Taiji: A New Foundation
by Alan Sims
During one of my many trips to the Tai Chi Farm, I ran into an unusual if not amusing situation in terms of my attitude towards master Jou’s repeated displays of returning to Wu Chi. There have been many occasions where master Jou would discover a new breakthrough, and this seemed to be the culmination of another one.
For some reason or other, around this time, the Chen form practice had been restricted to the first 15 postures only. There seemed to be a dissatisfaction with whatever progress was made, and a new foundation it seems was being put into place.
I just happened to walk into a group of people doing something, and Mr. Jou was among them. Rather than just walk away, I stayed and tried to do what they were doing and I was not enjoying it. The exercise they were practicing went as follows:
Standing straight up basically with the weight on one ([left leg, we’ll say) with the foot of that leg facing diagonally outward around 2:30 position;
The hands are outstretched to the sides all the way left to the left side and all the way right to the right side at shoulder level;
Palms of both hands facing directly foward with the fingers outstretched and together with the thumbs facing the sky;
The opposite leg (we’ll say the right) is also extended with the heel off the ground and the foot facing approximately 2:30 position also;
The eyes and head face 12:00 with the abdomen relaxed between contraction and expansion;
Upon contracting the abdomen, the palms turn upwards as the body turns towards the right, looking at the right palm (now facing the sky) which rotates but is otherwise stationary while the left palm also turns up also being otherwise the same;
While the heel of the right foot moves towards the front and leftwards rotating on the right toes which are otherwise fixed in position.
At this point, the abdomen is fully contracted, aided also by the small of the back, with the left leg feeling the twisting and sinking of additional weight.
Upon exhaling (actually, with the abdomen, no mouth breathing) and relaxing the abdomen while the hands, right leg, head, and torso, return to the original position facing forward, continue to expand the abdomen now slowly turning the palms down facing the ground torso to the left looking at the left downward facing palm.
With both hands and arms never lifting or lowering, and the abdomen fully expanded with the right heel turning to the rear and then to the right rear with the right toe basically maintaining a fixed position, reverse the previous movement to return to the original position.
At the time, I thought that this exercise was pure nonsense. After all, I had trained with my Tai Chi instructor Larry Banks (whom I considered to be a martial arts genius) since the seventies, along with Mr. Jou in Piscataway New Jersey.
(Larry and I practiced short form (Yang), push hands, some Ta Lu, sword form, some fencing, and a considerable amount of free sparing. Larry didn’t go to Mr. Jou (as we addressed him in Piscataway) to learn Tai Chi, Mr. Jou walked up to Larry with a challenge. And we had both studied martial arts before even thinking about Tai Chi. So why was I stuck here at the Tai Chi Farm with all of these beginners who didn’t spar, push hands, know self-defense, the list goes on.)
To make matters worse, master Jou (as we addressed him at the farm) told me that I wasn’t doing the exercise quite right. Now I had to become an actor and pretend that I was really trying. By the way, who Was doing it right?
There are quite a few more of these exercises that are meant to be implemented into the Chen form (which was an on-going process), some more complicated than the one in this article and some less complicated.
I would like to mention some of the students from Piscataway that I personally knew and/or trained with (some go back almost 40 years): Richard Greene, Marsha Rosa (the original organizer of the Chang San Feng Festival), Zollo, Suzzane De Rosa, Sidney Austin (who passed away quite a while ago and who was a student of Alan Lee), Linda Stehlik, Roy (whose last name I don’t remember but who played San-Shao with me in front of his house), Abdul Musawwir, Tom (whose last name I also don’t remember but whose push hands was very good and who was into the real estate business), Mindy Sheps, Angela Soucy (who was an assistant to Sidney Austin at his school in Elizabeth New Jersey), and of course Larry Banks.
[Alan Sims lives in New York City, and has been trained under a number of masters, including James Eaton Jr. Goju Karate; Lee Moy Shan- Ving Tsun Kung-Fu; Larry Banks-Tai Chi Chuan. He is a self-taught piannist and composer, and published articles on Tai Chi Chuan and the I Ching. He taught Tai Chi in YMCA Flushing Queens and Greenpoint Brooklyn; Alley Pond Environmental Center, Once Upon A Time Dance Studio; Forest Hills Adult Center. He helped translating some important books in Tai Chi. You may reach him him at firstname.lastname@example.org. ]