Since the American spy plane made its emergency landing at the
end of March, most people know the location of China's island
province, Hainan. The First World Taijiquan and Health Conference
took place in the island's southernmost city, Sanya.
Apart from the palm trees, the sand, the sea, the humidity, the
tropical 28 C and the lack of snow, the event in China, reminded
me of our local Sibley Ski Tour. Both events had a mass-participation
aspect and included a wide range of ages and abilities.One sunrise
at Sanya, 10,000 people performed Taijiquan together - ten times
the number in the mass start at Sibley.
The eight of us from the Peng You Taiji Quan Association, who
participated in the conference, exemplified the age range of people
performing Taijiquan. Sarah Peng is five and Grace Roddy is 82.
In the ski tour there are high level competitors racing over 50
kilometres as well as beginners and untrained individuals doing
a manageable 10 k. Competitors at Sanya ranged from neophytes
to masters who win Gold Medals at international events. Unlike
the ski tour, the Taiji conference included demonstrations, workshops
and cross country skiing can both be done as individual or as
group activities. Taiji is different though, because when ten
thousand people on the beach that morning joined together to perform
Taiji, we were moving simultaneously through the identical pattern
of movements. 4,000 conference participants joined 6,000 others
- mainly schoolchildren in one unified act. We Thunder Bay folk
were in the section with 1,000 foreign participants. Around us
we recognized people from the United States, Europe, the Philippines,
Cuba and Japan. On the sand beach below us, nearer to the sea,
bringing up the numbers, were local school children in their uniforms.
Beyond that we couldn't see for people and palm trees, but we
knew the extent of our numbers by the flight pattern of the ultralight
that flew up and down the beach videotaping the performance of
the 24 Form Yang Style which we repeated four times. We moved
and breathed as individuals, but as we flowed through the forms
we were woven together into one greater whole.
The individuals from Thunder Bay who went to Sanya were our Master,
Peng You Lian, his wife Su Jing and their daughters Sarah and
Lily. Sarah and Peng both competed and participated in our team
demonstrations. Janet Fuchek took a break from teaching English
in Japan and came to support us at the festival. The other competitors
were Grace Roddy, Edna Groop, Louise Bourret, Fred McIntosh, Oliver
Reimer and our instructor, Roy Stokes. Sarah Link joined us in
the team demonstrations. Jan Hunter, Edna's daughter took pictures
and made a video recording of our participation in the festival.
Our group demonstration was in a tent outside where a fan made
us a bit more comfortable. We were joined by Sarah Peng when we
did the International Eight Forms. We continued with the 24 Form
Yang Style set, the 32 Sword Form , and the 48 Yang Style set.
While we waited for our turns we watched other teams, some large
and some small. The whole audience was electrified by four people
from Hong Kong who each facing a different direction did a dramatic
and wonderfully coordinated and powerful performance of Chen Style
The high point of being in Sanya was doing Taiji (or playing it
as the Chinese say) together with Chinese and others all in the
midst of the culture in which it developed. The attention we got
from the media and other participants may have gone to our heads
as well. Anyone in China who paid attention to papers and television
by now knows that Thunder Bay has a thriving Taijiquan community.
Many of the masters we met there are eager to come here to teach.
As foreigners, we got a lot of attention because we were easily
identified by our black T-shirts with our association logo the
large Taiji (yin-yang) symbol and the words in Chinese and English
"friendship, health, happiness". The fact that our team had the
youngest and the oldest participant delighted everyone, especially
the media, who photographed and videotaped us for newspapers,
magazines and national television. Grace and Sarah received certificates
at the closing ceremony for being the oldest and youngest competitors.
It seemed that we were used to represent the teams who came to
China from abroad. At the closing ceremony, which was broadcast
nationally, we were invited to perform on stage together with
a small number of other foreigners. That performance was the culmination
of our team demonstrations and individual competition in the variety
of forms that we have learned in Thunder Bay.
It was a first-ever event and we were all glad to be able to participate.
It is true that it was marred by organizational problems. It was
intense and exhausting, but for our group it was a wonderful experience.
We were inspired by fine performances and by seeing such a variety
and depth of Taijiquan. We realized that when we do Taijiquan
in Thunder Bay, we are part of a vast number of people from all
over the planet. There are different style and different forms
but as we move and meditate, we seem to become part of something
much bigger than our individual selves.
By Oliver Reimer