The students included seven new-comers and 17 current or former Taoist Tai Chi Society members. The six CITs from Chicago, Racine, Wisconsin; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Arlington Heights and the Western Chicago suburbs took turns teaching the 108 move set. Beginner instructors from those areas plus Iowa City served as set leaders, surrounding the newer students so they had role models in all directions.
Students ranged in age from 18 to the early 70s and came from the Chicago Metro area, Champaign/Urbana, Illinois; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Donnellson, Iowa. Classes went from noon to 4 p.m. on each of the four days.
Following the “speak less,” model, the moves weren’t called out while the set was done, starting from the beginning of the course. By the end, the students could do the entire set together in silence. The cohesiveness of the group, their enthusiasm about the experience and their commitment to continue went beyond expectations.
“This was an eye-opener,” said beginner instructor Andrea Robins from the Western Suburbs. Chicago instructor Dominic Adducci added: “I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this.”
Some of the returning students had been away for many years and said they were happy to return and jump-start their Tai Chi practice. Besides the fee for the accelerated class, many paid for an additional quarter or year of dues, thus showing a commitment to continue their practice. More than $2,500 in contributions was received.
One of the benefits that many of the students and instructors mentioned was the ability to see so many different instructors teach. Not only did everyone learn from seeing many great ways of communicating the moves, students could see many slightly different variations based on body type, age and experience.
Volunteers from the branch provided ample tea, coffee, water and food, including a graduation cookie.
The Midwest Branch has about 370 members in nine locations in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa. It began in the Chicago suburb of Palatine in 1994.