Athens 2006
Athens 2006
YCGF Seminar Review

by Clayton Shiu
YCGF Seminar Review

by Clayton Shiu
Well, it was a longer trip than I suspected.  Shifu Zhang Yun and I had a two-hour delay
in addition to the 9.5-hour flight from New York to Athens, but we made it.  We really
did not know what to expect.  We knew that our Greek hosts were in some way familiar
with Great Grandmaster Wang Peisheng.  It is funny, many groups from different
countries have for years wanted Shifu to visit and he turned them down.  This year for
some reasons he decided to go to Greece.
Both Shifu and I had never visited this country, but we were both curious because it has
thousands of years of rich and traditional culture similar to China.  Greece was where
modern thought originated.  Questions like, “Who am I?”  or “Where do I fit in the
universe?” have been contemplated extensively for many centuries in Greece.  
Democracy, which is a major political entity of the modern world, originated in Greece.  
Drama, mathematics and countless words from the English language and other Romance
languages have a connection to the Ancient Greeks.

We were warmly welcomed by two members of the Greek group, Irini and George.  Both
are practitioners of Neijia.  Irini practices and teaches the Wu style Taiji 16-posture form
as taught to her by Great Grandmaster Wang Peisheng.  George is a
practitioner/instructor of Xingyi, Hebei style and Pammachon with an extensive
gongfu/Jujutsu and Chinese Neigong background. He loves Wu Taiji too. George is
noticeable.  He is powerful and large, well over 200 pounds, and very friendly, cordial, and
well spoken.  They asked us if we were tired and, of course, we were because we had
been awake for over 20 hours. We wanted to stay awake, however, to overcome our jet
lag, especially since we had a 6-day seminar ahead of us.  
                 We made it.
We accepted the kind invitation of Irini and George to visit Irini’s house, which was very close to our hotel in Glyfada.  Irini is a landscape designer by
profession and her backyard included a beautiful garden with a Moongate, a goldfish pond and a sitting area under an arbor.  

George started asking Shifu many questions about history and about Master Wang.  He loved every detail because he is a history buff.  He told us that
he used to work for a martial arts magazine company that produced Jama in Greece.  Eventually, he left this magazine because he did not think it focused
enough on traditional martial arts and masters.  I like his view because our martial family shares the same perspective.
George must be a very popular name because two more Georges appeared soon.  We called the first one we
met Xingyi George because he teaches Xingyi in his school, the next one is Tongbei George because he ordered
our Tongbei Quan videotape and is interested in this art, and the other one is Taiji George because he is a Taiji

After we had a delicious lunch, Irini started to show us some photographs and tell us about Great Master Wang
Peisheng and, to my surprise, also about Shifu’s Baji Uncle Master Zhang Xuchu.  They met Master Zhang in
Stockholm, Sweden and became close friends immediately.  Eventually through our Baji Uncle, Irini and her
husband Karolos were introduced to Great Master Wang.  Karolos was always a joy to talk to because his
speech was very vivid and animated, and he shared many memories of his experiences with Master Wang.  
    Party, party, party, ...
My Princeton classmate Susan Darley also joined us in Greece. Susan was included in the gathering at Irini and
Karolos’s house the first night of our stay in Greece and also attended the first two days of the seminar. She had
spent a lot of time over the years on the Greek island of Spetses and had told me and Shifu that we would fall in
love with the islands. When we visited her on Spetses for a few hours in the middle of the seminar week, we
found out that she was right.

As the evening fell that first night in Irini and Karolos’ garden, we were joined by several other members of the
Greek group. They, too, greeted us warmly and entered eagerly into the discussion of Taiji history.  There are
many mysteries to the exact origin of this amazing martial art, and the Greek practitioners wanted to hear Shifu’s
opinions.  I was very impressed with their knowledge of history and lineage of the different internal martial arts.  
This conversation lasted for hours, and we then retired around 1:00am back at our hotel.  Our first day of
seminar classes was to start in a few hours.
Susan joined us
On the street, Shifu Zhang and Karolos
Driving into Athens was exciting the first time.  You could see the Acropolis from a
distance and the Parthenon Temple of Athena perched on top. It was like the Forbidden
City of Athens.  Shifu got very excited and could not wait to visit this area.  As we drove
further and further into Athens, we noticed that the streets got more and more narrow. I
was reminded of the crooked streets of Chinatown.  I really like this kind of village feeling
because it is cozy and makes you feel like you are “hanging” with the locals.  We arrived
at the Taiji school in Athens. It was elegant and simple.

I could not believe how many students appeared.  The first day of the seminar I met
around 30 or so different Greek martial artists. Most of them were in their 20’s, 30’s and
40’s.  The young guys were very athletic, quick, resilient, and excited.  The older Greeks
were seasoned either in boxing, wrestling, karate, and/or jujitsu. There was even a martial
arts director from the Hellenic Martial Arts Association who welcomed us.  

The seminar started with Shifu Zhang Yun’s explaining the history of our Neijia lineage
and the principles of Taiji Quan.  It was important for us to explain how our internal
training has been preserved by Master Wang Peisheng’s lineage and passed down to
modern day practitioners. Also, it was important for the seminar participants to understand
Shifu’s teaching principle of internal martial arts: if one wants to learn internal martial arts,
he/she must understand clearly what is the goal and what kind of training method can be
used to reach the goal.  
The tiny car "Smart", produced by Mercedes-Benz
Tongbei George, Shifu, and Xingyi George
After a short break, Shifu decided to let the students see Taiji in action so he asked Xingyi George to apply any skill on him.  George performed a
powerful Chinna skill on Shifu’s wrist. Within seconds, Xingyi George was hitting the ground without letting go of Shifu’s wrist and forearm.  There was an
interesting murmur among the Greeks, and one of them asked, “Why didn’t George let go of Shifu’s arm instead of falling?”  Xingyi George answered, “I
couldn’t let go; my hands felt stuck to his body, and I lost my balance.”  

From this point on, everyone’s eyes got very excited, and the seminar continued with Shifu’s demonstrating applications several more times on Xingyi
George, Tongbei George, and others.  One of the times, I remember clearly, Shifu did an internal elbow strike on Xingyi George, and Susan covered her
face with her hands after hearing a loud thud.  We knew that Xingyi George could handle the force and that the best way to learn martial arts is to feel the
applications and their consequences. Later, the same night, he told me that sifu was the most powerful Neijia master he had ever seen and felt in his
"Theseus" and Miontaur
Shifu Zhang and Taiji George
Clayton led Taiji form practicing
Shifu Zhang demonstrated applications
Taiji Push Hands
Shifu and Irini
Jason, the youngest student
In the first four-hour seminar lesson, Shifu explained Taiji application principles and showed different examples to the students. In the end, we heard
many of the young guys express surprise that Taiji could be so useful because they had never before seen Taiji used in self-defense. By the middle of
the first day of our seminar series, Shifu had already changed many people’s opinions of Taiji.

Throughout all of the seminar lessons, Shifu was also asked many questions, and he satisfied everybody’s curiosity and cleared up their confusion with
simple yet profound Taiji answers.   People seemed very happy that Shifu was so open to them. One guy told Shifu: “Thank you very much for
answering all my questions. I believe the only reason you can answer my questions is because you understand Taiji so well.” Another person said, “I
knew he had high level knowledge and training because in his brother Lu Shengli’s book there is a 30 page explanation about Xingyi Santi.  You can’t
find that anywhere. In other books, you get maybe one paragraph if you are lucky.”

In addition to the Taiji School, Shifu also taught at a Martial Arts Club where many of the Greeks practiced Jujitsu, Balei Quan, Xingyi, and other martial
arts.  At this school, Shifu taught the Five Elements of Xingyi and how to put these elements together into fighting combinations. At the end of the Xingyi
classes, Shifu also explained and demonstrated the similarities and differences of principle and application skills between Taiji, Bagua and Xingyi.
People found this discussion very helpful and interesting.
The teacher of the school, Mr. Kostas Dervenis participated in the Xingyi classes.  Sifu Dervenis greeted us and made sure we were taken care of.  As
a Greek history expert, he even later personally took us on a tour of the National Museum and showed us artifacts from the incredible civilization of
Greece, including the original battlefield weapons and armor from the Battle of Troy and other historical events. We really had a very happy time
seeing the tools and methods of these ancient arts.   
Sifu Dervenis, Shifu Zhang, and students
In the National Museum with Mr. Dervenis

The Greek martial artists made a strong impression on Shifu and me.  The practitioners were very healthy, had powerful upper bodies, and were very
respectful of the ancient traditions of Chinese martial arts.  Their physical abilities were matched by the intelligence and fairness with which they
approached every issue and detail from the beginning to the end of our trip.  We could not have asked for a warmer and more heartfelt welcome to such
a rich, traditional, and beautiful culture.
On the beach
Spetses Island
The Parthenon Temple
Sunset, the Poseidon Temple
Besides the seminar and classes, Shifu also gave some private classes.  During the private
lessons, Shifu demonstrated correct form details and push hand exercises.  He easily could
tell what each person needed to focus on and he even demonstrated internal shen
applications to many students. Actually some private classes were not in our plan. It just
happened when everyone felt good. For these classes, George said: “I will never forget the
third night, when we left the restaurant at 12:00am and Sifu had this great inspiration to
teach us tui shou and fighting principles until 2:30am. This was by far, the best moment for
my training.”

When we first arrived in Greece, some students were not sure Taiji was useful in a fighting
situation, and others practiced the form only for health. By the end of the trip, however,
everyone appreciated the martial applications of Taiji and even more, wanted to learn our
special and complete training method of push hands to truly understand Taiji. "Besides all
martial arts skills," George said: "the most important skill that Sifu and Clayton posses is
their Hearts, Xsin skills at the best possible way, and the same goes for Susan. The best
part of Great Grandmaster Wang's legacy came to our small country."
Shifu showed Push Hands skill in the private class
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Zhang Yun Seminar in Greece September 9-15

The seminar is over and it was beyond our expectations.  

During these 8 days, the real Neijia were presented in our country by one of the best teachers in this field, Master Zhang Yun. It was the first time that
practitioners in Greece came in touch with the fighting aspect of Tai Chi Quan, in such a big depth.

Teaching of Master Zhang was accurate, simple and yet so subtle and extremely practical. Personally, I consider him to be by far, one of the most
capable persons in presenting the fighting aspect of Tai Chi Quan, in comparison to other "more popular" teachers, "heads of families" etc. His Xing Yi
style was very interesting and direct, smooth and very powerful at the same time, as well as with many practical applications.

However, the best part were the private lessons, which usually occured spontaneously in strange places and hours...   

Master Zhang and his assistant Clayton Shiu (not only a capable teacher, but a very good accupancturist and of course a friend above all)  did not
hesitate, any time, to "cross hands" with us in so many different cases, in order for us to understand the value of the fighting practice.  

All the participants had for 7-8 days the chance to learn the cultural, philosophical and historical background of the Neijia arts, from the past to the

However the most importand skill Master Zhang and his student had (among their gongfu)was their good heart and their polite manners. They were
there, only to help us understand with the best possible way and we feel obligated.

The legacy of the Great Grandmaster Wang Peisheng came to our litlle country through such a great master.

Master Zhang Yun thank you very much and we will do our best to keep your teachings alive in Greece.

Take care.