On Friday evening, an illustrious Chinaman came to visit my kung fu club, White Crane Fighting Arts ( www.whitecranefightingarts.com/ -) in Lewes in Sussex in the United Kingdom. Master Chen ShiXing is a Wudang master from the Wudang Mountains in Hubei, central China and he was a long way from home. It was, therefore, an amazing experience to see him in action just down the road from my house when he came to see how my club’s White Crane Kungfu is practised.
It fell to me, still too ill from my brain haemorrhage to take part in the evening’s kung fu, to come along with my camera and to try to capture a small piece of the action. It began peacefully enough with the White Crane students hitting their shins with bamboo to condition them for action.
Chen ShiXing stood quietly watching and impressive figure in his traditional Wudang costume and, even more impressive was his gentle charismatic aura.
He stood still but focused as a silent observer whilst the class continued with a series of stretches that we learnt in Fujian Province in Southern China, the home of our style of Kung Fu.
Then it was his turn – this gentle man demonstrated one of his Wudang taichi patterns, we are told that the Wudang Mountains was the birthplace of taichi and Chen ShiXing seemed to have this slow-moving, deeply spiritual form profoundly in his veins:
The was a palpable sense of peace and tranquillity when he brought his demonstration to a close and then, as they say, now for something completely different as Pete found out when the master showed that his style was more than capable of a sharp and accurate hit to the testicles.
He took Pete, a willing but, at times surprized guinea pig, through a series of Wudang hits and defences,
which soon made us all realize that this gentle man was a very formidable fighter indeed.
Chen ShiXing is a gold medal sword fighter and we were given an astounding demonstration of his skills – at times so rapid and devastating that my camera just could not keep up with him. Wudang Mountain is also one of the cradles of sword fighting so his pattern was something quite special.
It was amazing enough to have done the pattern at all but to have completed it without taking off at least some of his own fingers was beyond my powers of comprehension. My feeble attempts at the Chinese Straight Sword were more than dwarfed but he was truly inspiring and I have had a go in my garden at emulating some of his techniques – needless to say, I failed.
He must have enjoyed himself because when it was over, he asked to have a group photograph taken so I did my best at playing school photographer. I think everyone who was there would like to have a record of an inspiring occasion.
Finally, to prove that I have not been exaggerating Mr Chen ShiXing’s prowess, here is a video of him in action back in the Wudang Mountains. Don’t try this at home!
As my Facebook page hints and my posts on an organists' discussion forum show in great detail, about a year ago I came across books/DVDs/videos on choir directing &c., by James jordan of Westmisnter Choir College, Rider University, USA, and these have totaly changes all my thinking and techniques on the subject. Two books get highly recommended time and again in these resources – Zen in the Art of Archery (which I've read many times and always learn from) and "Centering in pottery, poetry and the person" by M C Richards. We have a lot to learn from cultures which are older than ours and they are all rather better than we are at helping people come to terms with themselves. Both books have a lot to tell the musician, as well as the poet and author!
I am pleased that you have gained from these books Malcolm.