Shaolin/Taiji Graduation

To commemorate the end of a journey, friends and family were invited to the graduation celebrations on Saturday, June 23rd, 2018.

The graduates: Jonathan Chang (10 years), Frank Verhülsdonk (9 years), Javier Rodriguez (9 years), Quentin Lopes (6 years), Michelle Lin (5 years), Enrico Tomei (5 years), and Piper Chan (5 years). With the overnight guests, the Retreat Center population nearly tripled from 11 to 30, yet Dr. Yang prepared breakfast as usual. In the crisp morning air, the patios were swept, chairs arranged, and media equipment set up well before the 30 or so local guests arrived. The graduates’ parents gladly offered assistance whenever they could, giving the busy students more time to breathe. By mid morning, the temperature and excitement rose as the guests took their seats and the students gathered for the demonstration. The performers included the 7 graduating Shaolin/Taiji students, 3 Qigong/Taiji students, and 5 visiting students. The demo began with a playful lion dance by Quentin (head) and Jonathan (tail). The unconventional dog-like lion entertained the crowd with jumps and lifts and fulfilled the tradition of bringing good luck to the ceremony.

The next 75 minutes of traditional and student-created sequences included barehand, staff, spear, saber, sword, dagger, double sabers, Bagua saber, double short rods, chai (sai), rope dart, whip, double whip, Taijiquan, Taiji ball, takedowns & Qin Na, and matching sets with partners. Barking Rabbit Media's YMAA Graduation Album

“All students tried their best to demonstrate what they learned from the center, including their demo performances and manners. That impressed all the visitors.”

– Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming Originally conceived as a 10-minute event with one guest speaker and the awarding of the diplomas, the graduation ceremony became a much longer event with inspiring and humorous speeches, bows to portraits of Grandmaster Cheng Gin-Gsao (White Crane), Grandmaster Li Mao-Ching (Long Fist), and Grandmaster Kao Tao (Yang Taijiquan), and a discipleship ceremony. Diplomas were awarded and as Kathy handed the last one to her father, he did a double take and exclaimed, “They printed one for Xiao Hu!” earning laughs from the crowd. Xiao Hu has been the resident watch dog for the past 10 years.

Photo by: Quentin Lopes

An hour later, the sun was shining brightly overhead and stomachs were growling but the audience remained engaged for the discipleship ceremony. Quentin, Michelle, Enrico, and Piper were formally accepted as disciples of Dr. Yang.

In martial arts society, there is a distinction between a student and a disciple. After years of getting to know a student, a master may choose to accept the student as a disciple. The meaning of discipleship will vary with each person. Generally speaking, the master guides the disciples in their practice and the disciples commit themselves to the training and to looking out for the master. The commitment and obligations are lifelong. For some teachers, including Dr. Yang, there is the feeling of a parent-child relationship between the master and disciple.

Quentin serving tea during his discipleship ceremony

Photo by: Kim Porter

The discipleship ceremony includes many traditions which may vary depending on the lineage and generation. We omitted a few but kept the bows and offering of tea. Each student walked toward Dr. Yang and Mei-Ling, kneeled, and bowed thrice, representing the request to be accepted as a disciple. The student stood up, walked backwards three steps, kneeled, and bowed thrice, to demonstrate humility. The student walked forward again, kneeled, and bowed thrice to demonstrate sincerity in the request. After the bows, the student served tea to Dr. Yang and Mei-Ling. Traditionally, only if the master helps the student stand up does it indicate his acceptance of the student as his disciple.

The formal celebration ended with a group photo and followed up with a BBQ.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us in the past 10 years!

Back: Enrico Tomei, Quentin Lopes, Frank Verhülsdonk, Jonathan Chang, Javier Rodriguez,

Michelle Lin, Piper Chan

Front: Kathy Yang, Nicholas Yang, Mei-Ling Yang, Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, Charles G., Daniel Chadud

Photo by: Kim Porter

More photos on the Retreat Center's Facebook album

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