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.