Everyone is welcome to join me and the folks from the tai chi groups I teach for free practice sessions this summer.
We’re planning to meet Monday-Wednesday-Friday 8:30–9:30 AM in Morrissey Park. (If we meet later it gets too hot before we’re done.)
These group practices sessions have no teacher or leader, so they’re free.
These sessions tend to be much like our usual classes:
A few minutes of opening exercises
Half an hour of moving Qigong
Ten minutes of standing meditation
A short tai chi form
The 48-movement form
This means that most of the hour is accessible to anybody, even complete beginners.
We’re starting Wednesday, June 1st. I’ve promised to show up for the first couple of sessions to help students from my beginner class get started on the longer form. (After that I’ll miss several sessions in a row because I’ll have family visiting, but there are lots of other friendly people there, many of whom know tai chi as well I do.)
I’ve been practicing taiji for more than 4 years now. Jackie and I started with a 16-week class at OLLI, after which we continued studying with the same teacher, Mike Reed, at the Savoy Recreation center.
The OLLI class taught an 8-movement form, the same form I taught my students when I taught a taiji class for the Champaign Park District this summer. We continued to do that form in the Savoy Rec classes, but also started learning a form that consisted of the first 12 of the Chen 48-movement form. Fairly early on, Mike proceeded to teach us the second 12 movements, so that we had a 24-movement form.
We stuck with that 24-movement form for a long time—I think we went most of a year without adding any new movements.
Jackie and I and a couple of other students bugged Mike about adding more movements, but he resisted. I think I now understand the reasons. The first 24 movements are pretty easy to do. That is, learning the whole sequence takes a while, and doing them exactly right may be difficult, but no individual piece of any of the movements is physically very challenging. Starting early in the second half of the 48, there are a number of movements that are considerably more challenging: Hops, jumps, kicks, and pivots—sometimes in combinations—that Mike hesitated to try to teach to a class where I’m the youngest guy there.
Eventually, after maybe a year, we wore him down. A year and a half ago, we got through the third 12 movements (somewhat modified, to reduce the aggressiveness of some of the jump-kicks and hopping pivots). This fall, we’ve learned the final 12 movements, doing the last two last week.
Today, for the first time, we did the whole 48-movement form from beginning to end.
I still have a lot to learn, even about the first movements—and, of course, I barely know the last few. But that’s okay. One of the first things I learned in taiji—that I should have learned from my previous studies of martial arts, but somehow didn’t—is that taiji isn’t something that you learn: it’s something that you do.
Now I can do a bit more. That’s all. And yet, it’s kind of a big deal to me.