Beginnings

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My 53 year odyssey, thus far, with this fascinating and magnificent art form, began in an other worldly encounter with William C.C. Chen in his New York City school back in 1964.  My actual training did not begin then, mainly due to lack of schools and teachers, but six years later in 1970 when a friend and college classmate, Larry Mann, began teaching it in his Norfolk, Virginia, KungFu School.  By 1975 when I took my first trip to China, I had joined Larry and classmate Billy Hook in the founding of the Tidewater T'ai Chi Center, and soon after established my own school in Norfolk, the Tidewater T'ai Chi Club.
 

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In 1985 I fell into the most magical period of my life when I was able once again to not only journey to China, but to live, work and train there -- a vastly different China than the one I experienced a decade before, and a completely different world than that of today, some three decades later.

When I embarked on the 1985 trip, I left the Tidewater Club in the good hands of dedicated senior students who tried their best to keep it functioning during my absence.  I was recently given these photos by Kam Hitchcock-Mort, the senior-in-charge, the other two students are Warren Pretlow and Chris Walters. Many of the students in the group portrait joined the class while I was away and are unknown to me.  One Lady in particular though, Anita Adams, between Warren and T.T. Liang’s calligraphy on Taijiquan, is healthy and in her 90’s and we are still in contact! In the picture of Warren and Kam with the double broadswords I can tell, with her bowed head and the smile crinkling around Warren’s eyes, that a mistake just took place infeatured the two-person, shuang dao set.

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I completely lost contact with Chris over the years since returning from Wuhan’s Snake Mountain, but Warren, after graduating from an Oriental Healing School in California, established a thriving, dynamic and successful Taijiquan/Qigong/Acupuncture School in Anchorage, Alaska where I have had the honor of being “visiting pubah” several times.  Kam retired from librarian work in California and Texas and lives with her retinue of exotic dogs and cats in coastal Virginia.  The three of us reunited finally during my 60th year (Confucius’ milestone, ‘Year of Obedient Ears!’) in both Alaska and Texas (Alaska is the magical land north of the Lower 48, and ya don’t mess with Texas!).

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In 1989 I transferred what was left in a storage locker of the Tidewater Tai Chi Club to Dr. Jay’s Magic Tortoise Taijiquan School here in the Triangle Area of Central North Carolina.  After 26 marvelous years with him and Teacher Kathleen Cusick, I am now at the Black Bamboo Pavilion School, with Violet Anderson in charge, which has become my final Taiji Jia!

The Banana Tree - A truly Native Southern Tree

On a visit maybe five years or more ago, Debra and I walked Mongo thru my wilderness wonderland (now scheduled for the axe of gentry development called Chatham Park where the wild will succumb to unimaginable hordes of the 1% enlarging the town I've called home for a quarter century from  6,000 souls to 60,000!  Selden and I with Mongo and so many friends have had 12 magical years of exploring this Haw River experience, it's hard to have any regrets, plus I'll be dead and dust before the new Utopia is completed!) with the trails she chose, we broke, I maintained.  We stopped at one of our many rest stops we call Banana Tree Station.  A green bucket with yin/yang and USMC decals stuck to its sides is the only comfort piece of this facility.

*Note:  The poem below is by Debra Dean, a long time senior student of LaoMa's.  It was published in One, an online journal!  (http://one.jacarpress.com/) The poem is placed towards the end, but it should be noted that according the editor, this issue is meant to be read "cover to cover" like a book.

In a recent Facebook post, Debra included the two pictures of the tree as well.  If you look closely, you can spot the willow effect.  It's most visible in the first photo and shows as a slanting dark diagonal line in the top right corner.  You can also see the bucket!

THE BANANA TREE

Banana Tree1

for my taiji teacher LaoMa
on his 72nd birthday

Aimless as I am
I could never find it
on my own, nor find

what is found there:
under a canopy of tall trees
a black-leaved sapling turned

willow, beside which my root
sinks so deep, I might believe
I’d emerged somewhere in China,

my guide a man made honorary mare
by a cow’s gift of a heart valve.
Say that Old Horse is the very Earth.

Say that very green upturned
five-gallon plastic bucket
is a tortoise on which I sat

Banana Tree2

beside a wiry man holding
his staff—it’s a snake, you know,
old as the one Moses owned.

With the one I borrowed,
it’s leaning against a tree.
From his vest pocket,

two bananas. I eat one.
The peels lie on my thigh
like beached octopi in the quiet

of that uncertain place.
One at a time, he picks up
the peels by the stem end,

hangs each on a bare spot
of the banana tree—ah!—
laughing now, I am

beside myself, eyes tearing
for everything taken
and given, alive again

in the memory of it,
in the pale fresh peels
like blossoms,

like the bird’s beak
of my hand not yet closed
in Single Whip,

in those soon-to-be
new leaves, draped as if
brought forth from within

and sprung from the branch,
each taking its place
among the others gone black.

Spring Festival and Lantern Festival

lantern Festival 1

Some photos, taken by and shared by London taiji shimei Lia, on the Second Annual Lantern Festival held in west London's Chiswick Garden Park.  When I first looked at these beautiful photos I thought they were the size of those I remembered seeing during my three Lantern Festivals in China, that were festooned in mountain park trees, but the silhouettes of people in one photo (the swan below) show the huge size of these London displays!

Spring Festival and Lantern Festival:

Lantern Festival 7
Lantern Festival 3

These festivals are linked together in China in a way a lot of foreigners are unaware of.  I was privileged to experience 3 of these "Holidays" while living in Wuhan, Wuchang, Hubei Province. Of the three Chun Jie  ! or Spring Festival (what we in the West call Chinese New Year) I spent one of these years in Hong Kong when it was still a British Colony, the other two in Wuchang, but I participated in all three Lantern Festivals 元宵節! with friends and Wuchang, Snake Hill Pavilion classmates.

Lantern Festival 4

Lantern Festival cannot be mentioned without considering Spring Festival. The Big One! The Mother of all Chinese holidays! If you take Easter, our Spring Festival, with its new clothes, new spring flowers; New Year with its alcohol celebration and year-changing rituals; Christmas with its family traveling and gift giving; Thanksgiving with its special food dishes and family meal; throw in 4th of July with unlimited fireworks, mix them all together for 2 to 3 weeks of raucous noise and gunpowder scented streets, a replacement of an annual animal totem and---you have a glimpse of Chinese Spring Festival, or Chun Jie!  Our concept of a one night new year out on the town just doesn't quite fit the bill.  But then comes Lantern Festival...!

Lantern Festival 5

The spectacle of Chun Jie, with its weeks long celebration, incessant fireworks, accompanied by bottle rocket and firecracker injuries to adults and, way too many, young children (my one Spring Festival attendance in Hong Kong was quite different from that of the Mainland; personal fireworks were forbidden, and only prescribed to one government display from barges out in the Fragrant Harbour), and stressful travel with millions of travelers filling train and bus stations finally comes to a close.

Lantern Festival 6

Fifteen days after the Lunar New Year, Lantern Festival brings the tumult of the preceding weeks of hectic celebration with a sedate wrap-up of surprising beauty, grace and neighborly interaction.  Families stroll through the streets carrying candle-lit, birdcage sized lanterns held aloft, greeting one another as the processions wind their way toward a neighborhood park, in my case toward Snake Hill where we met in early mornings in the tiered wushu training areas, to hang the lanterns upon tree branches festooning the paths and sinuous ridge of Sheshan 蛇山, in a gentle glow of swaying colored lights.  A quite magical and breath-taking ritual.

Lantern Festival 2
Lantern Festival 8

Martial Art SASHES:  Sashes in Black Bamboo Pavilion Taijiquan School (Part 2)

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In Part 1 on Martial Art Sashes (found by clicking here) I talked about where my knowledge of and ideas concerning the wearing of sashes originated from. To reiterate, it came from the Martial Art Folk School of "Grandfather" Ding Honkui on Snake Hill, Wuchang, Hubei, China.  Of course, my understanding is restricted to that Folk School, and others associated with it.  The primary reason for the adornment of sashes first and foremost is the honor, respect and deference paid to the long history and lineage of the place Martial Art holds in the fabric of the tapestry know as the Nation of Zhongguo (Middle Kingdom or China)!

To me the nature of the sash, it's color, material, size, and meaning is secondary to the time honored respect wearing it pays to the Art the wearer practices and tradition he or she trains under.  Wrapping the sash also represents a symbolic "binding" of the dantian and power of Qi!

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Additional to this over-arching purpose, in Hei Zhou Tingzi Taijiquan Jia (Black Bamboo Pavilion Taijiquan School) there is a special significance to the colors represented; Green, Red, Brown (for a more detailed explanation of where these colors originated, and a thoroughgoing review of a Sash System go to www.magictortoise.com and click on "Advancement Program" link).  As outlined in Part 1, the original idea of students choosing their own sash was exchanged for a more systematic system: Green indicating a commitment to study, train, practice and complete the Taijiquan Form of Wudangshan Yibailingba Taijiquan, Red representing the completion of the basic level of posture sequence linkage.  

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In order to achieve Red Sash standing, Form construction has to be there and its demonstration "recognizable."  In other words, a student must be able to perform the form solo, from beginning to end without break and with each posture being recognizable.  The perseverance to reach this point takes a commitment of several years, and it is a very big and important milestone in anyone's training.  But, it is just the beginning of a lifetime of practice! This is the time the all important practice to lock in the floor plan of the Memory Palace and the focus of adding to FORM the equally supportive components of FUNDAMENTALS and FUNCTION ... begins!

The beginning student purchases the green sash to show his/her commitment and is later presented the red sash to show our respect and deep appreciation for their success.

When a student can perform the whole Form without conscious effort to remember sequence, sections, etc., and can focus on the Fundamental principles as well as continuing to progress with martial applications and Function (not to mention answering any question thrown out at class by The Ma), then they can choose whatever color sash, belt, cumberbund or other dantian binding apparatus that suits their fancy!  It will still represent honor, respect, and deference to the Martial Art...  (Violet won't be testing for that belt anytime soon - scary!  ;-) 幽  默 (humor)

Last Lesson with Jou Tsung Hwa: GO BACK FUNDAMENTALS!

Part 1:  My Introduction to MrJou

I first met the incomparable Taijiquan teacher Jou Tseng Hwa in 1981, 17 years after first being introduced to Taiji, and last saw him 18 years later, 4 months before his untimely death on August 3, 1998.  This post is a short preface to the story of our last lesson on April 5, 1998.

LaoMa and DrJay beginning work on MrJou’s dream, building a Tai Chi College.  We were digging the corner stone hole to lay the time capsule.

LaoMa and DrJay beginning work on MrJou’s dream, building a Tai Chi College.  We were digging the corner stone hole to lay the time capsule.

I will explain my use of the form of address, ‘MrJou,’ here at the outset just so you’ll understand the inclusion of deep respect and great love it conveys in my usage.  MrJou never cared for titles such as Master, Grand Master or any of the misleading alternatives for the Chinese term Shifu (teacher/coach/Master, depending on the Chinese character used).  He said on more than one occasion”…if you want, you can call me Master, I have a Master’s Degree in Mathematics!”  Mr. (or Xiansheng in Chinese) carries great import, it is not disrespectful to use.  Ninety-one year old Ding Hongkui, the greatest teacher I was ever privileged to study and train with was referred to simply as, Ding YeYe ---  Grandfather Ding!  Students prefer to call their teachers by grand titles, grand teachers that I have had the privilege to study with do not.

MrJou looking down at students’ landscaping

MrJou looking down at students’ landscaping

I first heard about MrJou thru Brother Jay Dunbar about 36 years ago.  Jay had recently opened his school here in the Triangle called Carroboro Tai Chi Center.  We were introduced to each other by a couple of his students who relocated to the Norfolk, Va. area where I had a school, Tidewater T’ai Chi Club.  He and I became acquainted through letter exchanges until meeting for the first time at a festival he held outside his school in an empty field in Carrboro where the Weaver Street Market now stands.  I brought a few carloads of my students down to a Zhang Sanfeng Festival he organized and hosted, where we first met in person and where, at the same time, I first met Jou Tsung Hwa, (and obtained a treasured autographed First Edition copy of his book, The Tao of Tai Chi Chuan:  Way to Rejuvenation, the tome we use as a textbook!)

MrJou’s Ancentor Altar in Tai Chi Farm’s Zhang Hall; DrJay lecturing

MrJou’s Ancentor Altar in Tai Chi Farm’s Zhang Hall; DrJay lecturing

For the next four years I did train with MrJou at his school in New Jersey, and with much help from his senior instructor, Marsha Rosa, learned his version of the Yang Family Sanshou (I had already learned Mr T.T. Liang’s version of this 2-person set from his disciple, Paul Gallagher) and the Chansijin Exercise.  When I returned from my China sojourn, 1985-88, and joined DrJay’s Magic Tortoise School as Senior Teacher, my relationship and training with MrJou grew at a much more rapid and regular rate as we hosted his 2 to 3 annual workshops and helped him establish his Tai Chi College on the grounds of the 100 acre Tai Chi Farm in New Jersey.  MrJou’s last workshop, “Master Key,” in our yearly Magic Tortoise workshop series, the weekend of April 4-5, 1998, is the setting for this story of “The Last Lesson” which will be my next posting…

 

the OTHER Eye!

Jerry Brannin 9/1/1944 - 8/2/2013

My oldest living friend from the acid flavored 60's! Part of him rests with my moms ashes in the memorial shrine just outside the entrance to Black Bamboo Pavilion. Jerry was a very talented stain glass artist and made windows for the chapels of Norfolk Naval Yard-based ships out of his American Stain Glass Studio in Norfolk. I'm having a stone engraved for him with the inscription, "the OTHER eye!" Because he had a wandering eye and for all the decades we were friends I would always pick the wrong eye to focus on...and that's what he'd say to me!

R.I.P. Huang 師 父!

R.I.P. Huang 師 父!
Huang Weilun has died.  A really spectacular man, martial artist, and teacher has passed from our art.  As Huang Chien-Liang told me some years back, "LaoMa, cannot retire martial art, only...die!"  Ding YeYe taught classes right up to the end of his 91st year, Jou Tsung Hwa died while taking a break from teaching a workshop at his T'ai Chi Farm.  If I could order my entrance into the Celestial Abode of the Eight Drunken Immortals it would have to be in similar style and fashion.  Huang Weilun has left this ball of dirt too soon, but he left doing his art!

One of the great benefits of being able to judge in 18 years of tournaments was the opportunity to meet, play with, learn from, break bread with, to just enjoy the many great people who live and love the Martial Arts of China.  One such great player was Huang Weilun.  I had the wonderful pleasure of doing all these memorable things, as well as joining him and others in the "Masters' Demonstrations" segment of the annual A Taste of China Tournament, where he performed such spectacular Forms as Liuhebafaquan (a piece of one such demo linked here below), and "Fast Yang-style Taijiquan."  I judged his beautiful and talented wife, and was readying for a trip, with friend and acupuncturist, Tracy Peck, to Grand Teton Mountains to train Liuhebafa a summer some 25 years ago.  A family medical emergency diverted that trip, as it turns out now, forever.  A regret I now hold in my heart, along with unanswered questions meant for Jou Tsung Hwa, that can only be revisited around a brazier and drained wine cups, at a later date for me, in the Abode of Celestials.  Huang Weilun entered my life for the briefest of times but left an indelible imprint.  He has done likewise for countless thousands of others.  Greatness, a learned sage once wrote, is to touch and be remembered beyond a small circle of friends and family.  Huang Weilun will be long remembered...!

https://masterhuangweilun.shutterfly.com/

Martial Art SASHES: Personal Story.

Although taijiquan is called the "Grand Ultimate" martial art, and, as Paul Gallagher indicates in "Drawing Silk," was once the secret art of the Emperor's elite guards, to most American practitioners the fact that Taijiquan's origins are martial is lost or not recognized.  Consequently, most schools and teachers of our art do not wear sashes, despite displaying many other Chinese cultural accouterments.  Although Taijiquan schools that offer both wai and nei gong classes, may employ and award sashes, they seem to offend many Taijiquan players of a non-martial art background.

I was first introduced to sashes back in late 70s-early 80s by a young disciple of T.T. Liang's, Raymond Hayward.  Thru him I even acquired a sash to wear, but stopped due to adverse reaction at the time from other teachers and players, it being considered something inappropriate from "hard style."

However, all this changed with my serendipitous sojourn to China in 1985-88, when and where I learned something very important about the girding and wearing of a martial art sash.
One of the things I noticed, once accepted into Grandfather Ding's Snake Mountain Pavilion School, was that all the students took out and wrapped a sash about their dantian before beginning training or class.  The sashes were of no uniform material or pattern, instead were of various lengths, cloths, and mainly white and black colors.  Some were simple and some of intricate design, some were tied with slip knots on either right or left sides (I was later informed that Buddhists tied on left and Daoists on right), and some with each end tied on each side!

I never witness a ceremony when a sash was awarded or presented, until one day after a couple months of training a large group of my class mates called me over to them and I was given a simple black, elastic belt with snap buttons made by one of my lady classmates.  In fact I was given several of these belts made by various classmates at the time and over the years.  Though they are now stretched beyond use, the first one, for sure, was the highest and most precious award I've ever been given!  It meant to me at the time that this dabizi waiguoren (big nose foreign guy), seemingly dropped into their midst like a "Stranger in a Strange Land," had been fully accepted into their school of a diverse group of Chinese martial artists!!  What I learned next made me bring wearing the sash back with me to Meiguo (America) introducing it to my students here.

What I learned in Ding YeYe's Martial Art Folk School, in a pavilion on a mountainside, was that the sash, the only indication of a uniform there, was worn and displayed not as a badge or rank of attainment, but as a symbol of deep, abiding respect for and in honor of the golden thread that holds the fabric of Middle Kingdom culture together---the Art of WUSHU!

Competition Videos

I have recorded in print the extraordinary 2012 CACMA Tournament achievement of our now "Number One," Violet Anderson, both at the time and recently when videos resurfaced (thanks to Richard Martin of Fayetteville, NC's, Rou Long Ma Chinese School of Martial Art) showing clips of her solo Quan and Weapons, and her Push-Hands competition. The original postings were of limited lifetime and view, mainly confined to Facebook.  We are reposting them on a more permanent BBP page here before they once again become lost in the ethereal electronic vapor cloud.

Violet does not appreciate my boasts of her achievement in class, at gatherings, workshops, seminars, or to various encounters with strangers in the street.  This will be my final such boast as a proud and respectful teacher.  I just want to add a couple final notes.

With my personal experience of competing in two tournaments in China, as the only foreign competitor, and judging and chief judging for 18 years in tournaments across and up 'n down our U.S. landscape, I witnessed few times when one competitor sweep multiple events in the Internal or Taiji Division of any tournament.  But the singular and unprecedented achievement of a Taiji player crossing over to the External Division and competing, much less placing 2nd in both hand and weapon events, I have never witness in two decades of tournament experience.  I have witnessed many "KungFu" players entering the Internal Forms and Interactive Events (and always complaining about not placing due to judges failure to recognize that their "slow kungfu" was equal to the taijiquan competition!), but never the reverse...

And lastly, in the two videos of her push-hands competition, I have heard many comments, from taijiquan players and "civilians" alike that, "nothing is happening."  To the contrary, that you do not see aggressive charging and extended arm pushing is evidence enough that Violet has learned and is exhibiting nian and tingjin, or sticking and reading principles (the most important of the five basic push-hands principles to excel in before ever trying fajin!), and that in some small way she is paying tribute to my "Last Lesson" (and last time ever seeing Jou Tseng Hwa alive, in April of 1998) with MrJou, a semi-private lesson with DrJay, on "Going Back Fundamentals" in relation to tuishou work!

I am not being boastful in this testimonial, I am not judging her performances.  Highly competent and independent judges in two tournament divisions are concurring in her achievement.  I just happen to agree with them!

Musings from "The Master"

If you haven't kept up with the comments at Student Corner, you might have missed the latest story in writing from LaoMa.  In responding to Garry's comment on Fa Jin Ball Post (here), he remembers a couple displays of gigon and rebar!  We're reposting them below.  To understand the context, you'll want to look through the comments on the original post.  There is some interesting dialogue there!

“Mind Method,” Gary, or do you mean “Torso Method”...? If MrJou said he never witnessed an exhibition of Mind Method, I doubt we’ll get to see it on a Facebook post either (or in person as far as that goes, and know what we were seeing!). I did see a qigong demo in an Orlando Florida tournament in mid-90s one time where a Chinese teacher had 6 or so of his American students circle around him with long ribars placed on his neck like spears. They pushed on the ribars slowly and the rebars just bent in big arcs.

Now that was a feat to witness, and a feat to perform as well (takes a lot of training) that I enthusiastically applauded. What came to my mind, however, was a Ferry ride across the Yangtze River from one part of Wuhan to another and a family of young peasant kids who would put on shows for the captive audience sitting in benches on the fantail. They had an extensive repitoire of gigong and other Martial Art skills they’d put on in hopes of receiving appreciative tips. The one that came to mind with the above Orlando demo was also with a long rebar. The smallest kid, looked to be 4-5 years old, would assume mabu and two bigger kids would hold either end of the rebar on back of his neck and then they’d slowly walk it around him until he ended up with a big iron collar, looking like one those old National Gerogaphic photos of an African lady with a stretched up neck on stacks of brass rings, having two little ends poking on either side his neck! He stood there in mabu his strained face the color of spaghetti sauce until they collected some change, and then go and rewind that rebar off him! That group, especially the little ribar kid, always got a big tip from me. Can’t say they impressed the rest of the passengers too much though. I guess China’s just too saturated with KungFu demonstrations.....!
— http://www.blackbamboopavilion.com/student-corner/2016/6/6/fa-jin-ball#commenting=

 

 

Boogie Woogie Birthday Boy!

LaoMa had a great birthday bash this month.  We all clamored around tooting the horn about how great he is and ate cake!  Selden performed her annual birthday song.  Sadly, we only got a small clip of it but we are able to provide you with the finale.  You'll see Desiree's son, Steele, accompanying Selden with is dance moves! 

For those of you who missed it, the birthday song is posted in it's entirety below.  You can also see pictures of the celebration in the photo album here or in the carousel below as well.

We wish you many many more birthdays LaoMa (mostly because we enjoy Selden's songs so much!).

Boogie Woogie Birthday Boy of Seventy-Five
(Sung to the Andrews Sisters' 1941 hit: Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B. with apologies!)

 

BOOGIE WOOGIE BIRTHDAY BOY OF 75

 

Born in Keene New Hampshire on a sunny morn
Now he's here in Bynum where it’s due to storm
He was a jarhead in Japan
And then his dream came true and he was off to Wuhan
He's been around the world
And yet he still survives
He's the Boogie Woogie birthday boy of seventy-five

Five below and eight above well golly gee
Everything seems simple when you know Taiji
Although the counts change all the time
He may be slowing down some but he can spin on a dime
And the man can talk,
Ask Gary, Dorothy, Vi
He's our Boogie Woogie birthday boy now seventy-five
 

(Trumpet Break)


And the students say
When he begins to jive,
That’s our Boogie Woogie Birthday Boy he’s seventy-five!

"Number One" or "First Student"

#1 Student, 2nd Row, 2nd from left (with hat)

#1 Student, 2nd Row, 2nd from left (with hat)

I have been asked by students what is the meaning and where does the appellation, "Number One" or "First Student" come from, the title "# 1" I call Violet by?  Well, the answer to the second question first is that it comes from where the majority of my information on Chinese Martial Art comes from: my three year sojourn studying in two Hubei Province Martial Art Folk Schools (as opposed to National Government Schools). The title itself, as with most of my first hand knowledge, comes from the school of Grandfather Ding at his Snake Hill Pavilion School. It was used by all my classmates for one of Ding YeYe's most senior and impressive students, a quiet and unassuming machinist, a lifelong factory worker with missing fingers and oil-stained hands.  He was addressed by YeYe and all my classmates as, Di Yi Xuesheng, "First Student." That's where the name comes from.

What the title actually means, however, I can't say.  I might have just used by YeYe in his school.  I did not see this man perform, nor did I train under him.  I was allowed once to observe a special Sunday morning tuishou seminar he conducted.  I do know that one participant that morning, a younger man in his mid-30's defeated an internationally-known Chinese Martial Artist, the year before I arrived, in a Wuhan Provincial Tournament.  All I knew with my limited resources was that "First Student" was tremendously respected by everyone on the mountain and by his teacher.  

I hold the same level of respect for Violet, and have held it far longer than her becoming my Partner in Black Bamboo Pavilion, or because of any bias toward her.  In fact I recognized her level of achievement long before when in 2012 she competed in Charlotte's CACMA Tournament of Chinese Martial Arts and not only swept the Internal (Taiji) Division's Hand, Weapon, and Push-Hands events with four First Place (Gold) awards, but then entered the External (Kungfu) Division and achieved two Second Place (Silver) Medals performing Tangquan and Taishibian!   That day she was judged not by her teacher, but by many different judges in many different events, both internal and external.  And I want to add at this point, that in all my 18 years of tournament judging, I have never seen a taiji competitor enter any external competition -- much less place.  This is truly extraordinary, singular and unprecidented.  That I call her #1 Student is in honor of my teacher's practice, that she is worthy is confirmed by the decision of these judges, my colleagues in teaching and tournament judging.

I am attaching a copy of a letter I composed right after Violet's extraordinary tournament accomplishment four years ago, along with  photos taken and somehow saved.  I know many of you missed reading this pride-filled composition, and if it was left up to "Number One" . . . You never would!

LaoMa 

__________________________________

Summer, 2012

Magic Tortoise & Wudangshan Students & Friends!

Three Senior Students & Teacher (midway through Internal competition)

Three Senior Students & Teacher (midway through Internal competition)

Yesterday Violet, Guhl and Garry, three senior students who celebrate their 10 year anniversary of study with me this month, took me on a road trip to help support Violet's participation in the Carolinas Association of Chinese Martial Arts (CACMA) annual June KungFu and Taijiquan Tournament in the Queen City.  We left at 6:00 a.m., returning after midnight tired and very satisfied, and this is a short report of an extraordinary achievement won by Violet in her "sweep" of 4 first place and 2 second place medals in both Taiji and Kungfu Divisions.  Some photos courtesy of Rich Martin's Chinese Martial Art School in Fayetteville are attached below (a video taken by Guhl of the extraordinary Push-Hands competition will also be available on our facebook page).

The road trip and tournament competition was planned to be a celebration of our decade together.  Violet made it an unforgettable experience that will live in my mind (as long as one remains) alongside the first tournament I competed in in Wuhan, Hubei, China, 1985.  And one connects to the other in a magical way.

Wudangshan 108 Taiji Quan (Placed First in Open Hand)

Wudangshan 108 Taiji Quan (Placed First in Open Hand)

Wudangshan Jian (Placed First Taiji Sword)

Wudangshan Jian (Placed First Taiji Sword)

Wudangshan Dao (Placed First Taiji Other Weapons)

Wudangshan Dao (Placed First Taiji Other Weapons)

Most of us know that Violet competed last November in the Mooresville KungFu Tournament entering in both KungFu and Taiji Divisions and placed 2nd in "Kungfu Short Weapons," as well as placing in the "Taiji Hand & Weapons."  It was remarkable to me that she received silver in short weapons with Tai Shi Bian (Emperor's Teacher's Whip) as it was the first time a student of mine ever entered, much less placed, in external Kungfu competition.  The Charlotte Tournament was much larger in venue and number of competitors.  Her achievement yesterday far out distanced the Mooresville Tournament and she took home, in order, the following:

All six awards:

2nd Place.  Kungfu Division,    "Womens Northern Long Fist" ---Tang Quan, Tang System.

1st Place.   Taiji Division.          "Combined Hand Forms, Advanced" -- Wudang Mountain 108 Taijiquan.  

2nd Place.  Kungfu Division,     "Womens Combined Short & Long Weapons" -- Tai Shi Bian, Tang System.

1st Place.   Taiji Division.          "Taiji Straight Sword, Advanced" --  Wudang Taiji Jian.

1st Place.    Taiji Division.          "Womens Push-Hands" -- Unanimous 5-Poing Winner in all rounds. 

1st Place.    Taiji Division.          "Combined Weapons, Other, Advanced" --  Wudang Dao

I have had the great learning and training experience of  judging in tournaments for 18 years, beginning in 1989.  During that time there may have been competitors displaying this much skill in the Kungfu Divisions of a tournament this size, though that would be very rare.  I know of no Taiji competitor replicating this achievement, particularly crossing over to compete in External Divisions (though many external stylists cross over to Internal Division, none have come close to replicating Violet's extraordinary day at UNC Charlotte yesterday).  

Taishi Bien (Placed Second Kungfu Weapons, Women's Division)

Taishi Bien (Placed Second Kungfu Weapons, Women's Division)

More Taishi Bien

More Taishi Bien

Kungfu Weapons Women's Division Award Ceremony

Kungfu Weapons Women's Division Award Ceremony

Violet & LaoMa After Tangquan award for 2nd place in kungfu, hand form, women's division

Violet & LaoMa After Tangquan award for 2nd place in kungfu, hand form, women's division

My pride in her success is hard to disguise.  Her success reflects on me of course.  But the pride I have today, and that the Magic Tortoise community can have in "one of our own" is directed at her talent and very hard work, practice and training.  She is a model for all students and teachers, and my deep feeling of pride as a teacher of this Art of ours is the recognition that a student has absorbed my teaching and taken it to a different, higher level.  I think all teachers look for that particular proof of their worth.

happy LaoMa, tired Violet, proud parents (robin & andy Anderson)

happy LaoMa, tired Violet, proud parents (robin & andy Anderson)

LaoMa

 

Black Bamboo Pavilion Pottery Studio Annex

"Black Bamboo Pavilion Pottery Studio Annex" at the First Annual "Bynum Bridge Fest!"  Mrs Ma's clay creations on display...

Photo 1.   Day's beginning, 9:00 a.m.  Best sellers: bread bakers and kimchi/sauerkraut fermentation crocks (the bread bakers come with a packet which includes the recipe, detailed directions, and a pastry cloth).


Photo 2.  Close up!


Photo 3.  End of Day.  End of Fair.  5:00 p.m.  Just before the RAIN came! ... And drove everyone off the bridge!  (Notice Mongo dog in bottom right corner, and the diminished number of pots!

Bamboo Tea pot and cups

The tea pot and cups were among the pieces Mrs Ma (Selden!) displayed in the "Bynum Bridge Fest" art show yesterday, 4/23/16, a successful all-day event down on the Haw River, 2/10 mile down the hill from Black Bamboo Pavilion.  The leaves on both teapot and lid were made from black bamboo growing around both the pavilion and pottery studio!  The Bridge Fest, the first of an anticipated yearly outdoor event, drew many artists of different disciplines, food trucks and a parade of people down to the old one-lane bridge.  Students from the Black Bamboo Pavilion's 4th Saturday of the month Quan Seminar (Wudangshan 108 Taijiquan, Tangquan, and Liuhebafaquan) were able to walk down and enjoy the art experience at seminar's end!

Selden Teapot.JPG

From the Student Corner

Student corner now has a home of it's own.  You can access it through the menu at the top of the page or click here.

While working with some senior students in class,  LaoMa frequently encourages students to analyze the form.  This includes picking it apart so that they know the number of postures, number of techniques within a posture, how many times postures are repeated, explore variations of repeated postures and what the reasoning might be for each of these differences.  Below is a short blurb that resulted from a Monday night class discussion ending in an early morning epiphany. 

I woke up this morning at 5:00 thinking about why there are only 3 ward-off lefts compared to 8 ward-off rights. I came up with an answer (disclaimer: this is “an” answer, not “the” answer, because a) I’m not even sure I’ve got this right b) I’m not sure it’s actually an answer  and c) also I imagine there is more than one answer anyway). In my head I was thinking that what you are doing with the right hand in ward-off left is like what you do in diagonal flying (I think). So there are 2 diagonal flyings (Section 2; Section 5). Then, I think you’re also doing the same thing with part the wild-horse’s mane, and there are 3 of those in Section 4. So you have 3 ward-off lefts, 2 diagonal flyings, and 3 parting the wild horse’s manes (3+2+3=8). So, 8 ward-off right things, and 8 ward-off left like things.
However, like Jason and I sometimes used to say to each other after pontification about something or other: “Or, I could just be full of @#$4”
-Micah Sam

We’re putting this out there to help prompt thought and discussion.  Feel free to leave comments and questions!

Qing Ming Jie! 清 明 節 ! Pure Brightness Festival!

Today in China the festival of honoring the ancestors' resting place, "Qing Ming Jie!," takes place.  It is a real communal, boisterous celebration of wine, spirits, firecrackers, candles, flowers, burning offerings, a picnic, and a cleaning and repainting of headstones!  The equivalent in our culture is the more sedate observance of Memorial Day and perhaps Veterans Day.

Brightness.jpg

My first experience of this Festival was in 1987 at Jiu Feng (Nine Peaks), the large communal cemetery for most of Wuhan, all of Wuchang, an area of 9 rolling hills that from a distance resembles a far off city of white buildings, very reminiscent of the Hong Kong cityscape.  It was to observe the occasion of my beloved teacher, Ding Hongkui, Grandfather Ding's death, on what would have been his 92nd year.

I was taken to Jiu Feng by my dear and forever friend, Wang Jinzhi.  The tremendously large resting place was far outside the city of Wuchang, accessible by a long bus ride.  Extra buses were mobilized as thousands of people traveled the day long to "party" with their ancestors.  And a party was what it was, a very raucous celebration.  The explosions and smoke from thousands of firecracker strings alone set the noise at July 4th levels!

The bus ride ended with a long walk to the far distant hills covered with gravestones.  The top photo accompanying this blog show us stopping at kiosks on the way to purchase the necessary fireworks, candles, flowers and libations.  Most of the people in the photo are returning from their observances and it gives you some idea of the mass of people trekking to Jiu Feng to honor and respect their ancestors.

The next three photos show Wang Jinzhi and myself reaching the gravesite and performing the cleaning and obeisant rituals.  The gravestone at that time was temporary.  The characters were painted on, not carved into, as the taller gravestone next to Wang Jinxzhi shows. The permanent gravemarker which came later, provided by Yeye's Snake Hill Pavilion students, is shown in the last photo.  The story behind this photo is a blog in itself, but it was taken in 1994 in a special visit, not on the Qing Ming Festival of that year.  Surrounding the new, larger, black and white, carved gravestone with Wang Jinxzhi is another forever friend, Lan Tian, and her now husband and my then student, Rodney Barrow.  Their presence with Wang Jinzhi at Nine Peaks has to do with Ma Meiren, the matchmaker, and a very special audience with the Abbot, priests and officials of the "Long Spring Daoist Temple!"  That story will appear in this space in a later installment...!

 

Calling for New Years Pics

Step up and Plant Fist!!  Wudang form class

Step up and Plant Fist!!  Wudang form class

We've started a photo album on the website!  It's a fun place to gather photos of events over the years in one spot that everyone can revisit when they want to.  Of course, a photo album is always a work in progress but we're looking forward to adding to it over the years. 

We'd like your help.  Please share photos and videos that you've collected over the years with us.  The most recent event was the Monkey New Year party.  You can email them to blackbamboopavilion@gmail.com or post them in the comments of this blog on facebook.  We'll be able to add them to the fun collection of memories.

Of course, any and all photos will be welcome :-)

Ding Hongkui at 91

Yeye and LaoMa

Yeye and LaoMa

Ding Hongkui, 91 years old at this picture and reaching the end of a 60 year career of teaching at this same Snake Hill Pavilion. The foremost authority in China on Tang Pai, an almost 1400 year old Martial Art System. He never allowed himself to be called anything but Ding YeYe... Grandfather Ding... Fortune surely smiled on me to be able to study under this great man, and be called both his first Foreign Student and Closing Student. (Snake Hill Pavilion was--it is now a mah jong parlour--at the very place on Snake Hill where the 1911 Republican Revolution of Sun Yet- Sen began the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty!)