Taiwan – Megan’s Reflections

The following are Megan Sharp’s reflections about the Taiwan trip.

I don’t think that I have ever been more nervous about a trip in my life.  For days before we left I could hardly think about anything else.  I couldn’t believe that I was going to a country where I would only know how to say “yes” and “thank you” and could not read anything.  What I had not factored in is that Hiromi can speak and read some Chinese, and she would help us even when we were not with her.

She sent an email before John Graysar and I headed out to tell us exactly how to catch the bus to the See You Hotel in Taipei once we arrived in Taiwan.  Before that email we had all but decided to take a cab.  The bus ride went without a hitch.  Despite the driver not speaking any English, we managed to find our hotel.  A very nice man who had grown up in Taipei walked us to the hotel.  He met his mother who was waiting to pick him up, and explained that he was walking us to the See You Hotel and would be right back.  This was one of many very kind and generous Taiwanese people we would encounter on our journey.

One of my favorite experiences happened that first day in Taipei.  The night that John and I arrived at the See You Hotel Hiromi called to welcome us and inform us that she and Martin and John McCullough would be up at 6:00 am to gather at the Peace Park for morning T’ai Chi practice followed by breakfast.  Despite thinking that this was a crazy idea after two full days of travel we agreed to meet them.

At the Peace Park we went through our warm up, standing meditation, and entire T’ai Chi form.  I did this bare-footed on the hard packed sand.  People around us were busy with their own morning exercises that included meditation, Ba Gua, Hsing-I, C’hi Kung and T’ai Chi. With every step of our practice we left behind evidence in the sand that we had been there that morning.  We began each of our mornings in Taipei with this ritual of practice until the days of the competition.

On the day before the competition our group of five practiced the first fourteen steps of our form three times throughout the day to focus our minds and bring our energy together.   By this time we had spent many hours practicing together throughout the week.  Our goal was to do the best that we could do, and to perform at a level that would honor our teacher, Hiromi.

The group and the individual T’ai Chi competition were on the first of the two days of the tournament.  After the opening ceremony, demonstrations and speeches the tournament began.  There were four different sections of the competition happening at the same time, each with five judges.  I had the good or bad fortune to be the first individual competitor.  I don’t remember a whole lot about the seven minutes in front of the judges, except that I felt that I had done my best given all the stresses of travel and competition.  However, when I finished and bowed to the head judge I felt such a surge of relief that I burst into tears.  I think that I was just so happy to be done, and thrilled to have done as well as I did, but I still had the group competition just around the corner.  The others were right there waiting our turn to enter the group competition.

We had worked very hard for the group competition to refine our form and bring it up to a high standard.  Each angle of the arms, turn of the center, and height of each arm or leg had been considered and discussed.  We used our peripheral vision to coordinate every shift of weight and nuance of footwork.   In the end it certainly was not perfect, but we learned so much in the process that much was gained.  When the scores were put up it looked like we had placed fourth.  We were happy with this, but later during the award ceremony we were awarded third place, much to our surprise.  What a joy to go forward and accept our certificates at the closing banquet!

Our final day in Taiwan included a trip to Great Grandmaster’s grave with many of our kung fu family.  We traveled in tour buses into the less populated areas surrounding Taichung.  We saw many rice fields and family farms.  We walked the last bit up to the gravesite, and just as Hiromi had said, the mosquitoes were waiting for us.  We witnessed two indoor student ceremonies and one in-room ceremony at the gravesite.  It was a reverent and joyous occasion.

This trip helped me to feel a deep connection with the many men and women who practice Cheng-Ming forms all over the world.   We are blessed to have such a warm and generous Grandmaster in Grandmaster Wang Fu-Lai.  He truly cares about the tradition that he carries and those that share his love and respect for the Cheng-Ming forms.