Winning a Double Bout

By Jim Mann

First and concurrently published at, web site for the publishing branch of the Santa Cruz Academy of Martial Arts

All my students receive instruction on the basics - posture, shape, verticality, footwork, differentiation of yin and yang and substantial and insubstantial, chan ssu chin or "reeling silk energy," total body movement, and moving from the waist. I also work with them on applications in order to build intent and deepen understanding. The amount and depth of applications practice is tailored to the individual. For Janet, a single mother and registered nurse, it has been kept fairly light - her interest has been mostly health and learning the next move. I have, however, insisted on correcting general problems, such as leaning, double-weighting, and straightening the arms completely at the conclusion of a posture.

Recently, Janet began moonlighting as a security guard at the Concord Pavilion. Still, her interest in applications remained minimal. This changed when I began drilling her on isolated movements from the center standing position. Suddenly, with no transitions or cues from the form, applications took on a whole new meaning. They became the essence of how and why the movements were shaped the way they were, and why any deviation from T'ai Chi principles weakened them. For her, particularly, this meant paying attention to verticality.

A week ago, as of this writing, Motley Crew was playing at the Concord Pavilion. Janet was asked to work. A lot of pyrotechnology was to be used in the performance, in the stands as well as on stage. Janet's job was to keep members of the audience from straying down a stairwell leading to an area where devices had been set up.

She could see trouble brewing as three young men above her whispered amongst themselves while glancing in her direction. Finally the biggest of the three - "He filled the whole aisle," according to Janet - headed down the stairs towards her, followed by his two friends.

Janet had already called for backup, and two guards were posted behind nearby walls. As the man approached, she placed her left foot on the stair ahead of her and shifted most of her weight to her right foot, where she felt comfortable and stable. Her back was straight and her bones felt "stacked." She informed the shave-headed gentlemen that the area beyond her was off limits for their own safety, but as she watched the big fellow's eyes, she could see him making his decision. She was ready.

At the time, she had absolutely no idea of what she was going to do, and afterwards, she still did not know what she had done. All she knew was that this behemoth charged with his arms up and she moved, turning from her waist, flowing forward from her back leg to her front, and he was down, hard, his two friends heading back up the stairs as fast as they could run. She said that her first thought was "I'm vertical!" Her second thought was how effortless, how spontaneous it had been, and how she had moved forward all at once, every part of her together. Her third thought, shared by the other two guards as they emerged, was relishing the look of shock on this bruiser's face.

Indeed, Janet had internalized the principles of T'ai Chi, but this triumph was still the least of her rewards. When she began studying with me, she was under regular medical care for lupus. Recently she received the results of her latest blood test. When her doctor came into the consulting office, she expected further instructions on moderating her medications. Instead she was surprised to hear, "Hmmm. It looks like you may have been misdiagnosed. You don't seem to have lupus, or anything else, as far as I can tell."

Congratulations, Janet - both for conquering lupus and yourself.

Tai CHi

Tai Chi Lymphatic Drainage