How many years have you been practising T’ai Chi?
What stimulated your interest?
I was in a Yoga teacher-training group when I first saw a demonstration of T’ai Chi by Father Slade, from the Cowley Fathers. He had learnt from Pytt Geddes, and his enthusiasm sowed a seed which eventually grew into my meeting and studying with Pytt. I was initially drawn to the continuous fluidity of the movements and something in my body said “yes – I have to learn this!”
What does T’ai Chi mean to you?
It is the ground from which all the other strands of my life spring. It means balance, rootedness, the ability to respond creatively to change and the practice of presence.
What is the most important aspect for you?
Movement growing from the still point at the centre. The continuing process of learning to meet the world from our deepest place of stillness, simplicity and clarity, so that actions are authentic and honest. When this happens it connects with that same centre in others and then true meeting can take place. T’ai Chi has an important healing role in our fragmented, fearful and disconnected world. It begins with attention to the alignment and balance in the physical body through focussed study of the form, and the letting-go of the unnecessary baggage that we all drag around with us.
Who or what inspired you?
The T’ai Chi itself, as I felt the movement unfold in my body – and the teaching and friendship of Pytt Geddes throughout most of my adult life. She followed the development of each of her students with great interest, encouraging each of us to discover through the T’ai Chi how to fulfill our creative potential. She was meticulous in her observations of the body, emphasising the way the movements help to release and open the joints and muscles so that the body becomes a clear channel for energy to flow through. Both in her living and dying she exemplified her own teaching and has been a guiding light in my own T’ai Chi journey.
Do you have any personal goals in T’ai Chi?
To continue to travel with the T’ai Chi as a friend and guide for the rest of my life, and to attempt to pass on to my students the gift that T’ai Chi has been for me.
What do you make of T’ai Chi’s current popularity?
I am very happy that more and more people have the opportunity to discover T’ai Chi. I am wary of it becoming a fashion accessory, but see many students discovering far more than they expected when they first joined a class.
As a teacher, how do you feel about the martial aspect of the art?
My primary focus is on the health, balancing and meditative aspects of T’ai Chi. An understanding of the martial applications is important in appreciating the dynamics of the form, in particular the ability to be grounded and responsive to changing conditions. Push Hands is extremely helpful in identifying your points of vulnerability so that the form becomes more rooted. You can’t fudge it with a Push Hands partner.
What are your views on competition? I have no interest in competition. For me the spirit of competition is in opposition to what I have learnt and to what I teach.
What direction would you like to see T’ai Chi go in the future? I would like the spirit of openness and sharing of different approaches to T’ai Chi to continue to flourish. We all have much to learn from each other and each teacher contributes a small part to an understanding of the whole. There is much goodwill and generosity around in the T’ai Chi world and I hope that this can continue to be nurtured.
Catherine can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 01303 261070.