Teachers and traditions
Once again It´s been a while since I wrote my latest post. Actually, close to a year and a lot of things have happened since then.
I have visited my main teacher – Master Sam Tam – a couple of times and pretty soon will go there again, I have spent quite some time with Huai Hsiang Wang (Howard), I have been in Taiwan for close to a month, I have been travelling around in Europe teaching workshops, have had a lot of students from abroad coming here to DK to learn – either for a couple of days, a week or even two months, and then of course teaching here locally. I held a sold out Summercamp, I have gained some new friends who shares the same interest as me in internal martial art and much more. And – a lot more people have signed up for exploringtaiji, which I am very, very happy for.
In this blogpost I will touch on a few different subjects – from my experiences during my latest trip to Taiwan, a bit about my view on Chinese teachers, a bit about the (finally) upcoming book, Facebook and more.
Upcoming material on exploring taiji
A few weeks ago I was once again in the studio to shoot material, and there is a lot of exiting things on its way I can guarantee you! Apart from more essential Qigong, we have shot some really important partner work, two-man fighting set, my take on the best exercises to develop internal power, pole exercises and much more.
Winter camp 2020
I have recently launched the dates for the upcoming Winter camp March 2020, which is primarily for serious students from abroad, and all ready now, 3 people have signed up, which is great. The seats are limited – only 8 – and it will be an intensive 5 days event with more than 40 hours of teaching!
My trip to Taipei July/August 2019:
I have been in Taiwan 7 times over the years and as you probably know, I have had the great privilege to learn from some of Master Huang´s students from the old days, as well as training in other systems and approached like for instance Baqua. A lot of things have changed since my first years in Taiwan and many of the old masters have now passed away.
Last year – shortly after I left Taipei – Master Jeng Shean Chih – passed away. He was a longtime friend and gongfu brother of Master Huang, and I had the privilege to learn from him on many occasions over the years. He inspired me quite a bit in his teaching approach, having succeeded in creating very skillful students and most of all I was inspired by his capability and openness to create students who developed in different directions. Not just making “bad copies” of oneself – but leave room and freedom for people to develop in their own direction.
I have been so fortunate to be taught by 3 of his absolute best students – with very different approaches – and for the time being I have chosen to mainly learn from two of them because it fits well into my own understanding, direction and approach. Just like I have been inspired from all my teachers over the years, I have specifically taken with me in my own teaching approach, to let people develop in the direction they want – and become the best version of themselves. And for that approach I give the late Master Jeng Shean Chih credit.
And speaking about credit – we are living in a strange world. If you were educated in the Academic world and wrote let´s say a book and didn´t give references and credit where it was due – you would lose everything. But when it comes to fields like Taiji the tendency is that people behave like they invented the deep plate themselves. I have seen people teaching stuff – claiming it to be a “secret” – which they picked up from one of my videos on exploring taiji. Or quoting things I told them like it was their own quote, or even building up their teaching platform around the way I have built mine – without asking for permission.
I feel concerned for the people who pay or sign up to workshops, teaching or private sessions, believing they are learning from the source. It is a “sell and buy” market out there, and we are witnesses to the same mechanism which takes place for the people who are selling vacuum cleaners one day – the next day refrigerators. We need higher standards and better morale and give credit where credit is due. For the sake of the students, the true teachers and the Art/s.
Back to my Taiwan trip. On this trip I focused on the two students in the lineage of Master Huang as well as a very skillful teacher – free of system, but very proficient in “light touch”, as well as Howard.
The two students of both master Huang and their main teacher – Master Jeng Shean Chih – has very different approach to their respective teachings. One of them is by far the softest persons I have ever met and his teaching focuses on Qi and Yi. The other teacher has his main focus on spiraling movements – what many today would refer to as fascia, and also on Qi and Yi. He is by far, of all the teachers I have met, the one who can really demonstrate “bend the bow and shoot like an arrow”.
One might say – why do you not give credit to their names thinking about what I wrote above? It is very simple – they don´t want me too. They don´t mind me referring students to them but they want me to give thumbs up to that person´s personality before referring them. Any of you with an interest to meet, touch and learn from them during a trip to Taiwan, are free to contact me.
When I calculate it, I think I have spent just about 50 days with Howard over the last two years, which gives me a basic understanding of his approach to internal martial art. Where I do agree with him on most things, I do also have another view on others. We had some very good sessions and discussions and a full day trip to a museum with reference to Taiji and finding your own way – free of tradition. I will write a bit more about that another time. The interest in Howards teaching in Europe is growing while I write these words, and I recommend people to participate in one of his workshops. Not least people who have the misconception that we must “do the forms the way they always have been done”.
I intend to organize a training trip to Taiwan for 6 – 8 serious students in 2022, where I will set up a program where the attendants will get a chance to learn directly from the above mentioned teachers.
On Chinese teachers
Speaking about Chinese teachers I would like to change the subject a bit and mention a few things:
First of all – most Chinese “teachers” don´t have much skill when it comes to teaching. They might be skillful themselves but not being capable of transmitting – or willing to do so.
In my first book more than 15 years ago, I wrote – and I still see other people up to this day do the same – that Master Huang was probably one of the best teachers around. This is definitely not the case – rather the opposite. He had many, many students but only a few became really good. I remember Patrick Kelly told me that when Master Huang entered the class, he only did the Form or a piece of the Form once, and one person had to watch the feet, another the hips, yet another the hands, etc. Later the students then tried to put the puzzle together. Is that good teaching? For sure not.
You might also remember that I once wrote that very often Master Sam Tam only showed me a movement once or twice, and then asked me to practice it. He would add – I am not her to spoon feed you! Where I over the years got to some kind of understanding and found some value in this method, I also see that it has many disadvantages. On a similar note, I remember Howard telling me that his father didn´t really teach but used his students for his own practice.
There are many reasons for this kind of “teaching” method. Some Chinese teachers are simply crooks who don´t want to teach too open, in fear of loosing the golden calf who brings money and food to the table. Others simply don´t have the ability to teach. Chinese teachers in general have a tendency to underestimate Westerners. In Denmark and of course most other Western countries, we are brought up and taught in the education systems and with a good upbringing – to reflect.
Most Chinese people – especially those of the old school, haven´t learned that.
A typical teaching situation for a Western – qualified – teacher would be, to reflect on their teaching. If a student don´t “get it”, the teacher would go back to reflect on how to get across to the student. In a traditional Chinese teaching fashion, a teacher who end up having skillful students will take the glory, where if the student don´t succeed, they will blame the student. Of all the – Chinese – teachers I have had (and I have had a few), I can only say that three of them really taught from the heart, was not affected by the money issue or fear of losing me if they taught completely open, and was willing and capable of reflecting on their own teaching manners and skill. Not judging, not blaming – just fact.
“Bound by tradition”.
One of Howard´s big things when he gives an introduction workshop is to give people a wake-up call. He often mentions the flipside of the coin of being “bound by tradition”.
On many levels I agree with him. I see way too many people who thinks or believe that because a person learned directly for a period from a skillful exponent that it means that they are also skillful themselves. Or being related familywise gives you skill. Nothing can be more wrong. You have to have talent – just like in any other fields – and you have to work hard, analyze, reflect, etc. No one are born with Taiji skills and no one becomes good just by hanging around a skillful exponent.
Nowadays the social medias seems to be full of either people who talk about how their teacher was the last or only “true” disciple of a great Master. Or you see people post all kind of things about how Yang Chengfu or somebody else did the forms … Yes – it is interesting to read about the past – I loved to do that myself. But Taiji is not only and solely about the past – it is more about what is going on – now. What can YOU do, which skills do YOU have, etc.
We have to keep Taiji alive – not just talking about past Masters.
Do your practice, and if possible, find a good teacher who walks the talk, is capable of showing real skills and lets you touch him or her, and is willing and open to teach. From the heart. This is what counts – not the past. And btw – no one talking about the “good old days” was around at that time. So, all it really is – is history. No more, no less.
Like I wrote in the beginning of this blog, I did a few workshops abroad this Spring/Summer and more will be on it´s way in 2020. I met some nice people with a deep interest in both Taiji and Qi Gong. Some of them with 20 plus years of training experience and also with some exposure to some of the “famous” teachers around these years.
It makes me a little sad when I touch hands with some of these guys just to realize that they didn´t learn that much. They may be relaxed, sometimes to the extent of being collapsed, or they may have been taught to follow “the authentic method”, which I heard more than once.
Which authentic method? If this is the only answer you get when you ask a question, then I suggest you find another teacher.
Sometimes I also hear, “it is all in the form”. Ok great, if you can show and demonstrate it, fine with me. If you can only talk about taking it down in the ground and no application – then good luck!
And as for applications, sometimes people want´s to learn them before having the machine to put behind. If that is the case, it will only be fragmented handforce and it won´t work in real life situations. You have to learn the foundation first – you have to crawl before you can walk. Applications without the powerhouse behind isn´t worth much.
In 2020 workshops for England, Germany and Glasgow are all ready arranged. I am open for two more journeys in 2020, so feel free to contact me.
Winter- and Summer camps:
Besides my annual Summer camp I will in 2020 do a Winter camp as well (March 19. – 23). Where the Summer camp Is open for everyone and we are covering different themes over the days from Standing Meditation to Qigong and of course Taiji, the Winter camp will be a more “tough” one focusing on serious students from abroad who either wants to dig really deep and/or are teachers. There will only be a very limited number of seats (8), and as I write this blog, 3 seats are all ready taken.
There will in the 5 days be 8 hours teaching a day and a lot of hands on. By the end of the 5 days I will do a “test” of everyone.
Do not hesitate to contact me, if you think this is something for you. You can read a bit about the program here – but the full content I will only publish for people who likes to sign up.
As for the Summer camp, I will announce the dates and program around New Year.
Exploringtaiji now – and for the future:
A couple of weeks ago I was in the studio shooting the final material for exploringtaiji. The full program lasts just about 3 years. Like I wrote in the introduction to this blog, I have filmed some very interesting material where the Taiji related primarily are for the advanced students.
In the full 3 years program I cover material which should give the student training for more than 10 years.
I can say for sure that some of the material as you progress in the program was never before taught open, and a lot of teachers never learned the more advanced stuff.
In the program you know that you get a new video each week but some of the material taught, takes years to incorporate. But my purpose with the whole program has been, to cover the most important things – open – and help each and everyone to develop as much as possible, preferable to their full potential under guidance.
That´s also why I again and again during the program go back to let´s say Standing Meditation, giving new guidance, new perspective – when you are ready for it.
The Qigong sets I have chosen to teach, are the ones which according to my understanding, will help you the most in your development.
Some people have written me if I would teach some of the weapons like Sword or Saber in the program, or for instance the Chen style. That´s not my intention – at least not as a part of the program. But for the record, here are what I/we offer to teach in Danish Center of Taiji and Qigong:
As the only ones in Europe we teach the full system of Master Sam Tam including the Taijiform, partner exercises (Tuishou), partnerform, Standing Meditation, 5 – Animal Qigong, Soaring Crane Qigong, Sword, Saber, Stick, Long pole, Fan and more.
Besides that, Taijiruler, Taijibang, Baduanjin Qigong (the real stuff!), Hunyuan Qigong, Chenstyle Yilu and Erlu, the full system of Master Huang Xiangxian with different approaches and more.
It seems like quite a bit, right? The thing is that nowadays I can take any movement from any of the systems and give it “the flavor” of the other system. For instance, switching over and being dependent on a strong base in the System of Master Sam Tam (which is normally light), and being light and only take the force to dantian in the system of Master Huang (which normally depends on a strong base.
I have chosen some of the Danish students who had certain abilities and preferences and taught them either the full system of Master Huang or the Chen style system.
In my Taijiintensive group they all start out by learning the foundation of the system of Master Huang and the 1. Section of his version of the short form. Just like you do/did in this program.
After that, I teach them the 1. Section of Yilu (first Chenform), to help them to understand the spiraling movements which are more obvious here but definitely also a part of the Yang style. And then we move on to the system of master Sam Tam. In the partnerwork I include exercises from all the systems with main focus on Sam Tam´s.
If I were to teach all these things in exploring taiji, it would last for more than 10 years which doesn´t make sense. The intention is only to teach you the essentials.
If you decide to do like many others – come and stay for a few days in Copenhagen to receive teaching, or attend one of the workshops I teach in different parts of Europe, then of course I may include some of the above mentioned practices which are not taught on exploring taiji.
I might also at a later point decide to offer as a “buy and collect”, let´s say the Sword form, but as a separate thing and not as a part of exploring taiji.
I do like weapons myself and have trained it quite a bit. What I do not like though, is empty choreography, which is also why I gave up weapons many times and decided first to learn it again from scratch when I met someone who could actually use a weapon. And luckily I did.
When you are through the full program in exploring taiji I will not leave it there. My idea is to focus more on writing material for the page – written assignments – and start uploading many of my old videos from teaching situations with my teachers. But more about that when the first ones are through the whole program.
I am happy to tell you now that finally my big book on Taiji, Qigong and Standing meditation will be out at the latest March 2020.
As you know, when I wrote it back in 2015 in Danish, the whole idea was to get it out in English. I thought I had first one, then later another translator doing the job. It turned out I hadn´t. That is the reason for the delay. But now the translation is done, and we are in the middle of doing the editing. Apart from the main focus in the book, which is Taiji and Standing Meditation, I also covers some Qigong as well as you get access to some of my personal diary from my training stays in Sam Tam´s House.
Once the book has been released and been out a year, I will start on my next one, which is based on my study training dairy with the different teachers I have had. You will get a clear feeling and understanding of how it has been to be “housetrained and learning from the mother tongue”, just as you will get to know about my ups and downs during that process. And I will write a bit about my personal views on the different teachers strong – and weak – points.
For those of you who have an interest in the human body and anatomy, the first book which will be out from my hand in just about a month is Practical Surface Anatomy – a functional atlas of images which I wrote in 2010, and it sort of suffered the same challenge as the Taiji book when it comes to translators, until I finally translated it myself and my friend Meraz Ahmed helped me with the editing. The backside of the cover text goes:
”Practical Surface Anatomy – a functional atlas of images” caters for anyone with an interest in the visible part of the human anatomy! The book is packed with razor-sharp detailed photos. For each photo there is a detailed drawing of the muscles shown. This makes learning, understanding and knowledge of the surface anatomy child’s play. The study of the superficial muscles of the human body as well as the function of the muscles has been systematically examined in an easily accessible way: from detailed descriptions of joint movement planes to the actual testing and palpation of muscle anatomy, as well as a comprehensive introduction to analysis of body posture. Finally, there is a large section with training exercises and suggestions on how to put together an individualised strength training program.
The book is a beautiful and user-friendly reference book and will appeal to anyone with an interest in human anatomy and muscle training, or simply for sharing in the fascination of the human body. Students of physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy, psychomotoric, sports and sports medicine will find the book an invaluable support for learning surface and functional anatomy. Others, who are qualified to teach and instruct strength training e.g. fitness instructors and personal trainers, will find great joy and inspiration in this work. ”Practical Surface Anatomy – a functional atlas of images” was written, photographed and illustrated by some of the best in their respective fields in Denmark.
If you have an interest in buying it, it should be ready for that in a month from now.
In a short while I will launch a facebook site for people on exploringtaiji. I have hesitated a bit when it comes to doing it, because quite a few of the people who have signed up on exploring taiji does not want anybody else to know. And of course, I respect that. But since I get more and more questions in mails, I have decided that Facebook could be a platform to answer these questions, since many of them are relevant not only to the person in speech, but in general. If you still prefer to write me directly in mail, then remember it is possible both to book mail consultations as well as Skype consultations.