Some personal memories of Tai Chi. For Wu’s Tai Chi Chuan Academy Bethnal Green 25th Anniversary, 2014

 

Some personal memories of Tai Chi

 Anthony Stadlen


Copyright © Anthony Stadlen 2014, 2020

[Note, 2020

[Wus Tai Chi Chuan Academy Bethnal Green 25th Anniversary (2014: 58)]

Tai Chi doesn’t make sense to me as a set of gestures of an isolated, encapsulated person. It is always in a place, in the world, with others, present or implied. At first I was preoccupied with my own body, discovering that I had hips, very stiff. But my recurring memories are of people, living beings, places. Early on in my lessons with Sifu Gary, I asked him why we ‘Carry Tiger to the Mountain’. ‘Do you want a taste of honey?” he asked. Instantly, impossibly, I was upside down over his back. Soon after that, I discovered how Tai Chi can be part of the bustle of life. Flustered, carrying a pile of unmarked essays, I stopped still in a college refectory – Sung! – and was restored, calm, even though students rushed past me as before. My first weekend at Grimstone, doing the Chuan on the lawn, as we reached Grasp Bird’s Tail for the fifth or sixth time, the Form seemed like a symphony, a great work of art, and the eighth Grasp Bird’s Tail, at the end, a final statement of one of its fundamental themes, but the trees and flowers and sky and waterfall were part of it. A red fox and rabbits were part of our Chi Kung under the trees at dawn at Grimstone, as are the owls calling as we do it in the dark before dawn at Gaunt’s. In the woods above Grimstone I watched for hours as badgers came out of their setts at dusk, and they seemed to accompany my Tai Chi for weeks afterwards back in London. This is not just the ‘setting’ of Tai Chi; it is Tai Chi, as when Sifu admonishes us: ‘Take that hovering kestrel as your master.’ And sometimes a solitary practice in a drab hotel room or concrete car park can be the occasion of a breakthrough. I love the different places, like the restaurant in Chinatown, with people watching from tables, where Mirilee, Shez and I did sabre, spear and sword forms together. And just now I am absorbed in 8-directions Sword Form, experiencing how to free myself from too fixed an orientation to a familiar space, whether the rectilinear indoors of our Academy, or the gentle tree-surrounded glade near my home. I am deeply grateful to Sifu Gary for his infinite patience and insight, and to Sikung Grandmaster Wu, the other great masters, and my Academy friends.

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