The “A Taste of China” Taijiquan (ATOC) Taijiquan seminars and the “USA All Taijiquan Tournaments” have been such an important and lasting fixture in the North American and Global tai chi community that we might have thought that they would go on forever. Of course, anyone who has participated with organizer and co-founder, Pat Rice, knows the amount of work and dedication that is required to manage these very important events.
They are important because they practically created the North American tai chi community. Many other events have modelled themselves after Pat’s events, and many groups and organizations have been formed as a result of the connections made in Winchester.
Few events, if any, have brought so many great masters and enthusiastic students together in such an amicable and productive way. ATOC Taijiquan has drawn people of all levels from Europe, South America, Central America, Japan, China, Canada, Australia, and.. (Who knows where else?)
There was a time when most teachers were either reluctant to associate with each other, or would forbid their students from training with other teachers altogether. This sometimes for practical reasons, but was sometimes due to pride, prejudice, insecurity, or political and cultural disagreements.
The ATOC Taijiquan events created an atmosphere of openness, understanding and camaraderie. Masters of all cultural and political backgrounds were encouraged to set aside their differences, preconceptions and egos. They began sharing information, training secrets, and even students. Everyone’s skill levels and enjoyment of the arts increased.
When you go to an ATOC Taijiquan event, you do not feel like there are distinctions between “Mainland Chinese” teachers, “Taiwanese” teachers, “Hong Kong” teachers, “Japanese” teachers, and “Western teachers”. You also don’t feel like there are any distinctions between styles. You are part of the tai chi community, or part of the ATOC Taijiquan family.
The ATOC Taijiquan events spawned many of the great collaborations. Masters of different lineages and backgrounds began visiting each others’ schools to train and do seminars. They also began publishing books and videos together.
The summer event brought famous masters and lineage holders from around the world, including famous Chen Style Master Chen Xiaowang, Yang Style Master Yang Zhenduo (and later Yang Jun), Wu Style master Wang Peisheng, and others such as Fu Shuyun (who demonstrated wushu at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin), . It seems that anyone who is anyone in the tai chi world has been there.
The USA All Taijiquan Championships brought competitors together in a way that is seldom seen in other tournaments. One of my own students commented at the type of friendship and sharing that was apparent between competitors of different schools. He said that when he watched competitors sharing tips and techniques just before being called up to face each other in competition, he was flabbergasted. After a decade of competing in other martial arts tournaments, all he could say was, “Isn’t that just wrong? I mean, it’s great. But isn’t it wrong?”
Eventually, national and regional organizations were born to support the martial arts. These went a long way to getting taijiquan and other martial arts the popularity that was needed to get wushu an international profile and even get it noticed by the I.O.C. I can’t help but think that so much of the progress that has been made in the wushu community worldwide, would not have happened if it were not for Pat Rice and the many great things she has created or inspired.
Whether you have attended an ATOC Taijiquan event or not, you should really get in on it this year, if for no other reason than to tell future generations that you were part of one of the most important things to happen to tai chi and Chinese martial arts.
The summer of 2012 will apparently be the 30th anniversary of “A Taste of China” and the big “Grand Finale” for the flagship summer event. 2011 will be the last chance for you to attend the spring or autumn events.
Pat Rice is retiring ATOC in 2012, and 2011 will be the last chance to attend the spring and autumn seminars.
Do you have any memories or stories about the ATOC Seminars? Share them with us at the Tai Chi Central Forum.
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