Tell Your Story

Tell Your Story

Postby JerryKarin » Sun Nov 07, 2004 6:18 pm

I thought it would be fun to hear how people got started in taiji and how their progress has gone, difficulties overcome, etc. To begin with myself, I first became aquainted with taiji when I was living in Oakland, CA in the early seventies. I was studying Chinese at Laney College in Oakland and got to know a lot of Chinese and westerners who were doing Chinese and Japanese martial arts. A few years later, living in Taiwan, I became friends with many students of Wang Yannian, including Ken Leonard, who now teaches in Hawaii. I had been wanting to do taiji ever since I first saw it performed in Oakland and Berkeley but somehow through the years I never quite got started. In the late eighties I was working as a programmer at AT&T in East Brunswick, NJ, hitting forty, and beginning to put on weight because of the desk job and lack of exercise. I decided I needed some sort of regular, sustainable exercise and thought back to my earlier experiences with taijiquan. I looked in the yellow pages and found a teacher named Andy Schirmacher who had a school near my home. He was also teaching it at a junior college so I started off there and later attended his school at night. Andy learned from Xu Fengyuan, a student of Zheng Manqing and others. Meeting Andy was very fortunate for me because he knew all kinds of gongfu, tantui, praying mantis and taiji and is quite a formidable martial artist. I got in shape with tantui and Xu's 64-move taijiquan. I took a weekend seminar from Xu on taiji applications which was quite eye-opening. After a few years I took one of Yang Zhenduo's seminars in Maryland and within a few months switched all my practice time to traditional Yang style. I have had my ups and downs with taiji, times when I practiced a lot and others hardly at all. I've come to the inescapable conclusion that my general health is significantly better when I am doing several reps a day.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 11-07-2004).]
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Postby mls_72 » Mon Nov 08, 2004 3:27 pm

very interesting post Jerry! I think alot of us startd with cheng Man ching's taiji form. I had heard about Tai chi from a Issinryu Karate guy as "tai chi is the best martial art in the world" he gave me a book but the book didnt do anything for me. I went to college and met a studnet of Robert smith who taught Tai chi in the park. from there I met several cheng Man ching people including one who promoted Yang zhen Dou's seminars in DC area hosted by Chris Pei.

I never really went because a college exchange student from Beijing introduced me to He Weiqi who was a disciple of Fu Zhong Wen so I learned the longform, straight sword and saber from her and her husband Xu jeng heng. After they moved to New york I spent time learning from another Yang teacher named Xianhao cheng in virginia who opened up a vast world of yang taiji from his master in Hangzhou. When he moved to Phialdelphia and Yang Family started opening centers and touring more, i wanted to study their knowledge and details. it only makes good sense.

ps- jerry i never got any info on the login for members only area. i like that spinning yin-yang !
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Postby JerryKarin » Mon Nov 08, 2004 6:05 pm

Matt, you should be able to access member's only. Give it a try.
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Postby Anderzander » Tue Nov 09, 2004 12:17 am


My training story in brief was that I guess I started with boxing. My grandad had been a successful profesional upto the war, and he trained me.

I struck up a friendship at about 14 with a school teacher who'd (iircc) spent time in Japan and had run a Karate school. I used to train in the lunch hour. I got a lot from him and never found another teacher like him.

At about 18 I started learning Wing Chun in a local club - training really got hold of me at this time. I was doing private lessons 4 nights a week or so, doing the lesson and putting a couple of hours in every morning.

Next was a chance in the local chinese takeaway - the owner spotted I was reading a Taiji book. It turned out he practised Kung Fu - so he taught me a few things and made me special soups Image

Then I started Taiji, learning Cheng Man Ching's form. The sun really shone for the next few years - so I made hay Image

I ended up training pretty much full time for 5 or 6 years. Putting in 6 or more hours a day for 6 days a week. I was endlessly thrown around and demonstrated on.

I came out of that period with my body knowing much more than I did!. He was not one for explaining things. A big thankyou to him though.

I then moved away and have taught for the last 8 years or so. In that time I came into contact with Patrick Kelly's teaching - that helped decipher what I was doing.

This last year I've come into contact with Glenn Blythe - a contemporary of Patrick Kelly's who also trained with Huang (in the above clip). I got a big piece of the puzzle from him in just one session. Subsequent correspondance has served to really take my training forward.

I guess that's the story so far.


[This message has been edited by Anderzander (edited 11-09-2004).]
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Postby gene » Tue Nov 09, 2004 7:45 pm

Hello everyone:

I got started with taiji back in 1992. (I had studied goju ryu in high school and tae kwon do in college.) I was looking for a way to help me handle stress (I have a law practice) and saw that there was a Kung Fu school in my town. The instructor there, Al Bender, showed me a simple application (a throw) for Parting the Wild Horse's Mane and I was instantly hooked for life. Who knew there was actually a purpose to this stuff? I ended up studying the Guang Ping Yang Style with Al for 10 years, and also had the good fortune to take some classes with one of Al's teachers, Bow Sim Mark of Boston, in qigong and the simplified 24-step form. I then did two summer camps with the Yangs (Hofstra and Montreal) and learned the basics of Yang Zhenduo's form (and met a lot of very nice people, like Jerry and Audi Peal). Then I read an article by Master William Ting in T'ai Chi Magazine about a virtually unknown style called Wu Ji Jing Gong, found out he was teaching here in New Jersey (albeit almost a 2 hour drive from my house) and was hooked again. I've been studying with him on and off for about 5 years now and I am very lucky. Recently, I was looking for a practice group a little closer to home and found out that the Chinese community in my town meets on Saturday morning to practice the Chen style at the local high school. So I've been playing with them, although it's a bit disconcerting because the classes are partly in Mandarin (which I speak only a little of) and I don't have Jerry Karin there to translate. Along the way, I was able to take some Hsing-I instruction from Gerald Sharp, which was a lot of fun (although I feel bad about the rut we wore in his in-laws' backyard). My wife thinks I'm nuts; my 4-year old daughter likes to play along; and I'm having a blast. I can honestly say that the day I walked into Al's school in March 1992 was a turning point in my life.

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Postby Wushuer » Wed Nov 17, 2004 3:53 pm

You've all heard my story, ad nauseum, so I won't repeat it here.
I merely want to take the opportunity to tell you that I will no longer be posting on this site under this name. I will still be around, but as a different personality due to my being different now.
I have had a bit of a change in my life, and the persona Wushuer, the multi-styled, confused, downright beligerant personality that he was, has gone by the wayside as I no longer feel the same way I used to about things.
So the decision has been made to let him go the way of all good things and just fade away.
For my last post as Wushuer I just want to say "Thanks" to everyone who responded to me, whether you agreed or disagreed or just plain wanted to strangle me, it was all good and I learned a lot from all of you.

I wanted to send one last message from Wushuer to the one particular person who helped him the most, whether she knew it or not.

Thanks for all of your understanding and helpful advice from the other side of my Tai Chi Chuan life.
You once advised me that in order to advance in the Yang style I would have to give up my Wu style past, forget everything I had learned and walk away from it's theories and principles and embrace only the Yang style. I vehemently denied that could be the case at the time and immediately discarded your advice as impractical and unsound. But...
You were right.
As soon as I did that I began to make the most amazing leaps forward in my study and practice of Tai Chi Chuan. My confusion disapeared and with the new clarity I found I was able to put my intent on the Yang forms instead of trying to tie them in with the old intents from the Wu forms. Once I did that, my whole mindset changed and I have had some major leaps forward in all aspects of my Tai Chi Chuan.
For the last six months or so I have strictly practiced Yang style, I haven't even done Wu style warm ups. My forms and my martial abilities have blossomed beyond my wildest imaginations since that time.
I cannot and will not ever "forget" what I learned or trained in Wu style, but I had to let it go from my mind in day to day practice in order to progress in either style.
Maybe I will go back to the Wu style one day, in fact I'm sure I will eventually, when I can do it away from certain people in the Wu style crowd in which I walked. I think now, looking back, that having two disciples as immediate family members actually hindered instead of helping me in my progress. That may seem strange on the surface, but if you get down to the bottom of that, I'm sure it will make sense.
But now I have made a commitment to the Yang family through my Center Director of at least five years of non-stop traditional Yang family training, and I will honor that commitment. After that, I will see where life leads me and you may see me again.
The overall advancements I have made in just the last six months tell me clearly that in order to excel in one style or another, or both, I need to concentrate on just one and only one, to the exclusion of everything I thought I knew.
While the underlying principles are the same, the expressions and intents are entirely different between these two styles. While they can be and are mutually helpful, that level can only be reached after much research in both styles with a long lot of time devoted to each before I could bring them together inside myself and stay true to them both.
So for now, I am on the Yang family Tai Chuan portion of my journey, and must concentrate on that and that alone if I wish to make it to the place I wish to be in my own personal Tai Chi Chuan.
Give my best to the old man, Si-Kung Wu Tai Sin, and to Eddie, my first and most revered Sifu, and thinks for your help and advice.

To everyone else,
You haven't gotten rid of me, I've just jumped to a new name and will keep on posting when I have something to add.
Some of you may have figured that out, because I've posted as the new me a few times, even in the Members Only section.
I'll be on from time to time, but it will be in a purely Yang style mode, no more multi-styled angst to deal with.

Thanks everyone, and I'll see you as the new me as I can.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 11-17-2004).]
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Postby The Wandering Brit » Wed Nov 17, 2004 5:03 pm

Wu - I've really enjoyed reading, and learnt a lot from, your posts - I look forward to reading more (hopefully) under your new guise.

While I'm here...

I don't know why, but I was fascinated with martial arts from an early age. I did some Aikido pre-teens and then after moving house I joined the local Judo club. After a couple of years injuries forced me to choose between Judo and football, and I opted for football and left fighting behind for a while.

During my final year at university a combination of letting my fitness go and a growing interest in Buddhism and Taoism fuelled by my philosophy degree made me start training again. I joined the college Shotokan Karate club and after finishing college I returned home...with no Shotokan available in the area, I joined a club which practised a Korean style called Tae Soo do. I got serious very quickly - if I wasn't training I was running or lifting weights or doing bag work - and started competing at a regional level.

Work led to another house move and - surprise surprise - I had to start a new style again. This time it was Wing Chun. All of a sudden I found what I'd been looking for; a 'real' martial art...something that was devastatingly fast and real-life effective, yet also contained breathing exercises and talk of chi. I was totally hooked.

Work then led to yet another move and, deja vu, no Wing Chun. I trained with a local 'freestyle Kung Fu' club but a nagging injury put me out of action and shortly afterwards I was advised to give up martial arts by my doctor or risk permanent damage. I walked away and threw myself headlong into adventure racing and was very happy, until last year when I started having regular recurring dreams of training again, that really got to me.

Physically, most external styles were out of the question due to the old injury, and I wanted something with an internal component, so I started looking into Tai Chi...eight months down the line and I am totally hooked.

Confused, amazed, often frustrated, clumsy and inept...but hooked.
The Wandering Brit
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Nov 18, 2004 1:11 am

Greetings Wushuer,

It’s good to hear from you, and nice to see your story evolving. I look forward to seeing your future posts. I’ve always enjoyed your contributions. Even when we’ve mixed it up a bit, I think the resolution was always positive. Our discussions about “single-weighting” and “double-weighting,” for example, helped me to clarify my own thinking and practice.

Here’s a thought: maybe you could post under your Actual Name. Forget about old me or new me; just be yourself.

I know, I know. You have your rationale for anonymity. I’m just trying to capture your goat.

Take care,
Louis Swaim
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Postby Michael » Thu Nov 18, 2004 6:36 am

I started out with TKD back in H.S., then some Shotokan. I had a very bad knee from a sports injury. It got so bad that I could hardly walk without a cane on hard surfaces, or stand for more than ten minutes. Martial arts were out.

Like a fool I decided to try TKD again in about 94. But couldn't kick very good standing on that leg. I had been aware of taiji, its health benefits and martial strengths for many years. But there wasn't any class within two hours away. I had just stopped the TKD, and I saw a class offered nearby. I went to the class and immediatly realized that the teacher had no clue about what he was teaching. It wasn't a "family" style. I asked him what it was and was told that it was created by two guys in Arizona. I thanked him and left. It was quite a letdown. Two weeks later another teacher offered a class. Timing is everything!

I have been with my teacher since 95. We first learned the Cheng man Ching form through William Chen's school. The following year we began the Yang Family Set through Miss Wang. With the permission of my teacher I also studied the Kuang Ping Yang Style through Chaing Yun Chung for a couple years as well. Though I learned many things in KPYS and am grateful for the experience, I came to realize that all I was looking for was contained in the Yang family set and their teaching. Let me just say here how much I respect Miss Wang and my own teacher.

And as many of you know, I have said this many times over the years---that I have not needed a cane since three months after I started taiji. I have tested my knee by standing on one leg for nearly 45 minutes. I think it's healed. That was the one I was told I would have to have replaced in '96. I am very grateful for many things that have come to me from my practice.

And Wushuer...Thumbup

Jerry, that Avatar of don't flyfish by any chance do you?
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Postby Bamenwubu » Thu Nov 18, 2004 2:24 pm

Hello all,
My name is Bob Ashmore, I live in Frankfort, KY, but am originaly from Detroit, MI, and I study traditional Yang style TCC with Bill Wojasinski through the Kentucky Tai Chi Chuan Center.
I began to study with Bill in December 2001, so in a couple of weeks I will have hit the three year mark. Not that that number means anything, but it seems a bit of a milestone so I thought I'd mention it.
I began my journey into martial arts with hard styles as a teen, I studied a couple of them but mostly TKD.
I studied a Yang style of TCC for a short while, after hearing that TCC was a very healthy alternative to the hard style training methods which were destroying my body, then a different flavor of TCC for a number of years before I found traditional Yang style.
I have quite enjoyed Yang style, and Bill's an excellent teacher. I have learned a lot from him and his assistants and it's my game plan to continue to learn and grow in this style.

OK, Louis, now you know my name! And the new, suitably glossed over, version of my background.
My infamous brother may now be looked up, so you can see who I'm related to in the Wu family.
But, it'll have to be your guess WHICH Wu family disciple with the Ashmore name is my brother, and which one makes my mother, also a Wu family disciple at the same school as those two, laugh when they ask her if he's her other son whe studies TCC too.
I'll leave it up to you to see if you can find my mother in that list, Bill did but I bear an uncanny resemblance to my mother so it wasn't too hard for him, as she has remarried and no longer has the same last name as us.
Have fun.

If you don't know where the Wu family disciple list is online, drop me a line at the e-mail addy listed in my bio and I'll send you the link.

formerly Wushuer.

[This message has been edited by Bamenwubu (edited 11-18-2004).]
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Postby lalsup » Tue Nov 23, 2004 5:47 pm

Hello all,

It was a pleasure reading all of your histories.

I began studing Tai-Chi after many years of external arts training with a smattering of Tai-Chi training included in the mix. My first formal teacher was a gentleman by the name of Abraham Liu. I met Abraham through a common friend with whom I worked. I spent sevral years working with Abraham at his home in San Diego. I then moved to the greater St. Louis area where I now live. I had an opprotutinity to go to a siminar with Yang Zhenduo, and Yang Jun in Virginia (taste of china) at a corrections siminar. Jerry was translating at the time, and I was very impressed with is knowledge of Tai-Chi and chinease. Any way, I fell in love with the traditional Yang style and have been studying this presentation from then til now.
After 20 years of total Tai-Chi experience, I am beginning to understand what Sung is, and just how important it really is.


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Postby JerryKarin » Tue Nov 23, 2004 7:07 pm

Actually at that seminar in Virginia the translation was done by Jeremy Blodgett, I think, not me.
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Postby bamboo leaf » Wed Nov 24, 2004 1:55 am

(After 20 years of total Tai-Chi experience, I am beginning to understand what Sung is, and just how important it really is.)

what a nice statement of ones practice. Image

My name is Dalton Davis, I started taiji in 1980. at the time I thought it would help clear up some confusion on some the CMA styles that I have practiced since 1973 or so.

Little did I know that the taiji would eventually be the path that I was looking for or maybe the path was looking for me. The styles I studied, Tung, CMC, and now another yang style variant from a master in Beijing. I might add my own journey ended in meeting with this master.

I like reading the post here, and adding some of my own small thoughts to the mix.
Hope some find them useful.


[This message has been edited by bamboo leaf (edited 11-23-2004).]
bamboo leaf
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