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.” TaiChiBerkeley.com

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