I am passionate about Taijiquan and Qi Gong. And I am a woman. And I think that women are a bit underrepresented in the Tai Chi and Qi Gong world. I mean, look at all the big masters, they are mainly men! So I want to raise the awareness for all the wonderful women in our community. Thus I often interview Tai Chi and Qi Gong women. In this interview I talk to Danni Verona. One of my newsletter readers suggested her and I am excited to get to know her.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I love being the first to rise in the mornings, in my Portland Oregon home of 12 years. In the still dark of the early morning the house is quiet while I begin preparing the for the day. I set up my clinic that is attached to my home where I work each day as an Occupational Therapist serving young children and their families. Then I gear up for my hour long walk that I try to time so that I get to see the sunrise over Mt. Hood . The children that come for therapy call me Miss Danni, and the children that I teach karate to in the evenings and weekends call me Sensei Danni. I am 54 years old, I live with my husband, as well as having two of my three adult children back at home for a while. I am very lucky that my grandson stays with us a few days and nights each week.
Please share some details of your Taijiquan/Qi Gong journey?
In 2001 when I lived in Northern California we lived near Guang Ping Tai Chi Grandmaster Henry Look. My husband, myself, and a small group of external art black belt instructors had private lessons two days a week at 6 am with Master Look. We learned the Tai Chi long form, the tai chi sword, some spear, some Xing Yi and a some of Bagua.
Master Look emphasized mastering the moves of the long Tai chi form and we spent many hours perfecting the balance, silk reeling flow and our understanding of the movements. After 5 years of instruction my family moved to Oregon.
We continued our Shorin Ryu karate program at the Family Martial Arts Academy in Beaverton, where my husband teaches the adults, my oldest son teaches the teenagers, and I teach the young children and the women-only class.
When Grandmaster Look became ill and was not available to continue our Tai Chi instruction, we connected with Grandmaster Marilyn Cooper, who was in the same Guang Ping lineage. Grandmaster Marilyn has a wonderful understanding of the self-defense aspects of the Guang Ping form, which has added layers to our interpretation and applications of the movements. She has traveled to Oregon and presented her Pushing for Peace children’s program to our students on two occasions. The program has been well received, and I am privileged to be learning more about it as an ambassador of the program.
Oh, that is good to hear! I learned about the Pushing for Peace program when I interviewed Marilyn Cooper!
Finish this sentence: When I started learning Taijiquan and/or Qi Gong, I would have liked to have known…
When I started learning Taijiquan I would have liked to have known more about the health benefits, and the movements’ significance to the body’s organs. I could feel the beneficial affects, and I was intuitively developing an understanding of the benefits but very little direct instruction was transmitted.
Is there anything that you specifically learnt from your first teacher that you still remember? A lesson or insight that you keep dear to your heart?
What I specifically have learned from my instructors, that I keep dear to my heart, is the idea of the movements having many layers of complexity, benefit and application to the real world. Although I have performed the exact same set each week for 17 years now I find that I am continuing to learn more and more about each movement, and the set as a whole.
What are you currently practicing? Do you have any personal goals in Taijiquan and/or Qi Gong?
I meet with a group of women each week to practice Qi Gong exercises and then we do the long form as a group. We then sit for a guided meditation in which we embrace and acknowledge our bodies and minds in the present moment with all of the qi flowing and body organs humming from our having completed our exercises.
How does your Taijiquan and/or Qi Gong practice impact your everyday life?
In my daily life I find that Taijiquan is always in the background instructing and guiding me to stay grounded, and tying my moments together for as smooth a flow as is available to me in the circumstances of the moment. And if I am not in a flow and grounded state, I can call upon specific grounding principles of receiving the support of the earth, of moving from the core, and of breathing into body and into the moment. The concept of feeling the world from the inside out is not something overtly taught to me, but a lesson that has been clearly learned through the practices of Tai Chi.
I think that it is best to learnt from a teacher in person, but which book taught you the most? Which would you recommend to a friend?
I don’t have a book that I would recommend that is directly related to learning about Qi Gong or Tai Chi. My husband watches, studies, and explores everyday some new video , book, or article and he shares many of his insights. I think I have come to rely upon his sharing. I like to listen to podcasts on my walks that speak about the science of understanding the brain, body and spirit. From these books and interviews I enjoy making associations with my weekly martial arts practices.
Danni, thank you for this open interview and for sharing your experiences and thoughts!
Thank you for these thoughtful questions and the opportunity to share my experiences.
Now if you, dear reader, would like to know more about Danni Verona have a look at her Pediatric Therapy page!