The Forgotten Pioneers of Tai Chi - Sophia Delza & Gerda Geddes

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T

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Some excerpts to ponder:

In 1961, Delza also authored what is possibly the first English language book ever written on the Chinese martial arts: Tai-Chi Chuan: Body and Mind in Harmony. As she explained in the opening chapter, her intentions were to bring to the attention of Western people this ancient masterpiece of health exercise安hich夷s supremely suitable in these modern times. But if Delza and Geddes had a health and even spiritually-oriented vision for an ancient art in the modern world, it was an entirely different martial arts future that soon commanded the spotlight.

Didn't Bruce Lee have Sophia Delza's book in his library collection?

In 1966, Bruce Lees role as Kato on the Green Hornet was the spark that finally lit the fuse. Lees performances were a game-changing spectacle that captured the publics imagination and quickly pushed martial arts culture to a booming modern popularity. By the early 70s, the kung fu craze was in full swing, and the mind and body health culture envisioned by Geddes and Delza took a quiet back seat to a new male-dominated martial arts culture. Hyperbolic action movies and promises of esoteric fighting techniques emphasized the fighting component of the equation, and sold the Asian martial arts to the west in a big way.

Television and movies seem to direct and influence how the majority think.

Popular culture is made up as much by forgetting things as discovering them, explains Judkins. Delza was essentially erased from the popular memory. We could only have Bruce Lee and the kung fu craze as a new and exciting phenomenon if we all kind of pretended that Delza hadnt already shown us many of these things 15 years earlier.

If it fails to fit the narrative, ignore it!.

In fact, when Delzas name was mentioned within the martial arts community as an early proponent of tai chi, it often surfaced in the form of criticism, contending that her lack of martial emphasis constituted an incomplete system.

Jess OBrien, whose book Nei Jia Quan profiles a diverse group of tai chi masters, defends the legacies of Delza and Geddes by asserting that the definition of the Chinese martial arts isnt one-dimensional. People want the Chinese martial arts to have a definition, but there is no one singular goal, explains OBrien, tai chi is multi-faceted and can take you down multiple pathways. And there are people who say that it needs to be about fighting, but if its embraced as a meditative or healing art there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

This small segment highlights the multiple benefits of studying the martial arts beyond the fighting methods. It would be fun to hear what you think about this article and which elements captured your interest.
 

geezer

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Good Lord! Tai Chi was first brought to the West by a Vulcan ...or Romulan???

1*jsypdLDvBRotdSLC1YNxQg.jpeg
 

Kung Fu Wang

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lack of martial emphasis constituted an incomplete system.
I have asked many Taiji guys why they want to do push hand, but don't want to spar/wrestle. None of them can give me a good answer.

Can one train PH all his life and be able to deal with a face punch or a groin kick? How?
 
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I have asked many Taiji guys why they want to do push hand, but don't want to spar/wrestle. None of them can give me a good answer.

Can one train PH all his life and be able to deal with a face punch or a groin kick? How?
There are multiple reasons for training that go way beyond fighting.

In all honesty, how many times does a person really need to defend themselves against physical violence in everyday life?
 

Appledog

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I have asked many Taiji guys why they want to do push hand, but don't want to spar/wrestle. None of them can give me a good answer.

Can one train PH all his life and be able to deal with a face punch or a groin kick? How?

The reason you didn't get a good answer is because I didn't answer the question yet. First, my teacher told me that before I could learn to spar and wrestle I had to learn push hands. When I asked why, I was told that it was an intermediate step between forms and sparring. After I got good at push hands, he said, I could spar if I wanted to. He just wanted to make sure I understood that the skill base of Tai Chi comes from push hands, and not necessarily directly informed by sparring. He said that if you start sparring first you can come to wild conclusions about how a fight works because even a few hundred fights is not enough to really come to a conclusion about fighting. It's only enough to learn by embarrassment how to protect your eyes, neck, balls... but to really become a top class martial artist you need to learn the correct way of fighting in a way that does not damage yourself -- you need to gain a vast amount of experience in a way that does not hurt yourself, or your career in wushu will be cut short by injury.

As the story goes, Yang's daughter was killed while practising with a spear, so the Yang family spear is practices witout the spearhead. Is this an effective means of training, or not? If you are dead, there is no training.

Also, I would rather not have brain damage, which is proven, or too many broken bones, in my old age. I already have enough brain damage and broken bones from growing up in the 80s.
 

Xue Sheng

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I have asked many Taiji guys why they want to do push hand, but don't want to spar/wrestle. None of them can give me a good answer.

Can one train PH all his life and be able to deal with a face punch or a groin kick? How?

Obviously you never did push hands with my shifu's old MA dinosaurs. I guess you could call it advanced push hands, strikes, qinna, takedowns were all part of it. Kind of like the old saying, I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out..... we started with push hands and a sparing match broke out. Also, doing push hands with my shifu left me on the floor looking up at him more than once. But before you get there you need to understand taiji principles.

Sadly those days are done and most look at push hands as a 2 person moving meditation these days
 

Kung Fu Wang

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There are multiple reasons for training that go way beyond fighting.

In all honesty, how many times does a person really need to defend themselves against physical violence in everyday life?
If you have sparring/wrestling partners, you can spar/wrestle 15 rounds every day.

Sparring/wrestling is fun that money cannot buy.
 

Mostly Wu

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Some excerpts to ponder:

In 1961, Delza also authored what is possibly the first English language book ever written on the Chinese martial arts: Tai-Chi Chuan: Body and Mind in Harmony. As she explained in the opening chapter, her intentions were to bring to the attention of Western people this ancient masterpiece of health exercise安hich夷s supremely suitable in these modern times. But if Delza and Geddes had a health and even spiritually-oriented vision for an ancient art in the modern world, it was an entirely different martial arts future that soon commanded the spotlight.

Didn't Bruce Lee have Sophia Delza's book in his library collection?

In 1966, Bruce Lees role as Kato on the Green Hornet was the spark that finally lit the fuse. Lees performances were a game-changing spectacle that captured the publics imagination and quickly pushed martial arts culture to a booming modern popularity. By the early 70s, the kung fu craze was in full swing, and the mind and body health culture envisioned by Geddes and Delza took a quiet back seat to a new male-dominated martial arts culture. Hyperbolic action movies and promises of esoteric fighting techniques emphasized the fighting component of the equation, and sold the Asian martial arts to the west in a big way.

Television and movies seem to direct and influence how the majority think.

Popular culture is made up as much by forgetting things as discovering them, explains Judkins. Delza was essentially erased from the popular memory. We could only have Bruce Lee and the kung fu craze as a new and exciting phenomenon if we all kind of pretended that Delza hadnt already shown us many of these things 15 years earlier.

If it fails to fit the narrative, ignore it!.

In fact, when Delzas name was mentioned within the martial arts community as an early proponent of tai chi, it often surfaced in the form of criticism, contending that her lack of martial emphasis constituted an incomplete system.
FYI, Bruce would've known about Wu style TCC long before Delza's book came out. His father was a disciple of the Wu family, and introduced him to the club as a teen, though it quickly became apparent that he wanted something that got to the fighting more quickly, so he went down the street to Ip Man's club. The people he knew in HK, probably including his father, would've been far more skilled and knowledgeable in Wu Style TCC than Delza. This all predated 1961.

Delza's background was in Dance and Theatre. She did not encounter Wu Style TCC (or probably any TCC) till she was 45 yo, when she trained for three years at the Shanghai Wu style club. She then went back to NYC, and started teaching on her own. I don't mean to denigrate her skills, or her enthusiasm, but she would've been, at best, somewhere in between a beginner and an intermediate level student when she stopped training with the Wu's.
 
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OP
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FYI, Bruce would've known about Wu style TCC long before Delza's book came out. His father was a disciple of the Wu family, and introduced him to the club as a teen, though it quickly became apparent that he wanted something that got to the fighting more quickly, so he went down the street to Ip Man's club. The people he knew in HK, probably including his father, would've been far more skilled and knowledgeable in Wu Style TCC than Delza. This all predated 1961.

Delza's background was in Dance and Theatre. She did not encounter Wu Style TCC (or probably any TCC) till she was 45 yo, when she trained for three years at the Shanghai Wu style club. She then went back to NYC, and started teaching on her own. I don't mean to denigrate her skills, or her enthusiasm, but she would've been, at best, somewhere in between a beginner and an intermediate level student when she stopped training with the Wu's.
Yes, that's correct - I was just commenting on Bruce Lee having the Delza book in his library :)
 

Wing Woo Gar

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Yes, that's correct - I was just commenting on Bruce Lee having the Delza book in his library :)
Jess O Brien is a close personal friend. He trains with me 2-3 times a week. Paul Gale, our Sifu and James Wing Woo, our Sigung are both interviewed in that book. I also trained with Tim Cartmell who is also featured in that book.
 
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