Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, January 24, 2011

Taijiquan Pioneer: Sophia Delza

Sophia Delza (1903 - 1996) was a famous dancer who lived in China in the late 40's and early 50's. She had the good fortune to become a student of Ma Yueh Liang. She returned to the US and was one of the first teachers of Wu Style Taijiquan in North America.

She wrote one of the first books to attempt to explain the form movement by movement. She wrote another which reflected on her over 40 years of practice.

Below is a video of her doing the form which was shot by one of her students in the 60's.

Sophia Delza Tai Chi from erik matthiesen on Vimeo.


Mike at said...

What fun to see this! My very, very first Tai chi teacher was Prof. Robert Neville who learned from Ms Delza. So, yep, this is the form and approach I started with back in 1983.

Though I've long forgotten the form, I remember the length of it leaving me feeling like I had a good workout; relaxed and energized.

I remember the philosophical concept of you should finish the form where you started. If you don't, then your ego is either too big or too small (taking too large or too small of steps). Balance.

Thank you for re-awakening these good old memories!

Rick Matz said...

I think group practice of the form really helps rein in the ego.

When you practice by yourself, you are in total control of the pace. When you are in a group, you must adapt, yield and follow. When you practice alone, you have all the space in the world. When you are in a group you have to constantly adapt your movements to suit the every changing available space.

Jim Roach Classical Tai Chi of Buffalo said...

Eddie Wu visited her back in the 80's, at least that is what I was told and from what I understand, like oil and water. There is an article about her in a Popular Mechanics from 1960. Even Wade Giles is butchered to pronounce it as "taw-jee-twawn". Lee Strasberg got her to teach it for free at the Actor's studio. Lee's son John wrote in his book "Accidentally On Purpose": "Seeing the Peking Opera, my father engaged a Sophia Delza, who gave free classes in Tai Chi to the Actors Studio membership. About five of us went regularly. The poor attendance was one of many examples of any student in the theater, beginner or professional failing to take advantage of the gift of learning that didn't come with a bill". In the book: "The Films of James Cagney", she is said to have "tap danced and tangoed with James Cagney". 1928 found her dancing with Cagney at the Booth Theatre, NYC.

I have no doubt, I would have been a fan of hers, I read her books and even with the differences I find numbers of her analyses of the form to be very good. One of the first to say Tai Chi is not a meditation or a dance. Thank goodness for some rational thinking about what we do...even then.