Tai Chi Chuan
My first experience with Tai Chi Chuan was in 1975, learning the beginning of the Yang form with the late Master Tchoung Ta-tchen in Vancouver, Canada. At the time many other young musicians like myself, as well as some dancers and actors, were studying with him. I remember the focused and euphoric feeling I had when I first did the postures, and that he told us "musicians make good Tai Chi". I was motivated to study the art after fellow bassist Lisle Ellis and I attended a Dave Holland workshop where he had talked about using the principals of Tai Chi to warm up and bring energy into his palms and fingers. I also remember being inspired by some of the hard style films of the time, like Bruce Lee's Way of the Dragon, but was wary of hurting my hands, and chose to pursue what I perceived was a more fluid, elegant, and practical style suited to my chosen career of music.
When I relocated to New York City in 1980 I studied the 60 movement Yang Short Form of Grandmaster William C. C. Chen with one of his students, Sifu Greg Mukai. We were friends and neighbors in the East Village, and would go to the rooftop of his apartment building on East 3rd St. every morning that summer to practice and train.
In 2007, after I had more firmly established my career as a performer/educator, and the twists and turns of life had somewhat settled, I decided to re-acquaint myself with the art and pursue it on a deeper level. I began classes with two of Grandmaster Chen's most accomplished senior students, Master Bernard Rozenberg and Master Alex Hing.
I have continued with them to the present and in addition to the 60 movement Short Form I have also studied the 132 movement Long Form, Push Hands, Sword Form, and some San Shou (free fighting). In 2008 I attended Grandmaster Chen's Summer Intensive workshop at his East 28th St. NYC school and since then have also become a regular attendee of his classes.
As a regular discipline, I feel Tai Chi Chuan has made me more energized, focused, and able to deal with the challenges of life. It allows me to relax and "stop the world" for a few moments each day. It is also a useful tool for identifying and eliminating performance-related tension patterns and opening constricted channels of the body, and I am constantly finding new ways to incorporate it into my playing and teaching methods.
Grandmaster Chen is regarded as one of the finest and most influential traditional internal stylists of his generation, and in February 2013 I was honored to have him present me with a 3 star certificate, certifying basic proficiency in the Yang style Short and Long forms, Sword form, push hands, and form application. Now I feel that the journey is just beginning.