Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, July 06, 2007

Wu Style Taiji Quan

As a teenager, Kung Fu, the TV series hit the airwaves in the 70's, and I was hooked. I started training in JiDoKwan TaeKwanDo under Won Chik Park, in Detroit. Then I discovered beer and girls ... Through out my 20's and 30's, on and off I had intense periods of study in Yoshinkai Aikido, under Kushida Sensei, mostly at the old Detroit dojo on Davison. In my mid 20's I also learned the Cheng Man Ching short Yang form of Taiji. I didn't learn push hands though. Then the multiheaded hydra of adult responsibilites entered my life ... In my 40's, I've invested a lot of time and energy in learning the practice of Zhan Zhuang, or "stake standing."

Now that my youngest has her driver's license, another chapter begins. I have some time on my hands. I've been wanting to get back to a regular martial arts class. I'd love to go back to aikido, but at 50, I don't think I'd be able to train the way I remember during my "glory days." I think it might be better to leave my memories intact. I'd be happy to continue to train with CMC Taiji, but convenience is a factor, and no one seems to be practicing it on this side of town.

It turns out that there is a very well established Wu style Taiji in my area. Many Taiji schools teach only fragments of what was once a complete martial art. Often you'll have someone who calls himself a taiji teacher mix in whatever his own interests are, which may have nothing to do with taiji. Wu style is one of the few complete systems of taiji. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an article at on Wu style taijiquan.

The teacher in Ann Arbor has a close connection with the "gatekeeper" of the Wu family.
I had my first class today. I visited Sifu Genie Parker's school in Ann Arbor Michigan.

Some bad weather had blown through town and Sifu Paker couldn't get to class on account of it, but two senior students who were taking care of things attended to me.

They said that they've found that it works well by just launching into the form; introducing the warm ups and supplementary exercises a little at a time.

From several years of zhan zhuang practice, I have a pretty good sense of where my body is. I also have pretty good balance.
The way it runs is that the first hour is the beginner's class, the second hour is intermediate, and the final hour is advanced. At this location, they have training available several days a week, but Thursdays suit me the best, as does once a week.
There were maybe a half dozen other beginners when I was there, and maybe 20 in the intermediate class. The place also seems to be getting top heavy with senior students, which is a good sign - people are sticking around for a long time.
The beginning session ends, and the intermediate session begins with the long form. Beginners drop out when they've gotten as far as they've learned. I stuck around to watch the class do the form. It's certainly different that what I was doing before with the Cheng Man Ching form. Lots of little steps and movements. I am told they are all there for a reason. Also small circle, rather than large movements.
One of the senior students, said that there are enough senior students where the head teacher thinks they are at a point where actually teaching fighting in the advanced class is beginning to make sense. They are purchasing mats for the floor, and this should begin this year. She said that she was looking forward to it; fighting is after all a part of taijiquan. The purpose of the school is to teach the complete art. I liked her attitude.
The building the school is in looks like it was an old garage. The school occupies one of two old service bays (the other belonging to another small business). The bay is about 20' by 40', with an office, maybe 20' x 20' bolted to the front of the bay. One wall is mirrored. Lots of spears. A few really long staffs, maybe 10'. A basket of swords and sabers. Requisite Chinese themed decor, but pretty understated.
My attitude going in is to keep an open mind, and to do it their way.
The people I saw there were really a cross section. A few young men and women looking to be in their early 20's, to a few oldsters I'd put in their 50's and even maybe early 60's. One of the senior students looks about my age, size, and build; so I'll be keeping an eye on him.
There weren't any uniforms, although most people were wearing t shirts with the school's logo. Not a requirement. I'll probably pick one up to show support at some point. When I'm far enough along into the form, I'll pick up the DVD of the head guy. The "Gold Book" too. The reference manual for the style, more or less.

The first class went well. I learned the beginning of the form through the first 'single whip.' I have plenty to work on before going back next week.


Taiki Shisei Kenpo said...

Hey Rick, Nice to see you are going into a new training. I'd take Wu style over Cheng style every time. Master Cheng's style is not without controversy as you may know. Anyway check this blog out

It's your kind of thing...


Zen said...

Sound like you are off to a good start. I agree that there are many seniors is a good sign. I do not know your skill level with TaiJi,please xcuse if I am out go place with my suggestion. I was told by my elder to watch their back, and if the body moves the arms. To evaluate the skill levels.
Best wishes on your new journey.

Anonymous said...

Awesome to hear you're entering the wu style mix :) I'd love to hear more about your experiences with the class and style in general :)