Category Archives: issue-27

Meet Christie Butterick

How many years have you been practicing Tai Chi?
I saw a demonstration of the short form in 1982 and have been practicing ever since.

What stimulated your interest in Tai Chi Chuan?
I had been enjoying yoga as a discipline before seeing Tai Chi performed. I was hooked immediately on contact with the subject. For me it provided an aliveness of expression that was a missing link in my development as a person at that time. I knew it would provide me with the means to explore to ultimate depths. In hind sight my interest was always there but not realised until I had a taste of my body and mind moving, as in the solo forms.

What does Tai Chi Chuan mean to you?
It is my life. It has provided me with a way of living, not just as a lively-hood but also as a means of reference to life, and the living of it. For me all the ‘stuff’ we learn to do in the classroom need to be useful outside of the class environment. Ward off, roll back etc in relationships for example, is where the practice becomes real. – It is also incredibly exciting. The joy of seeing students, ‘get it’; of seeing the change in not only their posture but their ability to make the changes in their life is fantastic. What better gift to give someone?

What is the most important aspect for you?
All the aspects of Tai Chi are important, its difficult to single out one important element of a complex system; but for me, it’s the ‘hidden potential’ that is always constantly present whenever I move. My passion is the sword and all the duo forms. In the sword I have an immediate reality check as to how present and awake I am to all around me, and how able I am to interact accordingly, it’s the warrior spirit. The duo practices provide the learning of the different energies and principles and this for me is a key to how to unlock our personal blocks in the Tai Chi world which includes health and also how we choose to operate as people.

Do you have any personal goals in Tai Chi?
Yes and no! If I’m honest I want to be the best at what I do, and on the other hand I’m really happy and appreciative that I have found a practice that shows me how to tap into the real me. I made it to China last year, with Ronnie Robinson and Tary, which was a goal of mine. I have to say that playing a form in the courtyard of Yang Lu Chan’s home was both awesome and humbling.

Who or what inspired you?
I have been called ‘karate kid’ in certain circles! I love all martial arts films from David Carridine to Steven Segal. In 1973 at my first yoga session given by a lady who was ancient, or so I thought, until she moved, and put all of us younger ones to shame. She inspired me to practice because she had an inner sparkle within a body that was old and worn, she had grace. Today all my students give me inspiration. I have appreciation for the many varied and gifted teachers I have been fortunate to have spent time with, from Richard Farmer to Wolf Lowenthal, and Dr.Shen Hongxun to Chungliang Al Huang, Peter Ralson to Wee Kee Jin, to name a few. Some of these I have spent a long time with and some only a short time but all have helped me pursue my own journey, A big thank you to them.

What do you make of Tai Chi Chuans current popularity?
There are more people teaching these days. It is good that people know it is available and I believe that students are becoming more educated in asking teachers the correct questions before taking up classes but I wonder sometimes at the quality of the teaching these days. Personally I don’t think you can attain a depth of what Tai Chi is when it’s included as a small part of a mix of disciplines or a dance system, which is offered these days as a compilation.

As a Teacher, how do you feel about the Martial aspects of Tai Chi?
It is one of the main elements of the subject. I personally like to explore and do applications and encourage students to not be afraid of this area. It always amazes and tickles me to see the reactions and responses in students when they realise what the postures are actually capable of! – There are certain people that this area of the subject will be lost on, and this is also ok too. – Tai Chi Chuan is big enough to accommodate all students’ needs.

What are your views on competition?
It has its place. My early training did not advocate this so I have not had this experience myself. I can see the benefits, as being in an official competition will certainly ‘turn up the heat’ and test your abilities and skill. Does this make you an excellent player of Tai Chi Chuan and a decent person? Perhaps yes perhaps no.

What direction would you like to see Tai Chi Chuan going in the future?
I’m interested in cultivating harmony of the person and education and full use of our potential, using the art of Tai Chi Chuan For the quality to be 100% top of the list of requirements when becoming a teacher. For greater clarity of the very different client groups that are taking up the subject and whether it is comprehensively the whole of the syllabus of Tai Chi that is offered, or just purely for the health aspects. This could be an area that becomes fudged, which would be a great shame. For it to be on the curriculum in schools, but not as they do in China! In short, there can be a class of Tai Chi for the whole of one’s life, with the emphasis changing as one matures and grows. – Finally I really like Lao Tzu’s words: “The way to do, is to be”.