Last month I was fortunate enough to participate in Sifu Adam Mizner’s workshop in Athens, Alabama.
This was the third workshop I’ve attended with Sifu Mizner, and once again, his teachings left me (and I think all attendees) awestruck and inspired to continue to train on a path towards the inner, by providing clear practices for developing a taiji body and mind. By following his no-nonsense, step-by-step traditional training methods, dedicated students from any background of martial/internal arts are able to refine their appreciation of the effortless, but exquisitely intelligent power that comes from fundamental practices of taiji.
Every year, Sifu U.S. seminars keep getting better and better and better. And while it shouldn’t be surprising, I am always amazed that the quality of the taiji of the students who attend the seminars also seems to be improving significantly with every year. I’ve attended plenty of taiji seminars and classes over the years where there doesn’t seem to be much growth in the skill levels of the students, and where push hands practice quickly devolves into shoving and wrestling. Not so here. Even attendees with long time hard style martial arts backgrounds like kung fu, muay thai, or karate get softened up after the second day of training and are able to at least get a taste and appreciation in their own bodies of the relaxed power of “soong”.
Long time taiji and/or yoga junkies who come to the seminars quickly appreciate the invaluable lessons shared by Sifu Mizner, and his deep listening ability (or “ting”), which gives Sifu, and more experienced members of his school, the ability to sense specific areas of weakness and tension, and provide customized, appropriate advice, adjustments and exercises, resulting in new insights, and massive improvements to your practice (and your life in general as deeper tensions dissolve, and you become more open to positive transformations).
For those who are members of the Discover Taiji (DT) online training program, and who practice regularly, the results experienced from attending a seminar in person with Sifu and other students is exponentially rewarding.
My practice, form, well-being and health has improved from participating the DT program over the past year, and I believe that these teachings are the seeds for creating a radically improved next generation of martial/internal artists who will increasingly embody the qualities described in the Classics, and who will be able to summon nearly un-match-able power if needed for self-defense, or more practically in this day and age, for remaining calm, stable and healthy in a stressful world. If you have any interest in internal martial arts, you owe it to yourself to at least try one month of the DT online training program. I have studied with a lot of different martial arts and internal arts teachers, and have been lucky to have learned a lot from each of them, but the DT online course is something revolutionary.
If you have ever had the experience of learning with a master (and if you are relatively slow like me) you may have come away from the experience in awe, a little dumbfounded afterwards, realizing that you probably only retained about 5% of what was being “revealed” to you. For me, really nutrient dense information takes a while to process and assimilate. That is where the DT online training program is something new. I can follow along the lessons at my own pace. I can pause when I am blown away and need more time to process a new, incredibly efficient way of relaxing while moving my structure. I can rewind to make sure I understood what was being explained, and I can re-watch the original lessons for an entirely new understanding of the same material.
On top of that, there is an online group of like-minded, supportive practitioners where we share our experiences in real time, posting videos of our progress, exploring specific questions and discoveries about alignment, applications, breathing, interpretations of classics, and a whole host of other inquiries.
The information is enlightening, grounded, consistent, and all parts of the DT program reinforce each other for a completely integrated body of knowledge that will allow you to keep working and transforming your practice as much as you like.
Okay, enough sales pitch. When the student is ready, the online program appears.
Here are some questions you might have about the workshop:
Is the workshop just for advanced students?
No. Any person with any level of interest or experience in taiji or internal arts will gain something from a workshop with Sifu Mizner. The movements and exercises are not difficult to follow, but sometimes your endurance might be tested. You are encouraged to work at your own pace, and to listen to your body and take breaks as needed to avoid any injury.
Is the training during the workshop grueling?
Yes. If it isn’t, you aren’t doing it right. Actually, putting the machismo aside, the workshop will give you the opportunity and tools to carefully and safely explore the aversion to suffering that occurs during standing and other practices. You will be guided to train to your limits, and learn that calming the mind is the most practical way to deal with any unpleasant experiences that arise, and that is possible to avoid injury and relax tensions while growing in rooted strength.
Does it feel humiliating to have your posture corrected and re-corrected over and over?
Yes, but just get over it, and be thankful for a teacher who has patience enough to keep correcting unconscious tensions and errors that eventually become obvious with practice and awareness.
Personal Note: The first few times my postured was corrected, I thought to myself “What? I was following the instructions exactly. How could I possibly be doing something wrong?” or when told to relax and sink my chest, my instinctive thought was “but my chest is already sunken and relaxed … It is not possible to relax it even further.” However, after ignoring my reactive mind and just following the instructions, I realized HUGE benefits from the subtle adjustments. Suddenly I was able to feel a new connection to the ground, or a huge release of a completely unnecessary tension.
Is experience in push hands required?
No. And if you do have push hands experiences, please leave them at home, and bring an open mind so that you can learn. Some time each day of the workshop is usually spent on push hands practice, which is highly rewarding for everyone involved because of the careful way that the instructions are given. All different levels of push hands experience have been at the seminars I have attended, and I was able to learn from every encounter. The more you spend time practicing with a partner, when both are calm and intent on practicing the instructions correctly, the more you appreciate the truth of the maxim that “it takes four hands to learn taiji”.
In sum, I can’t say enough about the benefits of practicing taiji, especially when working within a traditional training framework with the guidance of a teacher as gifted as Sifu Adam Mizner. Yes he has amazing, unfathomable power. Yes, he is able to make fighters twice his size dance like a puppet. Yes, he can express all the classical powers of taiji, even while seated, reading the paper and drinking a cup of tea at the same time.
All that stuff is jaw dropping to experience first hand. But in my opinion, the most amazing quality of Sifu Mizner is his kindness, and willingness to share what he has learned with others, and the patience and tolerance he has for those who are sincere and interested in learning.
This post was authored by Oliver Pfeffer