From Tai Chi Stance to Opening Palms: Tennessee Branch National Workshop, Knoxville, TN

The Tennessee Branch’s National Workshop and Annual Meeting was held on June 23-24, 2018 in Knoxville. This year the workshop had 66 participants from as far away as Ithaca, New York, to the neighboring states of Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina. Allen Pearce, of Portland Oregon, led the sessions, and Ed Bell, Regional Management Committee Liaison, also attended and served as a small-group leader.

The workshop was a perfect balance between Tai Chi sets; jong practice; small group instruction; and specific movements in the set, including the tiger sequence and brush knees. Along the way, Allen introduced us to the finger jongs, which aid arthritis sufferers, and the importance of opening the palms and coiling—a rotation of the forearms especially helpful in making tor-yus and dan-yus continuous. Taoist Tai Chi inspirational stories were also shared by Allen, including his own.  Participants shared the work of setting up, serving and cleaning. Our Saturday evening concluded with small group discussions of the virtues of sibling harmony and dedication.

Several participants remarked on the depth of the training in the workshop. When asked what she would take away from the training, Sharon Stelzman said, “in a word, the importance of ‘quiet.’ Quiet elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and even eyes.” Lauren Bray was struck by hearing about the oftentimes dramatic improvement in the lives of other Tai Chi practitioners, including veterans and cancer survivors, as well as Allen’s discussion of “how specific jongs relate to bodily processes” like the lymphatic system, and how these movements can combat long-term illness.

Allen’s emphasis on gaining awareness of coiling the arms, sitting completely, transferring weight, and opening the body in a variety of ways resulted in a greater appreciation of mindfulness of movement for participants, and ending the first night with both standing and walking meditation encouraged deep relaxation. The sets were slow and methodical, and participants were given the time needed to process what they learned.

The food and fellowship were also terrific. The 2018 Tennessee Branch National Workshop included something for everyone!

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