Last Spring, I had a dream to do tai chi all over New York City on the public transportation. I pitched the dream to a couple people, who encouraged me to take up the cause. I decided I would fulfill this dream on World Tai Chi and Qigong Day. So, on Saturday April 28th, 2018, the dream became a reality!
At 9am, a bunch of us gathered at Great Kills. A couple of us were with Earth And Cup; Meghan Bryant, a Master Trainer with the Tai Chi Institute for Health, had come up from Virginia the day before to teach a Seated Tai Chi workshop; and a group of Wing Chun students from Staten Island. The group started on the platform at the Great Kills train station. We did Yang 8, a nice beginning form that is stationary for the most part. There were two different variations of the form, so we worked on the differences between the two. On the train, we taught Meghan the form. She had it down by the time we reached St. George, the last stop.
While we waited in the ferry terminal, we ran through the Tai Chi for Arthritis form, which is a variation of Sun 30. There was a group of guys with a stand-up bass singing four-part harmony, old school Motown. It provided a nice background as with then went through Yang 24. We had a group of about 30-40 people watching us pretty intently.
On the ferry, we started to discuss what to do next. One person offered up Yang 36. Most of us didn’t know it, so he showed it to us. The form he demonstrated I originally learned as Yang 44, which I have since come to realize is Cheng Man-Ching’s 37 Postures. A rose by any other name is still …. I thought it was appropriate to by doing Cheng’s form here in New York City. One of the participants noted that it was possible to match the flow of the form to the shifting of the ferry from side to side, as we slowed to dock in Manhattan. This gave an added dimension to their form.
Our original plan was to head to Central Park. There was supposed to be a large tai chi group up there. As we were docking, one of the Wing Chun guys got a text that Central Park was breaking up. So, we decided to go do Tai Chi in Chinatown! While on the subway platform for the 5 train at Bowling Green, we found some space to do Chen 36. On the train, we worked on some of the seated tai chi techniques we learned in class the day before. I found it was possible to get some decent movement, even on the subway.
From here, the group decided to go in different directions. Meghan and I decided to go down to Battery Park. I had convinced her to teach me a new form. It was a beautiful day, so was a huge crowd at Battery Park waiting for Statue of Liberty tours. We found a little space in front of the Armory, on the opposite side of the line from the hip/hop dancers. They chuckled at us with our slow movements. We showed them that we could articulate to the music just like they could. They decided to move on before full blown dance war broke out. Meghan taught me the first half on Sun 73.
Meghan and I barely made the 3:30pm ferry. We decided to stay and the back deck. We started to work on Sun 73, when we looked over and saw someone taking pictures of us. It was one of the Wing Chun we started with, making his way back home. We did some of the form, with the City at our back. On the train ride home, we discussed our day. Throughout the whole day, we didn’t have one person give us negativity about what we were doing. We tried to be mindful of space, and letting people pass as they needed. What we did find was at each location, we had a group of people who took the time to watch what we were doing. It seemed to bring the intensity of the energy down a bit. Now, it wasn’t a Monday morning commuter rush, but for the moment, people seemed to be calmer than usual. We wondered if we came at a more stressed time, could the same effect happen? Could a small group of people, just dong tai chi, bring calm to a place, situation or circumstance? Maybe that is next year’s project. Meghan is returning to Staten Island in August to lead a Tai Chi at Work workshop. I wonder if she will include some of our learned lessons from this experience in the curriculum. In places like Metro NYC, the commute is sometimes just as long as the workday. Could we give people something to keep their bodies healthy while they are commuting? Stand by as we continue to take tai chi to the streets, uuurrr the trains, or ferries, or buses, or planes, or subways, or the workplace, or….