Play and Performance in Tai Chi

At the Cold Mountain / CTF Symposium on Sept. 30th Michael Kirwin, who teaches Tai Chi in Orangeville Ontario, addressed the issue of play. He stressed the necessity for adults to reconnect with their inner sense of playfulness and creativity and reminded us that we 'play' Tai Chi. This is a crucial message and one I think is really important at this time of sharing and giving.

Here are a selection of videos, photos and writings which communicate this sense.


From Dorion Carmichael, on one of the unusual problems which finding a suitable practice space entailed for her:

Needing a large space in which to practise sword, I was able to get

permission from my fitness club to use the hot yoga room when there was

no class in session. However, the manager requested that I cover the

blade with a sheath for safety reasons. Keen to explore the venue, I

grabbed a pair of very long socks and off I went. The sock addition

made the blade too heavy for balancing the sword and just wasn't cutting

it. Maybe sheer pantyhose? Then it hit me: Stay-ups!

Saturday afternoon found me in the pantyhose department at Walmart. I was

checking our the heights and weights of the various sizes when it

occurred to me that I really didn't know what size stocking my sword

would wear. Luckily, the problem was easily solved as it turned out only

size B was available.

Off I went to the gym the next day with my size B Stay-ups and sword. There is no foot shaping so it's a perfect fit. I rolled the Stay-up on over a bit of Kleenex at the sword tip to prevent a run, and up and over the guard where an elastic band kept the lacy top in place.

Very Oo-lah-lah!

Dorion's Sword in a Stocking


The traditional Chen Yan-lin yang-style sabre form is technically a bit grisly. Studying this form involves the consideration of various cutting techniques and the type of wound they are intended to inflict. That said, consider this performance by Peter Reist as he releases his inner Johnny Depp!


Videos serve a number of possible functions. Instructional videos tend to be rather severe and expressionless and really not very exciting or expressive. But a candid recording of an event is much more fun! Here is a recording of a group of us playing with the traditional Beijing Chen-style. Note the facial expressions at certain points. We were certainly having a blast!


Lisbeth Haddad is a talented and seasoned dancer and stage performer. As a young woman she was a member of the Neville Black Dance Ensemble in Jamaica and has carried her dedication to art into her Tai Chi experience.

Here she is performing a portion of the Flying Rainbow Tai Chi Double Fan routine. This performance is a master-class in the projection of joy!


These videos, dating from our 2016 Chinese New Year's gala are the outcome of our Tai Chi experience. But play also allows us to apply our understanding of martial principles to the creative exploration of different cultural contexts. This involves engagement in the field of Experimental Archaeology. Based upon research, in this clip Randall Templeton explores Celtic spear-play.


Study and practice require that we apply ourselves to really getting beneath the surface of our subject, that we penetrate into its deeper principles.

Creativity involves taking the knowledge and skills we have gained and applying them to the creation of something new.

Play involves a willingness to dispense with a certain degree of inhibition, to experiment freely and to act in ways we do not normally act.

Finally, in performance we put it out there. We share it with others for their enjoyment and also to express our own enjoyment in the processes of art.

In this final performance members of Cold Mountain Internal Arts are joined by our guests in a celebration of Tai Chi. We join together in the first section of the Yang family's traditional long form.


Best wishes of the holiday season to all!

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