Member Responses to Tian Laoshi’s visit

Dear All,

I really appreciate all who contributed to the discussions last Sunday in class. These post event discussions help all of us to “digest” the “huge meal” we had the week before. Given that there is limited time in class and many missed last class, I want to invite everyone to email me a few sentences to a paragraph on what they appreciated/benefited most from the event. Also give me your questions and confusions. My thinking is that we can organize this together with the photos and videos on the website in a “Special Event” page. If there are things you rather just communicate with me and not to share, just let me know. Your email will help me to continue to help you. 

This invitation, of course, includes those who missed last Sunday’s class, which is about 40% of the event participants. 

Many of you recognized that a lot of hard work is involved to put on an event like this. Give me your thoughts to the event is a very good way to thank me and others who helped to make this happen.



I really enjoyed the different energy and the insights to martial applications. As far as suggestions go, sometimes it would be nice to practice more of the Chen style – both in advance of an event like this but also in normal learning. For example, every Sunday and Tuesday we have the opportunity to see and experience the Yang style with the whole class. As beginners this is a challenge but then we breakout and focus on individual aspects of form. I think this dual practice of being in the whole flow and then working on sub-components is a very powerful way of learning. In essence you get a better understanding of where you are going and levels you can get to, just like the experience with Master Tian. It occurs to me that we don’t have this learning approach with Chen style currently, but we got exposure to it in the workshop. I also think a mixture of fast and slow posture development is good for learning, i.e. linking several movements together into a flow that can be practiced at different speeds is very helpful. There is much to learn in finessing the detailed movements that can take a lifetime. I find that being in the moment in the flow of energy of an extended form helps and encourages my practice to go back and better learn the details of each movement at the slower rates.
Thanks for the opportunity”

-Jim G


“Dear Laura,
Thank you so much for inviting Tian Laoshi to teach us. I most appreciated seeing how relaxed Tian is when he does tai chi, yet he also seems to be moving through pressure. When he described moving as if through water that helped me sense more what I was seeing. This instruction is particularly valuable to my tai chi practice. I also enjoyed Tian’s personality, warm and friendly and yet at the same time masterful. It was wonderful to see his full expression of tai chi. It increased my appreciation for the depth of the art form.”



“Reflections on Tian Laoshi’s visit:
Demonstrations of his martial applications brought home the importance of using the whole body, starting from the feet for maximal effectiveness.  I can also see how all the muscles need to be relaxed but ready to fire in a coordinated way to deliver the most power. I am excited to work on this with a form that we have been working on for a long time.  
Thanks Laura!”



“Thank you for all the effort and thoughtfulness that went into this teaching. 
Seeing examples of how each posture of the form can be broken down into smaller actions was very helpful. 
Seeing how an opponent could be overpowered and intimidated with speed and sound and technique was interesting. I would find it helpful to work out the details of encountering, neutralizing and redirecting an opponent’s attack in a way that clarified the oncoming intent, learning how to use the feeling of “being in water up to one’s neck”, as you suggested.”

-Bill Clarke


“Dear Laura,
Aside from what I’ve said already…
Just seeing Tian Laoshi and his embodiment of tai chi was extraordinarily inspirational. As a beginner, I admittedly had difficulty grasping the forms I hadn’t yet been formally introduced to, and likewise had difficulty following him in the practice of these forms. But I hope that, somehow, the deeper understanding that he introduced to us will nevertheless remain within me in later months and years as we continue to learn the forms and their underlying principles. With a little luck, years from now I’ll still be unearthing more of what he taught. I can certainly say that it was an extremely helpful reality check to see what distinguishes an advanced level of practice–and to see Tian Laoshi’s deep-seated internalization of tai chi as a whole. Seeing the richness of tai chi embodied in him (not only in his form but equally in his demeanor and character) certainly makes me want to be a better practitioner and to go deeper into tai chi’s richness in the years to come. And it was clear from the mood in the club that his visit with us has drawn us all toward higher intentions and aspirations.”
Thank you again for giving us this precious and rare opportunity.”

-John G


“Dear Laura,
Tian Laoshi brought to life many of the points we’ve talked about in class, such as spiraling, using the core, initiating movement from the feet, and the body controlling the arms (not the arms alone). Watching him made sense of these points in a deeper way than I’d understood before. One memorable experience was during the Wednesday morning small group. I was surprised when I placed my hand on his abdomen–his core muscles moved my fingers one at a time, ending with a twinge of pain in my little finger. Such strength and control!
Many thanks to you and the other volunteers who worked so hard to bring Tian Laoshi to GFTTC. I learned from him during his 2013 visit, but I was in a better stage this time to benefit from his teaching, presence, and personal example.”

-Chris Perkins


“Dear Laura,
Thank you for organizing such a wonderful event. I felt honored to be in the presence of Tian Laoshi, as his presence and energy are something special. 
For me personally, the event was energizing. Given that Chen style s very new to me, the opportunity to see and experience it at such a level really inspired me and helped me to begin to understand the style as a whole, as opposed to just a set of postures, of which I am only beginning to learn a small portion. Knowing where we are heading and getting a glimpse of so much up front will help me in my journey.
Another positive for me was that I began to feel more connected to the other students. As a first-year, I have not gotten to know many students outside of the beginners group.  The event provided a time and space to get to know others and I found that to be very special. 
In closing, thank you for allowing me to join in the non-traditional manner that I did. Being part of Gu Feng the past ten months has meant a lot to me. I practice for 50 minutes 3-4 times per week and find that the days in which I do practice I am much more present and focused.  My practice has helped me to better accept my health situation, and has allowed me to be a better parent and husband.”

-Mark K


“Hi Laura,
I am very grateful to you for organizing the workshop with Tian Laoshi.  I am especially grateful that you gave me a space in the small class!
I benefitted from all of the workshop, and it is all stowed away in me to continue to manifest.  Some of these experiences were certainly life-changing.  Here are a couple examples of powerful, life changing moments:
I was standing in a posture with my arms outstretched.  Laoshi  put his two arms between my two arms and pressed outward.  That forced me to become solid in my muscles against his push.  Then he put his two arms on the OUTSIDE of my two arms, and pressed inward. That created tonus in both directions (in and out) at the same time.  All of a sudden my whole body joined in and was all toned: from the floor to the top of my head and out my arms.  I suddenly felt like a different person: vividly strong, solid, centered, confident and settled, with all parts my body fully toned, present, coordinated and balanced.  I felt the length and expansion you talk about.  It was deep in me.  It stayed in its vivid form all the way home, and I felt myself as an entirely different persona.  I felt a strength and power (self mastery kind of power). Although I forget about it a lot (there are so many things to be aware of all the time), I am aware of that other persona within myself and can potentially call on it.  It certainly feels exquisite when that kind of energy really takes over.  And it has sporadically altered my way of relating to people as it manifests in different ways interactionally.
Another self-altering experience was when he had us put 5 fingers on his abdomen while he did that circular/spiral movement he does.  We felt his muscles on one side, isolated, tensing, then alternately the area next to that, etc., all the way to the other side and our 5th finger. Unforgettable. I can pull it up out of myself often.
Tian Laoshi seems like a spiritual giant of a human. It is awesome to have been around him. 
(And I have videos to remind me of his moves!)
I can see, Laura, when you talk “passion,” that I have been detached.  Perhaps I need to treat taichi more as a dance than as something to be perfected.  Dance is natural to me, and carries passion. Yet it too can be subject to discipline and improvement.”



“Dear Laura,
After thinking about the experience, I realize what I appreciated the most was the opportunity to witness and learn from Tian Laoshi while in the company of other Core Group members and the GFTCC as a whole.  Seeing and feeling  the power of his strength and swiftness was remarkable for me.  In addition, watching him radiate with joy when performing was a delight.  I take learning Taichi so seriously that his demonstrations were a compelling reminder that it’s okay relax into it for the sheer enjoyment (without compromising on building skills, of course!).  
What I benefitted from the most was the chance to work with Tian Laoshi on the entire first routine of the Chen form.  Focusing on individual postures and short sequences (and breaking them down microscopically) gave me a much clearer sense of how the moves are done, the timing of certain postures, the flow from one to another, etc.  Given my stage of learning and being a new member of the Core Group, this was invaluable to me.  I’m better able to make the shift from individual postures to fluidity throughout the routine when my body knows how to do the first routine move by move.  
The martial art applications were interesting to me because they showed what the postures are designed to do from a self-defense stand point.   However, like you said in class today, the applications are not the focus when practicing Taichi.  This is especially true for me at this point.  
I hope this feedback is helpful to you Laura.  I am so very grateful for the opportunity to see Tian Laoshi in action and receive his teachings.  Sponsoring and hosting a visit of this magnitude was a huge undertaking and while many club members pitched in and contributed, the energy, effort and time you invested in this was unparalleled.”



“Hi Laura,
Tian Laoshi’s visit is something that is still being processed and difficult to put into words, but it’s good exercise for me to consciously integrate his teachings and pinpoint the major elements I’m missing in my practice. It was really special to be able to glimpse the magnitude of power, energy, and joy that tai chi is able to produce with so many years of dedicated practice. 
Although our class does not stress the martial application of tai chi, I really found his demonstrations valuable for furthering my practice on a general level just as watching an apple fall from the tree conveys something more generally about physics. I understand that you do not want us to miss the forest for the trees, but I think the direct experience of hiking among the trees helps to make “the forest” more real in many senses. I also think this type of experience can effectively test how well we actually understand “the forest” on a fundamental level. The specific martial applications of tai chi do not interest me much, but I found these demonstrations to be invaluable teaching tools for understanding the deeper principles of gongfu and how they manifest in the form.”



“I read again the meaning of gu-feng, and realized that your school, you and your teachers, are teaching just that. In the year that I have been there all of you have not only taught me, but made me feel like I belong. I appreciate most your talking with my group, and knowing how much we gain by a visit by Tian Laoshi. Thank you very much to you and your staff.”

-Rick Klempan


“Hi Laura, first I want to say thank you for arranging the visit of Tian Laoshi.  I know there is a lot of work to make an event as successful as this was.
I feel my practice made a big improvement after working with Tian Laoshi.  I liked the way he demonstrated every move, sometimes slowly as we do in class and sometimes more quickly as in a fight.  Quite often the faster move was easier for me to see and copy and then transfer that to the form.  Specifically, during the 13 postures, while doing it quickly it was almost impossible to swing my arms out wide while doing An (spelling?) forcing me to keep my arms in close and just open my chest.  Also doing the first hidden hand punch I typically over think it and struggle, but doing it quickly forced me to just do it.  I also think six hours of instruction in two days had a lot to do with my improvement. 
Another thing that was amazing to watch and experience was trying to push or move him.  Not only could we not push him, it seemed we couldn’t couldn’t even touch him without rolling off of him. It was also fun watching Tian Laoshi doing the forms, he obviously enjoyed doing them because he was always smiling.  
It was an amazing weekend, and I’m glad I got to experience it.”



“Hi Laura,
Thank you for organizing Tian Laoshi’s visit. I very much appreciated that opportunity.  
What I liked most about the visit was the exposure to the martial art aspect.  It was very interesting to see what we have been learning in a different light.
I also appreciated the hands on learning and the ability to sometimes follow closely behind Tian Laoshi when we were practicing (when I rotated to the front).  Similarly, I loved Shifu Jack’s visit last year and learned a lot from the small group classes we were able to sign up for.”



“Hi Laura,
Slowly my eyes are opening to the softness, relaxation and body/mind/spirit integration of better Tai Chi.  Tian Qiuxin was indeed an inspiration for all of that and has renewed my dedication to practice.”