MY TAI CHI JOURNEY
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.™"
HOW I BEGAN PRACTICING TAI CHI
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 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 point of view. From the first day of class, I was completely hooked and passionate about Tai Chi.
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 training 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 too 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 Dragons. The 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 learn Tai Chi. 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.
I then 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.
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 practice the Tai Chi I had learned on my own and learn Aikido for self-defense. Aikido is an amazing art and my passion for it was equal to Tai Chi. I spent twelve years almost daily learning and practicing Aikido.
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".
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.
I now teach and practice Tai Chi daily. I also promote Tai Chi, Qigong, meditation daily on Facebook and Instagram.
Tai Chi Chuan has been a great addition to my life. It is my hope that I can motivate and inspire others to learn Tai Chi, Qigong and Meditation. I use my social media presence to influence, motivate and inspire others to live a positive healthy life.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my Tai Chi journey. I hope to hear that you have begun your journey to better health.
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YANG TAI CHI LINEAGE:
Chen Changxing 1771-1853
Yang Luchan 1799-1872
Yang Banhou 1837-1890
Yang Jianhou 1839-1917
Yang Shaohou 1862-1930
Yang Chengfu 1883-1936
Cheng Man Ching 1901-1975
William C.C. Chen 1935
Bob Klein 1949
Joe Cavaliere 1963