INSPIRATIONAL STORIES

Inspirational Tai Chi Stories

 

Get inspired and motivated by the stories of people from the Tai Chi Daily community who’ve used Tai Chi to transform their lives positively.

 


"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." - Lao Tzu

 

What inspired you to begin your Tai Chi journey?

I am interested in your inspiring Tai Chi story to share below. For consideration, let me know how and why you began practicing Tai Chi and how Tai Chi has improved your life.

*Submission of your story does not guarantee publication.

Submit your story today.

 


 

Joe Cavaliere, New York, USA

My interest in health and fitness began very early in my life. My father was a Chiropractor in the 1960s and very knowledgeable of healthy foods and good nutrition before it was popular. My father introduced me to lifting weights at age 13 and taught me Boxing from the moment I could stand. He enrolled me in Jiu-Jitsu from age 13 through 17. My mother was an avid reader, I don't think there was a day I didn't see her without a book in her hands. She too was a proponent of health and nutrition and was constantly reading books and articles on the subject.

Unfortunately, both my parents have since passed away. My father was accidentally killed in a tragic car accident when I was 17 years old and my mother passed away from cancer in 1998.

Luckily for me, my mother and father instilled in me the importance of health and nutrition. They have given me a gift that I will treasure all my life, an interest, and a passion for better health. A quote my Dad always told me when I was young was "Better. Because you want to be."

My Tai Chi journey began on Long Island NY in 1992 when I attended an adult education class with a friend. The Tai Chi course was eight weeks long and was taught at the Suffolk Institute for Eastern Studies which was primarily an Aikido dojo. My Tai Chi teacher was Howard Pashenz Sensei a 6th-degree Aikido Black Belt. Sensei Howard taught the Cheng Man Ching 60 movement short form from a meditative perspective. From the first day of Tai Chi class I was completely hooked and passionate about learning Tai Chi. From that day forward my Tai Chi journey began.

I used to arrive early to my Tai Chi class and was able to watch the ending of an Aikido class. I was amazed at how effortlessly the students rolled around the dojo.

When I was a boy my father had been shown some Aikido during his early training in preparation to be a United States Customs officer. My father gave me the book that was given to him during his self defense training class, What is Aikido by Koichi Tohei was the title. I still have the book in my martial arts library. In my early teens I would often read the book and look at the photos, who would have known that so many years later I would have the opportunity to study Aikido.

Sensei Howard and I would go through the Tai Chi form and afterward, he would ask if I would like to learn some Aikido techniques. His Tai Chi knowledge was limited so we would focus more on Aikido. I would ask him so many Tai Chi questions each week in class that Sensei Howard suggested I continue my Tai Chi journey with Bob Klein. Bob was considered to be very knowledgeable in Tai Chi. Bob's school was located in Sound Beach, NY on Long Island. His school was the Long Island School of Tai Chi Chuan. The drive to Sound Beach seemed far for me it was about a 30-minute drive, I was living in St. James Long Island NY at the time.

While working briefly at Gold’s Gym in Port Jefferson Long Island NY I would pass a Choi Li Fut Kung Fu school called The School of Ten Thousand DragonsThe School of Ten Thousand Dragons advertised Tai Chi in the window. One day I stopped in and spoke with the Sifu Chang and decided this was the place I wanted to continue my Tai Chi journey. The Tai Chi form I was learning was the Yang 24 Tai Chi form. I was taught one movement a week and would be shown the next movement only when Sifu Chang thought I was ready, the process to learn and memorize the sequence of the Wushu Yang 24 Tai Chi form took me about a year.

In 1997 Sifu Chang asked some of his students to enter the United States Kou Shu Championship held in Baltimore, Maryland. There you would be judged doing the Yang Tai Chi 24 form and had 3 minutes and 45 seconds to complete the form. I was a little hesitant since I was practicing this Tai Chi 24 form for only a year and a half. People came from all over the US to compete in many different styles of Kung Fu. I competed in the beginner level Yang style tai Chi 24 form and came in fourth place out of 12 competitors. I was happy with my accomplishment. I studied with Sifu Chang for a few more months after the competition and decided to leave his school.

My journey continued when I made a decision to take the ride further out east to Sound Beach and learn Tai Chi from Bob Klein of the Long Island School of Tai Chi Chuan.

Bob was certified to teach Tai Chi Chuan by Grandmaster William C.C. Chen. William C.C. Chen was a favorite disciple of Cheng Man Ching.

At the Long Island School of Tai Chi Chuan Bob Klein taught many different Kung Fu forms. Bob taught me William C.C. Chen's sequence of Cheng Man Ching’s 60 movements short form. After studying with Bob for three years Bob decided to change his Tai Chi class schedule.  I was unable to attend the newly scheduled Tai Chi class. This change led me back to Sensei Howard to learn Aikido. My idea was to continue practicing the Tai Chi I had learned on my own and learn Aikido for self-defense from Sensei Howard. Aikido is an amazing art and my passion for it was equal to Tai Chi. I spent twelve years learning and practicing Aikido almost six days a week. I had three small children so I attended the daily 6 AM morning classes. This way I could attend classes before my sons woke in the morning. This worked out well because the 6 AM classes were reserved for the most serious Aikido students. 

In 1997 I started commuting and working for Quad Graphics as a Photo Retoucher in Manhattan NY. My 12 hour shift was from 7 am to 7 pm. The hours were long and soon I was asked to work the night shift from 7 pm to 7 am. The night shift was difficult to get used to. Around this time my good friend Mike delivered a daily newspaper called Newsday to convenience stores in Manhattan. Mike would often tell me on his drive through Chinatown early mornings he would see people practicing Tai Chi and Qigong in the park.

After hearing this I would often drive past Columbus park to see for myself. One morning I parked my car, I got up enough nerve and approached a group of people practicing Tai Chi in the park. I asked for the teacher and was introduced to Lin Sai Ying, she was teaching Tai Chi to a group every morning in Columbus Park, Chinatown. I asked Lin Sai Ying if she would teach me. She said yes but I had to show her my Yang style Tai Chi 24 form.

The group of about 20 students all cleared out of the way. They sat down on a bench to watch me do my Yang Tai Chi 24 form. As I began they played some relaxing Tai Chi music on their CD player. I was very nervous but completed the Tai Chi 24 form in front of everyone. Lin Sai Ying approached me and said she would teach me the Yang Tai Chi 24 form but "I had a lot to learn". My Tai Chi journey continued.

Every morning after the night shift before my hour commute home I would stop by Columbus park to learn and practice the Yang Tai Chi 24 form. It was an experience I would never forget. After six months I was transferred back to the day shift and did not continue my early morning Tai Chi classes in Chinatown.

I then found out Bob Klein was adding more Tai Chi classes to his schedule and began studying with Bob. I continued to do so until 2014. I spent fourteen years with Bob as my Sifu mainly focusing on the William C.C. Chen sequence of Cheng Man Ching's short form, Push Hands and later the 56 movement competition Chen style Tai Chi.

One day I was searching Chen Tai Chi Chuan on YouTube and came across a video of Sifu Yu Gou Shun performing a Chen style Tai Chi form. The Chen Tai Chi form in the video was beautiful. After doing research, I found out Sifu Yu Gou Shun was teaching in New York City. In late 2019, I began learning the Chen Style Tai Chi 22 form composed by Yu Gou Shun in Chinatown, NYC. The Tai Chi class would meet at Public School 130 at 143 Baxter St on Sunday mornings in Chinatown, NY. Due to the spread of Covid 19, the school wouldn't allow classes on the premises. Initially, the Chen Tai Chi class met outside. As the Covid virus continued to be contagious, I decided to take a break from Sunday morning outdoor classes. Having spent a short time learning the 22 Chen form from Sifu Yu Gou Shun, my form needs corrections. I continue to practice the 22 form on my own every day.

I teach and practice Yang Tai Chi. I also promote Tai Chi, Qigong, meditation daily on Facebook and Instagram. I hope to motivate and inspire others to want to learn, and practice Tai Chi daily.

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Francisco Martinez

How I began my Tai Chi journey? It really began when I went to NY to participate at a Tai Chi workshop run by Dr. Paul Lam. It was health oriented but it gave me the opportunity to practice some of the 24 forms. I was a beginner in contrast to the other people at the workshop.

I practice on my own but it is hard without a teacher. This led me to a book by Chungliang Al Huang: Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain: The Essence of Tai Ji. Beautifully written. Very poetic and free flowing. Huang criticized Tai Ji in my mind. The pros and imagery that he conveys while he practices and teaches his Tai Ji is very engrossing and brings to life the form as I follow his direction with a stable base.

I would like to learn more and have a teacher for guidance. Especially the push hands exercise. One can not reach proficiency in Tai Ji without mastering push hands.

I am still on the journey. I still practice and it gives me a clear insight to this great movement.

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Michele Schmidt - Wyoming, USA

I started studying Northern Wu Style Taijiquan May 2012 after observing a demonstration of our short form at an External Martial Arts seminar. I studied with my shifu for 9 1/2 years before he retired. The Mindfulness and the skill of connecting my mind to my body led me to finding my emotional center. I feel at peace when performing our empty hand forms. Up until recent years I struggled immensely with PTSD, depression and anxiety, the Internal Martial Arts have become a part of my every day life and my “medication”. The combination of Taijiquan studies and Qigong practices have allowed me to live a more peaceful and centered life.

Some days I practice for hours and others I perform Qigong exercises while my tea or coffee brew. We have a Calming and Relaxing Qigong set I practice most nights which enables my busy mind to relax.

These benefits we all mention only come from great dedication and perseverance. This is why it is most important to practice Taiji Daily! 

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Stephen Salkof - Pennsylvania, USA

My Taiji journey began in 1982 at a park near my old neighborhood in Philadelphia, PA. Before I share with you my story on Taiji, I must add that my Martial Arts journey actually began while serving at Phu Bai, Vietnam in 1968/69. I started practicing Tae Kwon Do (TKD) with the Korean (ROK) and Vietnamese (ARVN) military on base. A one Captain Lee (ROK) and a Vietnamese office (I have long since forgotten his name unfortunately) were the head instructors. The class students were composed of all Vietnamese. I didn't speak a lick of Vietnamese, but that didn't stop the learning process. In fact, I was the only non-Asian student there. They had a hard time finding me a uniform to wear as I was a tall, skinny dude and most were short statured. I remember the bottom of my dobak uniform only came down a few inches below my knees. Short shorts! LOL !!

Training at Phu Bai was tough going, i.e., concrete bare floors, no sparring gear, throws right to the solid ground, punching/kicking bags made out of old duffle bags filled with rock hard sand packed tight. I loved every minute of it!

Long story short, upon arriving "back to the world" in 1969, I continued my TKD along with Aikido and Tang Soo Do (TSD), and some Escrima thrown in there as well.

Now, here is where Taiji enters my study, and one which I am grateful for that it came about. It was during one tough Tang Soo Do class that I broke my right wrist for the second time. The first being in Vietnam (another story). I was in an arm cast and walking my dog (I really miss that doggie) in the park when I came across some people there playing Taiji. I've only read about this Art, but never practiced it. After watching for a time, the class ended, and the instructor walked over to me inquiring about my arm and me watching them. A very friendly gentleman with a calm voice explained to me what they were practicing and asked me if I would like to join them next class. I jumped at the chance and met them the next day. It wasn't long after when I became hooked on the study.

Jump ahead a little, after the cast came off I went back to Tang Soo Do. I continued my Taiji with Chiang as well. Back and forth between the styles went on for about a year or so. Each time I practiced with Chiang I was drawn in closer with his mannerisms and teaching expertise. Something about this Taiji - didn't realize it at the time, but my whole being was transformed into what....I didn't understand. Something...something....couldn't put my finger on it just yet.......UNTIL......

Back to Tang Soo Do - practicing kicks, punches, forms, etc.....putting the Taiji principles to my Tang Soo Do practice, breathing, center, release all external tension, etc. Breathing.....ok, practicing jump flying side kicks over several lined up chairs at the Dojang - end result was to kick the hanging target bag suspended from the ceiling there. Applying the Taiji principles, starting several feet from the five lined up chairs....run....jump over chairs to kick the bag.....****BAM*** - my kick caused that heavy bag to fly up and broke the ceiling times pieces! I've never accomplished a feat like that before. The whole class just gasped in amazement. I was shocked, but pleasantly surprised. BINGO....end of TSD - full time study of Taiji. I soon became an indoor student of Chiang with many one-on-one studies at his home. Many an evening spent there, drinking tea and helping him translate countless documents from Chinese to English so that other students could benefit, too. I've kept many of the original Chiang documents here at home. I cherish them very much and so thankful for his teachings.

The rest is Taiji history - To this day I still practice and teach my Hsiung style Taiji (Chiang studied with Hsiung Yang-ho in Taiwan back in the early 70's and brought his style here several years later). Hsiung style is often referred to as Old Yang Style and it comprised of 111 steps, broken down in 3 sections. Along with Taiji, I also teach various forms of QiGong, based on Chiang's teachings, Ba Duan Jin, etc.

I teach a weekly class that is free to join, especially to Veterans of all branches of service. It's my way of giving back for the many sacrifices our Vets have done for us. Outdoor classes will continue during the Spring and Summer months.

 

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