AATC 43rd Annual Retreat: The Best Yet!
The Australian Academy of Tai Chi & Qigong’s 2019 Annual Retreat, held last weekend at Collaroy, has been hailed by those attending as being one of the best yet. It’s a testament to the Academy’s founder Grandmaster Gary Khor, who after forty three years running the events, still continually seeks to improve on previous years. It also speaks to the expertise of Grandmaster Khor and his team of most senior instructors, who after more than four decades imparting their knowledge, still have so many new skills and insights to share.
It must come as no surprise then, that students, health professionals and newcomers travelled from across the country to immerse themselves in this latest weekend experience. On arriving at the spectacularly positioned Collaroy Centre, guests were greeted by old friends as they checked in, with Wendy Khor and Master Monika handing out room numbers, name badges and a free booklet of seminar notes to attendees.
These notes are always eagerly anticipated and a key feature of the Academy’s training retreats— ensuring that the deeper knowledge and hidden skills imparted over the two days are not forgotten, but able to be taken home and revised long after the retreat itself has ended.
Over the next couple of hours before dinner, guests had plenty of time to read through some of this information and settle into their rooms. Ensuite rooms at the Collaroy Centre are clean and comfortable, are all air-conditioned, and rather impressively, almost all boast water views over the headlands and Collaroy Beach. It made stepping out on your personal balcony a worthwhile experience, to relish a cup of tea or coffee and reflect on the learning that was unfolding.
After dinner, an enchanting evening session with Senior Master Rod Ferguson set the tone for the whole retreat: an introduction to sound meditation. In his trademark relaxed, effortless style, Senior Master Rod explained the relationship between sound and energy, and how particular sounds can be used as both a focus for meditative practice and as a tool for vibrational healing. The connection was undeniable. We all know how different music can make us feel—yet like so much of our busy lives, we rarely stop long enough to truly appreciate the depth of it. As in tai chi, sound meditation it turns out, was about tuning in to discover the vastness of such tiny things.
The first chime of the Tibetan singing bowl in Senior Master Rod’s hand was our cue to go inwards. As the room closed their eyes and focussed on the sound, each of us felt rather than just heard what had only moments ago been explained. The unique resonance of each note tickling something to stir within, simultaneously awakening and calming; undeniably having the ability to help us narrow our focus in on ourselves.
Keen also to give the moment a uniquely Australian feel, the presentation was not complete without a similarly impressive experience with his makeshift didgeridoo. For those whom were having their first experience with this type of meditation, the experience seemed enlightening. One of the attendees commented just how much they had enjoyed it: “Feeling the sounds from the singing bowls and didgeridoo resonating through the body was wonderfully calming on the mind…” commented Helen.
By the time attendees lay their heads down this first night, it was already clear they were in for a real treat, and anticipation for Saturday’s presentations was already building. It may have been the evening meditation session, but a lot of us slept like babies that night in our rooms. It made it all the harder for people to rise the next morning for early tai chi on the beach. Rise we did however, and the unusually warm morning embraced us for a most magical of starts. The sunrise couldn’t have been more golden, and it was easy to imagine our bodies being imbued with its light and energy as we moved in unison by the water.
After a delicious buffet breakfast, we were set to start the day proper. Apparently there was no ti me to waste, because we hit the ground running. After a quick welcome to theretreat and introduction to the concept of the ‘four stages’ of learning tai chi, Grandmaster Khor detailed the importance of awareness in movement as practitioners performed the tai chi set. From a practical standpoint, maintaining the proper biomechanics allows one to practise uninhibited, and avoid strains or unnecessary wear to the body. From a theoretical perspective, it creates in inner ‘harmony’ and unison in movement that is in keeping with the classical writings on tai chi and allows a tranquility to enter the mind.
In order to make the most of the mild weather, Grandmaster took this theory and led the group outside to the grassed amphitheatre to put what we’d learned in to practice. This is where we ended up doing a lot of exercises over the two day retreat; as one lady put it: “to be out in nature is healing…”, and the setting gave everyone an exceptional view of the presenters and had the natural acoustics to match.
When we weren’t enjoying the natural beauty and birdsong outdoors while practising, we did so in the ‘Chapel Room’, which is where another highlight was introduced: ‘Six Healing Sounds Qigong’. Leading on perfectly from Senior Master Rod’s sessions on sound meditation and healing, Grandmaster Khor led the room through each of the six sounds, movements, and organs targeted by each vibration. Both presenters shared their knowledge in “an informative, easy to understand way…”, commented Mardiyah later, while “adding a dash of humour, which made it so enjoyable”. Others also offered similar praise. David, another, said the vibrational healing session had reenergised him after his reserves had earlier started to fade.
There was a lot of information to take in over the course of the weekend for sure, and significant time also devoted to putting the information in to practice. It meant that come evening, most of us certainly found ourselves ready for bed—but not over tired. An easy night’s rest though is a good sign that a day has been well spent, and just a part of the retreat experience. So after another hearty meal (the food throughout, to quote a fellow attendee, was “good, and plentiful”), and some wonderful evening entertainment, we retired for the night to rest.
Over the course of the two day training retreat, we were also treated to sessions on ‘micro-orbit’ seated meditation, applied tai chi for physical and mental health, specific exercises to strengthen immunity, simple self defence techniques and a fun session on Chinese wushu martial arts. Senior Master Rod and Master Aaron delighted attendees with two, well, masterful demonstrations of the tai chi levels and fan set. In addition, on Sunday, Master Aaron led a particularly enlightening segment on Traditional Chinese Medicine, focussing on the digestive organs; how to support efficient digestion using TCM principles—including a massage technique for the large intestine meridian; and how to find relief from headache pain through simple acupressure.
If you’re thinking it sounds like we covered a lot of material at the 43rd Annual Training Retreat, you’d be right. But every session was interesting; energising. It seems that Grandmaster Khor, Senior Master Rod and Masters Aaron and Monika have the balance just right—attendee Roz says she thinks there was a “nice balance between practise and theory”, and another, Isla, said the pace of learning suited her well, too.
Overall, the clearest thing that I took away from the AATC’s 43rd Training Retreat is this: the friendships, rich conversations overheard, and faces alive with interest tell me that one of the most important things about the retreat is how it brings likeminded people with a shared passion together like nothing else.
Is this an experience you need to have? Definitely.
Tai Chi at the Opera House with:
Australian Academy of Tai Chi Presents to 200 Delegates at Corporate Event
While the Australian Academy of Tai Chi is known for its expertise and quality of instruction, sometimes even we are still amazed how far our reputation has spread. Such was our delight when the Australia and New Zealand branch of the world’s largest outdoor advertising company, JCDecaux, asked us to be a part oftheir regional staff conference. We joined over two hundred delegates on the steps of the Sydney Opera.
House for a glorious morning of tai chi and qigong practise on the harbour. Participants commenting the session left them feeling refreshed and inspired. As always we were happy to help, and for the chance to share our life-enhancing art with so many new faces. Thanks JCDecaux — we’re glad you enjoyed it!
If you’re looking for a dose of inspiration for your next corporate event, call us on 02 9797 9355.