Along with Eric and Connie, two Tai Chi classmates (we study with Warren Allen at Pacific Martial Arts here in Salem), I thoroughly enjoyed Master David Leung's workshop today at Cafe Noir -- which was sponsored by Oregon CHI.
But this wasn't the only way my mood was elevated during Leung's presentation. He was energetic, entertaining, and exuberant in a charming Chinese manner. Leung's English also is excellent (I think I've used up my "E" words for this paragraph).
He teaches at the Leung Martial Arts Academy in Eugene, which features instruction in several styles: Yang Tai Chi, Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chen Tai Chi, among others. Master Leung demonstrated these three, showing their similarities and differences.
Intensity, concentration, mindfulness.
These qualities shone forth in everything Leung did, whether talking or moving. Along with relaxation, flowingness, and humility. His Wing Chun is blindingly fast. Humbly, he said that he used to be a martial artist "hot stuff," but now is just "warm stuff."
Well, I can tell you that no bad guy would want to meet up with this 5' 2" slender man in a dark alley. After his presentation, Eric and I stayed to ask some questions. Eric's involved a "needle at sea bottom" application that involved a Chin Na (joint lock) move if someone grabs your wrist.
Eric and I are much larger than Master Leung. But when he showed us the technique close up and personal, we both were on our knees almost instantly. (The trick was using three fingers to press on a nerve, rather than using your whole hand to produce the lock.)
That was cool. Yet I found Leung's philosophical observations to be even cooler. Here's some fairly accurate, though not always word for word, recollections based on the notes that I took.
Most people don't see the mutiplicity of what the universe is all about. They focus on what is black and white.
A tiger will flee from a badger, if the badger is committed to saving his life.
If someone is opposed to me, I can fix their heart, not kick their butt.
We must fuse the body with spirit/consciousness.
My success is built on the shoulders of giants.
There are physical transformations, and also transformations beyond the physical.
Change happens from within. We need to get into our internal body.
There is an essence behind this art. Raw power can easily backfire.
A key is doing all things without thinking. My punch throws itself, with no anger, no excitement -- just work.
I've been learning Tai Chi for over six years, after about twelve years of hard style martial arts training. Yet watching and listening to Master Leung reinforced what I never fail to remember:
What I know is hardly anything, compared to what there is to learn.
Master Leung started off the demonstration portion of his workshop with a "this is how lots of Tai Chi looks." He proceeded to do (or "play," in Tai Chi parlance) a fairly short Yang style form. To most people, and even to me, it looked like pretty damn good Tai Chi.
Flowing. Smooth. Graceful. Harmonious.
After finishing the form, Leung pounded his ribs and stomach, saying "But real Tai Chi comes from here." He then proceeded to play the form again, in a much more energetic fashion -- yet not faster.
It reminded me in some ways of what little I've seen of Drunken Style Kung Fu, a subject I alluded to in a post on my other blog. Outwardly, it looked like Master Leung would sway, jerk, move erratically. But inwardly, it was evident that he was fully in command of what he was doing.
(Or perhaps more accurately, what he was doing was in command of him.)
My post-workshop question for Master Leung was this: "Is Chi/Qi natural and physical, or supernatural and immaterial?" He told me that Chi is bodily, though related to mind, noting that he teaches psychology. I said, "But mind is part of the brain, and the brain is physical, so Chi also must be physical." Yes, Leung replied.
This fits with how I've come to view Qi. It's the subtle aspect of Tai Chi and other martial arts. Also, of life. It's the energy that lifts us from the mundane into the shining. (Which relates to another recent blog post.)
Upon returning home from the workshop, I wanted to find out how old Master Leung is. It took me a bit of Googling, but the answer eventually popped up: 61, or thereabouts.
Hey, I'm 62. I can only hope that I'll be as youthful as Master Leung is one of these days, notwithstanding the fact that we're almost exactly the same age. What's he's got is what we all can have: inner energy.
It's just a matter of channeling and expressing it. Caffeine helps, but Chi/Qi is the real deal.