Meet Steffi Sachsenmaier

Steffi Sachsenmaier

How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi? Very few years! I never like being asked this question when I teach, as I feel that if I am being honest, my skills and quality might be doubted by the students. So my answer always is: for a few years, but I have been training basically every day! I only teach beginners at this stage in our academy.

What stimulated your interest in Tai Chi Chuan? When I lived in Paris a few years ago, having a bit of a difficult time, I often saw tai chi practitioners in the park nearby which I lived, the Jardin du Luxembourg. I thought, this is what Ineed to do!I was taken by the sense of internal connection of the movement, and was longing to be able to practice a ‘form’ as such, by myself, which I could investigate on a daily basis. I could see it was something that would give so much back.

What does Tai Chi mean to you? It has become pretty much the ‘framework’ of my life, very quickly. I am discovering ‘questions’ for life in it, as well as ‘answers’. Through training I constantly discover ‘principles’ that I can apply to other parts of my life, which is a great treasure. Also in the practical sense it structures my day, as I train on a daily basis, even if I can’t get to class at my academy. No matter what else happens in life, I always feel that my tai chi progresses, so it is a very positive part of my daily life.

What is the most important aspect for you? The wisdom that is in the art, which is inexhaustible.

Do you have any personal goals in Tai Chi? To practice on a daily basis with humility, for the rest of my life!

Who or what inspired you? Apart from somehow just having ‘clicked’ with the art, it is my Sifu, Gary Wragg, who is my strongest inspiration. I feel through him I aspire to the highest standards, and I admire him for what he set up and makes possible. Our academy is open every day, and it has become a strong part of the lives of a large group of his students. What he seems to have achieved personally in and with tai chi chuan is inspiring, specifically in the sense of integrating it into his work as an artist. I can relate strongly to this, as I also work creatively (in the performing arts). He is an amazing teacher, and without his constant presence and invested teaching I would not have had the chance to make tai chi such a strong part of my life.

What do you make of Tai Chi Chuan’s current popularity? I am supportive of a growing awareness and interest in tai chi chuan, but would want to see it happening for the right reasons. I myself have witnessed before I found our academy a way of teaching and promoting tai chi chuan that makes no sense to me anymore, for its lack of martial attention and bad teaching for money overall.

As a teacher, how do you feel about the martial aspects of Tai Chi? Tai chi is a martial art! Every class I teach includes training applications, and how those relate to the form. I am also intrigued by discovering from Sifu Gary Wragg how the martial aspect and health are always related. He keeps saying, what is good for martial is good for health!

What are your views on competition? They are a great incentive to train, to achieve smaller goals, and to test yourself in a specific moment, on many levels, including skills, technique, calmness of mind, humility… Everything has to be there at a precise moment that is not of your choice. Training for such an event brings another level to your practice. It becomes about training to ‘be in the moment’. I have learned so, so much in competitions that I could not have gained from normal training. Everything becomes just a little more ‘real’ when you are doing pushing hands competitions for instance, and it is not easy to recreate this sense in a training session. The same goes for the forms. Also I find competitions important events for an exchange of knowledge and awareness of different practitioners, practicing different styles and techniques, and in this regard they are an integral part of fostering some form of a ‘tai chi community’.

What direction would you like to see Tai Chi going in the future? I would like tai chi to be widely recognised for the rich internal martial art that it is. It would be amazing if it were to become an Olympic discipline, as it would give the art the status and recognition it deserves as an authentic, traditional as well as modern discipline.