At the Symposium

At the Symposium

Postby Bob Ashmore » Mon Jul 06, 2009 3:57 am

The Symposium is on!!!!
I have been here since Thursdsay since I am priviledged to be on the staff as IT Manager. Today is Sunday and WOW! I am just having the best time of my life.
It's been a LOT of hard work over the last year and it's just gotten harder since I got here but I wouldn't be anyplace else for the world.
It's quite late and I'm working on less than four hours of sleep but I am so filled with energy after a long, productive day.
I'll start at the beginning.
I came in on Thursday morning and was priviledged enough to be included in the staff meeting. Bill Wojasinski, Pat Rice, Carl Meeks, Jimmie Murphy, Diane Napolitano, Dave Barrett, Lauren Wade, Jim Showalter, Rob Wagg, and Betsy Chapman were there (this was in no particular order, simply off the top of my head and as closely as I recall, if I missed anyone I sincerely apologize and I can only excuse it by again mentioning my tired brain and body). We covered most of the pertinent aspects and I did my best to be helpful.
After the meeting we all got to work on our various tasks which kept us all quite busy.
Jim Showalter (taiji-Jim on the board) went out for lunch to the Mellow Mushroom where we had an awesome pizza. Later that evening we went to a couple of establishments that served adult beverages but I won't carry on about THAT...
Friday things really started to ramp up. More people arrived and thanks to Carl's transportation logistics all seemed to be well taken care of.
Jimmy Murphy and Diane Napolitano showed themselves to be masters of Registration. When everyone got in they were met smoothly and all needs were taken care of with a deft touch.
Jim and I got hungry around seven that night, since we hadn't eaten anything but a bagel all day, and we snuck out to Music Row on Grand St. where we had simply the best hamburger I've EVER had in a restaurant. When we got back from there we ran into Sergio Arione (I apologize if I misspelled that) and his lovely better half Sue who had just arrived. We enthusiastically described the burgers and since they were hungry they wanted to go there, we were happy to accompany them back since they serve a fine draft ale.
We were met there by Master Rod and two of his students from Australia to whom we had also described the burgers and we all had a wonderful talk and exchanged some culture (that's the point of the symposium, after all).
Saturday Don showed up and between Jimmy, Diane, Jim and Don they took care of everyone so adroitly I was simply amazed. Since my duties in IT were light that day I volunteered to help them and soon found myself deep into the registration process, where I learned a LOT more was going on then I had imagined before.
Jim Showalter and I took some supplies to the hotel where the Grand Masters were staying and we were met by Master Yang Jun, who made us feel welcome. We were priviledged to meet Grand Master Ma Hailong's daughter, who asked us to call her Amy since we could pronounce her name very well. We had a nice talk with them both.
Jimmy, Diane, Don, Jim and I were all up until 1 am checking people in due to thunderstorms causing delays in travel. We didn't want anyone left out without a place to sleep so we stayed until everyone arrived.

Sunday was a total treat for us all, I ran into Audi Peal, Michael Coulon, Andy Lee, Nancy Lucero....
But that story will have to wait for my next energy filled tirade as I just deflated and am now going to try to get some SLEEP!
More as I can.

Bob Ashmore
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Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Postby Bob Ashmore » Wed Jul 08, 2009 4:54 am

OK everyone, sorry about the long delay but I have been quite busy.
I finally got to meet Master Han Hoong Wang from Michigan Center. She is lovely and the epitome of courtesy.
My mother came in on Monday and while she could only do the one day due to other commitments she said she had a lovely time.
I have had classes with Grand Master Sun Yongtian (again, I can't spell and apologize if I got that wrong), Grand Master Yang Zhen Duo (such a treat) and Grand Master Wu Wenhan. I have done morning warms ups with Chen Zingli (spelling?) and I can't wait to get up tommorow and do it again.
We celebrated the tenth anniversay of the IYSTCCA last night at a grand banquet. I'm sure better writers than I will describe it so I will not try.
Lauren Wade put everything together so nicely and he daughter Nicole has been lovely. We could not have done it without them.
Master Yang Jun and Bill Wojasinski sure know how to throw a Symposium.
I have been priviledged to remake old acquaintances and meet new friends.
I just got back from a historical meeting between all five Grand Masters and representatives from the scientific and medical communities. I can't even begin to describe it but it was wonderful.
GM Yang even demonstrated the one form he recommends to teach to those who do not want to learn more. He pulled Dave Barret out with him and demonstrated some of the martial techniques of Cloud Hands. It was wonderful to see!
Again, it is late and I am tired but so full of energy.
More as I can.

Bob Ashmore
Posts: 725
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Jul 17, 2009 8:21 pm

Sorry for falling down on the job of describing the Symposium but there just weren't enough hours in the day to do everything and something had to go.
Since I wasn't doing a very good job anyway I had to let my posting drop so I could do everything I needed to do and still get some sleep.

I have to say that I thought the Symposium went off brilliantly. Master Yang Zhen Duo said, "One more time" during the closing ceremonies so I think he approved and wants us to do it again.
He was thinking of how badly I messed up at his classes and he wanted me to work on it...
Nah, I'm sure he meant the Symposium. ;-)
I am hoping we will do it again but I'm also hoping I can get some SLEEP before we get started!
It has taken me nearly a week to recover from having so much fun. As I told my wife, "I'm glad I got back to work. I can get some rest!"
Alas, that was not how that worked out as I had quite a bit of work piled up waiting for me that I had to do before I could get back to the fun of TCC.

I will post some more of my thoughts/recollections on the Symposium as I can. I sincerely hope others will do so here as well.
Speaking of that work thing, I have more to do.
I will post here as I can. In fact, I should have some more time tomorrow to do so and will post then.
I'm sitting here looking at my Symposium certificate, signed by all the Grand Masters that were present, and I'm smiling from ear to ear.
It was almost too much fun!
It was certainly "information overload" personified and I'm glad I took some time to assimilate a bit.

More soon.

[This message has been edited by Bob Ashmore (edited July 17, 2009).]
Bob Ashmore
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Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Postby Bob Ashmore » Sat Jul 18, 2009 3:37 pm

Symposium memories:
Here are some of my favorite memories from the Symposium.
Morning practice:
These were always awesome. Each morning two of the GM's held morning practice/warm ups on the Esplinade at Vanderbilt. Monday morning was GM Yang Zhen Duo and GM Chen Zhengli (again, I don't think I'm spelling that correctly). I was going to go to YZD's practice but was diverted by a fellow Yellow Shirt (staff and volunteers wore yellow shirts so we could be easily identified) who wanted me to help do crowd control for the Chen side.
Always happy to oblige I went over there.
And was very glad I did. I really love the Chen family warm ups!
Not that I was glad to miss YZD's session, I was looking forward to it, but I was very glad I got to learn the Chen family warm up routine. It is is vigorous and REALLY does warm you up.
I still do them every morning and intend to keep doing so.
I didn't learn very much of the Chen 16 posture form, I'm sorry to admit, but I did really pay attention to the warm ups as they worked so well for me.
I went to every morning practice/warm up except for Wednesday, when both my roommate and training partner (Taiji Jim) overslept.
Thursday mornings session was truly amazing. All five GM's demonstrated their 16 posture forms while everyone tried to follow along. I was working crowd control on that one and so did not get to participate but it was even better for me because I was posted right next to where the GM's were leading and so had a very clear view of all five as they did their forms.

One note:
I FORGOT my camera! Which is very sad because I had such good vantage points to take pictures from.

Morning Keynote addresses:
I did manage to make all the morning keynote addresses by the GM's except for GM Sun's address which I had to miss due to Symposium business.
These were always worth the trip as the GM's spoke at length about their art and their own personal views about them.
I always learned a lot. I took notes, after I have a chance to distill them and if anyone is interested, I will be glad to post them.
The essence of most of the presentations was "follow the principles".
I don't know where I've heard that before...
The best part was seeing and hearing how each of the GM's felt about the principles.

Morning classes:
I was in Group B, so we had morning classes in the tennis courts at Vanderbilt. "The Sportsplex" they called it but all I saw were tennis courts.
It was usually getting quite warm in there by the time we got there and by the time we left it was downright hot. However, it was worth the sweating as the venue was nearly perfect for teaching.
The GM stood on a raised stage at the front of the building and everyone could see pretty well. The groups were good about moving the people in the back of the room to the front of the room about the halfway point so that helped out as well.
All the GM's gave excellent instruction.

Then it was lunchtime.
The food in Vandy's commons was actually pretty good. The pizza was pretty darned good but I only allowed myself to indulge twice.

After lunch, lectures:
I didn't get to go to as many of the lecture series as I wanted. I did have work to do and that was usually the best time to get it done.
I did, however, get to a few and they were all excellent.
My favorite was a series with both Bill Wojasinski (the future of the Symposium) and Dave Barrett (seated Chi Kung for seniors). I, unfortunately, missed the first presenter of the series. I came in right at the end of his presentation and he had thunderous applause so I'm quite sure I missed a very good lecture.
Then Dave gave his presentation and it was great. He got the entire audience going along with him while explaining how to get folks in wheelchairs or who couldn't stand for very long to follow along. I loved his use of animal personalities in his presentation! "Show me your tiger faces! Extend those claws and GROWL!" It was a lot of fun and by the time he was done we all had a healthy (and much needed) dose of chi replenishment using his methods.
I was further floored to learn after his presentation that he had put it together on the fly because the scheduled presenter was unable to make it to the Symposium. I would have thought he had spent weeks putting that together!
Then Bill got up and explained how all of us were the future of the Symposium. How we all should take what we learned there and spread it to everyone we can. It was truly inspirational.
I missed Master Rod Ferguson's lecture, which I REALLY wanted to see. If anyone took notes during his presentation please pass them on to me!
Speaking of Master Rod and memories, one of my favorite memories of the Symposium is always going to be his demonstration of a fan form.
We were standing waiting for the second round of buses at The Sportsplex and it was HOT. Around 90 degrees and humid. We were all standing in the shade of the few trees that were available. I was standing with Master Rod and he suddenly whipped out a fan and began to fan us both with it. That was VERY much appreciated, let me tell you.
Joe Schmidt commented on how the fan was not only usefull for cooling but was also a formidable weapon. Master Rod was then pushed forward by some of the people in his group. They yelled out, "do the form!" until he did.
First he showed us how the snap opening of the fan could be used as a devestating martial arts movement. Then he did a fan form that was truly awesome on many levels. It was not only executed flawlessly, but beyond that you got the clear impression that this was NOT a fan dance, but a martial arts form that was devestating in its potential.

Afternoon classes:
Group B did their afternoon classes inside at the Life Center. I don't know why it was called that but that's what they called it. It was air conditioned and carpeted, so it was a tad more comfortable but also a bit harder to do spins on.
We've all been to classes and these weren't all that different except that with a little over 200 people in the room it was a tad crowded.

Evening presentations:
There was something going on every night, usually in the Blair Auditorium. Each night had its highlights and all were quite fun.
One of the nights was a truly historic gathering of all five of the GM's and a panel of western scientists. They discussed the science of Tai Chi Chuan.
I can't even begin to describe it accurately there was so much said and done there. Unfortunately, I do not have my notes with me and so I will not try to at this time. Instead I will give my overall impression and leave it there for now.
The premise was a round of questions that had been submitted by Symposium guests. The moderator asked the GM's the question and got their answers, then the question was put to the scientists.
My favorite part was the scientists were always absolutely floored by the GM's responses! They didn't seem to have anything that they could add to the answers the GM's gave and wound up, instead, asking a series of follow up questions of the GM's.
There was a lot of mutual respect going on up on that stage and a lot of awe going on in the audience.

OK, I have to get myself back to work. I have played hookey long enough for this day.
I hope everyone who was fortunate enough to attend will also post their memories/impressions of the Symposium here. I sure don't want to be the only one who does!

Bob Ashmore
Posts: 725
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Postby Audi » Thu Jul 23, 2009 2:35 am

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I hope everyone who was fortunate enough to attend will also post their memories/impressions of the Symposium here. I sure don't want to be the only one who does!</font>

Hi Bob, thanks for your posting your memories. I don't have time to say all that I would like to say, but thought I would also post a little to encourage others to begin sharing. When I have more time, I will post some more.

I had a blast at the Symposium and think I learned a great deal about different aspects of Taijiquan. The masters were incredibly impressive as martial artists, teachers, and even occasionally as opera singers and dancers!

Each style showed a different approach to footwork, which meant that each style required shifting weight and generating power in a slightly different way. Seeing so many variations up close and personal cleared away any lingering doubts I might have had about there being only one way to move.

It was also quite interesting to see how each master emphasized different things, both in terms of basic guidelines and in terms of teaching method: make sure to lean, make sure not to lean, don't go too low, step with the heel, skim the ground, straighten the back leg, form a triangle with the back leg, etc. Each style was consistent and logical within itself and yet each had a strongly different flavor.

I also found that I reacted quite differently to each style at an initial gut level. Some of the feelings I experienced were not what I expected based on what I had seen or read before.

With Chen, I relished vigorous torso movement; with Yang, the expansive shapes; with Wu, the changes between vertical and leaning postures; with Sun, the lively variations of the steps; and with Wu/Hao, the meditative feel and strength in compact stances.

I also enjoyed many conversations with fellow practitioners of other styles and other versions of Yang Style. The schedule was pretty packed, but I still managed to enjoy exchanges with some other attendees and learn more about what they practice and why.

That's all for now.

Take care,
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Jul 24, 2009 7:45 pm

Thanks for sharing, now I'm not the only one talking here.
We did not get anywhere near as much time to push hands as I had hoped. But you did get to see how terribly inept I am at pushing hands! The simpler pushing hands I can do pretty well, but the fancier forms I have only just begun to touch and so have a hard time keeping up with.
Beyond that, I have to agree about the unexpected feelings in between the styles. Jim and I were discussing that very thing this morning in an email loop we had going on.
I will let him post his own comments, but I also had very unexpected reactions to the various styles.

I'll start with Yang style, as it's the one I am currently training as so my response was pretty predictable:
I really enjoyed GM Yang Zhenduo's way of teaching. His jovial, even way of moving the class along was every bit as awesome as I've heard he can be. I noticed some very slight differences in form emphasys from what I have seen Yang Jun teach, but nothing that was so different that I had any kind of alternative reaction.
All in all, very much what I expected which was a wonderful experience.
I feel honored to have finally met GM Yang Zhenduo and to have finally taken a class that he taught.

Wu style:
I have studied Wu style in the past but not this branch of the Wu style. I studied what is called the "square form" that Wu Kwong Yu teaches. I was surprised quite a bit by both the similarities and the differences of the square form to this flavor of the Wu style. I think knowing the square form actually worked against me a bit in learning this rounder 16 form.
I truly loved this branch of the Wu Style's 16 posture form and will continue to work on it in future. While there were no big suprises for me there were quite a few small ones.
And for those who attended the Symposium in the B group...
My sincere apologies for being on the wrong leg! I will always blush when reminded of that...
'Nuff said!

Wu/Hoa style:
I had no opinions of the Wu/Hao style going into the classes. I had only rarely even seen film footage of this style before and have never met anyone who knew it even a little. I was curious and eager to see and experience it first hand.
And I LOVED it!
I absolutely fell in love with the footwork, the hand positioning, all of it.
The seeming simplicity of this form was VERY deceptive. It LOOKS like it should be very easy to do the movements but then you get into them and you realize very quickly that there is nothing easy about this. Their "Lazy About Tying Robe" at first glance doesn't look like anything particularly martial, but then you do it a few times and suddenly you realize just how precise and energetic those movements are.
I am DEFINITELY going to continue to train the Wu/Hoa 16 posture form and if I ever get the chance to study the style in more depth I will leap at the opportunity.
Some of this may stem from the absolutely magnetic personality of GM Wu Wenhan. That man is simply one of the nicest, kindest and most personable people I have ever had the good fortune to meet.
And FUNNY! His classes were always filled with humour. Though...
Most of that may have been me hearing myself laughing at my attempts to learn that form...

Sun Style:
I love watching Sun Style in film clips. I have long watched the Sun style videos online and wished that I could one day learn from this branch. The inclusion of Xingyi and Bagua into the Tai Chi forms was always something that I aspired to learn.
That said...
For some reason Sun style confused me beyond belief. It may be that inclusion of the sister styles that did it to me but...
I simply could not follow along.
After the first class I pulled out my DVD and practiced, practiced, practiced, because I was simply NOT picking it up. I thought I had to have missed something during the class and so I tried to fill that gap by watching and following along with the DVD.
However, during the second class I realized that I was still completely, utterly, hopelessly lost with this style.
I simply loved watching GM Sun demonstrate as I love the fluid grace of the Sun style.
I just didn't "get it" while I was there.
No aspersions cast on Sun Style!!! All fault was mine and mine alone.
For some reason I just didn't pick this style up at all during my short time being introduced to it.
Someday I hope to have the leisure to delve deeper into it but for now I will have to chalk this experience up to "didn't work for me".
Again, entirely my fault.

Chen style:
LOVED the warm ups. LOVED the tantien rotation being SO clear!
Also did not "get it" during my short time but I was not as mystified as I was for Sun style. I could follow along easily enough but once I got back to the room I stood there going, "Ummm........?".
If I plug in the DVD I can follow along with no problems, but as soon as I try to do it by myself I get to just past Buddha Warrior Pounds Pestle and once again go, "Ummmm.......?"
Again, it's my own fault. I do love the Chen style and found it very easy to do for the most part, but I just don't seem to be able to retain it for very long.
I'm hoping that's more due to information overload that my own impinging senility...
But I doubt it.

Back to work!!!!
Bob Ashmore
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Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Postby Audi » Tue Jul 28, 2009 12:53 am


I have a bunch more experiences and questions about some of the styles I would like to post, but not enough time for them all, so I think I will stick to the questions for the moment. I am not sure whether to post them here or on another forum, but since there are probably of general applicability, I think I will try to post them on a new thread and leave this for Seminar experiences.

Take care,
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Location: New Jersey, USA

Postby taiji-jim » Mon Sep 28, 2009 10:39 pm

My experiences differ a little from Bob's. The style that just wouldn't "click" for me was Wu. I just couldn't seem to get the footwork down. I blame Bob. Image

Sun style went VERY well. I think it was the one I retained the most of throughout the week.

Wu/Hao resonated with me better than Wu did, and Chen was good because the silk reeling was so much more obvious than in the other styles.

I loved learning from all of the grandmasters and truly enjoyed tasting the other four styles.

Now that the Symposium is over I can relax with them rather than try to keep up in a class that had to teach so much in such a short time.
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Tue Oct 06, 2009 7:59 pm

It is most likely my fault that Jim could not keep up in the Wu style. I was, after all, not even in his class...
So it HAS to be my fault. ;o)
Bob Ashmore
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Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Postby mls_72 » Sat Jan 02, 2010 6:18 pm

Here are my notes of the Chen Zhen Lei warm-ups from a different seminar, but he always does these. Hope they make sense to you. I guess I should youtube them.

Chen exercises:
1. wrist circles hands clasped
2. arm circles both directions
3. body wave/ chi flow circles hands to dan tien
4. hands at shoulders arm circles both directions and alternating
5. waist twists- 2 elbow strikes
6. forward bend bouncing
7. squating
8. knee circles inside, outside, together both directions
9. squat and half squat
10. drop stance warm up
11. drop stance
12. gong bu bouncing
13. gong bu with heel up
14. shake out kicks
15. hands over head through body- heaven/earth walking.
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Tue Jan 05, 2010 5:08 pm

Shake out kicks! So that's what they're called.
I love those kicks.
I do most of these warm ups every morning when I get up. I had forgotten the drop stance warmups and drop stances, but remember them now that you've mentioned them. I'll have to start doing them again.


I think everyone loves the Shake Out Kicks. They're so easy to do and remember.
GM Chen even mentioned teaching a group somewhere (not clear on the details) and when he came back later all that the students there remembered were the Shake Out Kicks.
I can understand why!
Bob Ashmore
Posts: 725
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

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