Visiting Bethesda’s new t’ai chi court

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Aug 28, 2011 Visiting Bethesda’s new t’ai chi court

Cabin John t’ai chi practice court. Photo copyright Jon Katz (August 2011).

Criminal defense is war, and I know of no better martial art for that war than t’ai chi ch’uan, which I have been practicing for nearly seventeen years.

Recently, my five-year-old son and I revisited Cabin John Regional Park in Bethesda, Maryland, and took the amusement ride train which circles much of the park.

For over a dozen years on Saturday mornings, a group of local t’ai chi practitioners has gathered by the train depot there for form and push hands practice, benefitting from the extended roof to protect against wetness on rainy days. I went there once, but found more beneficial the earlier Saturday morning schedule for the Glen Echo Park practice (7:30 a.m.) and Capitol Hill practice (8:00 a.m.), which is preferable to the Glen Echo practice for including push hands and for being led by David Walls-Kaufman (here including his feelings about David Chen, discussed below), who is a highly-skilled practitioner and is generous with his time and focus during these practices. I now focus my group practice time with Julian Chu’s group, both for the excellence of Julian (pictured here at 64, doubtlessly being all the more youthful from his t’ai chi and long distance running practice) and many of his students, and for the convenience of the practice locations and times.

Now I have a reason to resume t’ai chi practice at Cabin John Park, whether solely or with a group. After years in the planning, the finishing touches are being put on a t’ai chi practice court (drawn here) in memory of local t’ai chi teacher David Chen. After our recent train ride in the park, my boy and I went to visit the court as the final cementing and digging was being done at the stone court, which is in the design of the t’ai chi/yin yang symbol that is part of my law firm’s symbol. David Chen exuded much positive energy, as does the court.

This t’ai chi court apparently is one of a handful, if even that many, in the United States. There is apparently one in Texas made of cement. On September 17 at 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. will be the opening ceremony for the t’ai chi court. For those, like I, who wish to skip the politicians’ segment, you can arrive at or after 10:45 a.m. Martial arts demonstrations and a potluck picnic will be part of the program.

The Washington, D.C., area is a great place to practice Cheng Man Ch’ing’s t’ai chi ch’uan yang style short form that I practice. First, Cheng Man Ch’ing’s first Western student Robert Smith studied with Professor Cheng in Taiwan while stationed there with the Central Intelligence Agency, and later taught scores of students at the Bethesda YMCA parking lot each weekend after returning to Bethesda and continuing with the CIA in the Washington area (which goes to show how t’ai chi helps me transcend political differences with others). Then several of Mr. Smith’s students set up their own t’ai chi schools in the area. Second, at least three top-notch students of Cheng Man Ch’ing’s senior student Benjamin Lo (see here and here, too) ended up living and teaching t’ai chi in the Washington area, those being my current teacher Julian Chu, David Walls-Kaufman, and Arnold Lee, a teacher of David Chen. Every t’ai chi teacher from the Cheng Man Ch’ing lineage whom I have met has been tremendously generous of their time and focus in teaching others and teaching them correctly.

T’ai chi practice and push hands are very demanding to do right and to derive their full benefits, and the t’ai chi form requires daily correct practice. The benefits of devoted practice are tremendous and everlasting. I do my best to apply t’ai chi principles to my every waking hour, both in and out of court.

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