Beginnings and Bridging

Steve Higgins: Beginnings

In 1977 I was involved in a life-altering accident when, while walking along the side of a highway, I was struck from the rear by an automobile traveling at high speed. I suffered substantial soft tissue damage, dislocated ribs, strained muscles, irreparable muscular laceration, severe concussion, and brain damage involving a personality change. Years later there were also snapped tendons which may have been residual after-effects.

The alteration to my personality (which involved years of recovery) caused me to examine the concept of self and eventually led me to Asian spirituality and Tai Chi.

Prior to ever having an interest in the Asian martial arts I’d already had some training and experience in how to get along in a fight. My father, who’d grown up in pretty tough circumstances in the 1920’s and 30’s, had studied Japanese Jujitsu and other sources in the way of his work and he did his best to pass along his ‘tricks’ to me. I inherited from him several tattered old Jujitsu texts published in the early 1920’s which he had studied. I also learned from him a method of Irish boxing which had been passed down through the Higgins Family.

It was not until decades later that I learned that some of what my father taught me apparently included elements of Tongbeiquan, an internal-external style of northern Chinese Long Boxing. It is interesting and perplexing to me that Tai Chi has in a sense carried me back to my beginnings. I cannot ask my father where he learned Tongbei; he died in 1990.

This said, over a martial arts career spanning about forty years now I have been put into a situation of having to physically defend myself (as an adult) only once. So clearly something else inspires my present Tai Chi engagement.

I think what I sense in it is a multi-dimensional experience of…grace. I mean grace in terms of the restoration of my health, spiritual grace in terms of the way I see the world, social grace in the friends I have acquired, and also the pure and inspiring sense of physical grace that arises as we move through the labyrinths of form.

As T.S. Eliot wrote: In my end is my beginning.

Lisbeth Cooke Haddad: Bridges and Swords

Interestingly, learning to sense another's energy of intent and movement, with each having the possibility of advantage and retreat, creates bridges of connection between the duelling individuals manipulating their swords.

Compromise and commitment to sharing equally in exchange, while using soft internal power to sense each the other in a dance of equals, brings new and more complete meaning to connection and communication. Each sword takes its handler to meet at the centre of the bridge, at the edges where two blades touch, there to pay respect to compromise, unity and action.

Life lessons lie where the edges of the sword meet ...and with what intent.

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