Friday, July 8, 2011

Tai-Chi Memories: My Meeting with Gabriel Chin

In the mid-1990's, after I returned to Michigan from my first trip to China, and before I began training with The School of Cultivation and Practice, I periodically joined Gabriel Chin's group and also practiced push-hands with a couple of his students.

On one occasion, after a practice session, Gabriel invited a few of us students, Bruce, another fellow whose name I don't remember now, and myself, to his home. While there Gabriel answered our questions about Tai-chi, Qi and Qigong.

The most memorable experience of this visit was when he demonstrated the difference between limp, muscle and Qi.

He held out his hand and said, "Squeeze my hand. This is limp." I squeezed and his hand compressed in mine. He then said, "Squeeze my hand. This is strength." I squeezed and his hand felt hard, not compressing, but more like a firm hand-shake. He then said, "Squeeze my hand. This is Qi." I squeezed but could not. It felt like his hand had filled with something. It appeared relaxed but was not limp. It was solid but not hard. It was more like a gel balloon where the harder I squeezed, the less I could squeeze.

Each of us took our turns squeezing his "three hands" and needless to say, we were awed and inspired to ask more questions. At this writing, I can't remember what those questions or answers were but the memory of his openness to sharing and teaching has stuck with me.

I've not yet been able to do what he demonstrated to us that day. I am where I am and that's OK. Maybe one day that quality will show up as a by-product of my practice.

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If you'd like to learn more about Gabriel Chin, check out the following resources:

Nei Jia Quan: Internal Martial Arts Teachers of Tai Ji Quan, Xing Yi Quan, and Ba Gua Zhang [Paperback], Jess O'Brien (Editor) 2004. See Chapter 2, "Gabriel Chin".

Gabriel Chin T'ai Chi DVD
Gabriel Ching Chin, who for decades held open-air T'ai Chi sessions on the University of Michigan campus, died Monday, March 28, 2005 at age of 84. Chin led the sessions at the Cube in front of the U-M Administration Building several times a week in all kinds of weather, canceling only for rainstorms. This class is free in the absolute sense anyone can join in, he said in 1994. There's no charge, no roll call and no uniform. He also was a poet, singer, a fine cook and an interpreter of Chinese. Read the entire article...

Free tai chi classes become a Sunday morning tradition
By Seth Gordon, The Ann Arbor News, July 03, 2008

Situated in front of the University of Michigan's Administration Building in Regents' Plaza may not seem like a martial arts dojo.

But for more than 30 years, Ann Arbor residents have gathered near the spinning cube on Sunday mornings to learn and practice tai chi.

The tradition was started by Gabriel Chin and handed down to 36-year-old Scio Township resident Chad Eisner, who took over leading the sessions a few years before Chin's death in 2005. ....

"One of the things (Chin) accentuated to me was he could show me stuff - do this, do that - but it's my practice so I have to make it my own," Eisner said. "Everybody has to take care of their own practice. I can tell you as much as I know, but I can't do it for you. You have to make it your own." Read the entire article...

I recently contacted Chad, and as of July 2011, you can still join in the free Tai chi practice on Sunday morning, 9:00 a.m. at "the Cube" on the University of Michigan's central campus.

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