My interest in health and fitness began very early in my life. My father was a Chiropractor in the 1960s and 70s and very knowledgeable of healthy foods and good nutrition before it was popular. My father introduced me to lifting weights at age 13 and taught me Boxing from the moment I could stand. He enrolled me in Jiu-Jitsu from age 13 through 17. My mother was an avid reader, I don't think there was a day I didn't see her without a book in her hands. She too was a proponent of health and nutrition and was constantly reading books and articles on the subject. Luckily for me, my mother and father instilled in me the importance of health and nutrition. Although both my parents have passed away they have given me a gift that I will treasure all my life, an interest, and a passion for better health.
HOW I BEGAN PRACTICING TAI CHI
My Tai Chi journey began on Long Island NY in 1992 when I attended an adult education class with a friend. The course would be eight weeks long and was taught at the Suffolk Institute for Eastern Studies which was primarily an Aikido school. My teacher was Howard Pashenz a 6th-degree Aikido Black Belt. Sensei Howard taught the Cheng Man Ching 60 movement short form from a meditative point of view. From the first day of class, I was completely passionate about Tai Chi.
The Tai Chi class would start as the Aikido class ended. I remember watching the Aikido classes and being amazed at how the students rolled and were thrown around effortlessly. When I was a boy my father a U.S. Customs officer, had been shown some Aikido during his early training in preparation to be a U.S. Customs officer. My father gave me the book that was given to him during his class, What is Aikido by Koichi Tohei. I would often read the book and look at the photos, who would have to know that so many years later I would have the opportunity to study Aikido.
Sensei Howard and I would go through the Tai Chi form and afterward, he would ask if I would like to learn some Aikido techniques. His Tai Chi knowledge was limited so we would focus more on Aikido. I would ask him so many Tai Chi questions each week in class that Sensei Howard suggested I continue my Tai Chi training with Bob Klein. Bob was considered to be very knowledgeable in Tai Chi. Bob's school was located in Sound Beach, NY. His school was the Long Island School of Tai Chi Chuan. The drive to Sound Beach seemed too far for me it was about a 30-minute drive, I was living in St. James Long Island NY at the time.
While working briefly at Gold’s Gym in Port Jefferson Long Island NY I would pass a Kung Fu school called the school of Ten Thousand Dragons that advertised Tai Chi in the window. One day I stopped in and spoke with the Sifu Chang and agreed this was the place I wanted to learn Tai Chi. The Tai Chi form I was learning was the Yang style 24 Competition form. I was taught one movement a week and would be shown the next movement only when Sifu Chang thought I was ready, this process took almost one year.
In 1997 Sifu Chang asked some of his students to enter the 1997 United States Kou Shu Championship held in Baltimore, Maryland. There you would be judged doing your Tai Chi form and had 3 minutes and 45 seconds to complete the form. I was a little hesitant since I was practicing this form for only a year and a half. People came from all over the US to compete in many different styles of Kung Fu. I competed in the beginner level Yang style 24 form and came in fourth place out of 12 competitors. I was happy with my accomplishment. I studied with Sifu Chang for a few more months.
I then decided to take the ride further out east to Sound Beach and study with Bob Klein of the Long Island School of Tai Chi Chuan. Bob was taught by Grandmaster William C.C. Chen. William C.C. Chen was a favorite disciple of Cheng Man Ching.
Bob Klein taught many different Kung Fu forms but I wanted to study the Yang style form. Bob taught me the William C.C. Chen sequence of Cheng Man Ching’s 60 movements short form. Three years later Bob decided to change his class schedule which I was unable to attend. This change led me back to Sensei Howard to learn Aikido. My idea was to practice Tai Chi on my own and learn Aikido for self-defense. Aikido is an amazing art and my passion for it was equal to Tai Chi. I spent twelve years almost daily learning and practicing Aikido.
In 1997 I started working for Quad Graphics as a Photo Retoucher in Manhattan NY. My hours were from 7 am to 7 pm. The hours were long and soon I was asked to work the night shift from 7 pm to 7 am. The night shift was difficult to get used to. My good friend Mike who delivered Newsday to stores in NYC would tell me he would drive through Chinatown and see people practicing Tai Chi and Qigong in the morning. Curious I would often drive past Columbus park to see for myself. One morning I parked and approached a group of people practicing Tai Chi in the park. I asked for the teacher and was introduced to Lin Sai Ying, she was teaching this group every morning in Columbus park located in Chinatown. She said she would teach me but I had to show her my Yang style Tai Chi form.
The group of about 20 students all cleared out of the way. They sat down on a bench to watch me do my form. As I began they played some relaxing Tai Chi music on their CD player. I was very nervous but completed the 24 Yang style Tai Chi form in front of everyone. Lin Sai Ying approached me and said she would teach me but "I had a lot to learn". Every morning after work before heading home I would stop by Columbus park to practice. It was an experience I would never forget. After six months I was transferred back to the day shift and only stopped by Chinatown once in a while. I would like to one day say hello to my teacher who I am sure is still conducting Tai Chi classes in Columbus Park, Chinatown NY every morning. I have since learned she was teaching Tai Chi for a brief time at the Chinatown Sports Club in Manhattan NY.
I then found out Bob Klein was adding more classes to his schedule and began studying with Bob, and continued to do so until 2014. I spent fourteen years with Bob as my teacher.
I now teach and practice Tai Chi Daily.
TAI CHI LINEAGE:
Chen Changxing 1771-1853
Yang Luchan 1799-1872
Yang Banhou 1837-1890
Yang Jianhou 1839-1917
Yang Shaohou 1862-1930
Yang Chengfu 1883-1936
Cheng Man Ching 1901-1975
William C.C. Chen 1935
Bob Klein 1949
Joe Cavaliere 1963