T'ai Chi master has
By Jesse Phelps
When Clifton Gore discovered
the art of t'ai chi ch'uan in 1969 through some friends, he quickly
realized it was for him, a way to relax and "slow down."
As he practiced over the years, eventually becoming a teacher
himself, he said its potential for bringing his entire life into
better focus became clear.
Initially, he said, "It fascinated me as a martial arts
class that was a moving form of meditation" but as he progressed,
he said the forms took on greater meaning and he began to apply
the principles of his study more broadly.
"When it spills over into your life, that's when you start
feeling the health benefits," said Gore. "You drive
more calmly, you make sure you're never in a hurry. Breathing
is very important in t'ai chi, and relaxing. Both those things
are very important and help with staying healthy."
The stories of t'ai chi and its potential health benefits are
legendary. It has been credited for healing terminal illnesses
and keeping its practitioners alive well into their 100s.
The form originated in China so long ago it has its own origin
myth. In the 12th century Taoist hermit Chang San-Feng is said
to have been watching a fight between a snake and a crane when
he realized that softness can be matched against hardness. His
discovery led to a multiplicity of soft martial arts styles,
of which T'ai Chi is the most recent and most popular.
"That's where the idea came from, according to legend,"
said Gore. "Then it just got developed over the years."
Gore explained that T'ai Chi emphasizes tranquility in the midst
of movement and is based on the Chinese nature philosophy of
Taoism, which emphasizes harmony with oneself and the environment,
gentleness of flow, and natural change and transformation.
The practice involves a series
of body movements, practiced alone or in tandem with a group,
designed to channel chi, or natural vital energy.
"Chi is vital force," Gore explained. "By exercising
your chi or stimulating the chi, you create more vital force,
which creates better health, which leads to longer life."
For more advanced students there are T'ai Chi forms that use
weapons - broadknife, double-edged sword, sticks, and lance -
integrating more of a martial arts aspect.
Gore said he has been studying T'ai Chi intensively since 1987
under Master Kai Ying Tung, a third generation master who studied
under world-famous instructor Yang Chen Fu. Born in Oakland,
Gore is still in the prime of health at54 years old and frequently
practices with his wife, in addition to teaching T'ai Chi classes
in Ojai, Ventura, Camarillo and Santa Paula.
Local classes have been held at the Sacred Space on Bryant Circle
for almost two years and at the Boyd Center since Sept. 1998.
The Recreation Department classes begin at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays
and 9:30 a.m. on Saturdays. The Sacred Space classes begin at
11:15 a.m. on Fridays.
Gore said that plenty of room exists in each class and he welcomes
students of all ages, though children may find the exercise to
be too slow. "The youngest student I've ever had was nine
years old," he said.
Still, he asserts that anyone can learn T'ai Chi. "Men,
women and children of all ages and with varying physical abilities
practice T'ai Chi. It can be practiced anywhere and requires
no special equipment or clothing," said Gore.
After students learn the basic postures, Gore said, they begin
to develop the ability to sense, cultivate and circulate their
chi. "As your power of concentration develops you learn
to consciously direct the chi. The deeper you relax, the more
chi will become available to you as it flows unimpeded through
the channels of the body.
"The thing about T'ai Chi is you have to do it and do it
and do it and do it," said Gore. "The Chinese say 10,000
times. That's a lot."
The Ojai Valley News
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