Strong and Gentle 

Lenzie Williams brings together body, heart, mind, and spirit at Tai Chi Berkeley.

Warriorship can take many different forms. Lenzie Williams learned about one form during his four years in the US Navy and as a field medical corpsman in Vietnam. Then he learned about another form as an award-winning tai chi chuan practitioner. But these two crucial lessons lay years apart.

After his release from the armed services, Berkeley native Williams began studying psychology and sociology at college, while attending "Gestalt and other personal development groups and workshops," he remembers. "Having discovered meditation and metaphysics, I became totally fascinated and deeply interested in this area. I then proceeded to seriously study different yogic, metaphysical, meditative, and spiritual-development systems." This led him to tai chi chuan master Lo Pang Jeng, aka Ben Lo, with whom he began training.

Within a few months, Williams realized intuitively that this slow-paced, infinitely graceful form of martial arts "embodied the essence of all my various studies. It was a somewhat esoteric or hidden path to the development of one's complete being. I discovered through this training system that one is taught the process of gaining deeper and deeper access to the essential experience and wisdom of the body, heart, mind, and spirit. I had to some degree accessed some of these qualities in my previous work, but now I was asked or challenged to access them in the martial/warriorship context." More importantly, he was learning how "to apply these principles and related experiences to my daily life."

He went on to enter and win tournaments around the world, including the Push Hands Grand Championship in 1988 and 1990. But just as important as winning, he avows, is "learning the multilevel lesson of losing and non-success." Still studying with Lo, Williams now operates Tai Chi Berkeley, a school that offers workshops as well as group and private classes. (All classes are held at Western Sky Studio, 2525 8th St., Berkeley.) Its twelve-week spring 2009 session — which includes beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels as well as sword classes — begins on Friday, May 29.

Williams, who specializes in the Cheng Man Ching style of tai chi chuan, lauds the rejuvenating, stress-reducing benefits of even ten-minute sessions, which can be practiced standing, sitting, or even in wheelchairs: "Slow conscious movement has a beneficial effect on the central nervous system, as it tends to balance the erratic impulse behavior of the nerves that results from environmental stress and shock. ... Correct posturing throughout the exercise is emphasized to develop and maintain correct vertebral alignment. Basically, tai chi can do much to facilitate and improve the functioning of all nine vital systems: the skeletal, muscular, circulatory, lymph, excretory, digestive, endocrine, nervous, and sensory. This will provide better health, resistance to disease, and a better emotional and mental state."


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