The sign in the Boston subway station for the Joy of Movement Center proudly displayed the name of every sort of dance that a seeking student might find. But the one name that caught my eye was one I had never heard of before: T'ai Chi. (Now written Taiji) This was 1979, and having just moved to the Boston area, who would have thought that my fateful encounter with a name on a sign would signal the beginning of a way of life that continues to change me to this day. Shortly after that day, I met a young Acupuncture intern who introduced me to his passion: the world of Kung Fu. Less than a year later, along with Arthur Makaris, an assistant instructor and my soon-to-be husband, I began my six times weekly kung fu training. Then that mysterious word popped up again: Taiji. We were introduced to this unusual martial art--unusual because of its flowing nature and the speed in which it is done--and I fell in love with it immediately. I was fascinated that it supposedly takes twenty years to "get it." Since I am devoted to the idea of longevity, this was right up my alley. "Cultivate the things that you can do for a lifetime," was my motto.
I was determined to "get it" in less than twenty years, since Taiji looked very simple, but I soon discovered that looks could be deceiving. Doing things in a fast way is impressive, and there is a certain beauty in that type of expression. However, when you do things slowly, you are forced to examine closely how your body is expressing itself within the movement, and it brings you back to your source of qi. The external form is simply the caboose on the train. After years and years of doing the form, I began to realize why it took so long to "get it." The explanation is similar to the effect of water on a stone. It is a gentle wearing down, or shaping, that occurs with a constant and continual motion. No force is used; nothing is imposed, merely introduced and assimilated at the rate of one's own evolution.
Meditation in motion is the best way to describe the effect of Taiji. Breathing is the most important function of the human body, as it can be done consciously or autonomically. When consciously slowed, and coupled with the mind, the valuable effects it has on the body are relaxation, improved concentration, improved balance and a decrease in high blood pressure. Sensitivity to yourself and your surroundings is another benefit of this or any martial art.
I have been teaching Taiji for 22 years, and my method of teaching evolves as I evolve. Yet the essence remains the same, and that is transmitted through breath, movement and dedication to a disciplined arena of thought.