The Westchester Tai Chi Meetup Group Message Board › Happy Year of the Snake!
The Tai Chi School of Westchester, est. 1978
The Tai Chi Times
Always evolving • Always interactive • Always individualized instruction
(914) 337-3339 • 101 Pondfield Road West, Bronxville, New York 10708
Follow @SifuColon on Twitter and join us at Meetup.com. • www.taichischool.com
(See Master Domingo Colon featured in Journal News Article with video clip at:
February 2, 2013 7 PM 35th Annual FREE Chinese New Year’s Party.
Get your Tai Chi appetite on!
To start off the Chinese New Year, join us to celebrate the Year of the Sssnake,
Saturday, February 2nd, expressing appreciation for our School, colleagues, teachers and students, our friends, neighbors and community. Food, drink, demonstrations and (sometimes humorous) awards, all free – just be present and bring an appetite.
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Thank you for the wonderful feedback we have received on the Ask Sifu Domingo Colon column. Here are answers to more of the inquiries regarding the mysteries of the universe … and also Tai Chi.
How do I determine which move or form is the “Left” or “Right” version – especially since the same moves are called by different directions in the Long and Short forms?
Great question. Much of the beauty of Tai Chi is in its mystery, but that is not necessary for learning the form or to achieve the benefits you receive from its practice, whether for health or martial purposes (or both). For example, in the weapons class on Saturdays, 8:45-9:30 a.m., we are studying the One-Person Stick Form from both “left” and “right” directions, with a joining transition in between so it flows as a continuous single form. (We will then proceed to the Two-Person Stick Form in the same manner, followed by the Broad Sword and Double-edged Sword Forms.) This system of learning has multiple additional benefits, not the least of which are creating additional interest in your practice, learning new – and perhaps unexpected – transitions, and learning about your body’s strengths and weaknesses.
Tai Chi as a martial art is also a hidden art, in the sense that the names and the moves are designed to be non-obvious, so perhaps the confusion is intended. As to which is “left” and which is “right,” the truth is that no one knows any longer as the historical documents were destroyed during China’s Cultural Revolution, and it was never completely clear to begin with. As a culture, the Chinese revere their ancestors; consequently, many disciplines are legitimized by their ancient status, much of which is mythological and designed for the sake of creating status and validity. However, in justifying the “reason” for the names, some schools of thought base it upon the first foot to move; others upon the general direction of the totality of the form. Indeed, some have based it upon the handedness of the master teaching the form. On a more recent note, I am unaware of any record of Cheng Man-Ching’s reasons for changing the names of the “directions” of some of the movements in the Short Form, particularly since he only did so with some of the bi-directional movements. Strange, right?
We don’t 100% know “right” and “left” any more than we “know who invented” Tai Chi. While we know Tai Chi evolved from the Chi Kungs exercises – and there are records showing that those exercises have been practiced for around 2,000 years, the Tai Chi form itself is only known in any form to have existed for several centuries (at most for “only” 800 years). Indeed, some of the forms we study at the School were only created in the 20th Century, including the Short Form, Stick Forms and the Two-Person Empty-Hand form. The Broadsword and Double-edged Sword Forms are much older forms, as is the Lance form (a 12- to 18-foot spear) … but if you’re walking around with a lance, or facing an opponent with one, you have either mastered time travel, you’re in a Medieval festival, or … well, we’d love to hear why you are facing someone with a lance.
One last related point: many of the moves of the older, “classical” open-hand forms have been “ported out” to the weapons forms. The reasons are long, but the point is this: you benefit in multiple ways from learning the weapons forms not just because of the weapons (no one walks around with a Broad Sword, except perhaps me!), but because of movements which are part of the Tai Chi discipline, and those moves tone your body and advance your mind in different and additional ways. Similarly for performing the various forms in both “left” and “right” directions.
So consider this: if the Yin/Yang symbolizes change, and the Dao is “the Way of Change Over Space Through Time,” and the Tai Chi is the moving meditation expression of the Dao, then mustn’t the Tai Chi change – or, more correctly, evolve – in order to express its nature? Change usually is not dramatic and need not negate the previous versions; Change merely unfolds its endless possibilities … just as secrets of the universe.
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Etiquette, part deux:
The School is a temple where the Tai Chi movements are the expression of the path to spirituality, in whatever way you define that path for yourself; however, the School is not a gym.
While the clothes are an externality, they are part of the environment in the same way that subtle incense, gentle music and a single bamboo shoot are present in the School space. Even the anatomical charts have a purpose, for we are to be present in and aware of our bodies. (Tai Chi teaches us to be present and aware outside of the School, too, but the School is one source and locus of learning for us.) Our body houses, as far as we experience on a daily level, our psyche, our soul, and is the mechanism through which we express our heart’s desires, to share with the world our intentions made manifest. In building our bodies through the use of our souls while we follow our heart (Tai Chi really is a top-down process … it just looks the other way around when we start), we spiral back around building the chi energies at all levels of our being, within and without the School.
It is important that our community observe the School’s dress code. Compared with the costs of uniforms in other schools (even yoga) and martial styles, our requirements are very modest. We use this to achieve greater uniformity of mind and purpose, to avoid distractions, and invite respect for the time we devote to our learning.
The Buddhists call the broader concept of this “the sangha” (“sang” rhymes with “gong”), loosely meaning “community;” but, it is much more than that: it is the shared commonality of energies which increases the value of the practice because each person’s energy builds upon that of others in the community and circles back around again and again, constantly building and benefitting all in the sangha. Indeed, it is a still form of chi meditation and accumulation.
Though it may not be obvious, the same process is achieved in wearing the School’s required dress code. We don’t press hard on it because people may be coming to class from work or school, but it is a requirement of the School that we each make the effort, and it is important and a benefit to each member of the School’s community when everyone supports the growth of each other’s chi – and that strengthening and development of chi is much of why we learn and practice Tai Chi.
As the School is growing, and our Tai Chi community – our sangha – has gotten stronger, it is time for us to move together to the next level of our energies. Please take the time to speak with Sifu and obtain the proper attire for practice.