THE first time I met Chen Xiao Wang was back in 2002.
I had been practising Yang-style Taiji for four years when one of my friends invited me to go to Reading for a Chen-style Taiji workshop with Master Chen.
I jumped at the chance because I had heard good things about Master Chen and I was curious to find out more about the Chen style, the mother source of all other forms of Taiji.
The workshop was excellent. Master Chen talked about Taiji principles in a down to earth way and explained how we want to move in a balanced way with the ‘Dantien’ or centre of the body as the organiser behind the integrated movement that comprises Taiji.
As he demonstrated some of the basic exercises, his calm presence and fluid movement made wonderful viewing. When it came round to us working through the exercises, his corrections made me realise I hardly knew my own body despite my previous training.
By the end of the workshop it was apparent that everything I thought I knew about Taiji was inaccurate, but the best was yet to come.
As things drew to a close, Master Chen said he would provide a demonstration and so we sat down around the edge of the hall and waited with baited breath.
Time seemed to slow down and as he stood preparing himself, eyes closed, Master Chen appeared calm and perfectly balanced.
Very slowly, he began.
The first few moves looked different to what I knew, but never before had I seen Taiji done so well or any kind of movement performed at such a high level.
He combined incredible smoothness and fluidity with deep stances that exuded stability.
I was deeply impressed, but after about a minute in, everything changed.
Suddenly Master Chen jumped high in the air and landed unwavering with a loud bang that reverberated through the floor, only to emit a flurry of lightning-fast punches.
It was like a bomb had gone off.
But as quickly as it had started, it was all over and Master Chen was back in the centre of the hall, motionless once more.
We exploded with applause, the simplified Taiji I had previously learned paled in comparison.
I didn’t even know there were any fast movements in Taiji, let alone jumps and punches!
I could see that softness and slowness was one side of the Taiji coin that facilitated this exciting other.
All I wanted to do now was learn Chen-style Taiji and the rest is history!
This year’s training with Master Chen was wonderful; I swear he gets better each time.
I particularly enjoyed our pushing-hands and martial application workshop, for when he demonstrates a technique on you, it is a formidable experience.
Despite being twice my age, he combines tremendous dexterity with fluid power.
I also took the opportunity to take some more examinations with Master Chen.
My good friend Phil joined me, along with Estevam.
We all passed and afterwards Master Chen gave an insightful lecture about Taiji training.
It ended with smiling faces and I can’t wait for next year!
Our summer courses start from July 15, the details are all on the website: www.sussextaichi.co.uk.
Sam Moor teaches Tai Chi full-time in Chichester and throughout Sussex.