Featured Article

The Speed You Need

 

by Christopher Dow

 

Ask the average person what most characterizes Tai Chi Chuan, and they will undoubtedly say: “Slowness.” If you spot someone or a group of people in a park, on the beach, or anywhere else and slowly waving their arms in arcane patterns and taking measured, deliberate steps, you can pretty much bet they’re doing Tai Chi. (We’ll leave out the tragic and all-too-large population of homeless schizophrenics, who also make arcane gestures in parks and elsewhere, following impulses only they can feel.)

 

The fact that you move slowly during Tai Chi practice has engendered misconceptions—and jokes made on those misconceptions. Indeed, a lot of people, deceived by the slowness, think of Tai Chi strictly as a meditational exercise form and don’t realize that it is a very effective martial art. The main misconception regarding its use as a martial art is highlighted by something told to me by one of my students, Dave Walker. (Student is really a misnomer since now he’s at least as good at Tai Chi as I am.)

 

As a young man many years ago, Dave joined Yang’s Shaolin Kung Fu Academy in Houston, which was then probably the single-best kung fu school in the area. This isn’t to say that there weren’t other excellent and knowledgeable teachers and schools around there, or even the first. But Yang’s Shaolin Kung Fu Academy’s director, Jeff Bolt, was a high-level student of Yang Jwing-ming, who, for those unfamiliar with him, was named by Inside Kung Fu Magazine as one of the ten most-important kung fu figures of the past century.

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