazhang / pa kua chang). It is reknowned for both its power and efficiency.

While it involves apparently simple movements, these are surprisingly sophisticated, utilising your opponent's force against him/her. While the same can be said of other arts, xingyiquan does so in a completely novel way (if one compares it to, say, aikido or even the other internal arts of China). On the surface it appears similar to bagua and taiji (indeed it shares certain movements) and can be compared to karate systems such as goju ryu. However practitioners of these arts find the similarities a double-edged sword; the movements seem familar, but are not really the same. And it is precisely those differences that give xingyi its unique power, texture and other qualities.

That xingyiquan should feel so "alien" to practitioners of other martial arts is not suirprising since it is arguably the oldest extant system of martial arts in the world. It is said to be a physical manifestation of the Chinese classic text the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching). The study of this xingyiquan provides an intriguing insight into the mind of someone living up to 2000 years ago.

The version taught in the Chen Pan-Ling system was researched by Chen Pan-Ling in pre-war China and is among the oldest of the variants of this art. Unlike other arts taught by Chen Pan-Ling, his xingyi system is not widely known. It has been preserved by his son, Chen Yun-Ching who is Shifu Dan's teacher.

The course will cover the 5 elements (basic movements of xingyiquan) and, if time permits, a form that links the 5 elements.

The details of the course are as follows:

Instructor: Dan Djurdjevic, bai shi (inner circle student) of Chen Yun-Ching
When: Sunday 31 January 2010 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Where: The Bayswater Martial Arts and Yoga Centre, 91 Whately Crescent, Bayswater
Cost: $45

The number of places is limited, so book yours now!

Registrations can be made by phoning Nenad on 0409 110 862.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chen Yun-Ching's workshop at Wu-Lin

I've just come back from 4 days of intensive training with my teacher, Chen Yun-Ching, at the Wu-Lin Retreat in Victoria.

The official course was held from 7 to 10 January 2010.

I flew out on the midnight flight of the 6th and managed to grab 3 hours sleep on the 3 1/2 hour flight (I told them not to serve me dinner and breakfast!).

My flight landed at just after 6 am and just over an hour later we pulled into the driveway at the Wu-Lin Retreat. No sooner had I put my bags down than I saw Master Chen, who beckoned me onto the floor for Chung Yang Sword practice (James and Master Chen's niece, Xiao Yi, were practising a tiger hook sword form).

A couple of hours (and some considerable sweat soaked into my long trousers and shirt) later, I thought I'd have a shower and lie down. Master Chen was going into town and would be away for most of the afternoon. However as luck would have it, my good friend Bill Mioch turned up and asked if I wanted to revise the xingyi kun (the staff form of xingyi). So for the next 3 hours we practised this form until Master Chen returned and more training ensued under his supervision.

Over the next 3 days we revised:
    xingyi 5 elements
    xingyi suba form (a short form linking some of the xingyi elements with the animal movements)
    xingyi lienquan form (the standard form linking the 5 elements of xingyi)
    xingyi kun (the xingyi staff form)
    chung yang sword form (the "mother of all sword forms")
    bagua 8 palm changes (the basic 8 palm changes of bagua)
    feng quan 1 and 2 (Chen Pan-Ling's "Mountain Top Boxing" forms containing elements of xingyi, bagua, taiji and shaolin)
We also did 9 san shou (2 person fighting drills) with qin-na (locks), push hands (single, listening hands and the peng liu ji an sequence with steps and turns), and some freestyle push hands too (my "uncle" James sure is one tough guy)!

As temperatures soared into the low 40s (Celsius) I sweated through about 6 t-shirts and drank several gallons of water (and several gallons of beer, wine and James' Serbian slivovitz/rakia at night!).

One of the things I love about Wu-Lin is Shou Mei's Taiwanese cuisine: it suits my stomach perfectly, and there is always more than you can eat.

Of course, I can't mention training at Wu-Lin without referring to all my friends there who I have come to love and respect: James Sumarac and Shou Mei provide a very enthusiastic, hospitable environment that "rubs off" on all who go there. I was very happy to see my Chen Pan-Ling brothers and sisters, John Forza, Bill Mioch, Vicky, the two Lyns, Graham, Darren Sampson and Roy Harding. In addition there were other Taiwan veterans namely Glen Cannon, Geoff and Pauline and the irrepressible Katie (who did a marvelous job assisting Shou Mei in the administration and management of the meals etc.). Then there were the other "regulars" at Wu-Lin - Dave Ramsay, James Murphy, Eric and many others.

I was impressed to see a new building on the grounds - an elegant tea room that was dedicated to Master Chen with a plaque erected on the final morning.

I started the course with a significantly swollen knee (among other aches and pains) caused by my immune-related illness, but curiously this resolved over the (intensive) training so that by the last day I was able to go into the deepest postures with only a modicum of discomfort. I have found this on each occasion I've trained with Master Chen and I can only put it down to the movements "flushing" the rogue immune cells from the synovial tissue around my joints. If ever there was a testament to the health benefits of the internal arts, then this is it - along with the fact that Master Chen (who is 71) is an outstanding advertisement for his art: Watching him effortlessly fall into the lowest postures and jump high into the air, I am continually made aware that his body is healthier and "younger" than mine!

We trained for the usual 8 hours each day, however on this occasion I resisted the urge to keep practising after dinner - mostly because of the heat and the desire to keep sweat-free after my shower, but also because the course comprised mostly revision; the imperative to memorise new material simply wasn't there.

And so, on the last day I was quite content to take a bit of a back seat and watch the demonstrations, including a very impressive display of the "Iron Fan" form by Master Chen's talented niece, Xiao Yi (who is a highly respected teacher of taijiquan and other Chinese arts, living in Kyushu, Japan). I was pleased to see my own student, Dave Ryan (who recently moved to Melbourne) making the trip up to visit for the afternoon.

Late that night I said my goodbye to Master Chen, promising to practise and preserve the material he had so patiently and thoroughly taught me, my body sore and tired and my brain fulled to the brim with details and memories.

I plan to fulfill my promise to Master Chen - starting with a series of seminars introducing his arts to the Western Australian public (the first being an introduction to his father's xingyiquan on 31 January 2010 - see here for details).

Copyright © 2010 Dejan Djurdjevic