One of the important points that Dan Lee makes in the cover interview in this issue of T’AI CHI Magazine is that Tai Chi Chuan has a transforming power.
Many people sense this right from the beginning and it never leaves them throughout their practice. Many people have the intuition about Tai Chi even before they start classes that this practice has some special significance for them.
Sometimes the transformation is not pretty and the resistances people have can be pretty ugly. Sometimes those resistances are like huge boulders in a swiftly flowing stream. They are dangerous to navigate for the individual and anyone who comes by. But, as Dan Lee says, it is a gradual process.
In the last issue, J. Justin Meehan had an important article about pumping the kua. In this issue, he has another very significant article about opening and closing the thoracic hinge. The title isn’t very sexy, but read it anyway.
This concept is important for any style. The idea of opening and closing, so essential in Tai Chi, appears on the one hand easy to grasp, but on the other hand can be puzzling if you do not know what opens and closes and when.
Feng Zhiqiang, one of China’s leading Chen stylists has written an article about a set of qigong exercises good for health and for developing the internal energy for self-defense. Feng is noted for his push hands skill. Some say he is one of the best if not the best in China. It is reported that when visiting martial artists from other countries came to Beijing, officials would take them to Feng, who would dispatch any martial arts moves they made.
The history of the Yang style continues to be written by various authors and the translation by Ted Knecht of the history by Fu Zhongwen and Dr. Mei Ying Sheng presents an authoritative account that will be interesting to Yang stylists and stylists practicing styles derived from it.
Traditional Chinese Medicine involves many principles related to Tai Chi. Martin Eisen, a martial artist and student of traditional Chinese Medicine, makes the subject easy to understand.
Two organizations trying to keep open the communication between different Tai Chi Chuan styles and teachers had successful meetings. Jou Tsung Hwa’s Tai Chi Farm had one of its largest and successful meetings with a variety of teachers and students sharing information and goodwill.
Pat Rice’s A Taste of China (ATOC) had a new and successful format with a push hands only tournament and seminars on the dynamics of push hands.
The ATOC meetings presented several new approaches. There was a category for push hands beginners. There was a supervised “free play” session at which all participants could work with multiple partners in a cooperative environment. And there were changes in rules that emphasized neutralization instead of pushing.
The rules changes awarded points to a competitor whose opponent loses balance, fails to neutralize or endangers himself.
Competitors were allowed to take a “step or steps forward or backward,” but could not step to the side or reverse their foot stance to defend or push.
The rules, which were implemented by Jeff Bolt at a prior tournament, put the referee in charge of the match, but the judges were called on to confirm points. The judges could also call attention to violations.
The effect of the new rules was to award points as they occurred rather than at the end of a match. It also required judges to be alert to all potential violations as they occurred.
The judges did slow the matches slightly, but it did make the matches more interesting and competitive. The rules also enabled the competitors to learn from their mistakes as they were made.
This is undoubtedly not the last revision of judging, but it seemed to be a definite improvement.