In May 2013 Master Frank Allen and Tina Chunna Zhang visited Darmstadt in Germany for their annual training trip. Here’s my personal review of a fantastic week of training and learning. A huge thank you to Moritz and his school Tai Chi Darmstadt for hosting this event.
Wednesday – 3 Treasures Qigong
This workshop with Tina Zhang covered in detail a few of the movements looking at posture, alignment, breathing and the involvement of the meridians, rounding off with a run through of the complete 3 Treasures Qigong routine. This medical Qigong set focuses on creating harmony and balance between the three treasures of Heaven, Earth and Man. Each section has 3 postures and movements that work on specific meridian channels using the theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine for preventative health. We learnt the importance of loosening the shoulders, hip and lumbar in our Qigong movements as well as the emphasis on spine health through flexing, compression and expansion. As always Tina’s style of teaching is unique, imparting valuable information and guiding everyone through the lesson in a gentle and supportive way. I always enjoy Tina’s workshops and loved playing with the 3 Treasures for the first time. View over a clip of Tina teaching the 3 Treasures here:
Thursday – Daoist Roots and Balances
In this workshop Master Frank Allen lectured on the roots of Dao and Daoism as it developed over the centuries in China. In detail Frank discussed how ‘Dao’ or ‘the way’ is about living your natural path, the concept of balance in life and adapting to change. We also covered basic meditation practices attached to the ideology of Daoism from sitting meditation to standing practice (Zhang Zhuang).
Friday – Cheng Bagua Deer Horn Knives
This was my first experience of training Deer Horn Knives. Frank passed on some of the historical and functional background of this weapon which is unique to Bagua. Have a look at a photo of deer horn knives vs. sword here. Over the day we learnt part of the Deer Horn Knives form, it’s pretty intense adding in 2 weapons to Bagua. Frank guided us (well more me as the only pure deer horn knives beginner) through really well, looking at applications and technical detail. Just brilliant!
Saturday – Cheng Bagua
Today Frank worked us hard, passing on some effective strengthening drills for coiling in and out. We also looked at the first and second palm change, focusing on compression and expansion , coiling in and coil out within the micro movements of each palm change. Frank discussed in length the importance of internal spiralling for authentic practice and martial arts. Then adding in Dantian rotations starting with practice drills and then form. A really effective way to add detail and depth to the movements. Frank also discussed how similar the coiling and spiralling movements in Cheng style Bagua Zhang are to Chen style Tai Chi spiralling, really interesting to look at this. Have a look at Frank training at the Wu Tang PCA in New York here:
Sunday – Cheng Bagua
We worked on in detail Cheng Bagua Walking (mud stepping) broken down into expansion and compression with weight shifting and steps, this was an effective drill that Frank advises takes about 100 hours to get into the body. Next we took that drill into coiling in and coiling out along with expansion and compression. Easier to do than to speak, as some of us found by leading the class through verbalising the drill! We completed the 3rd and 4th palm change today, focusing again on compression and expansion with coiling in and coil out. A lot of detail and ground to cover, and once again we all worked hard with Frank’s guidance and detail on applications. As expected I loved every second and can’t wait for next year’s trip. Frank has written an article on the history of Cheng Style Ba Gua Zhang, definitely worth a read here. View over Master Liu Jing Ru performing Cheng Ba Gua Zhang: