Taiji Sword Festival 2002

Sword Battle in Narva
By Irina Tokareva; reprinted in English from “Narvskaia Nedelia” (“Narva Weekly”)

On the lawn in front of the Mereranna Spa several dozen people move in a single rhythm, graceful and coordinated, literally dancing to music that only they can hear. This impression is not spoiled even by the imposing wooden swords that they are brandishing. This is what one of the exercises looks like at the seminar on the internal Taoist martial art, T’ai Chi Ch’uan, which is becoming increasingly more popular in Estonia. Running the seminar is American Scott Rodell – the very person who brought the genuine art of T’ai Chi to Estonia 11 years ago.

Scott M. Rodell, director of the Great River School in Washngton, first came to Estonia 11 years ago. Since then he has succeeded in conducting around 20 seminars in Tallinn and Narva. “Now I have more students in Estonia then in Washington,” said Scott. More than 70 people of both sexes ranging in age from 10 to 60 came to the current seminar from Narva, Tartu, Parnu, Tallinn, and Saint Petersburg. The students are welcoming people, eagerly allowing themselves to be photographed, but at the same time people of few words and modest. On their tee shirts, in Russian, English, and Estonian, is written the name of the school: “Great River.”

Miaodao practice during the Festival.

In Rodell’s opinion, the art of Taijiquan helps people find themselves, to realize their individuality and it is precisely that which makes it so attractive. “T’ai Chi is a tool. It doesn’t matter if you have a good brush. What are you going to do with it – will you paint a picture or will you paint a roof, it depends only on you, on your own inclination,” Rodell explained.

At the same time Taijiquan is an actual martial art offering excellent, practical results. “The reputation of this style is higher than European or Japanese styles of swordsmanship,” Rodell feels, having explained that he has fought in personal duels where representatives of other sword styles took part, and he defeated them. You can study T’ai Chi your whole life, becoming an ever more accomplished fighter. The very youthful 42-year old Rodell realizes that his own teacher, who is twice his age, can still easily knock him down.

Rodell believes that he was the first to bring genuine Taijiquan – which should not under any circumstances be considered simply a sport – to Estonia. “Quite a few people are in the Taiji business, especially in America. They are received very well because they are Chinese; but in fact they don’t have any real strength. Mastery of the real art of Taijiquan does not depend on the color of your skin, and some of my best students are the Russian students,” Rodell said.

He wound up in Estonia by fate. “It is a funny story,” Scott suggests. Still during the time of the USSR Scott met a fellow from Sochi, a president of the local Wushu federation, who visited to America and came to the Great River school. Once he phoned and said that he was in a taxi with two strange Russians who were looking for a martial arts school. “Well, great, so bring them to me,” Scott answered. “The strange Russians turned out to be the brothers Eldar and Elmar Efendiev, who were looking for a yoga school. “But we met and they invited me to Estonia – it was probably fate,” Scott concluded.

Scott realized that he has been coming to Estonia for a long time, and feels at home here. He is very happy with his students here – they distinguish themselves by their self-discipline, purposefulness, kindness toward each other, and love for nature, all characteristics necessary to become a genuine Taijiquan fighter.