In March this year Bob Lowey and I travelled to Paris as guests of the French Taijiquan Federation to participate in their annual Internal Arts Festival. Bob was invited as the special European guest, which is something they do every year having previously invited people from Italy, Russia and the UK, among others.
The event drew over 1,500 visitors and for the first time included external as well as internal styles. The doors opened at 10.00am with two areas being allocated for Tui Shou and Qigong workshops. We went to the Tui Shou workshops where a variety of teachers were presenting short seminars of 15 minutes on different aspects of the arts. There were approximately 200 participants of varying ability that made it difficult to focus on the deeper aspects but everyone seemed open to the new experiences. What was particularly unusual was to see external styles like Wing Chun and Jeet Kun Do presented in this environment.
In the main foyer a selection of stands were set up selling books, magazines, videos alongside a Chinese man who was offering some nice calligraphy, done to order. A local Chinese restaurant also provided some tasty meals.
The ‘main event’ of the demonstrations kicked off at around 12 noon when neatly attired schools and individuals from the many regions of France took to the floor to display their skills. Whilst there were many evidently proficient performances, one of the supportive aspects of the show was that those with less experience were obviously encouraged to participate. This aspect helps to focus the student and ultimately improves their overall standard.
Throughout the five hours of display interest was held offering presentations of tai chi hand and weapon forms, tui shou, pa kua, qigong and yiquan alongside simultaneous external forms which provided an interesting contrast.
Because of the political situation anyone teaching martial arts in France must be registered. This means that there is in the main, a more serious commitment to the arts. The professional organisation and presentations serves the arts well and will surely ensure longevity and development.
Bob, in his customary manner, provided further contrast with his fast-paced cane form accompanied to the sound of Rhythm ‘n’ Blues which prompted the 1000+ audience to exuberantly clap their hands and stomp their feet!
Aside from the formal occasion, we spent a very pleasant evening in the stimulating presence of our good lady friends from the French Wudang contingency, at a delicious Vietnamese restaurant followed on our final evening to visit an elegant, traditional French restaurant where we enjoyed the much lauded delights of local cuisine and wines. The late hours of night and the early hours of morning saw us walking off our wonderful meal with a delightful promenade through the enchanting St Germain district where bars were buzzing at 1.30 early Monday morning.
As guests we were treated extremely well by our hosts who considerately took great care to ensure our stay was every enjoyable. Many thanks to Anya Meot, Rhosamie Rodsphon, Marianne Plouvier, and the many others who extended to us impeccable courtesy.
Ronnie Robinson Editor of the Tai Chi and Internal Arts Journal for the TCUGB