Tai Chi Caledonia 2011


Tai Chi Caledonia was our first real venture to a tai chi camp abroad which was not organized by our own school. Marie Antoinette took the initiative and convinced her love Jacq and her friend Lies to join. It was not easy to convince Jack to come along as he has no connection to tai chi whatsoever, but he loves cycling on hills, which is amazingly easy to do in Scotland, and as a visual artist the calligraphy workshop gave him the final nudge to join. Lise was more easily convinced. Six days of tai chi, that is simply six days of heaven.

All we knew before arriving in Scotland is that we would have single rooms, a choice of 30+ minute workshops, during the weekend and then four days of morning and afternoon sessions going in-depth into a certain theme, and of course that it rains a lot in Scotland. As we were not familiar with any of the names of the teachers or styles, we were a bit naïve but also had the luxury of being very open minded to everything. The first person we encountered was Karen and she said ‘oh, you’re the little Dutch group’. The second thing we encountered were our rooms, which were not in a hotel but in something called chalets, but looked not a bit Swiss and we learned that we would be sharing our cabin with three strangers. Surprise. Then we met John, Maria and Gerry. Nice surprise. They were the other little group, in their case from Spain. The organizers could not have made a better match.

The weekend workshops were very interesting but as everything was new to us, it was also a lot to absorb. Who knew there were so many different ways to do tai chi. And so many styles and opinions and so many good teachers. We went from one ‘wow’ to another, learned a lot, and really opened our eyes to look beyond our own lineage and teaching. Definitely not to replace it, as we have great teachers, but to broaden our views. Getting the opportunity to do a workshop during the weekend with the same teachers with whom we would be working for the next four days was perfect for us. It was very nice to be able to try out if their way of teaching matches your way of learning.

There were also teachers who only taught during the weekend and we were sorry to let go. Nils Klug gave us a little taste of his teaching style and just left, in one hand his phone, of course on a business call, but with the other hand free to wave goodbye. Gerry actually did a very good and funny imitation of Nils, and luckily Nils was a good sport about this. But Nils definitely had a lot more to teach.

If you can fill an hour with only the first two opening movements of the form as Wang Ning did, without it getting boring for a second, what would it be like to do a four day tai chi workshop with this man? When Lise asked him ‘Why are you not teaching tai chi during the whole week, besides calligraphy?’, he aptly answered ‘My calligraphy is tai chi’. There were many other excellent teachers, too many to mention all of them. But Tony Ulatowski has a special place in our hearts, for one because Lise thinks he is really kind person, and secondly because he gave Marie an amazing new haircut!

Jacq’s choice for the four day workshops was Calligraphy with Wang Ning, and cycling the rest of the time. He really enjoyed his careful introduction into the art of calligraphy; first preparing the ink, then endlessly perfecting the Chinese number one. Timing issues and using the right amount of ink and pressure on the brush: without knowing, he got a small insight in tai chi…

Both Lise’s and Marie’s chose the workshops of Laura Stone who teaches in the style of William C.C. Chen. This style feels similar to our own Yang style, but at the same time is very different. The similarity actually makes it more complicated. There was a lot of sensing; sensing of body, the body of your partner and the influence your movements and intentions can have on the other person. This was not always easy to grasp, but very interesting, and something to further explore in the future.

Marie also really enjoyed Sonja Schillo’s sessions – an introduction to xingyi and Tongbei. On the first day she demonstrated this form, still optimistic that we would be able to learn all that in four relatively short sessions. Not! But the whole class went about it in good cheer and actually made quite good progress. And we now know the Scottish word for armpit is oxter. Keep it open, people!

Paul Silfverstrale taught Wudang Practical Tai Chi Chuan. His workshops were so much fun, as Lise got the opportunity to find out, together with Gerry, Maria and John. The basis of everything in this style is applications, but of course it is much more. You can learn so much about your own form and tai chi in general by understanding and being able to do applications. Wudang PTCC style was love at first sight and left Lise with a need to learn more.

Before, in between, and after these lessons we were spoiled by the cooking and company of our little Spanish group. With Gerry on coffee and toast duty, John on first-and-second- English breakfast duty, and Maria making sure everything the men were doing was up to the very best standard and at the same time being her funny self, we were simply spoiled. All we had to do were the dishes. And where does this myth come from that it always rains in Scotland. We ate outside every morning and every afternoon, okay, once under a few umbrella’s, but mainly in the sun. We had an amazing time and great fun.

Last but certainly not least a big compliment for the organizers and volunteers. Ronnie was almost the perfect host. Being very friendly, helpful and very Scottish at the same time.

On hindsight we realize we were very, very lucky that this was our first camp, with teachers of such high quality. We recommend Tai Chi Caledonia to not only beginners, like us, but definitely also to the experienced tai chi-er. As they are aware of what they lack and need to improve, they can take from the workshops precisely what they need.

Marie Antoinette, Jacq and Lies