Learning from Everything
I was so fortunate to grow up where and when I did. I was raised in San Francisco, and just up the block from my house was a playground, containing a baseball diamond, grassy field, basketball court and running track. My home life was not a happy one, so I spent a lot of time playing various sports with my friends. This is before television became popular, so all our skills were self taught.
When I got to high school, I played football one year and we won the City Championship. I was encouraged to try out for the track team and ended up All City in the Shot Put. I was also a tournament winner in golf.
When I was 15, I got my first car – a 1951 Mercury. I could get a drivers license at 15 and a half if I took drivers education in school, which I did. Once I had a car, I started dating, and that was the end of my sports career until I found Tai Chi.
What all these physical activities had in common (and including Tai Chi Chuan) is the use of the whole body, but primarily the lower body, to increase and channel the energy.
The weight is placed mostly on one leg, with that knee bent. The focus is on gathering energy into the foot, leg, and kua (hip joint). The more that the energy is compressed in that leg, the greater the amount of energy that can be released into an action. In all these sports, the waist is twisted, which adds to the release. The Shot Put is such a good example of gather and release.
What I’m trying to get across, is the idea that you can take your life experiences and use them to add to your skill and enjoyment of other activities (in this case Tai Chi). I was never in a push hands competition in Tai Chi until I entered The Taste of China All Tai Chi Championships in 1994 and ended up the Grand Champion. Changed my life. I started writing articles for magazines, published two books, built The Gilman Studio, organized retreats and push hands tournaments. If I can do it, you can do. Don’t be afraid to fail. You will always learn something. And don’t forget that everybody is above average in something. Explore and stay open to any and all possibilities. It might surprise you.