I’m not even exaggerating here. I have always and to this day live with this Tai Chi Prejudice inside of me. I grew up always thinking this, even though everything at our school has nothing to do with being old at all. Actually, I never understood why people would lament over getting older, cause these were always my favorite people to be around at the school, the people who were older than me, but I never considered old. Even if you weren’t my favorite, I had a favorite feeling about you if you were part of our Tai Chi Family, cause we all have that family we would never be friends with, but we have no choice but to just accept, because, they’re family.
It was though being born into Tai Chi also meant that the most familiar prejudice of all, would also be something that I would also be born with… “Tai Chi is only for old people”
The strange thing about thinking this way, was that I never looked at anybody being “Old Enough” for Tai Chi, rather I am shocked when I see someone who looks as though they are “Too Young” for Tai Chi. What the hell does that even mean actually? Someone looking too young for Tai Chi? Perhaps it says more about where I’m actually lacking as a human, in my life. However I came under the influence to this type of thinking has actually spun my head around more to what is now, this insane hunger and curiosity for how the minds of the ones I “deem” “too young” for Tai Chi actually work. They intrigue me and I am lucky enough to have them to pick on at the school.
I often find there are two types:
- loves the strength and intensity of the controlled movement
- Wants to do Push-Hands and San Shou
Type 1, usually becomes a student for life.
Type 2, usually disappears and then reappears 10 years later. To which dad loves to say “It’s a good thing you come back while I’m still alive”, which I don’t find to be funny, but every who gets to hear him say this always laughs at “The Master’s” joke with this feeling that they have just been privileged to this secret side of Grandmaster Chen.
Even training to fight and competing so much, I would still be shocked at people who looked my age and were doing this willingly, it never made sense to me then and even now, in some ways, apparently.
I look back and wonder why the hell I was so stupid?… Why didn’t I find my dad interesting? Why didn’t I find Tai Chi interesting? No, I did find Tai Chi interesting, sort of, but I also assumed, “Well, we’re Chinese, it makes sense that this is our family business and I am so happy that mom and dad didn’t open a laundromat, cause I hate folding clothes and thank goodness they didn’t open a restaurant, cause I hate doing dishes”
I think I found that I always enjoyed my life through Tai Chi. I had no desire to learn it, I watched it and it looked ok, but I wasn’t interested in it, The Tai Chi. I found the people who came to train, interesting. I found the visitors who liked to bring us gifts and smile a lot while they would always be nodding in a weird Half American/ Half Asian kind of bow, they never fully bowed, it always looked like some awkward audition where people are trying to “act asian respectful” in American Bodies. It amused me and so did the gifts. I really loved when we traveled and most of the traveling was Tai Chi related and then they would become tournament related when I started competing. My life, because of Tai Chi was interesting to me and I sort of knew this in the same way I sorta didn’t. I knew I was always extremely different from my girlfriends and classmates, we never had anything relatable to discuss. The only people I could relate to were the people who consciously adored this thing that was my life, Tai Chi, but the one thing we couldn’t relate to each other about was Tai Chi too. One thing we all always felt in common, our love for Dad.
I always knew dad was “cool” in a very unique way. I never saw my schoolmates’ father’s spar. I do remember looking at the dad’s of my girlfriends and always thinking
- “Do they even know how throw a punch?”
- “My dad would definitely kick their dad’s ass”
- “Why are all dad’s so out of shape?”
- “Why do all these dad’s look like alcoholics?”
- “Do they know how gross they look in their football jerseys and their bellies hanging out while they watch football and scream at the tv?”
- “Why doesn’t anybody else I know watch the fights with their parents too? Nobody has anything interesting to talk about”
These were just some of my thoughts of the other dad’s that never made sense to me because I grew up with my dad.
As I reflect, I look back and realize I never felt anything about Tai Chi related age, until I would see people my age and now younger, come in. Although, during my full contact fighting years I would pray for younger and more actively minded people to join, this way I would get more sparring, but, again, I didn’t think about age, I just judged people for “activity level”.
It’s a funny thing this Tai Chi life, when I still look at “Younger” people and marvel with curiosity “What brought them here?”