2017 Push Hands Workshop - upstate New York

6/30/17 - 7/3/17

Be soft and relaxed yet stay strong and rooted. My push hands skills have improved tremendously over the last few years thanks to these intensive push-hands workshops offered by Master Alex .

According to Master Alex, beginners in push-hands always stand with their front knee bent with a lot of tensions in their body, mistakenly believing that by doing so they can become more rooted and strong. I must admit that I have always thought I needed to grip the ground hard with my front foot in order to stay unyielding. Time and time again, he has illustrated that this is not the case. The more tense one stays, the easier one can get pushed over. When Master Alex pushes, I see that he stays mostly upright. His body is soft and relaxed, yet he is very rooted and powerful.

In this workshop, we practiced many exercises to help us become soft yet rooted. Particularly interesting were the drills that taught us how to relax our body quickly when the tension you have built up in your body is no longer viable. 18 hours of intense training really paid off. At the end of the workshop, I found myself pushing mostly in upright position. I have become more aware of my body, more aware of the oncoming energy. I can now move my body more efficiently to deflect and neutralize the opponent. I have become soft and fluid yet well rooted and very strong. What an exhilarating feeling...!

 Group Photo by Philippe Daviet

Group Photo by Philippe Daviet

 

 

2017 Weswater Intensive Training

4/28/2017 - 5/7/2017

I was back in Westwater, Utah, again, attending the most intense workshop offered by Master Alex. This was my 5th consecutive year at this camp, and his 20th year at this location. Master Alex added extra day of training to commemorate it, but we also were treated to two nights of party fun!

 A dramatic sky

A dramatic sky

We learned the third set of fundamental qigong at the workshop this year. This new set focuses on the separation of upper and lower body, stretching of the waist and correct alignment of our body. It promotes and builds solid rooting and strong internal energy as well. A regular practice of this qigong set will be very beneficial for beginners as well as more experienced practitioners. 

 Daily schedule

Daily schedule

We trained for a total of 52 hours this year, but as always, the end seemed to approach quite quickly. It was a very good camp as usual, getting together with many friends from all over the world, training hard with them, and enjoying each other's company. 

 Another sunset

Another sunset

 A view from the training hall

A view from the training hall

 A pretty moth

A pretty moth

Monthly Sunday Workshop in New York

11/6/2016

Since 2009, I have attended most of the monthly Sunday workshops offered by Master Alex in New York city. This is my 8th consecutive year of traveling almost every month, from Boston to Manhattan on a Saturday, spending the night in the city, attending a workshop in the morning and afternoon on the following Sunday, and returning home in the evening. 

This weekend's workshop concluded with a pleasant surprise. Master Alex announced the appointment of two new senior instructors, myself and my fellow student Jeff Pastoressa, and presented a plaque for each of us to commemorate this recognition. I am very grateful, as it is quite an honor to be recognized for this position.

It was nice to hear the congratulations from everybody, but I was particularly touched to hear from several that they consider me as their role model and an inspiration, having achieved this position in a relatively short time. I am proud of my accomplishment, but I realize I have to work even harder now to meet the expectations of being a senior instructor. I can't let the Master down, nor can I let down those who look up to me.

2016 Upstate New York Workshop

2016 Upstate New York Workshop

I was at the annual workshop in the upstate New York again. This year, due to a miscommunication, we discovered that we were not able to use the residential facility that we usually use in Rosendale. The organizer scrambled around to find alternate places where a large number of participants can train, as well as rely on local students' generosity to open up their homes for the out-of-state students. Although faced with some difficulties, the workshop went well, and as usual, I enjoyed the camaraderies with my fellow practitioners and came away with a sense of enrichment in my pursuit.

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2016 Push Hands Workshop - upstate New York

8/12/16 - 8/15/16

 Group photo, by a fellow student Philippe Daviet

Group photo, by a fellow student Philippe Daviet

I was back in Rosendale, New York, for the second intense push hands workshop of the year. It was very well attended, and it was very nice to see that 50% of attendees were women.

This residential facility is one of my favorite places for a workshop, but unfortunately the weather was swelteringly hot during our stay. The building has no A/C, and the training hall is on the second floor. Even with the ceiling fans and many portable floor fans going in full speed, we were hot, sweaty and very sticky throughout the workshop. On one occasion, I was partnered up with a fellow student whose shirt was completely soaked in sweat. I cringed to touch it, but I knew there was no escaping it. Once I set my mind in the right place, I was able to keep working with him, but you can imagine how quickly I dashed out at the break time so that I could wash my hands!

In this workshop, we learned many interesting exercises to loosen our body and to root ourselves. It was nice to be able to push with many strong players, and put the new knowledge to practice. I feel that I am becoming more flexible and more rooted these days. Master Alex commented that this was one of the best push hands workshop by far, and that he was very pleased to see how much we have improved. It was not the most comfortable workshop, but after our hard training, it was very rewarding to hear the Master's encouraging words.

2016 Push Hands Workshop - Siena, Italy

6/11/2016 - 6/14/2016

When I learned that this year's workshop in Italy would be a push-hands intensive, I had to go. I have never been to Italy, so this was a great way to combine some vacation time with my tai chi training. 

 Path along the inn where the workshop was held

Path along the inn where the workshop was held

Many of the exercises Master Alex taught were very helpful in making us relax while keeping our bodies rooted. I think my push hands technique has greatly improved over the past several years due to these intensive trainings. I need to put into practice several very good pointers I received from Master Alex, the most important one is to utilize my left arm more!

One more push hands only workshop is coming up in August, in upstate New York. I can't miss that one!

 Group photo, Siena, Italy

Group photo, Siena, Italy

2016 Westwater Intensive Training

4/29/2016 - 5/7/2016

 

I was back at the annual Westwater Intensive Training camp in Utah. This year, although the camp was held a week later than usual, we had mostly cold days and I had to resort to wearing 5 layers of clothing to stay warm. We also had a very powerful wind storm one day during our class, and Master Alex was concerned enough to allow the students to run back to their tents to make sure that they were intact. One of the pegs was a bit loose, but otherwise my tent was solidly grounded. 

This year, the highlight of the camp was learning the entire Yang sword form. Since last fall, I have been learning this bit by bit in the monthly Sunday workshop I attend in New York, but it's been slow going. When Master Alex announced that he will teach the entire form during this year's WW camp, I was very thrilled! For the past ten years or so, it's been my dream to learn this form and it was finally coming true. It is quite a long form, and towards the end it seemed that we won't be able to learn it all, but we were able to finish it. I had some difficult time absorbing the new moves towards the end, but with regular practice, I should be able to retain it well.

As usual, it was nice to see my fellow students/friends from all over the world. I left my sleeping bag and the tent in the storage shed at the camp, as I plan to return again next year! 

 2016 group photo

2016 group photo

 a view from my tent

a view from my tent

 a dead tree, just outside of my tent, with a hollow trunk housing a bird's nest

a dead tree, just outside of my tent, with a hollow trunk housing a bird's nest

 a sunrise

a sunrise

2016 Hawaii Workshop

2/5/2016 - 2/10/2016

The workshop in Hawaii took place on the island of Oahu, at the YWCA camp located in Kaneohe Bay. I have attended this workshop for the first time about 5 years ago, and as before, found the local students in Hawaii to be very welcoming.

 a view from the training hall

a view from the training hall

I had the rare opportunity to meet Master Alex's father, Master Dong Zeng Chen, when he visited the workshop with his wife. I was also given a chance to push hands with her, and that was a very interesting experience. I found her to be quite strong and aggressive, and while I kept my ground pretty well, the excessive strength I used had made my right arm, already showing a sign of tendonitis, to become quite painful and useless by the end of the camp. I need to learn to be more soft even when faced with excessive power. I hope to learn more and improve on my push hands skills in the two push hands workshop I plan to attend later this year.

 with Master Alex, Master Dong zeng chen and his wife

with Master Alex, Master Dong zeng chen and his wife

One afternoon, I joined the sightseeing group to visit a nearby Japanese Buddhist temple, a replica of the famous Byodo-in temple in Kyoto, Japan. 

 a replica of byodo-in temple

a replica of byodo-in temple

 garden at the temple

garden at the temple

2015 Westwater Intensive Training

April 24 - May 2

Back in Utah again! This was the 3rd year that I have attended this very important workshop. Master Alex emphasized working on Fajin Set this year, and I feel more comfortable with the set now. With the karate background that I have, I really enjoy practicing the Fajin Set for its faster pace and its fajin power.

Every year, some structural improvements are made at this camp. This year, the lighting in the training hall was greatly enhanced, allowing us to have more enjoyable classes in the evening. 

  New ceiling lights!

 New ceiling lights!

We practiced hard, ate well, slept some, and enjoyed the camaraderie. Can't wait for the next year's camp. 

2014 Push Hands Workshop - Greece

September 25 - September 29

I attended an intensive, push-hands only workshop in Greece. As this was my first time in Greece, I put in a bit of touring at the beginning in Athens for several days and then drove north to the seaside resort for four days of workshop.

One of the most memorable sites that I visited in Athens was the Monastery of Karisariani. Not many visitors venture out to this secluded place, and there was nobody else when I visited this serene, peaceful spot.

I took the opportunity to do some tai chi in its courtyard.

Four days of push-hands training was quite intense, but extremely beneficial. While pushing hands, I have always found my body to become tense and hard, and difficult to relax. Through series of exercises that Master Alex taught us, I learned how to stay loose and relaxed and yet rooted at the same time. This is a big break through for me in pushing hands. I can feel that my push-hands skills have improved tremendously after this workshop. Needless to say that I am so glad that I attended it.  

Master Alex mentioned that he is planning to offer more push-hands only workshops in the future. I sure hope that I will be able to attend some more.

2014 Westwater Intensive Training

April 24th - May 3rd

This year, I was a bit apprehensive when I learned that I will not be able to use my friend's car as my sleeping quarter as I did last year. There was a talk of renting a shared tent, but in the end, I made an investment in a nice roomy tent and an air mattress. 

 Nice, secluded spot 

Nice, secluded spot 

I found a nice, secluded spot for my tent. Having practiced beforehand at home, and also by investing in a plastic mallet, pitching the tent was fast and easy. 

 The view from my tent

The view from my tent

The view from my tent was wonderful, and at night, when there was no cloud, the sky was full of twinkling stars. Except for the first night, it was very cold at night, even in my 4-season down sleeping bag, requiring me to  put on layers of clothes. It could have been much worse if it wasn't for the insulated air mattress I brought.

 

 

 My new sticks

My new sticks

This year, Master Alex taught the double sticks form for the first time. To our delight, we were able to learn the whole form. Now it's up to us to practice and retain the form.

 With Master Alex

With Master Alex


     

     



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, it was an intense camp where we practiced hard and learned a lot. It is such a pleasure to be among the people from all over the world, far apart from each other in our daily lives and yet so closely united because of what we all pursue.

 Westwater, 2014

Westwater, 2014

2013 Westwater Intensive Training

April 26th - May 4th

 

group-picture-Utah.jpg

I've always heard about this workshop held annually in Westwater, Utah. It is the most intensive workshop offered by Master Alex, lasting 9 days, for a total of nearly 50 hours of training time. This camp has no indoor sleeping arrangements, and students must bring their own tent and bedding. This 'roughing it' arrangement had been the reason why I was always reluctant to participate in this camp. This year Toni Demouline (15th from the left), one of Master Alex' senior students, convinced me to attend it, by offering me to share her sleeping quarters in the shed that she had built in this high desert, containing real beds and mattresses! Having no more reason not to go, I decided to give it a try, and was I ever glad that I did it. Workshop was great, and it was so nice to meet up with like-minded students from all over the world, many I knew from other workshops I have attended in the past.

toni-station-wagon.JPG

I ended up actually sleeping in Toni's station wagon rather than sharing the shed with her and another person. The car offered me my privacy, and I felt free to stay up late into the nights having fun pushing hands with my fellow practitioners. 

I enjoyed the great training and great camaraderie.... We trained hard and we learned a lot. Master Alex was pleased with the group, and announced that he will be teaching us a double stick form next year. Wow! That is going to be a real treat! How can I forego such an opportunity?! Sign me up for the next year's camp!