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Teaching Tai Chi

Peng Lu Ji An

For several years, my brother Phil has been studying Tai Chi with a teacher from the local Park district. This summer, when no-one had offered to teach a class, he volunteered to start teaching. While I was visiting, I came to a class meeting to watch him teach and to take some pictures.

I partly came just because I was looking for an excuse to take some pictures of him to replace the atrocious picture he's been using on his website. I've seen more flattering mugshots. But I also wanted to learn more about Tai Chi because it's obviously become an important part of his life.

Phil is an outstanding teacher. But I've always known that. When we were kids, Phil was always explaining things to me. He has a knack for being able to summarize complex ideas in simple language that anyone can understand. Regarding Tai Chi, he had a confident line of patter to break a complex move down into pieces, summarize the important aspects, and explain how it fit into the larger context of the full pattern.

The students obviously appreciated having someone to lead the practice. They are a diverse group in terms of age, gender, race, and fitness level. But Tai Chi is something that anyone can start doing.

I enjoyed taking the pictures. I arrived a few minutes early to scout sight-lines and consider the lighting. We asked the students if they minded being photographed and none objected. The sky was overcast, which offered gentle suffused lighting. There was a bench that ran along behind the participants and gave me an excellent vantage point to look slightly down, which helped frame the images and keep the sky out of view. I shot 133 photographs, of which I thought about 30 were worth keeping.