Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 233
Playing Tai Chi With Steller Jays 
I live in a small town, and my home sits among many tall firs trees. There are some dense woods right behind my house and there are a group (band, cast, party, scold) of Steller Jays that live in the woods. Every afternoon, I sit on the top of an outbuilding housing a garage and workspace, and relax after my day. It has a flat roof and railings on three sides. There are two lounge chairs and an umbrella (to keep the sun off my delicate, old skin) and the Jays are very prompt in showing up as soon as I open the umbrella. I take a large handful of peanuts in the shell and spread them out on the railing, and the Jays come and take them away and hide them in the woods to eat later.
I can’t tell them apart, male or female, but I can tell the young ones even though they are about the same size. So here is my Tai Chi/Jay experience. One of the classic old Tai Chi tales tells of Yang Lu Chan (the founder of Yang Tai Chi), being so sensitive that a bird could not take off from standing on his hand, as he would yield as soon as he felt the bird start to lift off. I have always thought about this and since the Jays come every day, I would attempt this feat.
First I observed how they bend their legs before take off, like a squat. If they are in a hurry, this goes very fast with not much squat. So as they squatted, Yang could feel this happen and he would yield so they had nothing to push against. I started to feed them by hand – holding peanuts in my hand, offering them a few at a time. It took quite a while, for them to put this all together. They would fly near me, and sit on something, looking at me and the peanuts. Ever so often, they would fly close to my hand but they didn’t try to snatch the peanuts as they did.
Last week, Disco (my name for one who I think I can identify because of its actions) was hungry enough to yield to his fear of humans. He landed on the lounge and walked up to my extended arm, offering peanuts. He stopped just short, kept looking around in all directions (planning an escape, I presume), and keeping an eye on me, he/she walked right up and grabbed a peanut and flew off.
I was so thrilled and happy to make this connection, that I didn’t think about my experiment. The Jays are such characters, make me laugh. They trust me and I am so happy to live in a place where nature is so close at hand. I will continue my experiment and let you know if I can replicate Yang’s feat. Try it your self with wild creatures who won’t bite your extended hand, and let me know if it works for you.
Early Fall is usually some of our best weather, then in late October and November, the weather takes a big change and we get some of our worst weather – lots of wind and cold. As readers of these Tips know, I recommend playing Tai Chi out of doors as much as possible, yet much of winter does not lend itself to this. So I have decided to add some extra studio practice times for all of us to get together and continue working on our beloved art.
Our new schedule will include Tuesday and Thursday morning from 7 to 8 to our existing classes. These sessions will be much like Saturday in the Park – mostly free form, and what we will work on will depend upon who is there. All teachers will probably show up so we can have multiple things going on at the same time. People can just show up. Free to students of the studio or the usual drop in fee for others.
When I started teaching in the studio I had just built in 1990, I had morning classes Monday thru Friday from 7 to 9, so I know 7 isn’t really too early for most people to practice, as it sets the individual up for the rest of the day – relaxed and centered.
Also of note, we are dropping the Partner Form class on Friday, 9 to 10, and making that time an advanced Tai Chi class, with special emphasis on applications, just like Wednesday 9 to 10. Students were having a hard time working on two of the most difficult, advanced forms – Partner and Sword. We will continue the Sword on First Saturday Workshops. We are averaging about 8 moves a session. Slow and steady. The full schedule is posted at the web site –
Let’s all hope the winter is a mild one wherever you are. I send my very best regards.