I spent the weekend studying with Master Chen Huixian in Madison, Wisconsin. We worked through the entire Chen Straight Sword form in six hours of training on Saturday and six hours on Sunday. The workshop was sponsored by her student, Patrick Rogne, the owner and instructor at Ancient Root Taijiquan in Madison.
I have been practicing this form for 13 years, and I originally learned a different version, but except for a couple of major differences in the opening movements, most of the movements follow the same order. There are different angles and different flourishes and transitions, but essentially it is the same form.
Chen Huixian's form is similar to the form of her uncle and primary teacher, Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei. She is an "in-chamber" disciple.
Over two days, she demonstrated each movement a few times, then led the students through the movement, carefully explaining which leg is solid, where the weight is shifting, when you should sink, how to hold the sword, how to do the footwork and other key points.
Then she would watch carefully as the class performed the movement a few times, and she gave each student individual corrections.
This is high-quality instruction from a member of the Chen family. Huixian lives with her husband Michael Chritton in the Overland Park/Kansas City area and she teaches there. I have said for years that the United States is very lucky to have someone of this high level living and teaching Chen Taijiquan here.
She speaks English, so you get instruction and corrections unfiltered by an interpreter.
Each time I train with Chen Huixian, I receive instruction and corrections that help me move forward. This time was no exception. I will be sharing one of those insights in my weekly email that I send out on Fridays with an "Internal Tip-of-the-Week." If you have not signed up to receive that weekly tip, send me an email and I'll put you on the list.
I watch her closely when I study with her and each time, I realize that I am watching someone with the skills that, in some sports, would make them a contender for gold in the Olympics. If she played basketball she would be NBA material.
The body method, the mechanics, the way she "sits" (look at the photo above) and the way she demonstrates fajing are all a testament to how hard she trained growing up in the Chen Village. And I learn just from watching the way she moves.
But besides her skill, and the attention she pays to each student, I admire the friendly atmosphere that she creates at her workshops. When Patrick hosts Chen Huixian for workshops, you don't find any politics at play. Everyone is treated equally, everyone has access to the teacher, and Master Chen is interested in each of the attendees.
I look forward to the next time I train with her, but one thing is certain. Once a year is not enough.
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