One of the first times that Ben gave a workshop for my students and me in Kansas City, sometime in the early to mid-1980’s, he happened to notice in my office, which was a small alcove off my practice room, that I had three framed photos hanging on the wall next to my desk. The top one was a portrait of Ben and the two underneath, which were arranged side-by-side, were a portrait of Professor and another of Professor’s beautiful lady’s hand. The workshop went well as usual, demanding and exhilarating. The next day after Ben went back to San Francisco I was sitting at my desk and happened to look at the three photos. They had been rearranged. The portrait of Professor was on top and Ben and Professor’s hand were underneath. LESSON LEARNED. Some years later I was able to buy a building for a permanent Tai Chi studio and Ben gave me a large portrait of Professor and a portrait of him as well. They hang side-by-side at the studio, but Professor’s portrait is a few inches higher. When people notice that, they at first think it was a mistake, bad eye for symmetry, but then I can relate to them the story of the photos in my office.
Chair Push Hands
One year in the mid- 1980’s several of my students and I were attending Ben’s workshop hosted by the St. Louis Tai Chi Chuan Association. In the evening a large group of us went to a favorite Chinese restaurant and were seated at a long table. There were many of us so we were sitting quite close together. I happened to be sitting on Ben’s right side. In those days, Ben would play free-style push hands with some of us at camps and workshops, but I was feeling disappointed because that didn’t happen this time. While everyone was chatting and waiting for food I felt a slight pressure on my left arm which started to very, very slowly increase. I did my best to receive this pressure with peng chin which I managed to do for awhile. This was all under the table, so hidden from the rest of the diners, but the people sitting across from us knew something was up, maybe the expression on my face. In any case the pressure continued to build until the legs on the left side of my chair lifted off the ground about an inch. It was over. Ben slowly set my chair back down, told me “more relax”, and picked up his chopsticks and began to eat.