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Canadian Tai Chi Academy
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    Sabre Reflections
    Posted November 24, 2013
Why would a group of gentle people in a quiet town in the Alberta Foothills spend a weekend (in the early 21st century) learning to handle an ancient weapon of war? It is not only unlikely that they'd be using an edged, metal sabre in their daily lives, to do so might attract the attention of the law or, more likely, the mental health profession.

Never the less, in an open room at a local church in Cochrane, Alberta, we gathered to learn the Tai Chi Sabre Set. Our instructor, Boon Loh, had learned this variation of the Yang-style form modified by Moy Lin Shin.

Learning the basics of the form in a weekend was an ambitious undertaking. Although quite a bit shorter than the 108 move empty hand form, it involves unique moves and, of course, a sabre. We had no illusions of "mastering" the form in two days, but after Boon's initial demonstration of the complete sequence we all wondered what we had signed on to.

Boon Loh has a remarkable combination of qualities that make for an excellent instructor. First, he is just plain good at this stuff. He demonstrates each move with clarity and confidence. He explains the elements and subtleties of the moves with humour and humility. Even when he admonishes a lapse in form or a lazy short-cut, he does so in a way that gets a laugh out of every one - and instant improvement as well.

Boon brought along an assistant... his friend "Boon", on video. For almost every move, he referred us to a video of himself performing the Sabre set. The video was shot in Malaysia in 1998. By using the video, Boon was able to point out specific points of technique that he couldn't refer to while performing them "live".

There are many elements of the form that use movements directly drawn from the empty-hand form that we were all familiar with. There are, of course, tor yus (bow-and-arrow-stance) throughout the whole sequence. Individual moves such as Strike Tiger (Left and Right), Stork Spreads Wings, Right Heel Kick, Stork Spreads Wings, and others, are all there. Something different happens when you have a sabre in your hands.

It reminds me of teaching my son to skate. At first, he would shuffle a few feet before pitching over onto his knees. "Don't look at your feet", I'd say. But he'd get up and start skating and inevitably look down at his feet again and put his centre of gravity too far forward. Finally, I put a hockey stick in his hands and tossed a puck about fifteen feet ahead of him on the frozen pond. His head tilted up and he put the stick on the ice and went for that rubber disc. He strode forward and whacked that puck down the ice and skated after it with his head up and his focus beyond his own body.

Learning the Sabre Set has a similar effect. In order to coil the sabre and send it in spirals, you concentrate on making it do what you want it to, and almost subconsciously you improve your basic form in order to achieve those results. I noticed that the class in general wasn't having trouble with the usual problems of balance on the kicks, for instance.

Now my son can skate circles (and squares and figure-eights and triangles and every other geometric shape) around me. These days he's developing a passion for carpentry. Simply driving a nail involves techniques similar to those found in the Sabre Set. Those skills of peace can be learned from the skills of the martial arts such as Tai Chi (or Hockey, the national martial art of Canada).

There might be no obvious "practical" use for the sabre in our time, but, apart from how we can learn and benefit from the discipline, there is another level to learning the Sabre Set: It is part of our history.

Art Norris

    Practice Tip
    Posted November 20, 2013
They say in the world of 10,000 things to become an expert in anything, you need to practise it 10,000 times.

It's 10:15 in the morning, time to take a break from the computer. What to do to refresh myself? Well I've noticed that kicks in the set are an ongoing challenge. Sometimes they work, sometimes it's like I'm back in Beginner class.

I don't have enough time to do the entire set right now but hey, how about that section from Separation of Right Foot through to second Cross Hands. There's six kicks in that little section! And it only takes a few minutes. When I get up from my chair I try to instantly put myself into that concentrated place and just begin. The multitude of things I notice doing it day after day after day produces when actually doing the set, arriving at that point, all sorts of extra content to include, awareness to bring to these movements.

Pick your "unfavourite" spot in the set and loop through it as often as time permits. You will quickly see improvements and look forward to executing those moves. And now your observant eye begins to notice other topic areas you might work on next.

"Inside. Everything open up." quote from Moy Lin Shin. (too many times to count.)

Doug Overholt

    Workshop Oct 26 - 27, Mississauga
    Posted October 29, 2013
Our first national workshop at the Iceland Arena in Mississauga was a real success with close to 81 people showing up from various locations. CTCA members from different parts of Canada such as Nova Scotia, Grand Bend, North Bay, Brantford, Dundas, Hamilton, Quebec, London, Port Perry and more showed up to make this workshop a positive and enjoyable one. We have also received many positive feedbacks overall relating to the two day workshop the Mississauga Branch provided.

Everyone from beginners to senior instructors took away an increase in knowledge relating to their Tai Chi and in how to teach others with an understanding of the challenges that some students experience.

This knowledge and experience now needs to be put into practice and shared amongst their peers. We appreciate everything that Doug Overholt and Philippe Gagnon shared with us and would like to take this opportunity to thank them in sharing their experiences and teachings from Mr. Moy with us.

Canadian Tai Chi Academy
Mississauga Location

    GTA Beginner Instruction Workshop - Oct 6, 2013
    Posted October 7, 2013
We held our first beginner instruction workshop of the season for the Greater Toronto Area. It was a resounding success. In attendance, were five beginner instructors, two continuing instructors, and a number of students interested in the art of instruction.

Topics in this first session were wide-ranging: looking at various ways to teach moves such as Wave Hands Like Clouds, Hold the Ball, Grasp's Bird's Tail; discussion around saying too much (or too little); inventive use of props to help with the 45 degree step, coordinating arm and foot movement, keeping knee over ankle while squaring the hips; how to deal with student absenteeism while still progressing through the set (eg video and textual backup); how to work with different levels in the same class; different classes with different expectations; speed of teaching the set; consideration of the meditative qualities for beginners.

Many of these topics were broached but hardly exhausted. We will continue to tackle them in our next workshop, as well as introduce new areas of interest that the members feel are important.

Robin Fulford
Danforth Club, Toronto