Cabrini University Students Using GM Sam Chin’s ZXD “Beginner Mind, Zen Mind, Observer Mind” Curriculum Meet GM Fredia Gibbs, Hearing Her Story First-hand
Grandmaster Fredia “Cheetah” Gibbs (a Cabrini alumna) met with students in Dr. Nancy Watterson and Lan Tran’s “BALANCE Learning Community” on Wed. Sept. 28, 2022, before the celebrations honoring her life contributions with a bronze statute unveiling at Cabrini University. The Balance LC students are part of the full 3-credit academic class “Conflict & Cooperation” that integrates GM Sam Chin’s Zhong Xin Dao curriculum, specifically the inaugural version of the Beginner Mind, Zen Mind, Observer Mind lesson plan that incorporates the ZXD entry level track) The course also fulfills the University’s Ethics & the Common Good general education core curriculum requirement, so learning first-hand from Ms. Gibbs about her life-story, struggles, successes, and mindset offered a wonderful example of direct experiential learning in action—the cornerstone of Zhong Xin Dao / I Liq Chuan.
Zhong Xin Dao Philly instructors Lan Tran and Nancy Watterson talk with Master Flamenco teacher Ms. Elba Cena on May 19, 2022 at a Faculty Development Workshop that was sponsored, in part, by a grant from UISFL. The workshop was hosted by Cabrini University’s Center for Global Learning (CGL)’s Director (Nancy Watterson) with the assistance of Dr. Natacha Bolufer-Laurentie (Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies & Coordinator of Foreign Languages, who studies Flamenco with Ms. Cena. The event is part of the Center’s new “Llamada Series,” a Call to Center, featuring diverse movement traditions. GM Sam Chin, was the first master practitioner to come to campus this past December 2021 to lead an all-day workshop on the Martial Art of Awarness. The CGLfeature interactive cultural seminars that foreground mental-physical connections similar to the full-credit academic course that Lan Tran and Nancy Watterson teach, “Conflict & Cooperation,” as part of the Balance Learning Community for first year students.
Reflections on Balancing and Beginning Again: Participants New to the Art Offer Insights into the Philadelphia Workshop Experience
It has been a long year of lockdown and people from along the Eastern coast of the US – from upstate New York, New Jersey, across Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina and Florida–were excited about coming back to the first in-person, post-Covid workshop, held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA) on 24 July 2021. Out of concern for our community members’ health and well-being, the workshop required participants to be fully vaccinated.
In addition to 25 regular members, the workshop welcomed 8 first-timers to the art! Of these, four have already signed up as new members in our Philadelphia-based Martial Art of Awareness ZXD/ILC group!
Attendees also included students who have come through the Academic Approach. While Ezekiel Mathur is well known, for he is now Instructor Level 1, student level 4, he first was introduced to the art through his graduate studies at University of Pennsylvania through Nancy and Lan’s first ZXD/ILC-related seminar there. Two Cabrini University students were excited to meet GM Sam for the first time at this workshop: recent alum Jason Roman (pictured with Ezekiel) and current rising senior, Bushra Islam. Bushra has the distinction of having been in the first cohort of the BALANCE Learning Community (LC) at Cabrini, designed by Nancy and Lan, and now in starting its 4th year. She has served as a Student Fellow of the Balance LC for the past 2 years, helping 20 first-year students each year adjust to their transition into higher education. She helped guide them through Nancy and Lan’s course “Conflict and Cooperation,” which fulfills the university’s “Values” core curriculum requirement.
GM Sam Chin has spent the past year offering online Zoom instruction and emphasizing the right viewpoint needed to clarify and refine one’s understanding of the art and train one’s skills appropriately. Long-term members of the art know how distinctive this approach to learning is and they really appreciate Prof. GM Sam Chin’s method of Question and Answer sessions. It is equally inspiring to hear new participants reflect on their first-time experiences of meeting Sam Chin, Hsin Chin, and other instructors assisting at the workshop. Here is one example from a ‘newbie’, who recently heard of the Martial Art of Awareness within the past month and attended Saturday’s workshop. Viel Ty had this to share about the Philly workshop:
“It was a privilege to attend my first workshop studying the “Martial Art of Awareness”, Zhong Xin Dao – I Liq Chuan. As a new student of ZXD-ILC with experience studying other styles of martial arts, it was my intention to come to the workshop ready to learn and with an open mind. I came out of the workshop with a greater appreciation for the curriculum and many takeaways that transcend beyond martial functionality. My biggest insight is the idea of using the correct (and present!) references to bring attention to yourself, what you feel, and what you are doing. He also stressed that you have so much more in your control in all areas of your life only if you are truly aware of yourself. What I found even more incredible was how clear and unwavering that message is – not only from Grandmaster Sam Chin but also from all of the mentors who shared their time with me at the workshop.
Thank you to Grandmaster Sam Chin and his family for sharing their time with us this weekend! Thank you to my teachers, Lan Tran and Nancy Watterson, for a fantastic introduction and overview of the system in these last weeks leading up to the workshop! I greatly appreciate everyone’s warm welcome and conversations with me and in support of my new journey with the ZXD-ILC family.”
A second attendee, who like Viel has joined Philly’s ZXD/ILC group, also offered his perspective on the day. Dante Crowder had this to say:
“Grandmaster Sam is very down-to-earth and is not looking to hold back any information. Although he does have that Grandmaster aura, I actually felt very relaxed and comfortable. Secondly, all the Instructors from Level 1 and above were very helpful and very kind. Although I was a beginner, not one person acted like they were too good to work with me. In fact, everyone regardless of their experience had a solid skill set and was more than willing to share the knowledge they had with me. I feel ZXD can — and will — change your life if one is patient enough to listen, not rush, and follow the system.”
Finally, at the workshop, Prof. GM Sam Chin also was able to share his art with another professor,Kun-Yang Lin, (Professor of Dance at Temple University in Philadelphia). The workshop was actually held in Kun-Yang Lin’s studio, called the Chi Movement Arts Center and home to his dance troupe, KYL/D for which he is choreographer and artistic director. (One of his dancers and the Director of their school-based “Chi Movement” curriculum, Sophie Malin, also attended and—as a direct result of her experience at the workshop—has become a member of the Philly group!)
Professor Kun-Yang shared several insights he took away from his experience of the workshop, especially the care GM Sam took with his opening “framing” talk and the one-on-one transmission of direct, experiential “feel” of the art:
“I appreciated how Master Chin’s opening talk referred to Eastern philosophy, concepts and practice and how the art’s practice itself relates to life! As a professor of dance, of course my “practice” is a different method, but the emphasis on change and balancing and continuity—and especially FLOW—all resonated with the approach I use with my dancers. I appreciated the message of how “awareness” is different from “knowledge” and also the discussions of yin and yang in terms of 3 components (1,2,3 for unifying and separating).
When Master Chin spoke of the martial art of awareness as a ‘tool’ for training mindfulness, that resonated with me. “Dance” is my tool, my practice for examining my body, my mind. I especially appreciate the various approaches Master Chin drew on to deliver that methodology. One key take away is thinking about how he has simplified his curriculum down to its very essence of knowing. And how he explained the importance of slowing down the training to bring your attention “there”: you have to be able to place your concentration and focus on the very process of paying attention. This is an important message for all of us on our individual journeys: being constantly open to receiving what teachers guide us to recognize for ourselves. Understanding one’s own body/mind…that’s your own process; another person can work with you, but you have to do your own work—it’s your own practice: owning your own body and owning your own mind.”
Fitting words to carry with us as we continue our own practices—alone, together, solo, or in partner training.
This year is the 2nd cohort of the BALANCE Learning Community of 18 incoming first-year students who take Lan and Nancy’s 3-credit academic course, “Conflict and Cooperation,” in the fall. The Zhong Xin Dao / I Liq Chuan curriculum stands at the heart of this course, which is part seminar and part movement-lab.
Lan and Nancy are also happy to announce that one of the newest students from their ZXD Philadelphia group, Henry Pitcairn (student level 1), who moved to Denver, Colorado end of August to go to college, is starting the official student organization: The Community College of Denver (CCD) ZXD ILC Club. While the organization will initially exist only as a CCD organization, students from two other nearby universities will be able to join as they all share a campus at Auraria: University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) and Metropolitan State University (MSU). The club is also open to community members.
Even though he has only been in Denver a couple of months, Henry has made fast work of building on his enthusiasm for Zhong Xin Dao I Liq Chuan. He sought out ZXD instructor Ken Forsythe in Fort Collins, CO when his dad, Jeremy Pitcairn (student level 2) helped him move westward from Philadelphia, and Ken soon put him in touch with his ZXD student and new group leader in Denver, Eric Campbell (student level 3). Henry is enlisting the help of two fellow CCD student leaders, Dee Garcia and Mary Sawyer as well as economics professor Dr. Scott Brocket in the role of faculty adviser. We’re looking forward to Henry visiting the East Coast over the Thanksgiving holiday and training in Philly and NYC.
ZXD ILC Philadelphia, PA (USA)
Nancy Watterson and Lan Tran, in their role as Co-Directors of the ZXD Academic Approach, have been
busy in 2018 with various academic initiatives. Their proposal, “Stillness and Motion: Using Body
Mindfulness to Observe and Connect” has been accepted for the University of Pennsylvania’s
Ethnography in Education Research Forum (Feb. 2019 with Rich Kelly and Ezekiel Mathur assisting in the
presentation). In October, Nancy and Lan presented at another scholarly, peer-reviewed conference as
part of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE) Conference held at the
University of Massachussetts (Amherst).
On Cabrini University’s campus, Nancy and Lan piloted the inaugural cohort of the “Balance Learning
Community” for 18 first-year students enrolled in “Conflict & Cooperation,” a full-credit academic
course which revolves around Zhong Xin Dao; the course also fulfills the Values Core Curriculum
requirement for the University. Nancy and Lan received a small grant from the 1976 Foundation to
travel to the instructors’ retreat in Oregon, offered several on-campus ZXD mini-workshops to faculty
and staff across the disciplines, conducted an on-line session for graduate students in the Masters of
Education program, and gave short interviews for the campus radio station and student newspaper.
Beyond these academic endeavors, the Philly group traveled to Baltimore, MD for the Taiwan / US Tai
Chi Cultural Exchange in May (with Lan and Inari gave a demo), gained some new members and
welcomed returnees: Lan and Nancy became disciples of GM Sam Chin at the Fishkill Intensive (Feb.
2018), 4 members (Lan Tran, Nancy Watterson, Raj Singh and Ezekiel Mathur) graded for level 4 and
Ezekiel also joined them in completing his Instructor level 1; two students (Dwight Epps and Bruce
Tomascik) recently graded for student level
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