I can still type which is a good thing after a weekend involving a room full of martial artists with big sticks.

That means I can say a little about a great seminar with Luo. Only a little because you really need to be there to benefit from this kind of event, but you can begin to build anticipation to help you get to the next one – which is likely to be in March 2013.

We had five sessions over the weekend with participants coming from around France, England, Germany, Switzerland and Latvia. Some teachers are worth travelling for.

I was also happy to welcome experienced martial artists of different Chinese and Japanese and other styles.A

The first session on Friday was private by invitation only, which means that if I tell you what we practiced I’d have to kill you….. alright I’ll meet you halfway. We worked on training methodology to build the ability to create. I’ll also share that it was fun despite some painful moments.

During Saturday morning’s Qigong Luo focused on the really fundamental principles of Qigong with simple techniques to develop them. The beauty of this approach is that these principles can be applied to all kinds of exercises, and used to understand all kinds of Qigong sets.

It was a theme of the weekend to look at the principles and basics in a very concrete, comprehensible way and distinguish these from complicated movements and pretty names – which can look pretty but are often more confusing than useful. To use the marketing metaphor they are all sizzle and rarely steak. When Luo teaches it is the kind of steak that does not need fancy presentation. Vegetarians please excuse the carnivorous reference. No cows died during the seminar.

The afternoon session was devoted to power training. Luo distinguished different steps in developing martial power, and how martial power is different from simple physical strength since it needs to be very flexible and adaptable.

Luo used exercises from Gao style bagua as a template for this, though he also explained that the same ideas can be used with Taiji or Xingyi exercises. The exercise focused on the coordination of the body, the hands and structure, then were applied with partners to get a felt sense of angle distance timing and alignment.

Sunday morning’s stick session went over basic exercises solo and in pairs. The emphasis was on understanding how to use the stick – primarily to stay safe and strike hands – the closest target. Some exercises involved striking the partners stick hard to create openings. There was an equal amount of smooth sticking combined with lively body movement. I bought some curtain poles for the session which managed to survive, but are cracked and dented. Better them than our hands!

I particularly enjoyed watching Luo with the staff. He has exceptional body movement which allows him to play with people martially using empty hands. This ability transfers to his use of the stick – he controls angles, reactions, is not where you expect and his power is not diminished.

Towards the end of the seminar Luo told me he would not teach the Xingyi 5 elements stick form as planned, since it would be more beneficial to focus on partner drills. I don’t think a anyone minded or even noticed as they already had plenty to integrate.

The final session on Sunday afternoon started with a summary of Bagua principles, in which Luo sketched out levels of training and the core movements found across different schools of Bagua. Again he distinguished these simple, but transformative ideas with the fixation to distinguish styles because of the different numbers of forms, or the flowery names they use.

This led into a clear description of the process of Bagua training, with instruction on how to avoid some of the problems that Luo has seen during his long career as a teacher. After the theory we started moving, with single palmchange, and the 5th palm change from the system  (turn the body over the back palm), all of this was mixed with some of the possible applications of the movements, with focus on how to use the elbows.

I want to thank everyone for their participation, familiar faces and people meeting me or Luo for the first time. It requires a degree of curiosity, courage and maturity to venture outside a   familiar training method or school and I appreciate it when people do. I hope that I was helpful host and that we will get to train together again soon.

Now the seminar is over the real work begins, training the angles, movements and principles until they become integrated and available when needed and without reflection.

Thanks Cormac for the photos from Saturday afternoon.

You can read another seminar review in German here.