On Sunday 7th June, I competed at the 1st Open Tai Chi Europa Competition which was held in Selvazzano Dentro, in the suburbs of Padua. This event was organised by the Wudang Fu Style Association (WFSA), who are an influential group within the Internal Arts community in Italy. The evening prior to the competition, Maestro Severino Maistrello invited competitors to a meal. Here we met other competitors from other parts of Italy and Europe. It was a good evening, where we discussed the aim of the competition as well as the setting up of a new interest group to broaden knowledge and raise the profile of the Internal Martial Arts. This is an informal interest group to promote the interests of the Internal Arts. Another objective is for members to host a competition in their own region or country, and for the event to be held in June. All members can submit a proposal of a suitable location and venue. If there are no offers, then the second Open Tai Chi Europa Competition could be held once again in Padua.
Since this was the first time the WFSA have organised this competition, I was not sure what to expect. I have competed at a few competitions in the UK and I’ve competed in Italy at the European Open Tournament back in December 2012. The latter was also hosted by the WFSA. The venue was a purpose built sports facility which is the home to several local football and rugby teams. The locals here really do enjoy sports and the outdoors. I’ve never seen so many people kitted out to go cycling on the roads and the sports facility is always in use. Accommodation was not an issue as we were given special rates for the hotel next door.
On the morning of the competition, we were to register and weigh in (if competing in pushing hands) at 8 am and the starting ceremony was to take place at 9 am. Once I registered, I noticed something I’ve not seen before at previous competitions: The number of cars and coaches making their way in. There were many competitors of all ages. Like other competitions, there were the pushing hands and forms categories. Here at Selvazzano Dentro, we also had soft contact, which was for children. After an impressive opening ceremony and speech, all visitors and heads of competing clubs were given a souvenir plaque to remember the day. This was a really nice gesture and it was much appreciated.
The quality of the judging was as good as any and the quality of the competitors was generally very high. I really enjoyed watching all the different categories and it was a learning experience in itself. The pushing hands players demonstrated good techniques and level of skill. Like at other events I been to, pushing hands was done with great enthusiasm. As one might expect with any activity that requires physical contact, injuries do occur and there were two paramedic teams on standby to offer medical assistance. In terms of forms, we had to the pleasure to see Bagua as well as Tai Chi. Not many people practice Bagua in the UK, but in Italy, Bagua is quite common and we saw a few different styles on the day. Tai Chi categories were Chen, Yang and Wu, as well as Fu Style. It was great to see the number of children who compete in all categories. The internal arts are a good way to help people develop both mentally as well as physically. The internal arts schools in Italy seem to have some success in getting children involved. Some of their forms are particularly impressive and I can only take my hat off to them. I’d be interested to see what our Italian friends are doing to promote the internals arts that attracts the younger generations, because whatever they are doing well, we can all learn from.
I did not start until the afternoon as Wu lineage categories were held near the end of the day. It was not easy as the sun was out and the temperature was in the thirties. I’ve never competed in this this kind of heat before and even when I was practising, I found it very hard to concentrate. I have worked on my forms regularly over the many months and nothing prepared me for this. When it was my turn to perform, all I could do was try my best and keep things into perspective. I didn’t leave empty-handed as I was fortunate to win gold in hand and sabre forms and silver in spear.
I was very surprised by how organised the event was, and it ran without any issues and ahead of time. Everybody was very friendly and whilst the atmosphere was very laid back, it was also very civilized. We finished by 4.30 pm and just as quickly as people poured in at from 8 am and so they left as soon as the medals have all had been given out. I really enjoyed competing at this event and whilst competitions are hard work and it can feel bitter when you leave without a medal, for me it isn’t just about winning, but taking part and making friends. Furthermore, it is good for my development to take the challenge in a foreign country and then take my art to a new level.