An Observation

"Nothing happens until something moves”, Albert Einstein

Over the years I have hiked, run, cycled, swum, skied, lifted weights…….and spent countless hours on gym stair climbers and cross training machines.
As a uni student and, for a few years as a young adult, I learnt karate. At one time, also, learning Tai Chi through the CAE on a Monday nights with karate on Wednesdays. A perfect combination. As happens, demands on time increased and exercise slowly became fitted into the spare minutes and holidays. Karate stopped.
I came back to Tai Chi at the start of 2013 after a gap of some 30 years. As a nice coincidence, back to John Gardiner High (aka Hawthorn Secondary College now Auburn High - 30 years is a long time) where I had first encountered Tai Chi. Coming back to Tai Chi was a revelation: “keep your feet where they are, turn your body and look at the back wall”; “swing your arms across your body, touching your shoulders”; “move your hands across your body in circles – step sideways”. Circular movements, moving backwards, turning, crouching, both sides, balancing…..
Over the first few Tai Chi classes it dawned on me that nearly all physical activity I had been doing over the past 30 years went in a straight line; it was linear. Facing straight ahead; moving left, right, left, right. The activity was primarily about getting from point A to B; to achieve a goal – a place (the top of the hill), a time (a PB), to complete a route or circuit. And shared with friends on the Strava app. My body and mind had been missing so much!

This led me to speculate about other common physical activities that we could be doing in Melbourne. Are any of these activities less linear, less in a straight line, than others? How about golf? We turn our body, but on one side only with the aim of driving a ball in a straight line forward. Tennis? Possibly - more sideways movement and back and forward, but again one side of the body only. Basketball? Possibly – dribbling the ball can be stop/start, left/right, step forward/step back. Aerobics? Yes! Dancing? Definitely! Probably any activity that needs music. Yoga? Of course. Asian martial arts? Of course. Uhmmm….so our physical activities are linear - except for those with music and those that originate from Asia?
Research on differences between Eastern and Western thinking draws out many interesting manifestations of these differences. Read more.
It seems that our physical activities are a further example of these differences.
For our bodies to work effectively we need flexibility, suppleness, balance, coordination - key ingredients of Tai Chi - as well as strength and heart/lung fitness. With these vital first ingredients to a healthy body, more of the community would enjoy an active, full life into older age. I suspect you, like me, have discovered these benefits and hopefully are an evangelist for Tai Chi. And we haven’t even mentioned the social aspects of Tai Chi classes and the Tai Chi community!

Michael Bertie, Student
Box Hill Evening Centre

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Updated 10 October 2020