Susan Ann Walker
After practicing Tai Chi Chuan for 4 years elsewhere, I was fortunate to find the Wu Style Academy in 1985. In 1992, I had the honor of becoming a disciple of Sifu Eddie Wu Kwong Yu.
During my time at the Academy, I have been very active in sparring and competitions and I continue to be a member of the Demonstration Team with plans of competing in the 54 Competition Round Form and weapons forms in upcoming tournaments.
Tai Chi Chuan has become an essential part of my life and I particularly love playing tai chi chuan in wide open spaces under big blue skies.
AN INTERPRETATION OF MASTER WU TAI SIN WORKSHOP AT THE WU ACADEMY OF TAI CHI CHUAN IN TORONTO ON JULY 23/24, 2003 BY SUSAN ANN WALKER
"Good speed", was all Master Wu Tai Sin said upon our completion of the Traditional 108 Form. All of us, the twenty or so students fortunate enough to attend this unique & rare workshop, sighed with relief. It was an honor & a treat to be complimented by this master of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan. This was a great beginning to this much-anticipated event. Master Wu Tai Sin had made a special trip to Toronto before returning to Hong Kong from his trip to Vancouver. This six hour workshop spanning over two days was a fitting end to the very busy & exciting month of July, 2003 for all of us at the Wu Academy. We were given many golden nuggets of wisdom. I hope that I do them justice in my report.
Master Wu Tai Sin was attended by Mr. Cheuk Ming Hei, his disciple from Hong Kong. Mr. Cheuk Ming Hei was instrumental by interpreting the words & demonstrating the lessons of Master Wu Tai Sin. Sifu Eddie Wu helped to keep things running smoothly. I will refer to Master Wu Tai Sin throughout this report as "the Uncle¨.
The workshop began with Master Wu Tai Sin & Mr. Cheuk Ming Hei demonstrating a few applications. They attempted to clarify the importance of hasan babei, the engagement of the hip & the necessity of accuracy for the generation of power. The true concepts of looseness & relaxation were demonstrated time & time again. We had the opportunity to practice with a partner. A few of us had the humbling & enlightening opportunity to work with the uncle & his disciple. It was awe-inspiring how their feather touch would send us flying & unforgettable was their ability to disappear beneath our push.
The uncle spoke often of the necessity of moving your force not just your body. He insisted on the importance of practicing the form to prepare the way. In practice, one must move slowly, loosely & calmly with a relaxed mind. He assured us that once we sensed the movement we must continue to dedicate ourselves to this practice to keep the feeling alive. He demonstrated just how this achieved looseness allows the appropriate response to an incoming force.
We were reminded of the importance of mindful practice of the Traditional 108 Form as segments, the techniques of their Applications step by step, the implementation of these techniques in Freestyle in their wholeness from the beginning to their very end. We were encouraged to engage neutralization & hone our intention by the practice of Basic Push Hands & Off Set. Finally, with an intrinsic (my word) knowledge of the 8 Elements our ability to truly hear to our opponent will be enhanced.
A number of us bumbled our way through a very rusty Saber Form as a group. The Uncle¡¦s sage advice to us for the Weapons Forms in general recalled much of what he had already told us with the additional emphasis on the need for a relaxed yet strong arm. We marveled at the masterful way he handled his Saber as he demonstrated his words. His jumps were high & controlled. His thrusts had great power as his mind moved his body around his Center of Gravity). Such grace! It brought to my mind the delight of seeing Wu Yan Hsia perform her Sword Form.
The Uncle's lessons in weapon to weapon training were simple- practice slowly, use stickiness & choose weapons that are the proper weight for you. The weapons are an extension of your arm, he pointed out. He told us we are to use our Center of Gravity in our movements which have intent & are focused on the directional. And, he concluded, the point of your weapon is always directed at your opponent.
The key points to remember while practicing our Push Hands exercises were brief but profound. Half Step Push Hands is to be practiced slowly & with precision. We were told yet again that all the power is in the hips & our hands are not to move too fast. With that inimitable twinkle in his eye the Uncle said that when playing the Nine Palace Push Hands we must use our mind. He demonstrated for us the elements of Choi & Lu in Ta Lu. With our partners we attempted to employ these concepts that were new to some of us & for others an seeing with new eyes. All of us were made aware of the challenges ahead. As Sifu Eddie Wu highlighted for us at this time that the more advanced you become so are the intricacies of Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan revealed.
The Uncle confirmed that necessarily the feelings were different when practicing alone than in a group. When alone one's interest could be greater but the challenge to focus is greater also. When practicing in a group, one must consider others. Either way one's practice must have rhythm, balance & consistency. We must work toward calmness.
With dedication, the Uncle assured us we would get that ¡§bang on¡¨ feeling. He suggested that it may be fleeting initially but we were to hang onto it. By applying all the basics, by feeling every move in the segmented Traditional 108 Form we would come to know when it was correct. Eventually, we would feel the change in our circulation. We would come to recognize even the effect of the different seasons on us. The Form in its parts & as a whole opens the doors for us.
The first leg of the workshop was winding down. Those four hours had flown by. The Uncle looked as if he could carry on for another four. We were full to the brim with all we had seen & heard. A few more questions were answered about the 8 Elements. It was beginning to dawn on us that the basics were our guide. Beyond that everything is in a constant state of change. For a perfect example we look to the practice of Sparring. To spar effectively we must use our mind- listen & stop, listen & stop insists the Uncle. Then we move our whole body with our mind in response to the incoming force. With our punches we expel power with method & mind.
Sifu Eddie Wu began the last two hours of the workshop with a review of the previous days lessons. Previously we had been told by Mr. Cheuk Ming Hei that in the old days no questions had been allowed from the disciples. With that in mind & a bit of time to ponder all we had seen & heard, we had many questions to ask. Master Wu Tai Sin was roused from his nap on the couch in the tea room. It was enviable how this master snoozed despite the buzz of activity surrounding him.
Raise Hands was examined. The Uncle exposed its essential wave action. We came to understand the element of Peng in this second move of the Form & we recognized its power to neutralize. From there, we were reminded when playing Tai Chi Chuan to be aware of all directions, all our body parts & to use stickiness & sensitivity. For the successful practice of Free Style, he emphasized the need to know how our body in all its parts does things & to apply this knowledge of its physics. We must strive for the feeling of ¡§rootedness¡¨. We must learn the methodology or the "how¨ of the 8 Elements & apply the technique or "what¨" to our playing of Tai Chi Chuan. With stickiness & sensitivity added to our rootedness, we will know leverage.
At this point we all gathered around the Uncle, Sifu & Mr. Cheuk Ming Hei & sat down. A number of points were reviewed & a few more questions answered. This amazing workshop was concluded by these last tantalizing tidbits of wisdom. Stillness, stated the Uncle, occurs both internally & externally & ultimately simultaneously. And finally, the basics as taught to us in Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan will create the perfect body form for the mind to move the intent.
The most powerful things I heard Master Wu Tai Sin say during this workshop came to my mind as he stood before us saying goodbye. He stated that the outside of the body shows the true state of the inner mind. His loose & limber body is indeed moved by a youthful & vital spirit contained by a calm mind displayed on his smooth, unlined face full of humour. Truly, he is living proof & a great inspiration to all of us.