Merle Ommert

I came to Tai Chi in mid-life. In the Fall of 1988, I was practicing yoga on a Sunday morning outdoors at Lake Merritt in Oakland and noticed a Chinese couple practicing their Tai Chi form nearby. When I went over to speak with them, I was startled to find that they were 25-30 years older than I had assumed from watching their fluid, graceful movements, performed with such precision and dignity. That was how I wanted to move as I aged and I have now been practicing Tai Chi for twenty-five years.

My first instructor was William Fong, a Yang stylist, who taught students individually in a very traditional manner, for which I am forever grateful. Classes were held 3 days a week for 3 hours. Forms were taught only after 3 months of exercises, shifting weight and relearning to walk. I studied with Sifu Fong for 4 years, learning the 108-form set, the broadsword and the two person fighting set.

One year after starting with Sifu Fong, I encountered a Tai Chi class pushing hands, once again on a Sunday morning at Lake Merritt. I knew that I had to do this! I convinced the teacher, Sifu Alex Wong, to allow me to participate in push hands with his class without learning their Southern Wu form until I completed the Yang style long form. For 2 years lessons in Yang and Wu styles overlapped, with classes 6 days a week. Ultimately it was Wu style’s small frame and internal focus which fascinated me. It improved my balance, posture and patience.

I have been Sifu Wong’s student since 1991. Sifu Wong is a 5th generation Southern Wu stylist. With him I’ve studied Wu style’s small frame 108-move sets [slow, middle, fast, and joint], sword, sabre, and push hands. I’ve travelled with Sifu Wong to Hong Kong and Macau on two occasions to study with Sigung Lau, his teacher. Periodically, I detour to explore aspects of my tai chi practice from a different perspective with teachers of other disciplines, but I am in my heart a Wu stylist and I LOVE push hands.

MerleHeadShot Tai Chi fascinates me by the way it is martial and art, complex and simple — a synergy of body mechanics, sensitivity, visualization, physics, and a touch of metaphysics. It has changed me and is present throughout my daily life.

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