Master Ed. A Tai Chi master lived and taught Tia Chi in a Baltimore row house. It was a peaceful sanctum with hardwood floors, exposed brick and mature bonsai plants. Master Ed was huge. He looked like an Irish Catholic sumo wrestler. It was amazing to see how powerful and graceful he was.
So, I was his student. From the start I arrived without wearing my right arm prosthesis thinking my right hook would not be useful in learning Tia Chi. I learned to feel my center of gravity and to feel the weight of my extremities as they moved through the motions of “The Cat.” Master Ed asked me to wear my hook to the next session.
When I arrived wearing my prosthesis Master Ed ask me to remove it. I did, and Master Ed took it and then held it up to his arm so that my right arm prosthesis was parallel down the length of his right arm. He began to move through “The Cat” feeling the weight of the hook at the end of the arm. As he spun on his own axis the inertia forced the mass of the hook outward. He felt the arm shudder as the elbow joint stopped the range the arm would bend. He spun again and used that force to impact the hook on some padded bars used in sparring. He smiled.
Master Ed asked me to put the arm back on. Then he and I went to “push hands” a two-person exercise where each pushed the hands of the other testing and deflecting the weight and balance of the opponent. Master Ed showed me how I could throw the mass of the stainless-steel hook. He showed me how to turn in any direction throwing the mass of the metal unit while keeping a calm center of balance.
After most classes Master Ed would walk us down to a corner neighborhood bar. We got to be regulars there all decked out in our black Tia Chi uniforms. We were a bunch of guys lined up at the bar drinking Heinekens dressed in black Gi’s. Even though it was a rough area at night in 1970’s Baltimore somehow we never had a problem.
26 years later I am in my real estate office when a couple comes in. They are not my clients. They seem disturbed and ask for their agent. I watched them closely as their agent lead them into the managing brokers office and the door closed. My “Spidey sense” says something is about to happen. I paced the hallway outside the brokers office door. I heard some raised voices and then a loud crash.
I pushed open the door to see the agent had been slammed against the plate window and had blood coming down her face. My broker was reeling back in her chair and looming over her was a very large sumo wrestler of a woman who had grabbed a long gold pen from its stand on the brokers desk. The women’s arm was raised in the air using the gold pen as a dagger, her back to me. With a calmness and no fear, I swung the mass of my stainless-steel hook and caught the neck of the women knocking her off balance. She tripped backward towards me. I deflected her weight. As her husband came towards me, he eyed my hook. Hookie! he yelled. I served in Viet Nam! You people can’t treat us this way Hookie!
By that time others were in the room and the man and his wife backed out of the room. The receptionist had called the police and they quickly escorted the couple into two separate police cars. I don’t need to explain why the couple was there. Nothing they did could be justified. The woman would spend some time in prison. I spent some time thinking about my time in Baltimore with Ed, the Irish Catholic Sumo Tia Chi Master.