Celebrating World Tai Chi Day
Saturday 28th of April was World Tai Chi day. Cambridge Kung Fu celebrated this with a walk along the river Cam and some Tai Chi practice along the way! On Sunday 29th April Grandmaster Brian Jones and Master Ricky Crofts visited us to run a Seminar. Keep reading to find out what one of our students, Philip (better known as Frodo!) thought of both day's events...
"It’s Saturday, first day of my first weekend off in a long time.
Nobody likes to be embarrassed, but it’s a vital part of self awareness, self improvement and maturity. I was apprehensive at the thought of it but I said I would go, so I went.
World Tai Chi Day, it rained, the sky of the world dripping its Chi over everything, re-energising the soil, filling rivers and reservoirs. Quite apt. We met at the Fort St. George, 30 minutes of slow controlled movement, cyclists slowing down to watch, pub patrons going quiet and pointing, but not one bad word from anyone, phew, I thought it might have been a free for all!
We walked up the Cam to another piece of flat land by ‘the big tree’ less bovine Chi extract up here, 15 minutes more of the form, I spent the whole of it copying the others and trying to keep up as they powered through the next section, all the while watching cyclists watching us, and then nearly falling off because of a dog.
Next stop, a separate fenced area of land by Elisabeth Way, 'Two Person Set' this time. There were a lot of tips and pointers, because you can always improve your 'Dance' and we practiced again, and again, left side, right side and a tweak here, an explanation there, I’m starting to loosen up, the day is not dreary any more even though the drizzle is dripping off my fingers and nose. I’m feeling really good and I can tell everyone else is, they’re smiling and joking.
Fifteen minutes are up and we move on to the next place, a play area, uninhabited because of the rain, I run in over onto the zip line because I haven’t been on one for years, there are four wooden stakes in the ground, goalposts, we suggest doing the form on the top of them but they’re wet, and 6 inches wide! The second section of the play area would make this into a novel so just watch the clips!
We move on out of the play area and into a field of bullocks, I was surprised how close they let you get to their giant hairy forms although we were in a very relaxed energised state, and no one wants to run when they’re wet do they? The final 15 minutes here, and we notice it is 3pm, in time for cider and a burger platter in The Green Dragon!
Sunday, the rain’s stopped and the sun’s out, you can feel the energy from the sun but it’s cold, nature eh? Gives with one hand, and takes with the other.
I thought I was going to be late, but I arrived just in time as the Grandmaster was just arriving behind me. I stood apprehensively waiting to begin, as the man in front of me announces he’s met everyone here, I step out slightly and in a quiet voice say, “er... you haven’t met me,” my teacher shouts out, “oh yeah,” and the Master smiles widely in appreciation that more people have joined his family.
We start with a bow, this isn’t a usual part of our repertoire, but I do revere learning new things, hands pressed together, we bow slightly, never taking your eyes off your opponent, some Bruce Lee film comes into my mind as the person bowing gets kicked in the head, I snigger to myself. Arms stretch out to form a triangle with the hands to represent the whole Integrated Kun Tao System: Tai Chi Chuan, Wing Chung and Escrima, then one more small bow and we’re onto the form. Commencement, he said loudly and with presence, hold sphere left, hold sphere right.
I expected this, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to expect all week, but it felt right at this moment, the developer of the form I’ve so lovingly embraced is just doing it with me. He stops and says he’s got something new to show us, the Eight Silk Brocade, Chi awakening forms so simple you know you’ve done them as a child impatiently waiting for something, bouncing up and down on your toes with your hands behind your back saying to your mum, “Pleeeeeeeze, I’ll be extra good,” but surprisingly good for you, we do two of these and move back onto the form, ward off left, ward off right, another two of the 8 Silk Brocade, or Baduanjin (I found an app for it the other day too) and then we split off to practice the 'Two Person Set'.
Our Grandmaster was given a perch to sit on and he surveyed us for a while as his second in command moved around the groups showing us the martial applications of the forms we slowly moved through, saying that, “this move is to break somebody’s arm and if you’re going in for a lean, use your whole shoulder and not just your arm.” At this point I’m reminded of another film, “when sparing, hold back on the strength of your attack, not the skill.”
My turn now, the first rung on the ladder to become Grandmaster myself one day, I’m not normally a nervous person, but I can feel it creeping in, “Ok, are you ready? You can start,” I take a deep breath to stretch those tightening nervous muscles and begin: “Commencement” I sing out confidently, damn, did I get that right? Even though it’s the first move, it’s the most important, it’s the move you do more than any other, it’s the one everyone watches before they nod or shake their head and either let you carry on or, “Can I stop you there, you need your elbows lower, your fingers higher, you didn’t access the Chi stored in the three form of the Kun Tao to allow you to fully utilise the most important pose of all martial arts in the world ever,” no, he’s just gently grinning and nodding to himself so I carry on... and, “Completion,” now onto the 'Two Person Dance', my partner is way more advanced than me, but we worked well, I could feel every movement before it happened, which is ultimately the point, but when you’re learning the motions, you just learn it verbatim, her turn now to start, and we finish, I thank my partner and she thanks me, I glance to the Grand Master and he smiles, “Just a few pointers...”?
“Thank you... so... did I pass?” I said as I’m ushered away by my teacher, a look of big smiling pride on his face. ”Yes”. Aces I thought. More people grade while others are practicing the two person set under direction, and by the close we are shown the new short and long swords that are now part of our form, I’m quite excited, we are given a demonstration of the 'Fan Form', a form I’m quite intrigued to master, along with the yoyo, then we stand for a cool down, and the rest of the 8 Silk Brocade.
We finish the afternoon in a time honoured tradition of beer and meat in the pub regaling stories of past battles and risqué jokes. I have my certificate, signed by my Teacher, my Master and my Grandmaster in a frame on the wall at home.
Frodo Hook, Kun Tao Tai Chi Chuan Grade 1