Instructors and partners
Dr. Miriam Marsolais
Dr. Miriam Marsolais, founder of White Magnolia Tai Chi School, is a certified Tai Chi Instructor in the Plum Blossom International Federation of Choy Li Fut/ Tai Chi. She began her Tai Chi/Chi Kung practice in 1996 as a pathway to recovery from the effects of a nearly–fatal burn injury. She has trained under Sifu David Dong in Albany, California.; Sifu Yadollah Moghaddam in Sausalito and Kensington, CA; Sifu Munzer Dajani in Sausailito, CA; and at Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong’s studio in San Francisco. She has participated successfully in martial arts tournaments both as a competitor and judge.
Miriam is also a Jungian Analyst and licensed psychologist in private practice specializing in the treatment of trauma and a faculty member of the Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy Institute based in New York City. She is a student of Dzogchen teacher James Low, a student of Kum Nye at the Nyingma Institute of Tibetan Studies, and has practiced traditional Chinese Brush Painting under the instruction of Master Yun-Chung Chiang. As hobbies she enjoys dogs, hiking, gardening, and eating.
John Luna-Sparks, who has taught at White Magnolia since 2010, became director of White Magnolia Acupuncture and Tai Chi in 2020. He began his Tai Chi practice with White Magnolia founder Miriam Marsolais in 2005, seeking recovery from a severe neck injury when conventional medical treatments offered no relief. His neck got better and he happily continued because he slept better, got more flexible and found a great way to manage the stress of life. He became a licensed acupuncturist in 2015.
At White Magnolia John teaches restorative, beginner, intermediate, and advanced classes and also offers quarterly wellness events. He continues his work as a licensed clinical social worker specializing in child sexual abuse recovery and trauma recovery for people with developmental disabilities. He is also a senior instructor with Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower, International. He enjoys spending time with his husband, son, and dogs, and listening to music.
Yadollah Moghaddam is one of Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong’s most advanced students and one of Miriam Marsolais’ teachers. He is a master-level practitioner of Choy Li Fut Kung Fu, Tai Chi Chuan and Push Hands. He has been training, teaching and serving as a judge at martial arts tournaments for more than 30 years.
Yadollah teaches push hands and integrative martial arts practice classes at White Magnolia. His integrative practice classes are open to students of all levels. Push hands classes are open to intermediate and advanced students, and to beginners with special approval.
Peter Binkley is White Magnolia’s most senior student and our most senior student instructor. The depth of Peter’s practice, his skillfulness in teaching, and the steadiness of his presence is an inspiration to all of the instructors and students at White Magnolia. He teaches classes of every level at White Magnolia.
“I've had the good fortune to be a student at White Magnolia for over ten years under the excellent guidance of Miriam Marsolais,” he says. “After the first five years or so Miriam asked me to help some of the newer students with their Tai Chi and as time passed I eventually became an instructor at the school. I make every attempt to faithfully pass on the knowledge that I have acquired from Miriam, other teachers, and the students in our practice. Tai Chi for me has become a way of life. The learning never ends. It influences my every day. I try and take what I've learned in the studio and see how it applies to my life in general.”
Julio Kaplan first discovered the magic of Tai Chi one dawn in Hong Kong, watching the rooftops come alive with people practicing. He joined White Magnolia in 2005 and has been learning Tai Chi from Miriam Marsolais ever since. In his youth Julio was a world-class professional chess player, and he is intrigued by the similarities in the internal practices needed to excel at chess and Tai Chi. He is now retired from a career as a software developer.
Julio is married, with three adult children and two grandchildren. Julio has discovered push hands (also known as "sensing hands") as a way to deepen his Tai Chi practice; he is passionate about encouraging push hands practice at White Magnolia. Julio teaches a “Tai Chi Essentials” class at White Magnolia. He also taught in our San Quentin State Prison Tai Chi program.
Alison Keye, White Magnolia’s newest instructor, is a passionate sportswoman and a strong and grounded Tai Chi practitioner. Over the course of her life Alison worked as a medical office manager, a flight attendant, and a journalist. She discovered Tai Chi at White Magnolia in 2011, bringing with her the strength and discipline learned through years of engagement with swim teams, gymnastics, softball, mountaineering, dance, and scuba.
About her Tai Chi practice Alison says, "It has surprised my squirrel brain: me loving something slow and meditative!" Tai Chi helps Alison stay mobile and healthy despite some new physical limitations and it supports her interest in finding balance, both literally and spiritually.
The strength and quiet precision of Alison's forms inspire everyone at White Magnolia, beginner and advanced alike, to practice with more focus, calmness, and enjoyment. Alison teaches our Wednesday morning advanced beginner class. She has one grown son and currently enjoys time with her family and her pursuits as a writer and artist.
Margaret Moreland began her Tai Chi practice in 1994 at the Golden Lion Martial Arts School with Tom Parenty, continuing to study with David Dong when he took over the school.
Margaret and Miriam were classmates at Golden Lion, for a while the only two students in the advanced class. Tai Chi is an essential part of Margaret’s life; she tries to practice at least five days each week no matter where she is.
In the fall of 2018 it seemed like time for a change, so Margaret came to White Magnolia to participate in the advanced class and try her hand at regular teaching. She teaches the Thursday afternoon intermediate class and offers private lessons at all levels.
Kitty attended various Tai Chi schools when she lived in San Diego and commuted to U.C. Irvine, where she was a professor of criminology, law and society. When she retired in 2010, she and her husband moved to Berkeley to be near their children and grandchildren. Soon after her move, she discovered the White Magnolia School of Tai Chi and began taking beginner classes with Miriam, and, later, Peter and John.
Although she had taken Tai Chi classes off and on in San Diego, this was different. She knew right away that she wanted to deepen her practice. That was 10 years ago. She finds the focus on intention and precision in all our Tai Chi classes at White Magnolia fully engaging of mind, body, and spirit. She teaches beginners and continues to practice Tai Chi every day. She enjoys travel, writing, piano (just learning!), and outdoor activities of all kinds.
Ikebana with Yusui Joan Suzuki
Yusui Joan Suzuki, a White Magnolia Tai Chi student, teaches Sogetsu Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) classes at White Magnolia on the first Sunday of each month from 1 to 3 pm. (Please check our events calendar as sometimes the date shifts.) Mrs. Suzuki began studying Ikebana in Tokyo in her early teens and in 1968 was awarded Sogetsu’s Model Teacher Award. In 1978 Sofu Teshigahara, Sogestu’s founding headmaster, conferred the rank of Riji on Mrs. Suzuki, the highest ranking in Sogetsu, short of Headmaster.