The following are some background stories about my life in Tai Chi.Â For blog entries, please see the Tai Chi section of this site.
Beginning in New York
Back in the summer of 2001 when I was living in Brooklyn, New York, I remember reading a local trade magazine and seeing an advertisement for a Tai Chi class being offered in my neighborhood of Park Slope. I had contacted the teacher, Sy Tepper, and found out that he did not teach classes in the summer as he was usually out of town for those months, but that he would contact me when he returned. For the next couple of months I had largely forgotten about the class.
In the fall, on Tuesday, September 11th, the World Trade Center was hit by two airplanes and were brought down to the ground… that day and the days after were very much crazy. I remember–I think it was Thursday–I had been in the apartment for almost two days straight without having left, when I had received a phone call from Sy, that he would be starting his classes that Saturday and wanted to let me know that if I was still interested I would be welcome to attend his class. It seemed to me at the time that if ever there was a time to try out something like Tai Chi, that that time would be as good as any.
I woke up early that Saturday morning and walked down 7th Ave. to the building where class was held. After calling up I was buzzed in and walked to the top floor. Sy was there finishing up a round of sword form and so I sat down. He greeted me after finishing, and we talked about the September 11th (as we all did for weeks afterwards), looking out to Manhattan and seeing the oddly shaped skyline. He discussed the class and his approach to teaching and invited me to stay to watch the class and to see if it was something I’d be interested in. As the time for class was approaching a few of his students arrived, and so I sat there watching and observing for the next hour, curious and intrigued. When the class ended, I talked with Sy and told him I was interested in taking the class, thus starting my studies of Tai Chi.
I quickly found myself connecting with the art of Tai Chi. I think that within the first two weeks it had become a part of my daily life, something which continues on to this day. I studied with Sy for about 9 months until the following summer when he left the city for his annual time away. In that time I had learned the Yang Style short form as taught by William C.C. Chen, Sy’s teacher, as well as started to learn a little push-hands. Also in that time, I became part of a school and community, something which I found and continue to find an incredible experience, that bonding and friendship.
By the time Autumn had arrived and Sy had returned, I had already chosen to move out to California at the end of that year and knew I would not be able to continue my studies with Sy. Asking him if he knew of anyone out in Berkeley who taught Tai Chi he would recommend, another student David mentioned Lenzie Williams, whom Sy told me he remembered and that he was a very excellent teacher. I was happy to be able to attend a few more classes that Autumn before leaving the country for a couple of months and moving from New York, and was happy to know that there was a teacher that Sy recommended where I would be going.
On December 28th, 2002, I had moved to California. After arriving here, I called up Lenzie to introduce myself and to find out about his classes. A new session was starting up within the week and Lisa and I had comitted ourselves to going. I was looking very forward to attending Tai Chi classes once again, and it would be Lisa’s beginnings in the art.
Taking classes at the school were really quite different than what I had experienced with Sy, whose classes were smaller (3-6 people generally) than what we entered into (15-30 people). The form was a little different too which I later realized that William Chen had introduced a couple postures back into the form that Professor had taken out, but the form was familiar.
Looking back now, it’s been a great process of discovery and growth from when we first started at the school, to meeting and getting to know fellow students slowly over time, to moving on to sharing experiences and becoming good friends, and to now feeling a part of the school. It’s an amazing group of people who come to study with Lenzie, not only in their sincerity in studying Tai Chi, but also their own unique and wonderfully rich lives. I can’t imagine having the opportunity to meet such a variety of people in any other aspect of my daily life and value the community that is a big part of this school.
At the time of this writing we’ve been studying with Lenzie for a little over 3 years, and it never ceases to amaze me how lucky we are to have him as a teacher. Through all the classes, workshops, and camps, the learning and experiences have been invaluable and cherished. He truly embodies the art and is completely generous with passing on what he has learned, and beyond that is just a genuinely sincere and wonderful human being.
Tai Chi continues to be one of the most important and vital experiences of my life, and as I continue to grow older I value the contributions it has given towards my own growth and look forward to continuing my studies and each day’s practice.
Which taiChi style is that?
The form I practice is a Yang short form that was created by Cheng Man-Ching. My teacher Lenzie is a senior student of Ben Lo, who was a senior student of Professor Cheng’s.
Just to complete this; I have been doing tai chi in the Li Family style for about 20 years; all under the direction of Master Swanson, a pupil of Chee Soo. Quitea few differences fron Yang style.
Nice to see we also share an interest in Tai Chi. I have been doing it for many years, not currently in a school or so, but I practice the form now and then.
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