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My First Taiji Tournament

Children running around, people milling around in many different costumes greeting each other, Shifus gathering and conferring. Suddenly, out of the casual chaos, an apparent order emerges.  Dramatic drum beats, a very tender version of the Star Spangled Banner and the beautiful fiery Lion Dance.  Yet, what most moves me is the cardboard barrels overflowing with toys for children who otherwise would have no Christmas at all and Shifu Mario’s story which inspired the inception of this tournament.

I am excited about the day and slightly nervous about doing my routine in front of all these schools of practitioners.  The first little boy courageously walks up in his white sash and smartly salutes.  I wryly smile and think to myself, “If this little guy can do this, so can I.”

Photo by Jared Raynor

I have hours before I do my taiji.  I warm up, train, sit down, watch.  I do this over and over.  Almost imperceptibly, my attention shifts from my little self and with its endless fears and demands, to the beauty unfolding before me.  I am drawn in to each student’s routine.  Some students do their routines tentatively, quietly, slowly, while others do the same routines with drama and passion.   I am struck by the vulnerability of each student as they impassively await the judgment, their scores.

I contemplate the qualities I want to manifest more fully this year.  Simplicity, clarity, focus, fire.  I embrace each of these every time I do the form.  For me, taiji is a distillation of awareness.  It is as simple as knowing where my feet are and feeling the clarity that my leg muscles will support me as I slowly extend a leg in a kick.  Sometimes, that is neither simple nor clear.  There are days when I cannot find the balance in my legs and I do the quickest kick possible in order not to lose my balance. 

Photo by Jared Raynor

Suddenly, I drop into Being and practice it over and over.  Extending my leg slowly without losing my balance becomes the most important thing in my world.  Everything else is gone.

I realize as I watch these students that the grace, fluidity and self-expression I am witnessing are rooted in patience, discipline and great attention to detail.  I am inspired by the flawless and the flawed.  A student shakes his two-sided knife with such passion that a wrist mala flies off his wrist and hits the wooden gym floor so impressively, it only adds fire and flair to an already inspired performance.

I no longer feel nervous.  I find my rhythm, drop into my routine, see the sun shining on the gym floor and enjoy my moment.  I no longer worry about being judged or tripping or…..

Letting go of fear, feeling the simplicity and richness of movements done for thousands of years, my contribution to this journey…I will be back next year

Gwendolyn Burk











Photo by Jared Raynor

Many thanks to our photographer Jared Raynor

Jared Raynor Photography

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