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Archive for September 2012

How Do You Know That Taiji Is Slow?

An Interview with Master Fu (Yangshuo, August 10, 2012)

With an evening class and another strenuous week of training behind him, Marko Bedina, who has been studying for the third summer running, at Yangshuo Tai Chi & Kung Fu School in southern China, recorded an informal conversation he had with his teacher Master Fu Nengbin.

Marko: How do you see Tai Chi in the West and what are the most common problems?

Master Fu with Markopicture by Isabelle Remoissenet

Master Fu: Physically there is no difference between China and the West. Tai Chi belongs to all countries, to all people – like music. The only difference is in cultural tradition. Chinese already hear about the concepts like yin and yang, qi and its channels through the body in school. They know Tai Chi is connected with health. While in the West it is not so.

Also people in China usually get quite good physical training while still young so they are more flexible. On the other hand westerners are taller and less flexible. They are more stiff in their hips and waist.

But when it comes to practice there is no difference. Tai Chi is for all people, no matter from which country they are, of what age or sex. If they practice they learn Tai Chi.

Marko: Do you think that we study too much theory?

Master Fu: If you want to practice Tai Chi well you also have to know the theory. But theory alone is no good. If you practice alongside learning theory it helps a lot. However, if you focus only on theory, then you can be a university professor but you can not get much from your Tai Chi. In Tai Chi we have to combine both theory and practice together if we hope to achieve any high level.

When you practice our Tai Chi you have to know the special techniques and theory of Chen style. There are also other styles with their own techniques, theories and requirements, not just Chen style.

Once one student told me that what I practiced was not Tai Chi. I asked him why he thought so. He said that was because my Tai Chi is slow and fast, while Tai Chi is only slow. I asked him: “How do you know that Tai Chi is slow`”? He answered: “Because I have read it in a book”. When I asked him: “In what kind of book”? He explained that he had read it: “in a book on Yang style”. Then I told him to go back and read other books too – to see where Yang style came from and he will get the answer.

Marko: Is chen style appropriate for old people?

Master Fu: Tai Chi can be practiced by old people, by young people, by children. Everybody is equal when learning it. However, with diverse kinds of people we have to see the differences, because their bodies are different. The creator of Chen style, Chen Wangting – he created Chen style at a very advanced age. There is a common phenomenon in China that many people who have practiced some martial art, start practicing Tai Chi when they get older in order to make their Kung Fu better.

If Tai Chi is practiced by older people, it can help them to relax, to make their joints more flexible and – they gain better balance so they do not easily fall.

But if you teach elders, you must be careful and see how long they practice – how much time. You must be sensitive to their special requirements. For example, you should not do fajin very strong, you just want them to relax. So you may do the moves more slowly, relaxed and also in a higher stance. At least at the beginning; later you can change the methods, depending on the skill of individuals.

The beginners, no matter whether young or old, have to practice in a high stance or at least middle a middle stance. When teaching old people, you help them make their joints flexible and the movements should also be combined with breathing. You help students to find their inside feeling. Old people and middle aged people usually find it easier to feel the qi inside, so it is even easier to teach them. You probably don’t teach older people how to attack or defend, but nevertheless you try to develop the feeling of safety in them.

Marko: And regarding children – how to teach them, because slow movements seem boring to them. Is it better to start teaching them faster form, like erlu?

Master Fu: Yes, you can teach the form in a fast way. At the same time ask them to stretch, to be more straight, more open. Children can also practice more and they can do combat.

But you want them to concentrate more on the outside. They are still too young to be focused on inner feelings, qi etc. Nevertheless, practicing Tai Chi will calm down children.

Marko: How much should a beginner practice?

Master Fu: It depends what he is trying to get from his/her Tai Chi. Is it only for recreation or something more? After the beginner learns the form it is essential that one continues practicing. If practicing only for a hobby, maybe an hour or two would be enough. But is we want to become more proficient and achieve higher results, and then you have to practice more – preferably in the morning and afternoon.

You can only see some improvements and develop an understanding of Tai Chi if you practice at least an hour daily. But it doesn’t matter when you practice – in the morning or in the evening, as is suitable to your lifestyle.

Marko: In Slovenia there are more schools of chen style. Many students are asking what is the difference between the teachings, for example of Chen Xiaowang and Chen Zhenglei. Is it in the form or in the teaching?

Master Fu: No, the masters come from the same family. They had the same teacher. Differences are only in their physical bodies, in the experiences that they gathered through their practice. The teachings or the techniques that they have learnt from their master were the same. After some time, when they were practicing by themselves, they had different experiences, different results, and that is bound to be reflected in their forms and in their teaching. So the forms, the methods and even the techniques slightly differ with every teacher, but a lot of requirements or rules are still the same.

I don’t know much about other masters, but I know a lot about my own master, Chen Zhenglei. Many people came to study with Chen Zhenglei after they had seen his videos and books – they wanted to study his style. Today China has also recognized Chen Zhenglei’s form as a representative form of Chen Tai Chi Quan. He has a very detailed technique and body posture requirements. The same is true with his teaching.

Marko: An one last thing – about competitions. In the west competitions in Tai Chi are very rare, but in China they are quite common. What is the purpose of them and what are the benefits? Is competing helpful in the process of learning?

Master Fu: Competitions are just one kind of presentation of Tai Chi – like a performance on the stage. It is one way to prove yourself. Competitions are also a way of making bridges to communicate with your friends. Performance is also a way, like meditation to calm down your mind; you are presenting and also practicing Tai Chi.

People in China compete – that is how they get approved, to know at what level of Tai Chi you are. Through competition you also communicate with other people and you find many new friends. You meet different people, you see different skills.

The results that you get at competition can also help you if you want to teach or to become an instructor. It is a proof that you skill is appropriate. But when you reach a certain level, you are competing, but it is not the results that finally matter – you go for a competition because of your form, not the results.

In China the competition is like a family coming together. In China you can enjoy it while performing Tai Chi. It is also a way to communicate with your friends. If there are any chance that there are performances or that people come together it is good to join in.

Marko: Thank you Master Fu, very much. We’ll be looking forward to having you soon amongst us.

Master Fu: Thank you. I’m also looking forward to come to Slovenia and to know the country.

Master Fu Nengbin in Slovenia from 5th – 13th November 2012

Master Fu Nengbin (12th generation successor of chen style) is one of the closest disciples of Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei. In his nine days seminar (od 5.-13. November 2012) he shall thoroughly acquaint us with the style of this great master.

Here you can find an extensive description of the 9-days program that Master Fu is going to have in Slovenia from 5th to 13th November 2012.

Master Fu in Slovenia

Ensure your place at this workshop and register as soon as possible because the number of the participants shall be limited!

seminar z Mojstrom Fujem

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