The Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi Association held its annual convention on October 22 – 24. This was my first time attending this convention and I was impressed. I have been to a number of conventions and tournaments and this one was one of the best in terms of organization and execution.
To start with, the seminars were excellent. I attended seminars led by Masters Henry Look, Jiang Jian-Ye, Fu Tung Cheng, and Dug Corpolongo. Although each master had his or her own unique teaching style, they all had one thing in common: the ability to make their knowledge accessible to those in attendance. I have been to more seminars than a shaolin monk can shake a staff at in which the teacher would “hide” their knowledge, limit or ignore the attendees’ questions, or overwhelm attendees by passing on an impossibly difficult sequence. Not so with the masters present at the GPYTCA Convention. They were open with their knowledge; they invited and encouraged questions, providing honest answers; and they did their best to ensure attendees were comfortable with new techniques before moving forward. The same can be said of these masters’ assistants. It is difficult to teach a class of thirty or forty of your own students, let alone students you have never had the pleasure of teaching before. These assistants were indeed instrumental in making the seminars as successful as they were.
The Masters’ Demonstrations were a highlight of the convention. Once the honored guests and the students were seated, the demonstrations began with a spectacular lion dance. Even though most seats were taken, the pounding of the drums and spirit of the lion pulled guests of the hotel away from their usual Friday night routines, filling up the seats and the second floor balcony. As the numerous masters performed their skills, jaws dropped on kids and seasoned martial artists alike. GPYTCA members were all inspired to train harder and, who knows, maybe one of the kids who wandered in will enroll in the martial arts and become the next great master. For the next two days, the GPYTCA was abuzz with excitement as members shared their favorite moments with each other between seminars and Kodak moments. Most members seemed to agree: the bar has been set very high.
Another hallmark of this convention was camaraderie. Almost every tournament or convention I have attended has had its share of an “us and them” mentality. “Yes, that school’s Northern Long Fist is nice, but it’s obvious they don’t understand the applications . . . their Tai Chi is too soft, it wouldn’t hold up in a fight . . . his Xing Yi is too blocky and slow, where is his yi?” These are the kinds of comments and critiques I usually overhear. I didn’t encounter any of these counterproductive attitudes at this convention. Three distinct flavors of Guang Ping Tai Chi were demonstrated during the Masters’ Demonstrations and the differences were openly and earnestly discussed during seminars. There wasn’t a “them,” there were only “us” tai chi students.
Usually, I feel my reviews are unbalanced if I don’t give at least one piece of criticism. There were a few instances in which some students seemed to forget themselves and their manners during the seminars. Again, the teachers assisting the masters proved very effective in keeping these students on track or, at least, convincing them they shouldn't carry on conversations while the master is speaking. Another blemish on an otherwise perfect weekend was the strange miscounting of guests for the first dinner. There seemed to be more people in attendance than the hotel staff had been prepared for. Consequently, there were many individuals (venerable masters included) who had to wait an excessive amount of time for a meal because the hotel did not prepare enough dinners.
These things aside, this GPYTCA Convention sets the bar high for next year . . . and I know everyone will be ready to jump it.
For more photos of the event, click here.