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Encountering Integral Tai Chi

Tai Chi

In January 2014, my husband emailed me asking if I wanted to join “some kind of Tai Chi” practice with him.  

On that day, he was with his Aikido teacher, looking for a place to practice in the hospital he worked for.  He had a particular place in mind.   When they walked into that room, however, they saw a group of mainly Asian people practicing some movements there.  They were invited to join.  

After the practice, his Aikido teacher said, “Those movements are useful for Aikido.” Upon that word, my husband decided to join their weekend practice.

I was, at that time, suffering from quite severe skin inflammation.  As I’d known that skin is the last organ to manifest what was wrong in the body, I wanted to do something about it. I’d sought medical assistance – Western and Chinese – and been following very strict diet to cure it.  Another help!  Without hesitation, I replied “Yes”.

I was also happy that I was able to start something mutually new for both him and me.

This is how I encountered Integral Tai Chi.  An integral practice of Qi Gong, Tai Chi and Yoga, created by a Vietnamese Buddhist monk living in California, I was told.

To my amazement, I started to feel much better within a few weeks.  One student told me that his chronic positional vertigo disappeared after his first practice.  I knew he was sharing the truth, not exaggerating anything to encourage me.  I saw its great and quick health benefit myself.

The movements were not strenuous and the key felt like deep abdominal breathing and relaxing the body, the latter I found quite challenging as I was not used to it.  Following and learning the movements of certain forms was not easy for me, either.  But I liked the mantras to go with them and the philosophy behind.  Each movement had spiritual meaning.  

I felt very comfortable being in a strange group of mainly Vietnamese people.  They were refugees, same uprooted people like me.  Even though we never talked about our status or experiences, I felt some kind of bond with them.  

In order to accommodate their non-Vietnamese students, they switched to English or French – to somewhat broken, not perfect English, or fluent French. (As Vietnam was once a French colony, some had French education at home.)

As an immigrant from Japan, English had been a big issue for me.  I always felt bad as I didn’t understand what native speakers were talking or laughing about, and I felt frustrated and sad as I could not make myself understood.  I was self-conscious of my Japanese accent and many mistakes I made.  I’d been feeling isolated and not enough because of my language impairment.  

But look at those people!  They conquered all those with their passion for Integral Tai Chi!  What an inspiration!  Somehow I got a permission to be imperfect.  Somehow I forgave and  allowed myself to be mediocre.

As I got to know them more, the quality of this group impressed me; they were all open, friendly, welcoming, caring, giving, always ready to help. The instructors were all volunteers; classes were free of charge, and students only shared venue rentals if any.  What an interesting group of people.  

In late September, they invited their Master, the creator of Integral Tai Chi, for a week-long workshop.  Though I did not know what the workshop would be on, I wanted to meet him – the teacher for such good students.  How disappointed I was to learn that the workshop would happen in the last week of September, right at my busiest week of the year – the only time I could work!  

When the actual job schedule came, however, I saw nothing on Saturday.  I can meet him! I jumped on the first highway bus to Montreal.  I got to the venue before noon, just in time to sit for the last 10 minutes of his very last talk!   

I gathered he was teaching Buddhism.  I was struck to hear some familiar Buddhist terms and  expressions in English; they sounded very fresh.  It was the same newness I’d felt when I’d first heard the English “Ten ni mashimasu” (Our Father) after I grew up.  A fresh discovery!  

In the afternoon, I became his disciple.  I began learning Integral Tai Chi seriously and became a certified instructor in 2017. I enjoy practicing with local people, in person as well as online during the pandemic.  I study Buddhism with him too.