I've been down to the square in front of the Sintra Hotel twice now to train with Sifu Leung accompanied by the little dynamo Jo, one of the trapeze flyers from ZAiA. His group meet every morning in front of the Sintra at around 7.30am. He began our study by introducing us to standing practise. Sifu Leung explained it is the most basic but most important basic training of tai chi. If you cannot hold your root while standing still how can you hold it when moving? When we're practising zhan zhuang or the standing 'stake' method, we stand directly in front of the Macau Restaurant, staring at its' facade. On the front of the restaurant there are numerous pictures of Macanese style meals the restaurant serves; Portuguese fried rice, baked seafood rice and osso bucco steaks. I've found it difficult standing staring at all that food first thing in the morning. The patrons in the restaurant must have an equally interesting sight looking out the window seeing both Jo and I standing and staring at them in the restaurant.
Yesterday there was a very funny occurrence. A man was watching Jo and I practise for a while and then came over, placed his carry bag down and began doing tai chi right in front of us. Weird. He completed his elaborate from (which happened to be also the Chen style but the competition form) and saluted us. He then loudly proclaimed that 'song' or relaxation is the key, that he has been practising every morning for five years for two hours at a go. His form was punctuated with the trademark Chen family fa jing or bursts of energy. I looked over at Sifu Leung while the man was performing and could see he was getting annoyed. He came over to us and whispered "He's doing it differently. You can see he's not very relaxed. Oh well, too late now, you'll just have to watch him finish". Once completed Leung Sifu came back over with an annoyed tone "They've only been practising for two days. Leave them alone". The tai chi man was rambling on about something, I can't quite remember now. I think it was about him being from Zhejiang province. Sifu Leung didn't back down, something about the tai chi man not being relaxed. Jo and I thought they were going to have a throwdown. The tai chi man grumbled and walked off. We were left to stare back at our steaks on the facade of the Macau Restaurant, wondering if things had tended towards the physical what would have been.
Chen Xiaowang demonstrating proper relaxed Chen style fajing