Rencontres Jasnières gave me the opportunity to train with a choice of 19 European and American instructors and 250 participants over a 3 day period. There were 2 morning workshops, demonstrations at 3pm & 3 hours open pushing hands with beginners joining the pushers after a basic workshop each afternoon. A bell indicated time to change push hands partners and I have no idea how long it was, yet it was long enough to feel and explore the new dynamic, to learn and to absorb. A wonderful tai chi massage session was available at 4.30pm for those needing a lie down! All this was set in a lovely campsite by lakes where you or the kids can swim, pedaleau, kayak and play on a waterslide.
You are asked to reserve workshops in advance but I found myself changing which is fine with the organisers – they expect it! Being French the organisation is very fluid and you can pretty much do as you please! Having moved from England to France 2 years ago it was a great opportunity to explore with new teachers. Instruction was in French or English or both, where necessary translated into the other language by a participant.
The highlight the first day was the push hands, a surprise as I have always preferred form work before. Having been out of contact with more advanced practitioners for a while I relished pushing with everyone and anyone, soft and hard, and found there was a huge variety available; those happy to teach or simply let me explore what I could have done by recreating where I lost root contrasted well with those solid hard types who just sit in the middle waiting for an opportunity to show me my weaknesses!
The first two mornings however much I let go tension and resistance still seemed to be lurking within me. When I pushed with Daan
Hengst a Dutch instructor, I got a far better understanding of softness within structure than during the workshops. As his workshops clashed with others I wanted to do I took the opportunity to stay after the meeting and train with him on the Monday. We explored creating space through relaxation and using this space within push hands. This workshop did not match how much I uncovered in one session of push hands with Daan. The opportunity to listen to and feel the touch and movement of the instructors and participants has such immense value. During the workshops the instructors must correct all the participants and keep their awareness with the group. The uninterrupted one on one of push hands I found personally a more sure way of really understanding inside what was going on.
The highlight of the weekend for me came in the Saturday afternoon push hands session and swept me into a new direction. Innocently I asked a gentleman to push who turned out to be the instructor Frederick Behar from France. Well Frederick is the most fluid, supple, springy, elastic, open hearted person I have ever had the opportunity to touch. The classics suddenly made sense. He remained soft however I moved him, circling any part of his body so completely and fluidly he was an absolute joy to push. Initially unable to understand what was going on he placed my hands on his body and a whole new world opened up: a world of spheres where any push, anywhere just bounces back through his fluidity, without the sense of strength or firmness that comes with structure. His body and arms really were soft all the time yet there was also power within, just you can’t feel it, only elastic. Generously he showed both Peter and myself exercises to create the fluidity in the joints and tissues he uses after the push hands session.
Needless to say Sunday morning Peter and I
were in his workshop learning how to create the vacuum he uses, the internal space and the spirals and going through the exercises in detail and applying them to push hands. Sunday afternoon I found his techniques did not yet allow me to uproot my partner that easily yet I had become very elastic and hard to unbalance myself, seemingly getting an internal massage when I was pushed, the joints naturally springing back into my opponent with out me needing to do anything – very enjoyable with the fluidity bringing a big smile to my partners and giving me the opportunity to share as best I could what I had learned so far. An excellent next step for someone who arrived 3 days earlier struggling to let go of tension and resistance in myself. All the workshops I joined brought me back to what I don’t need to do in their own ways; dropping tension, anticipation and competitiveness and replacing them with a fluid connectedness.
The afternoon demonstrations were great to see a diversity of forms both empty hands and weapons as well as applications and a spectacular demonstration of the locks and self defence work of Tatiana Kramstova from Russia.
Rencontres Jasnières is organised by ARAMIS every year. The friendly dedicated team are separate from the official tai chi organisations in France and are proud of their freedom! Instructors contact ARAMIS requesting to take part and the ARAMIS team choose instructors to give a balance. Their mission is to allow the meeting and exchange of knowledge between practitioners without competition.