Tai Chi Elegance

by Steve Doob on 2022/03/09

There’s always a highpoint for me in each of Master
Chen’s Zoom classes.  On Feb. 24th
that moment was when he said that our tai chi should be “elegant.”  The class started at 6:30 in the morning,
about two hours earlier than I usually get up. 
I was not feeling elegant.

Shortly afterward, I took a video of my yilu.  It was embarrassing, definitely “inelegant.”  So, now I’m figuring out what elements made it
look that way.  The most obvious thing
was that I was always looking down to check on my movements. When I look down I
lean forward, which makes me wobble and toss. 
 I have to get good enough that I
can trust my body to do its job without my checking on it all the time.  I think learning tai chi is much like
learning how to drive—when you first start you look down at the steering wheel
and the pedals.  You quickly learn how to
operate them and then lift your gaze to look out the windshield to see where
you want to go and how to get there.  You
don’t have to look down at your hands on the wheel and your feet on the pedals
anymore. You trust your body to do what you’ve trained it to do.

Another problem was focus.  I have to be doing tai chi, not thinking
about lunch or the rest of my day, not watching myself in the mirror or listening
to music.  This is not the time to be
multitasking and yet that is what my mind insists on doing.  Somehow I have to be alert and not distracted
by anything.  Focusing on the imaginary
opponent in front of me helps.

I figure I’m not really ready for elegance.  I’m still at the stage where I have to focus
on each individual movement to make sure all the tai chi principles are in
them.  Perhaps someday I’ll be able to
stand tall and look ahead without having to chaperone my body, but I’m not
there yet.

About Steve Doob

Studied Kenpo Karate with Ralph Castro in San Francisco from 1963 to 1967. Studied Yang Style with Choy, Kam-Man in San Francisco in 1968. Moved to southern Oregon in 1973. Taught Yang Style and self defense at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass, OR from 1978 to 1995. Brought George Xu (Xu, Guo-Min) to Grants Pass for weekend workshops from 1987 to 2005. Been to Shanghai with my wife four times where we studied martial arts with various people. Moved to Durango, CO in 2005 and lived in a large house shaped like a pyramid. In 2021 we moved to a lovely house surrounded by rhododendrons and old growth trees in Port Ludlow, WA. My wife practices "energy" tai chi and I've narrowed my efforts to Practical Method. First saw Chen, Zhonghua in online videos and am trying to learn his style, because I think its structural emphasis is correct.

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