Practicing tai chi on the North Fork

From China to Greenport, the ancient martial art of tai chi has proven itself a long-term tradition. 

A dozen students at North Fork Bodies in Motion gathered earlier this month at Main Stage Dance Studio in Greenport for an achievement certificate ceremony to reward them for the months they’ve spent learning and practicing tai chi. North Fork Bodies in Motion mainly operates out of the dance studio, but got it its start in local libraries in Southold Town.

“I’m very, very proud that we’re here today with my students,” said Marilyn LoPresti, owner of North Fork Bodies in Motion. “The people here in the class have been working hard to really understand what tai chi is.”

Tai chi is a martial art that developed over many centuries. Today, it is often used as a form of exercise that combines the concepts of yin and yang and promotes the integration of mind, body, energy and spirit. Ms. LoPresti teaches in the Yang Style Form 24 to develop internal and external strength, as well as stability and balance.

Ms. LoPresti is a second-degree black belt and has been practicing martial arts for over 25 years with her sister, Joan Caccioppoli, another instructor at North Fork Bodies in Motion. The sisters both studied with Enzo Aliotta, owner and CEO of United Studios of Progressive Martial Arts in Port Jefferson Station. All three have earned the title “Sifu,” which means “master,” and all were present to observe last week’s presentations.

After the demonstrations, Mr. Aliotta explained how tai chi has been passed down over generations.

“In China, tai chi is a national treasure,” he said. “The Chinese have developed this 5,000 years ago to teach people to live in accordance to the universe, so they’ll find balance and harmony in life.”

He said martial arts is just that: an art. No two people perform tai chi the same way.

“From China to New York City to Greenport, this national treasure is being passed on. That’s powerful,” he added.

All 12 students demonstrated the tai chi they have been practicing for the instructors and invited guests. They then received certificates of achievement.

“It’s a continuous study and they have all come this far,” Ms. Caccioppoli said. “Most people are not longtime martial arts students, and we’re very proud of them and we thought that our teacher would be interested to come and see how far they have come.”

Nancy Willott of Southold has been studying tai chi with this group since April.

“I can actually feel the chi, at certain points, going through my body,” she said. “I just love learning it part by part, and when you do it all together without any words, it’s really such a beautiful experience.”

She was first drawn to the experience years ago and was looking for something on the North Fork, but options were limited until Ms. LoPresti started her business here.

“It is good for your body and I think it’s good for my mental health too,” Ms. Willott said. “It’s like when I’m here, that’s all I think about.”

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