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Working Wonders with Tai Chi for Special Olympics Athletes

by Dr. Lewis Tisher, winner of the Honorable Mention in the Teacher Group of ATCQA 2012 Writing Contest  

One of the most interesting aspects of "wonders" is that they do not stand alone. One can experience wonders, but they must come from some place and they must arrive at some place. There is a sending and a receiving. So it is with Tai Chi Chuan, the sending and receiving are the yin and yang of wonders.

When I first began studying Tai Chi, I was the receptor for the information from my teacher, the sender. The program was offered at no charge for students. An alternative medicine center paid the instructor. I had the privilege of attending for two yeas. Then there was an interruption.

The center that had sponsored the sessions moved. My teacher, a college student and a serviceman, was transferred, and he too moved. The classes abruptly stopped and the class members disappeared.

I had, by that time, become moderately proficient with my Tai Chi skills. This was through practice and reading and study. I resolved to continue to study and practice and to offer classes, at no charge, for those who loved Tai Chi as I did and wanted to continue. The response was rewarding with some former class members and some new class members.

The "wonder working" continued because the students worked. They continued to learn. I like to think of it an "American Tai Chi," not because we invented it, or discovered it, but because we modified an approach to Tai Chi.

The best way I can explain it is to quote one of the students. When new students came into the class they remarked about her particularly because her form is so graceful and light and appeared to be different from a "standard" and from the others. She responded saying, "My teacher knows I have excess nervous energy and I use that energy to express myself with Tai Chi."

At times they all appear to be different; but they are not.

If I slow down and if I ask them to follow, they will all do the form together. At other times, when we are repeating the form several times, they use their own interpretations. One of the wonders is that they are doing the basic movements and receiving the basic physical benefits. They receive additional benefits from the comfort of using their own interpretations.

Perhaps two years ago I introduced a Yang style, 8 form exercise, to the group. One of my reasons was to present an alternative short form they could use as an exercise when they wanted to practice but thought they didn't have the time. It was easy to learn, and to use. That accomplishment, however small, made me wonder if we could do other forms.

While the Yang style 37 form is one of the most popular forms in the world, there is another one that is very popular. That would be the Yang style, Beijing, 24 forms. It was "developed" in 1956 and has the most practitioners. Several of them have traveled to places in the world and the United States where group Tai Chi practice is regularly performed outside.

I thought it might be too much for a group to learn an additional style. Learning it would bring their total styles to three and their total forms to sixty-nine. We all knew it would be difficult, but not impossible. We decided to try.

We do practice when we do our "regular" form three times in a row. In total that is a lot of moves.

At the beginning of the year 2012, in a practice session, I asked them to follow as we put the three forms we knew together in one stretch, non-stop, one time through. I paused when we had finished and said, "Do you know what you have just done. You've put together more styles and more forms than you have ever done, in one exercise. You're wonderful. You could well be proud of your accomplishment. It is a wonder, and it is wonderful"

They had worked wonders for me and for themselves. I know that the wonders will not stop; they know that also and want it to happen. Our plans are to learn the Yang style Beijing 48 postures form as we continue to study the wonders of Tai Chi Chuan.  .




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