I have been doing tai chi, on and off, since 1998 and I think my study of Fa Jin has been long overdue. Fortunately, Ed Ramirez (Liu He Ba Fa practitioner and instructor) organized a Fa Jin workshop on March 9 in Manila. He invited Tai Chi Master Chris Vogel (who teaches Push Hands as well) to give the Fa Jin workshops in three levels. I attended the first level workshop yesterday with co-Peace Blossoms Internal Arts Society members Irene Chia, Ton Delgado and Ding Chong Lee. There were only 5 participants, aside from Ed, his son, and Chris.
The whole day workshop was held on the fourth floor of an old building along TM Kalaw. While I appreciate the generosity of the owner and the efforts of Ed to book the venue for our event, I think Fa Jin, or any other Tai Chi routine/technique for that matter, is best practiced outdoors. It involves a lot of breathwork that if you do it for a long time with stale air, you tend to get dizzy after a while. It doesn't help that Fa Jin requires deep inhalation and forceful exhalation. I really felt that I needed to sit in detox when the session was over.
The workshop itself was excellent. For one thing, Chris is a great instructor. Very patient, very clear and flexible. The biggest thing about him, of course, would be his experience and knowledge, which he shares so selflessly with students who are serious about learning. The entire session went on for about six hours, focusing mainly on just a few crucial principles of Fa Jin. We went deep into the study and practice of each one, and even if it looked simple from the outside, the exercises taxed us in different ways: some felt tired, others felt a bit tummy-sick, some were exhausted, etc. There was a girl there who hurt her brain when she gave too much force in her strike. Feel free to guess who that silly girl was.
At the start I told Chris I was there as a challenge for him. After all, the event announcement read like this:
"When Tai Chi masters hurl their opponents easily with almost
effortless movement, these are not empty stories. These are
actual skills that all of us can learn to do. Tai Chi Fa Jin
is the ability to discharge tremendous force - like a speeding
truck - that can hurl an opponent or shatter his bones and
"For so long, Tai Chi masters have reserved Tai Chi Fa Jin
training for their more favored students while everyone
else just learned the solo form and some Chi Kung exercises.
When regular students asked their teachers how to develop this
ability, the Tai Chi masters merely told them to practice harder
and do the form in a much softer fashion. So, millions of
practitioners worldwide never really learned the secret stuff
behind Tai Chi."
As a small girl with a small amount of jin (internal power), I doubted very much if I'd go home after the workshop with the ability to hurl an opponent with effortless movement. To this, Chris replied: "It doesn't matter how much you've got, what's important is you move what you got." Needless to say, I was floored with inspiration. At the end of it all, and even after the short chat with Ed outside the room, I am positive it can be done. Maybe not at the moment, but with the right practice, perhaps soon enough.
All of us, certainly, were inspired to continue with daily practice. The fee (P1600 or P1200 for early birds) was worth it. I'm still thinking about whether to continue on to level 2. I believe it would take me months of continuous practice before I can make a wise decision. Just see first if I can go anywhere with my Fa Jin.
On hindsight, as I told Irene afterwards as we had merienda in Assad Cafe, Ed should not have opened it to beginners. I realized that a certain knowledge of Tai Chi is necessary before you go into Fa Jin, which is basically energy work. You can't even dream of doing Fa Jin if you haven't worked on proper breathing yet, for instance. But that's just me, based on what I experienced yesterday. It would be a challenge to a newbie, and I think even for some advanced students. It is, basically, a more advanced branch of Tai Chi.
Here we are, after the full day workshop. From left: Bobby?, Ned?, Chris, me, Irene, Ton and Ding.
And here is an example of how Fa Jin looks like.
You can read a related entry here.