This is a reprint of an interview by Elliot Williams, a Syracuse University student, who stopped by Tai Chi Revolution’s studio in Eastwood to see what our organization is all about.
Members of the Tai Chi Revolution find mental peace, physical balance, and spiritual harmony.
The studio is well lit, and the open space is clearly designed for gymnastics or dance classes, even karate. However, this space is now used for a different type of movement, much slower and group-oriented. An ensemble of 12 laughs and sips hot tea, chatting about the heavy rain outside.
Eventually, all line up in orderly rows and “commence Tai Chi.” They follow the leader’s instructions – “Step up, deflect, parry, punch; Right foot kick; Strike tiger at left” – all while another instructor helps correct individual posture and movement among the rows. Everyone in the room feels a peaceful energy flowing through the studio as they move in synchronized pushes and pulls. This is the revolution.
The close-knit group of the Tai Chi Revolution of Syracuse has been together in this space, located at 2817 James Street, for just over a year, and is now looking to expand. This is the reasoning behind a new beginners class starting October 26, and an open house this Sunday from 1-3 p.m. Those interested can come to the studio and observe a two-hour class, even jump into the mix if they feel motivated, and will learn about the core movements – there are 108 in total – that create the foundation of the ancient martial art.
Raquel Romeo, a member of the group, started practicing Tai Chi two years ago when she realized she had trouble balancing.
“I did lots of exercise all my life” Romeo says. “But if you’re living in Syracuse, especially in the winter, you don’t do anything if you don’t ski – and I don’t. So I started Tai Chi, and I really enjoy it. I think my balance has improved.”
“Oh your posture is amazing,” interrupts Ellen Ford, one of the instructors, crouching over. “You used to bend over like this. Now you’re up straight. Raquel is a champion.”
Tai Chi usually appeals to an older crowd, usually people in their 60s-80s, because “it looks gentle,” Ford says.
“It is gentle. But it is also really intense and over time you gain strength, flexibility, and avoid injury. If we all did it when we were younger, we wouldn’t be having joint or back problems.” For this reason, Ford says that Tai Chi should be strongly considered by athletes of all ages and anyone who regularly does physical activity.
Tai Chi is a martial art, based in ancient Chinese philosophy. Many, however, believe in a spiritual aspect, an energy that flows through the body called Qi. According to the Harvard Women’s Health Watch, Tai Chi is believed to encourage the flow of this energy. Tai Chi is also said to help maintain the balance of the Yin and Yang, the two conflicting energies throughout the universe.
Ford, whose nervous system was “high-tuned” prior to joining the Tai Chi school, says the practice helped her calm down and be less of a perfectionist. “I can be in the middle of a movement and wing-it or lose my place, and that’s fine because we all do it. That’s what I love about Tai Chi – it’s a moving meditation that works on the body, mind, and spirit.”
Before organizing at this location, various members the group met in parks and other studios scattered throughout Syracuse. Now that the Revolution has its own space, D.C. Kapilla, the school’s owner, says she’s seen members of the group connect with their bodies in ways they probably haven’t since they were kids.
“Now we’re at the point where everybody moves in the same direction at the same time,” she says. “There’s a flowing grace to it that’s just magnificent.”
There truly is something magnificent in the way such a small group of individuals from different backgrounds, beliefs, and professions can meet – some, as often as four times a week – and laugh, move, and heal together. Ultimately, the group is having fun, says Marygail Perkins, who after just two years practicing Tai Chi, is now an instructor at Revolution. There is no competition, no belts, and no contract. Members pay $40 per month and can attend as many sessions as they want.
“It’s a very nice, encouraging group of people,” Perkins says. “It’s not a place where people get into major serious discussions. We’re all here to relax.”
Katrin Naumann, a yoga instructor, came to the Tai Chi Revolution to compliment another Chinese exercise she studies called Qigong.
“The underlying principles of moving energy through the body are all the same,” Naumann says. “Tai Chi is another way of tuning into the life force.” In yoga, this force is called the Prana, and the disciplines inform one another, she says.
The Eastwood studio used to belong to the Taoist Tai Chi Society, and before that, was a karate dojo. The studio has a lot of martial arts energy in it, Kapilla says, which helps make it a positive space for the group. While the Revolution hopes to grow in membership, it has no plans of moving. The members all agree. Every person who has walked through the studio’s doors and stayed has experienced some form of healing.
“It could be physical, emotional, or healing at any other level,” Kapilla says, “There is space here to do it.”
Thank you Elliot for stopping by! If you are interested in learning more about Tai Chi please check our calendar for class dates and times. Everyone is welcome!