Studies in Theatre & Performance (28:2 – 2008) by SCUDD

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The effects of this adoption are seen in several areas. Increased endurance strength in the legs results in improved balance. The repeated practice of sophisticated movements yields improvement in the attribute of coordination. Because of the coordination of the legs with the movement of the torso, an apparent increase in absolute strength is also an effect of training. Sustained taolu training also produces a phenomenon known as relaxation response, wherein the activity of the sympathetic nervous system is reduced and the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system increases (Yang: 68).

The nervous system monitors sensory signals and uses this information to act directly on a limb. This responsive action is called feedback. Technique in exile: The changing perception of taijiquan, from Ming dynasty . . 137 STP-28-2-03-Mroz 4/18/08 2:39 PM Page 138 2. Using sensory input and experience, the mind adopts a pro-active strategy and contracts muscles that will be necessary to maintain balance during an imminent disturbance. This anticipatory response is called feedforward. (Yang: 136) Yang goes on to argue that sustained practice of tuishou hones the efficiency of the feedforward and feedback functions of the motor system.

By 1965, Zheng had moved to America, settling on Riverside Drive in New York City and teaching in a studio in the Bowery. Zheng welcomed all, including Americans, artists, eccentrics, dropouts, hippies and pot-smokers (Smith 1999: 278). One can imagine what a romantic figure Zheng must have cut, dressed in traditional Chinese robes, sporting a dapper goatee and curling side-locks, surrounded by adoring Chinese and Western students. Along with his unusual personality and innovative choice of students, Zheng appears to have made significant choices in his presentation of taijiquan to North Americans.

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