Spring 2017

Latest USTCC Newsletter

The USTCC Newsletter is published quarterly and emailed to members.  Members may access all current and past issuesafter logging in.


We welcome ideas for and submissions of newsletter articles from our members.  

Email our News Editors at editor@tchc.infowith your articles or suggestions!

Community MattersErnie Hall
by Ernie Hall, USTCC President

Spring brings promise of all good things. Sharing here, good news “springing” from your United States Tai Chi Community:

Four new board members have been appointed to fill spots made available upon retirement and terms ending for others who served USTCC Board of Directors over the past several years. Beginning two-year terms are Jonahan Doshin (Texas,) Roy Geib (Indiana,) Trish Gonzales (Minnesota,) and Steve Walden (Indiana.) Here’s a Shout-Out and Community Welcome to each of them. If you don’t already know these talented people, you’ll get to meet them at a future workshop or networking through other USTCC channels soon.

Another exciting announcement: Fourteen USTCC members have been selected by the scholarship committee to attend Dr. Lam’s annual June USA workshop in Asheville, NC. This year’s roster of scholarship recipients are well deserving of the honor. It is the privilege of USTCC to acknowledge their dedication to tai chi in their respective communities. If you attend the Weeklong in June, be sure to join us at the Tuesday evening open board meeting to meet and congratulate the scholars: Shannon Blanton (Alabama,) Catherine Brenner (New York,) Judith Gray (Maryland,) Delores Gulledge (South Carolina,) Dennis Hagarty (North Carolina) LeeAnn Heikkila (Wisconsin,) Mickey Hill (North Carolina,) Sarah Meitl (Alaska,) Craig Miller (Missouri,) Michael Poole (New York,) Ruth Pifer (Pennsylvania,) Frances Preston (Oregon,) William Schroeder (Kansas) and Hertencer Sheppard (Gerogia.)

The Board of Directors encourages USTCC members who have not previously received scholarships to consider applying for the 2018 awards. Watch this newsletter and the USTCC website home page for information and deadline in early Fall (2017.)

Message to USTCC members and tai chi practitioners: Never under-estimate how important you are at all levels of local, regional, national and international efforts via classes, workshops, networking channels as you continue to shepherd people toward health and wellness. The tai chi we all practice and love does make a difference, enhancing our personal lives as well as those around us. Community Matters. Happy Spring 2017!

Best Wishes,

Ernie Hall, President

Board of Directors

United States Tai Chi Community, a USA 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization

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From the Editors

Spring and weird weather is upon us. Here in the Northeast we have had blizzards followed by 60 degree weather. Hard to plan classes and workshops but we do what we can (yield to the incoming force.)

The last Saturday in April is World Tai Chi & Qigong Day. Do you have events planned or Spring Celebrations? We would love to see your photos in our next issue. Remember you can list your events on the USTCC Events page!

Registration is open for next year’s Retreat on Jekyll Island, well worth the trip! I went this year and had a relaxed and fun experience with new friends and old. A great way to recharge after the holidays. Check out the summary of the retreat below!

Please keep in touch throughout the year with other USTCC members through this newsletter. Share what’s going on with classes, programs and events in your communities, share your teaching experience with tips and advice for the rest of us, share stories whether inspirational, amusing or amazing.

Looking forward to your submissions!

Your Editors,
Marsha & Maureen

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Safety Considerations when Teaching Tai Chi in a Chair

by Denise Murray ST (Lake Orion MI)

Chair tai chi classes are growing in popularity among senior communities and assisted living facilities. When doing any exercise in a chair ergonomic support becomes an important consideration. Chair discomfort can cause agitation and distraction among your class participants. There are several things to look for when evaluating a chair for comfort and ease of movement to make you class effective.

1. A chair with lumbar support promotes good seated posture. Too little lumbar support will cause slouching or a poor sitting posture and back pain.

2. Sofas should never be used in an exercise class. Similar to tradition-al tai chi a stable surface is needed to stabilize the body for movement. The softness of cushions can cause or contribute to spine, hip or knees injury.

3. One chair does not fit everyone. The easiest way to evaluate the fit of a chair is to look at their seated profile. Hips should be at knee level or slightly higher. A person should be able to rest the back against the chair with feet flat on the floor. There should be a 2 to 3 finger gap between the seat or cushion and the back of the knee. If the chair is too big or small it will cause poor circulation, muscle fatigue, weak-ness and joint pain.

4. Even a well-fitting chair can cause pressure sores or pain if sat in for long periods of time.

5. Chair classes are not safe for everyone. If a participant is living with Osteoporosis in the hips or in need of a hip replacement, or a hip injury from a fall the torque and pressure caused by moving in a chair can cause pain and damage the hip further.

Some simple things you can do:

1. Carry chair cushions to your class or request the assisted living where you teach purchase cushions for their residents. Use cushions to elevate the seat for tall individuals or back support for petite individuals. The cushion can be used to move your participant forward in the chair to ensure their feet are flat on the floor.

2. Foot rests can provide a surface for the feet to rest flat, or can be used to elevate the feet to prevent blood from pooling at the ankles.

3. When possible make the most of every opportunity to get them stand-ing or walking. Even if it is taking a few extra steps to your class.

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Elders Enjoy Tai Chi in Southern California

By: Barbara Janeway (Laguna Hills, CA)


I’m proud of my pilot class at an assisted living residence in Laguna Hills California. It began as a seated TCA class. All of my students are in their 70’s and 80’s, and one participant is 102 ! Now after 22 weekly lessons, the students are transitioning to doing standing TCA.

This presents fascinating and good challenges both for me as instructor, and for the students. They are enthusiastic about their progress, indeed it is they who pushed me to graduate them into, as they said, “a class which really will improve balance.” So we began with sessions of mixed seated and standing, and always there are 1 or 2 people who remain seated throughout the session.

I consistently encourage participants to be in charge of their personal sense of balance, and to use their nearby chairs as support when needed. Visually I am closely watching them as we do each warm-up and then practice the form. After a move, if I saw someone looking a little unsteady, I quickly assess what they are doing, or stop and ask the question to every-one: “How was your sense of balance in what we just did?”

Someone may say “That was hard.” So, I can see a way to modify the move so it is creating more stability. For example, in the TCA warm-up sequence, the first real “balance-challenger” is the first hip warm-up: “heel forward, arms push back, then toe back and to side”. Even if one modifies this to be: “…toe taps next to other foot, then back a bit and to the side”–that is too de-stabilizing for several of my students right now. So we’ve modified it: “heel forward, then place foot so you are in a shoulder-width stance.” Done with the arm movements it is a good warm-up for their level now.

The commencement move of TCA: we are currently practicing in this way: “Breathe in, arms up as if receiving a ball, bring it straight down, move it toward your dantien and shift your weight to the right. Bring your hands up along your chest as you shift your weight to the left. As you give the ball forward, shift your weight to the center.”

In this way of modifying standing Tai Chi for Arthritis, my students are improving their sense of balance at their own individual rates. I continue to visually monitor their balance, and I ask for verbal feedback. It’s interesting to teach this older population, who have so much to offer from life experience. And they are avid about wanting better balance skills.

In my other two classes at another assisted living residence, there are a couple of enthusiastic participants who used to do tai chi, and who now have some cognitive decline. So I’ve come to understand that even with simple verbal cues, which work for the rest of the class, these participants do just fine getting “the essence and not the details” of the form. They are smiling and enjoying!

Southern California seems to have no shortage of healthy, physically active octogenarians. Perhaps it is the brilliant sun and dry climate, but I hope tai chi will further add to their longevity.

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Honoring Sprit

By: Ross Costa (Laguna Niguel, CA / Flowering Hands Tai Chi)

As Tai Chi instructors we are occasionally tasked as the bearers of bad news when one of our Tai Chi family passes away. During our recent Christmas break I learned that our beloved Dennis Malone had passed away at the age of 89. Dennis was a long time favorite of mine. He was good natured, friendly, and helpful. Most of all I will remember his sense of humor! About 12 years ago when he and his wife started, we were working on “left brushed knee.” After a bit of practice I turned to the class and said, “So how did you do?” Dennis popped up with with, “Well, I did fine but you all went the wrong direction.” The class burst out laughing. Throughout the years, with a twinkle in his eye and a sly little grin, he would often say something humorous. When we reunited in January we paid tribute to him by remembering some of our favorite moments together.

He was also a student in my ukulele classes, in which I used our Tai Chi method of breaking down the movements into component parts. Left hand movements and right hand movements practiced separately and then combined to make a glorious sound! He liked that and it helped his playing. I will be playing at a memorial for him on March 11 and will do a few of his favorite songs.

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2nd Annual “Living With the Principles” Tai Chi Retreat

By: Marsha Carr, Maureen Miller, Betty Scanlon

Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Jekyll Island, GA, was not particularly spectacular on Sunday, January 22. But, as registered tai chi instructors and addicts congregated for the official opening of the 2nd annual Living With the Principles Tai Chi retreat, the warmth of friendships, new and old, brought a shining brightness of it’s own to the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

While those who’d attended the first retreat in 2016 had some idea of what the next four days might contain, none of us could conceptualize what Nature had in store.


Jekyll Island is not known for earthquakes, volcanos, lightening strikes, snow, or even hurricanes. In fact, record shows it has way below average possibility for any of the above. However, with the climate changes experienced over the last years, one can’t rule out anything. Thus, when a tornado warning interrupted our first session, requiring us to move from our floor-to-ceiling windowed conference rooms overlooking the ocean into the unoccupied humongous central ballroom, everyone followed the principles of yield to the incoming force and go with the flow while Jekyll warded off this game of Nature and upheld it’s statistical notoriety.

With the warning discontinued, the remaining retreat sessions were held in our scheduled spaces—inside for discussion or initial learning, outside for play and practice. The program—following the three tracks: Education and Marketing; Health and Nutrition; and Tai Chi/Qigong—was led by nine Session Leaders.

Topics included: improving your health by integrating Five Element Theory into your eating and daily living activities; learning to balance chi; investigating the subtle energies of the body; exploring and sharing ways of promoting/marketing oneself, classes, and workshops; and introduction to fan. For those that wanted to practice listening and using chi energy, there were sessions in sensing hands as well as practicing rooting, yielding and release of power (Fa Jing).

One popular session was an introduction to “Tai Chi for Shoulder Rehabilitation”. Open to the public and presented by Dan Jones and Maureen Miller, the program has been successfully used in Michigan to improve shoulder movement. Such was the popularity, that it will be offered in 2018 as a unique two-day pre-retreat program, with several sessions during the second day open to retreat participants.

Another well attended session was an evening drumming session. Proposed and led by Stephanie Taylor, participants learned the five element patterns—beating them out upon their own African or other drums. Cake pans were handed out for those without. ”Twas a great evening full of deep rhythms, much laughter, and an intense desire learn more,” was the feedback.

On Jekyll we not only nourished our mind, body, and spirit through sharing our knowledge, but also learned more about and how to live with this year’s chosen principles – posture, song, mindful breath, continuity of movement, as well as yield to the incoming force and go with the flow.

For information about this and other upcoming workshops, please visit the United States Tai Chi Community “Events and Workshops” page. USTCC Member Events

Praise Sandwich Ingredients

By: Johnny Packard (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin)

Your participants have watched you perform a Tai Chi movement, and they have followed you many times as you led them through it. Now it’s their turn to show you the movement. Here are some “praise sandwich ingredients” to help instructors provide participants with both encouragement and correction.

Basic praise and improvement always begins with the external movement. Qualities worth noting are:

1) Precise understanding of the movement’s basic mechanics,

2) Safe movement, well within the participants’ comfort zone,

3) Slow, smooth and continuous movement, and

4) Movement as if against a gentle resistance.

Here’s an example of an external movement praise sandwich: “Everyone showed a good understanding of all the movement’s components. And I appreciate how everyone stayed within their comfort zone and didn’t overextend. Here’s one point to make it better….slow down. Allow the movement to breathe. Overall, great job grasping the basics and doing the movement safely.” Most praise sandwiches in a beginning class are made with these ingredients.

With more experienced participants, praise and improvement can focus on body structure. Qualities worth noting are:

1) Body upright, or no leaning,

2) Clean weight transference, or no falling into steps, and

3) Lifted eyes, or no looking at the floor or the hands.

A body structure praise sandwich might sound like this: “Everyone performed the movement precisely and with good structure. I especially liked the quiet controlled stepping. To make it better, remember where our eyes should be looking? Right, we lift the gaze, and lift the spirit, using soft focus to take in our surroundings. In general, everyone maintained body upright, and separated Yin and Yang well. ”

At the highest level, praise and improvement will concentrate on the internal. These are the most difficult qualities for an instructor to perceive, but could include:

1) Song, or relaxed muscles and loosened joints, and

2) Jing, or mental serenity.

For example, “Everyone demonstrated a very clear understanding of the movement, and performed it following the Tai Chi principles. I also noticed everyone’s focus and presence in the moment. To make it even better, try to relax more. To quote Dr. Smiley, ‘the only time we get in serious trouble in Tai Chi, is when we get too serious’. Have fun. Where you feel tension, physical or mental, will it to release. To summarize, everyone moved precisely, followed the principles, and remained focused.”

Sometimes, a participant will perform a movement safely, but with little precision, even after many repetitions. To avoid frustration and dishonesty, an instructor can offer general praise such as: “I can tell you are working very hard to get this,” or “You should feel very good for taking this time for yourself.”

Being prepared to offer an authentic praise sandwich is one the challenges of teaching Tai Chi for Health. Developing a repertoire of legitimate encouragement and sound corrections will improve our teaching and our participants’ Tai Chi.

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Scholarship Raffle Item – This could be yours!

By: Denise Murray (Lake Orion, MI)

Our United States Tai Chi Community mission is to promote the practice of tai chi for health and wellness and support our certified member instructors in the United States. One of the ways we do this is by offering scholarships to interested and dedicated members. One of the ways we fund these scholarships is with a raffle, mostly from donations by our members.

This year one of the items up for bid is a very detailed painting that is mounted to a silk wall scroll. A lot of work went into this. It actually takes the artist almost a full day to complete.

The artist’s name is Jing Bin. He was born in Guanxi Province (southern China). His specialty is paintings of mythological and historical figures of ancient China.

This wall hanging is of the Saint of Good Fortune. (his name is literally translated as “good-luck star”). You may see images of this deity during Chinese New Year around the doors and in the homes of traditional Chi-nese people. You can also display him on your wall with this artwork to bring good fortune to your home or business all year long.

Support your scholarships. Purchase your tickets at the weeklong. You do not have to be present to attend. If you are unable to attend Dr. Lam’s weeklong contact Denise Murray, murraydlus@yahoo.com, before May 15th. Denise will make raffle tickets available to you. And arrange for you to receive your prize. Shipping may be an additional cost. If you or your class would like to donate a prize for the Scholarship raffle contact Denise Murray at murraydlus@yahoo.com Suggested gift donation value $25.00 or more.

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Practicing Tai Chi for Arthritis in a Circle of Friends

By: Celeste Graves, MA Senior Trainer, TCHI (Saugerties, NY)

One day, a member of my Tai Chi class proposed the idea of trying out our practice in a circle. I had heard of this once before from an experienced instructor, but had forgotten about it.

So we tried it. And we did it again, and again. Since that time we have played with small, tight circles, large, wide formations, and even a triangular “three person” version. Each variation presents its own challenges and offers specific gifts of beauty and awareness. Always there is a fresh perspective on our well practiced practice. Above all, our connection with one another is strengthened and enlivened. We seem to have found a new way to be together within the context of our practice. At its best, the group effort feels easeful, with a quiet joy, even in the midst of the strident demands of maintaining fluidity and aliveness in our circular formation. A renewal of personal diligence is required in each moment, with the form we thought we knew so well. Now, in all my ongoing classes we experiment with Circle Tai Chi, at least once or twice a month, sometimes more.

Here are a few more of our observations and reflections on doing Tai Chi for Arthritis in a Circle of Friends:

First of all, it is best that everyone know the form well. (Though sometimes this is not the case, and that’s fine too.)

We quickly learned also, that it works best to align with the people standing to one’s left and right sides rather than with anyone directly across the circle. Those across the way will be going in the opposite direction and that can get confusing. Also, we have found that it works best to position ourselves facing the spaces in between the people across the circle, rather than directly facing anyone.

We enjoy the agile stepping, now done along the gentle curve of the circle, whether side stepping as in Waving Hands in Clouds, or straight on as in Brush Knee and that entire sequence. A sense of creating a large, almost planet like, three dimensional, and very alive

“body in space” occurs to us.

In Part 2, we move off of our circumference as we step slightly back for Single Whip. Soon Repulse Monkey takes us out in a new direction. Faithfully following this well practiced movement, we step out into the unknown, away from the visually comforting connection with our group members. There is a moment of panic. Where are we? What movement are we doing? Where is everybody? Yet we continue on, gathering new qi and bringing it back to be delivered into the center of our new planetary existence as we Repulse Monkey the second time.

Early on, one of the practitioners confessed that she felt overwhelmed by a sense that the energy, (qi), was out of control. It seemed to her to be bouncing off the walls that surrounded us. We decided to make a concerted effort to be more purposeful in our gathering and delivering of the qi. We wanted to see if we could have better control of how it traveled. On our first Repulse Monkey, we experimented with mindfully dipping into and scooping up the qi directly from the center of our circle before turning out to face the unknown and sending it out into the universe. From ‘out there’ we gathered fresh new qi for our return delivery back into our center with our second Repulse Monkey. Then suddenly, we found ourselves once again following the gentle curve of our group circumference with Brush Knee going into finishing out our LTEC. Centering ourselves, breathing in and out with Open Close, we confidently moved on to Part 2, Second Side. We were united, moving as one. We had established a level of control and containment that had our “qi” feeling friendly, supportive, and supported.

Afterwards we discussed the sense of energy swirling – circling around and within us. Consistently now, we notice the Mysterious Spiral Force responding differently when we work in a circle. It seems more excited, churned up somehow by so much group circling.

Is it our imagination?

Or is it that we are somehow more present to its reality when playing in this format? We continue to practice, observe, and share insights.

And we would love to hear from others who have or want to try TCA in a Circle of Friends.

A smiling tai chi salute to all.

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Yield to the Incoming Force

By: Lois Bascom, Instructor for Standing and Seated Tai Chi (Shelburne Falls, MA)

Recently, my husband and I were taking a walk and encountered weeds growing out over the sidewalk. They entangled my feet and I went down, hard, onto the cement. My body turned gracefully (I am told) toward my right side as I fell, hitting my right hip bone onto the cement. I hit the back of my head hard enough for my husband to hear the sound.

While I was stunned, I was able to get up in a while and hobble home. Parts of my neck and shoulders were stiff and sore the next day, but noth-ing was broken or sprained. I have two types of arthritis throughout my body, yet there was no damage of any kind. My head never got a visible bump, never hurt. After two days of rest, I was able to go about my usual life with no ill aftereffects. Oh! Yes! I am 75 years of age.

I attribute the ease with which I encountered this “incoming force” to my daily Tai Chi practice. My body relaxed, as we talk about at the beginning of our class. I have been sharing the story of this experience with my partic-ipants in each class as an example of what daily practice will do for them. Of course, we want no falls at all!!

Inspiring Moments

By: Lois Bascom, Instructor for Standing and Seated Tai Chi (Shelburne Falls, MA)

I have been teaching an eight week TCA class to a group of women who are part of a social service community. Many of them are overweight and unable to stand for very long. Because I am also certified in Seated Tai Chi, I have encouraged people to do TCA seated. On the final day of class, one woman who hasn’t stood at all in class, stood to do the form in its entirety. This was such a blessing!! It is special moments like this that inspire me to continue teaching Tai Chi.


Scholarship Fund Raffle Donations NEEDED

By: Denise Murray, ST (Lake Orion MI)

Those that are the happiest are those that do the most for others. – Booker T. Washington

Purchasing USTCC Scholarship Raffle and 50/50 tickets at the weeklong workshop makes difference in lives of deserving TCHI Instructors who otherwise could not afford to attend the Dr. Lam’s week long workshop. Having desired raffle items is equally important to the success of our fundraising efforts to provide scholarships to deserving TCHI Instructors.

WE NEED YOU! Raffle Gift Donations are needed for the 2017 Dr. Lam Week Long Workshop. Ideal gift donations will have a value of $35 or more and be non-gender specific. When making gift donations consider individuals traveling by air with baggage and weight restrictions. If a gift donation weighs more than 2 pounds or is large in size, consider including postage with your donation for those attending the workshop with flight restrictions. Consider getting your Tai Chi for Health class participants involved by donating a community gift from your classes.

Popular gift ideas include:

  • Gift Cards from Amazon, Starbucks, iTunes, National retail and food chains, etc…
  • Music DVDs
  • Tai Chi Rulers, Balls, Tibetan Singing Bowls

USTCC is a charitable organization under IRS 501 (C.) (3), so all donations are tax deductable. If you would like to make a gift donation or have any questions please contact Denise Murray, murraydlus@yahoo.com , call or text 248-891-9997. To properly promote your gift and provide proper recognition, a photo of your donation along with its estimated value should be submitted to me no later than the end of May 2017.

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USTCC is a charitable organization under IRS 501 (C.) (3), so all donations are tax deductable. If you would like to make a gift donation or have any questions please contact Denise Murray, murraydlus@yahoo.com, call or text 248-891-9997.  To properly promote your gift and provide proper recognition, a photo of your donation along with its estimated value should be submitted to me no later than the end of May 2017.

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Did you know that our website lists Tai Chi for Health workshops and other special events submitted by our instructor and practitioner members?  Any USTCC member may use the Event Submission formon the website to add an event to our database. Once accepted, your event will be listed for viewing by other USTCC members.

You can view the full listing on the website. If you have any questions about event submissions or listings, please contact Julie Oberhaus at events@tchc.info.

April 7 – 9, 2017 Chen Style 36 Forms
Led by Daniel Baranowski
Billerica, MA
Contact: Julie Oberhaus, dancingcrane8@gmail.com, 978-219-4847
April 21 – 22, 2017 Tai Chi for Rehabilitation Instructor Workshop
with Master Trainer Linda Ebeling
Olathe, Kansas
Contact: Linda Ebeling, cranetigertaichi@yahoo.com

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