It is the second autumn that Master Niu Sheng Xian is visiting Athens,
invited once more by his personal student and instructor of Kerameikos Athletic Club, Dimitris Doukas. Naturally, the students that expressed their wish for such a visit were not few, as the experience of last year was very interesting for all.
We are living in a weird era. Most people characterize it as a borderline, with a messianic shade, where many things end and nothing starts. One could talk for hours. One could wonder until dawn for the lost time, for the scarcity of money, for the wrong dreams of personal and social life and still sleep full of questions. For the same reasons there is another kind of insomnia, after overcoming whether one owes money, whether one got paid and how much, what one must do for the common good, whatever was imposed to him as it is his own…standing trembling (but still standing) in a awkward for the body and the mind posture. It reminds of the basic stance of Xing Yi, San Ti Shi, as it is taught by Master Niu. The body protests, the muscles burn, the limbs cannot hold, one fells apart. Still, if one insists he/she grows stronger.
With this spirit and with the ability to go deep into the basic principles, Master Niu stayed in Greece for three weeks, teaching Tai Qi, Xing Yi and Pushing Hands, presenting them to the students when there was time, along with various narrations. The Kung Fu of the students that took part began to clarify, entering their everyday life, shaking down the stereotype that wants the internal martial arts to be vague and blurred. The help of Liu Gal Fang, translator and student of Master Niu, was decisive, as she was near to the students, ready to clarify to them his explanations, exhortations and narrations.
The seminar was divided in three parts and it was conducted at our family’s new school, founded by George Divanis, instructor and loyal student of Dimitris Doukas, at 269, Mesogeion Str., in Athens.
The first part of the seminar was dedicated to Pushing Hands, an integral part of understanding and practicing Tai Qi and a part that Master Niu knows better than most of the Teachers world wide (see older article “The Internal November”). This was immediately understood by the way he taught us the Square Pushing Hands, extensively referring to the four types of power. After a brief revision of the last year’s seminar, the new students were acquainted with the practice of one hand, and we moved to the practice of two hands. One should learn to “hear” with his hands, to keep a relaxed but not empty flow, to maintain the right body posture at all times. Through this effort, the understanding of powers (Peng – Li – Ji - An) that hide in the continuous flow of the joint hands seems more accessible. It is hard to listen without putting needless pressure.
After that, we were divided into groups and we applied each power-technique with an opponent, trying to push, reverse, listen and exploit the other’s momentum.
The first weekend was dedicated to the 24-movements form of Tai Qi, practiced by thousands of students worldwide. Even so, it is hard to use one’s body to see “under” the form, under the simple movement of the limbs and the torso. The presentation of the form by one of the experts was very helpful. The movements follow one another not just in a row, but with continuous flow and uninterrupted breath, with the mind empty but concentrated, with the muscles working in a different – and in the beginning in an awkward – way, under the constant supervision and the patience of the Teacher. All these, not due to a narrow minded or capricious insistence to what is right, but due to the thorough examination of the essence of the form, by a man that practices and teaches it for decades. Master Niu was taught the form personally by the Teacher that developed it, Li Tian Ji, as he was his close student and this is enough to make a difference.
During the second weekend, the seminar concluded with the instruction of the five elements form of Xing Yi. The five elements were taught last year: metal, water, wood, fire, earth. Through revision, their dynamics became clearer and the new students got used to them. The form is short, simple and full of power. Still, when it is repeated over and over again, one begins to understand that he/she faces an unknown, but familiar opponent: one’s self. Trying to keep the three external harmonies, one sweats and strains and loses power, while the bows that give direction to limbs and the torso must be kept at all times. The mind remembers the three internal harmonies, the breath is adjusted to the movement, and even the saliva must be turned to something healthy and useful. One endures, not only because of a vague promise. And one becomes stronger: gradually, but quickly.
Master Niu was vividly encouraging the students and stressing out the - sometimes clumsy and sometimes more complete - commendable effort of the participants.
Master Niu is a man whose power, reflexes and strong eyes are remarkable despite his 74 years. His love and devotion to the real Kung Fu are indisputable and he continues to spread his knowledge without minding any borders.
We are lucky that the road of our teacher, Dimitris Doukas, and Master Niu’s crossed in China, in 2006. We wish to him the best for his 74th birthday and we hope to see him again next year.
J.T. + C.M.