The US Summer Tai Chi training was held in Northampton, Massachusetts, at Smith College June 2-9, 2023. The beautifully landscaped campus of green lawns and enormous trees, including dogwoods in full bloom, was a perfect setting for our internal work.
Sixty-nine of us gathered to do tai chi in the dance studios, lounges, and the gymnasium. We started all together in the morning in classes led by Paul Campbell, Jon Stowe, Greg Woodson and myself, Margaret Olmsted. Then everyone went to their respective form and push hands classes followed by either meditation or more push hands. Late afternoons included more form work, push hands, qigong, and sword form.
Many thanks to everyone who taught at the training: Greg Woodson, Margaret Olmsted, Jon Stow, Paul Campbell, Kate Mansfield, Steve Shulman Vicki Shackford, Tina Curran, Frances Korbly-Canter, Charlotte Booth, George Kormendi, Peter Schwartz, Bob Etherington, Fran Snyder, Patrice Wooldridge, Lee Felton, and Anne Smyers.
We also welcomed two new apprentices to our ranks: Steve Klepac of Gainesville, Florida. and Alison Ho of New York City.
Some students at the retreat had previously only experienced online instruction and were delighted to work with others in person. Everyone was thankful to all the teachers who contributed their skill and knowledge. Many of us have been together for over 45 years, and there is a wealth of experience and wisdom that was happily shared. We recognized how fortunate our school is to be together and continuing 31 years after the passing of Patrick Watson, founder of the Tai Chi Foundation.
The evening programs included an informative Q&A with senior teachers; presentations of the anatomy of feet with Bob Etherington; Hawaiian swimming and healing exercises with Vicki Shackford, Charlotte Booth, and Edna Brandt; some old films of Cheng Man-Ch’ing with Greg Woodson moderating; and a live demonstration of Asian brush painting with Edna Brandt.
Every meal had an abundance of proteins, vegetables, salads, and vegan offerings ranging from Korean food to southern fried chicken with waffles. We enjoyed the variety of desserts including cookies, raspberry bars, and as much ice cream as we wanted. The dining room was filled with laughter and conversation as people renewed old friendships, made new friends, and shared their class experiences of the day with peers and teachers.
The weather was generally cool, sometimes rainy and, fortunately, not hot and humid. The smoke from the Canadian fires drifted down towards us but the rains cleared it quickly.
On the final day, we followed tradition by gathering for our “treasure chest” to share our gratitude for the experience and all the teaching, organizing and inspiration. Some remarked that this was the best training they had ever been to. Our strong feelings of connection and joy put a sparkle in everyone’s eyes.
On the last night we enjoyed entertainment from participants who contributed musical performances, poetry, and some very funny skits.
The party afterwards was a perfect release after all our hard work.
Here are some of the participants’ comments from surveys given to them at the end of the retreat:
- All of my teachers were terrific and showed loving kindness and caring in every encounter. I look forward to seeing everyone next year.
- Everything was excellent. Instructors were outstanding. They really cared that we learned and gave lots of feedback.
- Liked the format. Definitely good value. Lovely location. Liked the camaraderie of living, eating and practicing together. All the instructors were knowledgeable, accessible and encouraging.
- This summer program was an amazing experience on many levels. I highly recommend it!
Many thanks to all who came and to the teachers who continue to teach both in-person and online. Please check the Tai Chi Foundation website regularly for new learning opportunities.
We hope to see you next year!
Photos by: Patrice Wooldridge, Steve Shulman, and Bob Etherington