Issue: 1109 Date: 11/24/2011
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Wonderful experience, but upset the way Push Hands Competition was conducted
St Louis Taiji group return from China Taijiquan Conference and Competition

        The St Louis group of HunYuan Taijiquan/Qigong under Sifu Justin Meehan just recently returned from Beijing China where they attended and participated in the Third International HunYuan Conference and Taijiquan Competition held Nov. 1st-3rd, 2011. They traveled after being personally invited to attend by 83 year old GrandMaster Feng Zhiqiang (with whom Sifu Justin first studied in 1981) and his daughter Feng Xiuqian, HunYuan Association Vice President (who visited Sifu Justin’s school just last April, 2011). The event was held in the beautiful Jiuhua Resort and Convention Center where over 1000 Chinese Martial Arts practitioners attended lectures, workshops and participate in both form and Push Hands Competitions. Although Grand Master Feng was not feeling very well, he personally greeted Sifu Justin, whose favorite memory of the event was in helping the Grand Master to put his coat on. Of the group that attended, every single person received either a gold, silver or bronze medal for their HunYuan Taiji form (24 Form) participation.

        Sifu Justin Meehan is accompanied on this trip to Beijing for the Third HunYuan International Taiji Exchange Conference by Carolina Sanchez Donas, who will become the new Director of the Feng Zhiqiang HunYuan Taiji Association in Santiago, Chile; Beckah Voight Reed, head of the Webster University Dance Dept.; St. Louis/New York Actress/artist Kennedy Yanko, who is donating artwork for the HunYuan Conference Charity Auction; the youngest US female Push Hands Champion and teacher of Taiji for Seniors, Jardena Green; US martial artist and Court Sheriff, Richard Green; and Dr. R. Shawn Tucker, P.T, co founder of Therapeutic Taiji for Health (www.therapeutictaichiforhealth.com) which combines scientific physical therapy methods with simplified HunYuan Taiji and Qigong for students with physical and age related challenges.

        Despite their wonderful experience, Sifu Justin and his student Jardena "Tiger" Green were very upset in the way that the Push Hands Competition was conducted and made their disapproval known in an E Mail report by Sifu Justin to the St Louis Chinese American News:

        The International HunYuan Martial Arts Competition Push Hands competition was savage beyond belief. At one point I thought was told that International rules would apply only to find out (the night before the event) that there would be new rules allowing dangerous techniques such as neck attacks (resulting in one competitor being taken to hospital for extremely serious neck injury), double arm grabs, sudden arm bars, grabbing around the waist, tripping, throwing, sweeping, disengagement and sudden strikes just to name a few. But, in the end, there were no rules at all. Incredibly, the contest began the moment the referee said go! (like in the Bruce Lee movie Enter the Dragon) with no preparatory arm circles so that contact could possibly lead to the traditional Push Hands practice of Ward Off (Peng), Roll Back (Lu), Press (Gee) and Push (An). The one new rule announced by Feng's oldest daughter based on suggestions from past competitions was that if a competitor thought his or her injuries were sufficient or likely serious and that they were in physical danger, that they should feel to withdraw at any time. This was not very comforting information.

        In the semi Final match 21 year old student, Jardena (Tiger) Green was matched with a savage competitor who outweighed her in both weight and experience, and with all the warmth of Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger. Although Tiger (that's how they now refer to Jardena in Beijing) was a US Push Hands Champion, she had never competed under rules allowing striking, grabbing, pulling, wrestling, throwing, cursing and clawing. Despite the last minute change of rules she had not traveled all the way to Beijing in order to withdraw. She entered the ring before a packed house of ardent Chinese rooting for the hometown competitor. She quickly fell behind a point after being thrown to the ground and body slammed by her opponent. Although Jardena Tiger did not come to fight, she had been a private student of Sifu Justin since she was only 15 years old. They battled back and forth for 2 minutes, got a one minute rest and then had another 2 minutes of all out street fight. As the fight went on the crowd started rooting for the underdog American. Jardena refused to be pushed, dragged or forced out of the ring without a fight and used her determination and fighting techniques to turn the tide as the fight wore on. Both combatants were exhausted as the second bout wore on. Jardena's opponent actually drew 3 or 4 warnings for illegal head locks, throat strikes, arm snaps, etc, but not a single point was deducted. In the end her Chinese woman said something disparaging to Jardena that was obviously disrespectful and Jardena's inner Tiger came out and she came from behind to win the match. . When the judges announced the final decision awarding Jardena the match a roar of approval went up in the crowd. She had won the crowds and judges approval and managed to survive with only a torn elbow tendon (from an illegal arm technique) which had to be taped up for her final match..

        I never thought I would witness such a savage Push Hands Competition. Fortunately Master Feng was not feeling well and was not witness to the brutal competition in an Art designed to overcome force with non force using Taoist yin yang Taiji theory. Feng's major admonition from his Principles of Practice to "emphasize the gentle over forceful" lay littered on the floor like "straw dogs". Everything except Push Hands was allowed. Competitors routinely separated from each other to avoid contact in order to better rush into each other, like Sumo wrestlers. I honestly thought about asking my student to withdraw from further competition both to avoid further injury and to protest what I saw as an insult to HunYuan Taiji theory and practice.

        For her final match Jardena drew the Russian Champion. Jardena and her Russian competitor met beforehand and, with the encouragement of both their teachers, decided to make a statement using their final match to trade a gold medal for a chance to protest all they had experienced and witnessed and to use their opportunity to express their commitment to traditional Taijquan philosophy and martial virtue (Wu De). Jardena and her opponent at the start of their match did double hands Push Hands for 3 revolutions and a thunderous roar of approval went up in the crowd and brought big smiles from the older Taiji dignitaries witnessing the event from the head dias. The 2 girls then did a kind of non competitive free style Push Hands display with the ultimate goal to be a 0-0 score which they achieved to the great delight of the crowd and even the judges. It was what no one expected, but everyone wanted in their hearts. Even GrandMaster Feng's daughter was smiling from the dias along with all the other HunYuan dignitaries. During their 1 minute break, instead of sitting down, they practiced Gathering Qi and Standing Meditation. In their own way they traded their gold medal opportunity for the opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty and commitment to the higher level of Taiji theory and respect for Grand Master Feng and HunYuan Taijiquan. The crowd went wild and many old school teachers came up, some with tears in their eyes, to share their congratulations and appreciation. Jardena was later honored with a special award of "merit" before Grand Master Feng (although much older and not actively teaching anymore) whose smile and nod of recognition was worth all the gold in China.

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