I Am Joe’s Blog:

November 9, 2004 • 10:09 PM

T'ai Chi Redux

Morgen and I just got back from a t’ai chi class. As I’ve been studying t’ai chi off and on for about eight years, this is not in itself a remarkable fact. But the circumstances under which we’re now studying are kind of interesting.

We had been studying at the Inner Research Institute for about a year, and though we liked it at first, we had reached a point of frustration for multiple reasons. Our teacher, Dmitri, was great, but there were other things about the school’s approach and methodology that caused us some consternation. Plus, ever since we moved to our current home nearly two years ago, the school was much harder to get to, and the thrice-weekly classes, especially given the commute, were putting a real strain on our schedules. Apart from our pedagogical, stylistic, and logistical issues with the school, our income had dipped to a dangerously low level, and we couldn’t justify the expense anymore. So around September of 2003, we reluctantly decided to drop out.

At that time, we said to ourselves that Dmitri should really start his own school, in which case we’d be very happy to study with him.

So a couple of months ago, Dmitri called me and said that he had just been thinking to himself that maybe the time was right to strike out on his own, when he unexpectedly ran into a former student at the BART station. This woman runs a Montessori preschool a few blocks from our home, and she said Dmitri was welcome to use the space in the evenings to teach t’ai chi if he were so inclined. He took that as a sign, made up some posters, and started classes a few weeks later.

Since about the beginning of October, we’ve been back in class, Tuesday and Thursday evenings. We’re having a great time, and you can’t beat the five-minute walk to get there. We invariably leave with very sore legs, but I couldn’t be happier. It’s been too long since I felt that kind of pain on a regular basis. I don’t exactly look forward to the classes, and the actual repetitions of some of these moves can be grueling, but as I limp out of there, I always think to myself, Wow, this feels good. Maybe it’s just the endorphins, or maybe it’s the ch’i, but in any case the sensation is one of meaningful, useful, body- and character-building pain, coupled with a kind of relaxation I can’t seem to achieve any other way.

If you happen to live in San Francisco, you’re welcome to join us: 6–7 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, 647 Chenery St. in Glen Park (about a block from the Glen Park BART station). Cost is $60 per month (two classes per week). Everyone is welcome, from absolute beginners to advanced students. We do the Yang style short form (Cheng Man-Ch’ing tradition), and will also be doing push-hands probably after the beginning of the year. More info: call Dmitri at (415) 285-1453.