FORMAL TAI CHI
By Ralph Dehner
One day many years ago I was struck by the title of videotape I saw on the shelf of my local library – "Tai Chi Anywhere" by Dr. Paul Lam. Long before I became involved with Dr. Lam's program I took that title to heart. I would often encourage my students to practice their Tai Chi in unusual places, like the mall or while waiting in line at the grocery store or the bank (people will usually let you go ahead of them in line, thinking you might be dangerous or daft).
While doing a walkabout with Dr. Lam in Indianapolis last summer, I found that he too took that title very seriously. We took pictures of ourselves doing Tai Chi forms in the most unusual places, in fountains, on boulders, bridges, in front of museums and unusual rock formations. He even does Tai Chi in his seat while flying on airplanes. I am not so bold. I usually act more discretely on planes, opting to do single form practice in the laboratory.
THE BEST LAID PLANS
However, I really never expected do take it to the next level, from unabashed public practice to the therapeutic emergency intervention that occurred this autumn. My daughter, Jill, is the only of my three children to take advantage of the fact that her dad is a Tai Chi fanatic and learn the art. She is quite special. So special that she agreed to come and do caricature art at a TCA workshop I hosted (see Dr. Lam's Caricature in this article). She is so special that she even agreed to learn to do the Yang 88 Form San-Shou (two person form) so we could do it as a father-daughter dance at her upcoming wedding. Now, how special is that!
As circumstances would have it, wedding plans soon monopolized much of her free time and I never finished teaching her the San-Shou. I was disappointed but hopeful that we could at least do push-hands together during the reception.
Her wedding day arrived and it was a bright, sunny day and warm day. We were all at the local Arboretum for bridal party pictures before the ceremony when I started getting nervous thinking about that long church isle I would soon walk my little girl down, to give away, FOREVER! So instead of going into a panic, I said to myself, "what would Dr. Lam do"? The answer came immediately – the 42 Forms! No easy task in a tuxedo.
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
We made it to the church in plenty of time and I joined my lovely Jill in the back of church to wait our turn to walk down the isle arm in arm. The second longest church isle in the city, almost 75 meters long! Suddenly I noticed some unusual pressure on my right arm. It was my daughter squeezing with great gusto. I turned to see that she was pale and defiantly NOT BREATHING! Jill has had a history of anxiety-induced asthma since childhood.
I said to myself, what would Dr. Lam do. The answer came in a flash – Tai Chi breathing! I began coaching her through that deep abdominal breathing and soon she relaxed her grip, she was breathing, she had color in her cheeks but she was not moving. So I asked the question that all good dads are obligated to ask before strolling down the isle – "are you sure you want to go through with this"? She nodded yes and reminded me that she gets really nervous in front of crowds. So it was time to take it to the next level – Tai Chi step drill down the isle – well not exactly. We did, nonetheless, breathe slowly, in unison, to my whispered "inhale, exhale" most of the way down the isle…TAI CHI TO THE RESCUE!!!
No, I did not get to do San-Shou with my daughter at the reception (I did some push-hands with my wife on the dance floor) but Tai Chi once again lived up to its "Tai Chi Anywhere" reputation.