The Third Rep: 2000-04-07
by Jerry Karin
Seminars with Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun these days are typically 3 or 4 days for the entire 103 – move traditional, Yang style barehand form, followed by two or three days of instruction in one weapon: sabre or sword. Sometimes the format varies from this somewhat. So if you attend the whole seminar, such as year 2000 in Portland, August 5 thru 11, it’s a full seven days spent with the Yangs and others who love the art. Seven days of taiji classes (classes are generally in an air-conditioned gym or hall), practice outdoors as well as indoors, alone and with other taiji players, conversation and meals with various subsets of the group (can start out as big as 70 to 100 people and usually filters down to 30 to 40 for the weapon). Nighttime hanging out at the dorm, you’ll find people swapping stories, deep in discussion on some detail of the form, making music on guitars and other instruments, pushing hands in a quiet courtyard, chilling out in the room with the a/c cranked up and a good book…
Who goes? Several of the Yang Chengfu Center directors will generally be there. There will be a contingent of students from the hosting center. Quite a few students from all over the country and the rest of the world will be flying in. There must be 30 of us who attended the Hood College, Maryland seminar in 1993 and never fail to make one or two seminars per summer. There have always been a lot of good push hands players among the participants, including many champs.
Prerequisites? Most participants have learned some kind of taijiquan or other martial art before. Could it be done with no prior taiji or martial arts background? It might be a little hard to keep up.
Approximately 5 hrs of classroom instruction per day is split into two sessions: morning (starting perhaps 8 or 8:30) and afternoon (starting 2:30 or 3).
After class, there generally are organized practice sessions led by experienced players, such as a center director. Small groups of people can be found practicing taijiquan, taiji weapons, push hands, da lu and other forms throughout the day and evening.
East Brunswick, NJ center director Andy Lee:
“A seminar, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is a group of supervised students doing research or advanced study. Why do I enjoy these seminars, and why do I continue to attend? I love to make new friends, to meet old ones, and to be totally immersed in the art. There’s not only the physical endurance of continuously doing the form, but also the mental work of correction and observation that I enjoy . In the morning, we all have breakfast, and talk. Talking about tai chi chuan, we discuss and share our opinions of the class. The fun of lining-up and learning Chinese, so we can say “HELLO”. The joy of holding the posture as Yang Laoshi moves through the lines trying to check each student. And the delightful way we can laugh. A group of supervised students doing research and advanced study of tai chi chuan with not only the watchful eyes of Yang Laoshi, but also the helpful eyes of other players. I cannot see myself do the form, but others can. Consequently, their opinions, be they new in the art or be they old, are valuable. I came to understand this philosophy at these seminars. Moving to the sound of tai chi chuan being chanted by Yang Laoshi, surrounded by sixty or seventy players, all moving together, all breathing together, all exuberant – it’s an experience! There is no better intoxication then the surround-sound of tai chi chuan. After lunch, practicing; before the session begins, practicing, and in the evening, practicing because I have no other responsibility but to practice. Attending a summer seminar is like going away for a spa vacation. Except that in this case, the spa is devoted to good people and phenomenal Tai Chi Chuan.”
Thanks to Andy Lee for the photo from the 1996 New York Seminar.
Want to share your stories or impressions from past seminars? Email them to me at Jerry@yangfamilytaichi.com and I will publish them here. Pictures would be wonderful.
Jerry, I’ve attended seminars the past two summers and have enjoyed them both very much. A friend and I first went down to the Winchester, VA seminar in July of 1998. While we had studied a variation of Yang style tai chi it was different from the traditional Yang family style. We studied hard and took many notes. It seemed a little overwhelming , yet it was very rewarding. Last year four of us went down to the seminar in NY. We all had a great time. People we met the year before were there; it was great to see them and talk of how we were doing with our tai chi. I found the second seminar to be even more beneficial to me than the first. I had a better understanding of the form and was able to get more of the details that Master Yang was explaining. I found it interesting that while it was the same 103 posture form Master Yang was teaching his explanations of the moves were from a different approach. In Virginia (1998) he talked more of the energy and proper posture. In NY (1999) he gave explanations from a more martial viewpoint. I enjoyed the different approaches to the form. I realized that you can always continue to grow and learn something new from each seminar. I have enclosed some photos I scanned in. [...]the photo of the group practicing is from NY 1999.
Michael R. Coulon.