I will say the most recent and final workshop was the most physically and mentally challenging of the four workshops, for me at least.
What I took away this time is the power of listening for the conditions of any current push hands situation - listening for what is going on in me and in my partner. I realized how far I have to go, and frankly, I got really overwhelmed by the tensions I don't feel in myself, by the spiralling I don't know how to execute, and by how strong my kua isn't. I usually draw diagrams on the pointers I got from the day's postures right when I get home, but this time, I didn't.
Tony shared a phrase from GM Chen Xiaowang, "Taiji is a science." So it may not be mystical but it is still a mystery for learners like me still on their way. So what is this science of taiji training? We have the basic combo of conditions: A love of taiji. Check. A qualified teacher. Check. Conditions to train without distraction. Check? Maybe not. (Please refer to Tony's teaching philosophy for more about GM Chen Qingzhou's conditions for good training.) Not to mention the full breadth of forms, meditations, and drills.
I know there is a long-tested method to learning that is to be respected, but if I am to get at the core of GM Chen Xiaowang's words, within the science lies the opportunity Tony has taught us to look for during martial applications. Through the workshop, he kept saying "look for the opportunities!" If taiji is a science, then good scientists make new discoveries. GM Chen Xiaowang's legacy will be his "discovery" of an inhuman ability to generate split-second, explosive power. So while some of us may never achieve the same jaw-dropping power of these masters (but who knows?) - there is the possibility that any of us can discover what our masters have not. The timing for taiji science is ripe! Nerdery is very much in fashion these days. ;)
What I also got from the demos on Sunday is that if the posture you're trying to execute doesn't give you an advantage, then you don't have to stick to that posture - use another one! But following this non-formulaic approach to applications is 1) more difficult because there isn't a step-by-step guide that tells me what to do and let's me be lazy and 2) it's what turns the science back into an art!
I do not believe a tradition survives 20+ generations with a rigid adherence to teaching techniques that resist present-day circumstances and lifestyle - just as we have been taught that rigidity and resistance in our stance is the sure-fire path to defeat. Yes, I pay homage to the generation and wisdom that came before me. I know that Tony's mission is to preserve Laojia unchanged so that practitioners can continue to reap its health and martial benefits. But I guess my antidote to my overwhelm is this new opportunity - the chance to create modern-day training conditions and the opportunity for us to make many many Chen Taijiquan discoveries!!!