New Years day came and Laoshi was having a private tai ch workout at his Wilkes-Barre Pa. school. We were working on performing each row of the form in a 5 minute time period. That meant for the entire form trying to complete it at 30 minutes. He explained how a really good performance would be 45 minutes. It’s not easy doing the form as slowly as possible. What I remember most of that day was performing with him in that empty quiet room It felt as if his energy was bouncing off the walls with no outside distractions.
Finishing the third row and now having ½ of the Yang form I didn’t begin the 4th row. Instead I was being taught a Yang Straight Sword form. The first section roughly paralleled the first row. The Straight sword is not a hacking weapon and in the Chinese arts I was told it is the most complicated to use correctly. It slices by drawing in instead of pushing out and it is the hand and wrist work that control the weapon. Additionally there is a long stringed tassel hanging down from the end of the handle. Skill in small part was performing the form movements and not allowing the tassel to wrap itself around your arm.
So move by move I studied the sword form. To do so with control was I believe the hardest thing I’ve ever studied, I know I felt as if I was doing everything wrong. It certainly played with your balance. In the Yang form I was learning to find my balance through my center and now I was having to do the form with the weight of the weapon centered on one hand. No doubt that was a major factor in my having difficulty to do so correctly.
Personally I found my instructor had great technique. I would watch him in private practice take a straight sword and run forms for a hour and it seemed each of them was different. After his many straight sword forms the Yang sword form for him was a very minor practice. Of course for me it was something else entirely.
The sword form was two rows of technique and eventually that study finished.
Now time for rows 4, 5 and 6.
Actually they went much faster for many of their technique sections were repetitions from the other rows.
I had started traveling down to Wilkes-Barre to train on Saturdays too. In the morning we’d meet at Denny’s for breakfast, then I’d go visit one or two karate schools to work out and in the afternoon attend the Shaolin School. Classes were over and one after another advanced student would take the floor to run a form, and then wait till their next turn, Laoshi too. I’d work on Tai Chi, and then what I knew of Duen Da Chun. [This practice would continue from 1980 through 1984 when I moved to New Hampsire.]
I was no longer just on the single push hands exercise. I had begun studying the double push hands partner drill, much more complex. That would then become the moving double push hands partner drill and finally the moving and turning double push hands partner drill. I can recall Dave Belsky (now the instructor of the Wikles-Barre school) dancing across the floor in that practice.
Push hands was very interesting. If done correctly both parties would neutralize each others attack and in turn counter attack to also be neutralized and in turn it became an energy pump to increase the practice. Yet if someone made a mistake each movement offensive of defensive contained a counter to draw the one making a mistake into unbalance. They weren’t being defeated by their partner, they were defeating themselves.
A lift could become a projection.
An unbalance could become a forearm strike.
A push could become a locking pull
Then one day I had everything.
Laoshi congratulated me explaining that I was his 2nd student to learn the complete Yang form. It only took me 2 years and of course that means I was not a new comer but a beginner.
That also ended my study with him on Tai Chi. I continued my kung fu forms study and continued my tai chi practice, but mostly I was on my own from that time onward.