Friday, February 11, 2011

Tai Chi Journey Section 3

Year 3, 4 and 5

I studied about a dozen or so forms from him. We became friends and used to travel to Baltimore to compete me in karate and he in kung fu divisions. I introduced him to my passion with the Destroyer series of men’s books.

Eventually he was required to move to Pittsburgh to run a program out there he had started. For the next several years I’d see him when he retuned to the area or when I traveled out to Pittsburgh to train. Occasionally we’d do the Yang form together. I vividly remember hoping he’d not call me do perform the sword, and as fate had it I didn’t have too.

One year in the spring I was attending a George Dillman tournament to compete. I decided to practice the Yang form to warm up after the drive there. Doing so alone in my section of the fieldhouse floor a senior Isshinryu instructor, Karl Hovey, came up to me. “Hey you’re Isshinryu, how can you be doing Tai Chi?”
I had met Karl as a beginner at Mr. Lewis’ dojo in Salisbury in 76 but he didn’t know me. I replied “Why not?” and then explained who I was and how I came to study tai chi.

With Laoshi no longer in the area, I still continued to visit the Scranton School during the week to practice and traveled to the Wilkes-Barre school each Saturday to work out too. I’m not sure how it came about but eventually I had a group of students I stated training in Tai Chi in Scranton each Tuesday evening.

I never taught tai chi to my karate students in Scranton. It, and the Chinese forms, remained a personal study for me.

Another friend Sutrisno Tristan Sensei started a Bushi No Te summer camp in the Poconos each August in 1983. Laoshi and I attended, participated and brought some of our students to the event too. I got into the habit of teaching a wide awake 6am tai chi class each Saturday and Sunday morning for the next 10 years. Just a small piece of the form too allow everyone to learn a little of the basis of the study. I was especially good at bellowing everyone awake from their tents in the morning with a call for Tai Chi.

Tai Chi became a very personal practice. I’d do it in the morning on the sidewalk. I’d do it in various schools to warm up. I’d do it on vacation in campgrounds, at summer camp and anywhere I could find the space. If I was away at a conference at 5am I’d go out on the parking lot to practice.

When I studied with Laoshi I didn’t study names for the techniques, I just studied the techniques which occasionally he’d name but that was it. I came to see our version of the Yang system not as movements strung together but as a flow you enter and a flow you leave, but in the act you were just part of the flow of tai chi.

Except for the push hands drills I didn’t study tai chi applications (nor did I do so in my kung fu forms study) Laoshi was asking me many probing questions making me think about how karate could be used, but always to lead my mind. He could have shown me thousands of answer at any time but didn’t.

I doubt I was ever close to being skilled in tai chi, but it has been an incredible asset to my own studies. I worked to become good enough for me, as I understood it.

Then it was time to move on. I moved to New Hampshire for work and left my friends to train with in the Chinese Arts behind.

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