Scott M. Rodell Interviewed in Sports Star

Tallinn, Estonia, Feburary 2001

Scott Rodell from America believes that his connections with Estonia are determined by the destiny. Ten years ago a couple of individuals from Narva visited his school in Washington, after that Rodell has repeatedly been to Estonia to teach taijiquan. Rodell is married to a Chinese lady with whom he shares a three-year son.

What does Taiji mean for you?

To put it simply taiji is an ancient Chinese martial art. For me it’s meaning is greater – taijiquan keeps me health, makes me strong, this is not just a form of intellectual soul-searching. Taiji develops both one’s body and one’s mind.

Is Taiji more a sport or a lifestyle?

I would say that Taijiquan is a martial art, although you may call it a lifestyle. Taijiquan offers an opportunity to develop oneself, a way for resolving problems peacefully without having to hit someone immediately. An adversary who is bigger by size does not evoke fright; one is capable of maintaining one’s inner calm and confidence. One’s body remains seem soft on the surface, but when the core is made of steel then one is able to use one’s powers, and if necessary – to direct the adversary’s powers against himself.

How long have you practiced Taiji?

More than 20 years.

Do you know Taiji enough, not enough or more than enough?

That?s a good question, I have never thought of it. I can say that I no longer must visit my teacher to learn more. But in principle one can never know Taijiquan exhaustibly because it is an internal martial art. Why? One does not try so much to develop one’s muscles and reflexes but rather to build one’s inner energy that is inexhaustible. To put it in a context – when I was approaching my 40th birthday and my teacher was already 85 years old he managed to defeat me in a push hands easily. Just think about it, he was twice my age, but turned out to be better. If I keep my mind free I will be developing constantly also.

How do you practice, what kind of exercises do you do?</p>

Taijiquan is a large system. When I am alone I primarily perform the basic exercises as well as hand and weapons forms. Practices are intended for the whole body. Weapons forms are more difficult, they are faster and more powerful, exercises without weapons are slower and, of course, more meditative by their nature.

Where are your schools?

The Main Branch is in Washington, it is called Great River Taoist Center, or GRTC for short. There are two schools in Tallinn, three in Tartu, one in Narva. In addition to these there are three schools in Moscow, one in Kolomna and one in St. Petersburg.

Why Estonia?

I do not know, I think it must be destiny. In the Soviet times I was invited to Moscow to teach. Ten years ago I received an unexpected phone call from some strangers visiting Washington, who asked questions about my school. It turned out that they were from Narva. They were actually looking for a yoga school, but when they heard that I was planning to travel to Russia soon, they invited me to Estonia. I have to admit that at that time I had heard of Estonia, but I knew nothing about the state. Besides I have always been more interested in Asian culture.

What kind of students Estonians are? How do they accept Taijiquan?

I believe that considering that Taijiquan is relatively new for them they appreciate the opportunity to study it quite highly. In general Estonians are arduous. But like everywhere some students are better, some are worse. Attitude towards practice here is however different from the attitude in America. The Americans are used to more easy ways of getting things.

What are the more general objectives of your life?

I would like to do many interesting things. I cannot call it exactly my life’s objective but I believe that people should do each other good. They should not live just for themselves, but give something back to the society too. Maybe this is my goal in life.

Some historic notes about Taiji: The history of Taiji Quan dates back to the antiquity, and for this reason it is extremely difficult to say when exactly it was developed. The skeleton of Taiji is the Yin-Yang balance theory the roots of which go back to early Taoist techniques from 5000 to 3000 years BC; whereas the “flesh” of Taiji is made of the “Taiji classics” the first of whom was Laozi (5th century BC). Chang Sanfeng, whose life is yet undated, is believed to be the creator of Taijiquan. Admittedly he saw a struggle between a stork and a snake and, inspired by this vision, he developed a complex of exercises that resembles this fight. But this is only one of the possible versions.