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May 8, 2021.
Here is the video of our last official virtual class together. The date on the video is wrong – it is May 8, 2021. It does not include leg massages. It does include Intros, Basic Exercises, 13 postures, First Duan, and some discussion of a section of the First Duan. I moved the First Duan discussion to the end so that 13 postures and First Duan flow together.
Big thanks to Robert Politzer and Master Wang Yen-nien for their teaching and inspiration, to our fellow teachers Arnold Baker, Gretchen MacLane, Ilana Shienman, and Lisa Birnbaum and to Bob Kinkel for all of his invaluable help. And to all of the “West Side Y” Class – past and present – for being such a great group! Enjoy – feel free to contact me @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomas W. Campbell
After 27 years as a New York Taiji group we know how to enjoy a good meal and have a fun meetup! The New York Yangjia Michuan Taiji group, founded by Robert Politzer in the spring of 1994, had a great lunch at Legend 72 – continuing a time-honored tradition of friendship, tasty food, and cheerful storytelling. Classes continue at the West Side Y on Saturday mornings and virtually with Robert on Monday evenings.
We’ve continued to teach and practice Yangjia Michuan Taiji together and are all working together to help get through this. Robert continues to teach his virtual meditation taiji class on Monday evenings, Lisa is meeting folks in Central Park for an informal practice on Wednesday afternoons and the Saturday 8:45 in the park is still happening on a weekly basis.
Here is a recent group shot inspired by Melba’s trip back to NYC and below is a lovely note she sent to all of us.
Stay healthy and keep practicing taiji.
Dear Tom, Robert, Arnold, Alana, Lisa and all of my dear YMCA family.
I am very happy living in beautiful Ft Lauderdale where I hope all of you will visit me sometime in the future.
When I started my massage therapy degree program in 2015, a couple of my professors encouraged all the students to learn Tai Chi. They explained how learning Tai Chi willhelp us train our bodies to utilize all of the massage therapy techniques without causing harm to our own bodies. We learned how to move and balance ourselves between the natural opposing forces of yin and yang and the external elements of earth, fire, water, wood, and metal.
At first I cringed at the idea of being in a class at 9 am on a Saturday. So I went to Robert’s Tai Chi class on a Wednesday to check it out. I was immediately mesmerized by the meditative unison of the instructor and the students. It was the advanced class so naturally there was no way I could follow along. But something in my whole being told me I had to learn this. So I showed up to Tom’s beginners class on a Saturday morning and felt like a cat or a dog chasing my tail as I struggled to follow the group. I was so relieved when I was sent to the the other side of the room where Alana was teaching the newbies. Then I started going to the Monday night classes and the Wednesday classes. Whatever class I was in I made sure to stand right behind the instructor. I was determined to learn this. My professors were correct. It made my course of study easier in so many ways. I was so grateful to simultaneously learn not only the practice, but also about the principles of Tai Chi. What I was learning in Tai Chi were fundamentals of the massage therapy program.
Some of you are dear friends, some were my clients and I am forever grateful to the incredible instructors I had the honor of learning this practice. I hold your commitment in reverence. Tom, thank you for doing the virtual classes during this awful pandemic. For me it was such a blessing. Thank you Lisa, Robert and Bob for the weekday classes.
Thank you Tom for the video. I promise to practice as often as I can. It will be a lifetime part of my overall wellness regimen.
I miss all of you dearly. Whenever I travel to NY I will be sure to come to class. I do hope you will consider visiting me. It will be great watching the sun and the moon rise over the ocean with you.
With all my heart,
Namaste 🙏🏽 Melba
The New York Yangjia Michuan Taiji group, founded by Robert Politzer in the early 1990’s at the West Side YMCA, has met virtually, and occasionally outdoors, since Covid shut the country down in March of 2020. The Saturday group is now back in session – meeting every Saturday morning @ 8:45 in Central Park. Here is a photo of the hearty group after our second session on May 22nd.
Here is an article I wrote after returning from the First International YMT Festival in Strasbourg, France in the summer of 1995. Included are some photos from the festival and a couple of moments from the NYC Taiji Group having dinner at the old Ollies on Broadway and 68th Street around that time.
Please post a comment to your fellow Taiji friends below…
We are now meeting virtually for short Taiji classes on Saturday morning and Monday evenings.
Paul G, one of our students, just sent me this. Speaking of “walking like a cat”!
We had a wonderful Class Celebration of Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan Students and Teachers on Saturday, February 1. And had a toast of Green Tea to celebrate the Lunar New Year and 26 years of YMT at the YMCA and in NYC.
On Saturday, December 14 some of the Taiji Class gathered at Legend 72 for a noontime banquet. Good food and good conversation was had! Bob Simon is planning our New Years gathering on Saturday, February 1 and the restaurant wants reservations, so let him know if you are going to be there.
And here is a direct link to some study aids that were posted a few years back – including a video by Nicole Henriod demonstrating the introductory form; the Thirteen Postures.
To My Dear Tai Chi Students:
It was deeply touching for me and my family to have trees planted in Israel in honor of our Father who passed at age 97.
You very generous and touching gift and the trees that were planted as a result will warm our hearts for years to come.
Much Love to you all.
A belated happy year of the Pig to all! Below is an image from one of our recent banquets, some nice pig stamp images, and a link to T shirts that students and teachers can buy from. I designed the logo based on one our older shirts and it celebrates 25 years of our class in NYC! Robert did a great job of making it easy, just order the size you want from the site, pay for it, and they will be all delivered to Robert who will pass them out…
Here are some images related to our taiji classes and taiji in general. Starting at the top and moving clockwise: March 17, 2018 Saturday class in second floor room at the YMCA, Lunar New Year Stamps, March 10 YMT class banquet on 72nd Street, A taiji cookie hides in plain site, May 26, 2018 Memorial Day Class, A look at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema.
Here are two links that I have consolidated from other pages on this site for students and teachers to use. The first is to Herve Marest’s video of the Wang Yen-nien Fan Form, which is taught in our YMT class. The second is to Nicole Henriod’s video of the 13 Postures. Enjoy!
To get the the Year of the Dog going here are some recent – and vintage – photographs…
From top left, in clockwise order: 1) The last NYC YMT class of 2017, 2) A classic art movement man, 3) A Saturday class from late in 2017, 4) Robert Politzer and Master Wang practicing tuishou in 2001 (It was a spontaneous moment sometime towards the end of a workshop that a number of us attended. I believe the photograph is courtesy of Ilana Schienman), 5) Frolicking of the House Cats, and 6) The shirt I almost bought my Mom for Christmas.
Below is an excerpt from the Thirteen Postures document that can be found here.
The Thirteen Postures – Yang Family Hidden Tradition
The Eight Upper Body Movements:
1. Ward Off – Peng
2. Roll Back – Lu
3. Press – Ji
4. Push – An
5. Pull Down / Drag Down – Tsai
6. Split / Twist the Joint – Lieh
7. Elbow – Chou
8. Shoulder – Kao
The Five Lower Body Directions:
Advancing Steps – Jin
Retreating Steps – Tui
Glance to the Left Side – Ku
Glance to the Right Side – Pan
Central Equilibrium – Ding
Here is a classic text, translated in the book “The Essence of T’ai Chi Chuan”, by Ben Lo and others.
Song Of The Thirteen Postures
The thirteen postures should not be taken lightly;
The source of the postures lies in the waist.
Be mindful of the insubstantial and substantial changes;
The qi (breath) spreads throughout without hinderance.
Being still, when attacked by the opponent, be tranquil and move in stillness;
(My) changes caused by the opponent fill him with wonder.
Study the function of each posture carefully and with deliberation;
To achieve the goal is very easy.
Pay attention to the waist at all times;
Completely relax the abdomen and the qi (breath) will raise up.
When the coccyx is straight,
The shen (spirit) goes through the headtop.
To make the whole body light and agile suspend the headtop.
Extension and contraction, opening and closing, should be natural.
To enter the door and be shown the way, you must be orally taught.
The practice is uninterrupted, and the technique (achieved) by self study.
Speaking of the body and its function, what is the standard?
The i (mind/intent) and qi (breath) are king, and the bones and muscles are the court.
Think over carefully what the final purpose is: to lengthen life and maintain youth.
The Song consists of 140 characters; each character is true and the meaning is complete.
If you do not study in this manner, then you will waste your time and sigh.
Here are a few things to celebrate the changing of the seasons. From to top to bottom are:
Morning Taiji Class on September 22, Somewhere beautiful in Vermont, A Class Taiji Banquet on June 24, Morning Taiji Class on May 20, A Tasty Cookie by Holly Leavy, A Collection of Fish, A Whisker Friendly Catfood Dish.
Two of our students sent a link to a recent article in the New York Times about Balance and Taiji. This continues a consistent series of positive studies demonstrating the relationship between exercise (and taiji in particular) and health. Below is a link to the NYTimes article and a few others as well. And there is a short article about Wang Yen-nien, the fourth generation master of Yangjia Michuan, at the bottom of the list.
An interview with Wang Yen-nien
By Thomas W. Campbell
This is an excerpt from the talk I had with Master Wang in Madison, Wisconsin in 2002. It refers to his relationship to Master Cheng Man Ching, probably the most famous taiji teacher who came to teach in the United States. Wang Yen-nien knew Cheng Man-Ching when they both were in Taiwan in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. There are many students who are descendants of Cheng Man Ching’s teaching in the United States but the relationship of the two masters is little known.
TWC – We encounter students and teachers of Cheng Man Ching’s lineage who know little or nothing of your relationship with Cheng Man Ching. Would you please discuss this relationship?
WYN – I call Cheng Man Ching my older martial art brother. Why is that? That’s because he was a vowed student of Zhang Qinlin, who was also my teacher. What he studied with Zhang Qinlin was tuishou and neigong. And so because of this relationship with Zhang Qinlin we became martial art brothers. He was older than me so I call him my older martial art brother. At that time, in China, at the time he became a vowed student of Zhang Qinlin, my teacher, Cheng Man Ching was already a practicing a Yang style, not Yangjia Michuan, but another style. So because he only knew taijiquan at that time and not tuishou, he found Zhang Qinlin and wanted to practice tuishou.
In the beginning Cheng Man Ching invited Zhang Qinlin, who had been living in Shanzi province, to Nanjing. He arranged for him to teach for three months. Then, in Nanjing, with Zhang Qinlin, Cheng practiced and studied tuishou for three months; the most important things that he asked Zhang Qinlin to teach him were tuishou and neigong.
In those days, whether you were a martial artist, or whether you were a Daoist, the relationship between the teacher and the student was a very very important one. When I became a vowed student of Zhang Qinlin, my relationship with Cheng Man Ching was established. And you can never erase this relationship. Because he bowed and became a vowed student of Zhang Qinling and this created a relationship between the two of us. The difference, though, is that not only did I practice tuishou and neigong but I also learned Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan. And Zhang Qinlin taught me the complete system, and not CMC.
This is to state once again that my relationship with Cheng Man Ching is due to the fact that we are both vowed disciples of Zhang Qinlin.
Published in AYMTA Journal, Fall 2002.
Early in our studies Robert Politzer, who founded the New York Yangjia Michuan Taiji School in 1993 and is the head teacher, gave us a book list. It contained a number of essential taiji texts and represented the beginning of my own library of taiji related books. I found a list from the year 2000, which I believe has added a few titles. To it I have added a work by William C. C. Chen, who was a friend of Wang Yen-nien and still teaches in NYC. Included as well is a book by Chen Man-ching, who was a younger Daoist brother and friend of Master Wang.
Here is the list, in the order that a beginner might want to proceed:
Taiji Reading List:
The Essence of T’ai Chi Ch’uan
translated by Lo/Inn/Amacker/Foe
T’ai-chi Touchstones -Yang Family Secret Transmissions
by Douglas Wile
Sweet Ch’i Press
T’ai Chi Ch’uan Ta Wen (Questions and Answers)
by Chen wei-ming
Sweet Ch’i Press
T’ai Chi Classics
translated by Waysun Liao
We had our annual Chinese New Year Lunch (Banquet) for the Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan class on Saturday, January 28. Good conversation and good food were had.
Happy Year of the Rooster to all!
In the summer of 1995 a large group of the original members of the New York City YMT group traveled to Strasbourg, France to participate in an international gathering of Yangjia Michuan students and teachers. Wang Yen-nien, fourth generation master of the system, led the workshops and events. Julia Fairchild, Christian Bernapel and numerous other veteran teachers were among those in attendance. We had all begun practicing with Robert Politzer less than two year prior so it was a heady and exciting experience.
Thanks to Arnold C. Baker II for supplying the pictures.
March 2017 UPDATE:
Here is a short list of questions that I found in my European notebook from the summer of 1995. (I believe a number of us put our heads together for these as they are in different hand writing).
Questions for Master Wang
1) At a recent “push-hands” tournament every player (Mainly New-Yang players) began with their weight on the front leg. We have been taught to be more centered on the back leg. Why or how has this difference emerged?
2) What is the relationship between hardness and softness in our style? In push hands?
3) Please explain the legwork in “tai” (“cai” / “drag down”).
4) Please explain the front leg pivot in “monkey retreats”… most notably whether or not we pivot on the heel or toe.
5) in “Right, turn, tame the tiger” I am having trouble accomplishing the move with consistency. What are the important points that I should be looking at and considering?
6) During ”Hit the tiger” in section two, is the entire move performed facing the diagonal?
Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan Study Aids
Here is a link to a document that could be helpful for students who are learning and practicing the 13 postures of the Yang Family Hidden Tradition: 13 postures YMT Introduction .
And a link to a nice video featuring Nicole Henriod, a french YMT teacher, demonstrating the 13 postures of the Yangjia Michuan form. For video relating to all aspects of the Yang Family Hidden Tradition you can click HERE.
UPDATED August 16, 2015: Below is a link to Wang Yen-nien demonstrating the first section (first duan) of the Yangjia Michuan Taiji form. It was recorded in Taipei, where he taught and lived. It is said to be from 1987 – it seems like it could be earlier to me. Regardless, it is a valuable view of the form as he taught and practiced it:
UDATED May 13, 2016: And below is a link of George C. Lin, a disciple of Wang Yen-nien. Many members of Robert Politzer’s original class circa 1993-2001 were able to meet and to study with Master Wang in Europe and in the states.
In 1996 Master Wang Yen-nien and Julia Fairchild visited New York City for an extensive workshop that covered The First Duan, Meditation, and The 15 Basic Tuishou exercises.
On Friday evening, the day before the start of the workshops, Master Wang addressed a large gathering in the Little Theater at the West Side YMCA. Below is part one of the 90 minute lecture.
Wang Yen-nien Lecture – New York City, June 21, 1996
Translation: Julia Fairchild, Moderator: Robert Politzer
Video Production and Editing by Thomas W. Campbell
Part One: Eight Minutes
Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan in New York City
By Gretchen MacLane
There have been great changes in the New York Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan group since Robert Politzer began teaching in April 1994.
Robert had lived in Taiwan studying with Wang Yen-nien mornings and evenings seven days a week. Robert is very musical and picked up spoken Chinese quickly. After three or four extended stays in Taiwan Robert married Barbara and settled in New York City, both teaching junior high school on the West Side of Manhattan.
He persuaded the then-director of the West Side YMCA to incorporate a taiji class two evenings a week. Arnold Baker and Tom Campbell have been there since that first class. Christian Bernapel created the First International Festival in Strasbourg and Robert and seven members of the class attended. The final summer weekend of 1995 Robert arranged the first Baker Camp workshop for the seven and his wife and new baby, Rachel. Subsequently there were three more workshops at Baker Camp in Harriman State Park just outside the city.
The following year, 1996, Robert organized a weekend event at the YMCA. Master Wang lectured in the Little Theater Friday evening and taught a two-day Section 1 workshop in the children’s gym. Two additional two-day workshops, neigong and push hands, took place in an upstate college. That fall Robert continued the teaching of neigong and push hands near his apartment in Inwood Park at the northwest point of Manhattan.
The YMCA has a land-marked façade in a building close to Central Park. The new executive team sold the air rights to the developers of a 40-story apartment building. The community protested the height, there was litigation but the project went through. The YMCA got additional space. Originally the taiji classes were in an auditorium, called the Little Theater. It was pleasantly higgledy-piggledy and spacious. The taiji class was relocated during construction, first to a children’s gym, then to the basement in the old cafeteria. Mice and cockroaches ran through. The original plans called for a martial-arts studio in the new construction but when opened that area was filled with ellipsoidal machines. The taiji classes, two times a week, were in the Group Exercise Studio, a lovely, high-ceilinged gym. Originally there were double-high casement windows flooding the studio with light, but they had to be boarded up against the west wall of the new apartment building.
Once the classes were upstairs in the central exercise area, there was an executive policy change and all classes had to be open to everyone at all times. Heretofore people registered and paid a small amount for three months of twice-a-week two-hour classes. Robert was able to nicely structure the classes and incorporate push hands. Once the classes were opened up there were many people, mostly older, who did not want to do push hands. The taiji classes diminished in size, yoga became hugely popular, and the YMCA ran through the money from the developer. Robert had another child, Benjamin, and his wife wanted him home more. The director shortened the class times to an hour.
Now Tom Campbell teaches twice a week: he teaches a class early Saturday morning that was added at the request of the older members. The Saturday class is the best attended; the seniors love Tom, his optimism and devotion to taiji. That class is an hour and half; thus more time can be devoted to basic exercises and form teaching. Robert teaches the more advanced class once a week and Tom takes the other evening, an intermediate class. Gretchen MacLane assists by taking the beginners to the side the two evenings a week and fills in if Robert or Tom must be away. Arnold Baker and Ilana Sheinman assist Tom with the Saturday morning class.
Visitors from all over America and France, Spain, the United Kingdom and Switzerland have contacted us to arrange for a guest pass for any of the classes. For lodging, the Y is a nonprofit organization (no hotel tax) and has hotel accommodations ranging from a room with a bath to dormitory/shared bath that can be arranged for a 10 percent discount. Lincoln Center is across the street.
This article is being republished. It was originally published in the American Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan Association Journal in the fall/winter of 2011.