Bend Tai Chi master forms bonds beyond language

His students are preparing to travel to China

Bend Tai Chi master taking students to China

BEND, Ore. - A Central Oregon martial arts organization is planning another trip bringing students to China, making more connections that go beyond language.

Master JianFeng Chen has been teaching Tai Chi and Wushu in Bend for seven years, since moving from Portland.

So I decided Bend is a beautiful place, and there’s not much Asian culture, activity here," Chen said recently. "And so me and my wife, Karen, we decided, 'Lets go try it.’

Born and raised in China, Chen trained under grand masters and world champions. He won several major international competitions before coming to America.

Master Chen's mission was more than starting his own school. He wanted to spread Chinese culture.

My passion is learning, and also try to let our culture, Chinese culture, spread out to the Western world. And in the meantime, I love to use the martial arts, too, because different cultures have different language. Martial arts is also a language, Tai Chi, Wushu is a language.

"So we brought students over there to China, and a very simple thing: You know, most people, they don't speak Chinese. And this is a perfect language to communicate."

That's why every two years, he takes 10 or 20 students from Oregon Tai Chi Wushu to China to train, where they communicate through actions, instead of words.

"It's amazing," student Dave Stuehling. "Both groups of people -- adults, kids, every culture kind of glows afterwards. Usually it’s followed with lots of celebration, tea and food.

Chen said, "Once they use the physical language, when they practice the form together, that brings the harmony together, brings the peace, brings the happiness and joy together."

Student Terry Obarr said, It’s important for me to go with Master Chen, because that’s where he grew up. And his insight into the country is going to be different than if went with some sort of tour company.

The students who go form friendships that continue even after they leave.

These cultural exchanges give people an experience that goes beyond martial arts training.

Oregon Tai Chi Wushu student Michele Ruschaupt said, "Just sharing, I think. Sharing community and culture, and understanding the differences and similarities that we all have."

Proving that regardless of the words we use, we're stronger together.

"Our goal is for peace," Chen said. "So a lot of time, people say, 'Well, what's the combat about?' And I say, 'Martial arts is peace.Your mind's peace, your body's peace, and this world's peace."

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