Park lessons – from inspiration to commitment

When Rita and I first started Tai Chi in 2008, we were impressed by the various groups practicing their levels of the form at our local centre, Werribee. But it was after taking up the suggestion of attending a park lesson that we really were inspired to commit and become Tai Chi practitioners. Watching a large group of people gracefully move through the form as a single body was inspiring, we were reminded of the line from, ‘When Harry Met Sally’, “We want what they’re having”. There and then we mentally signed on to ensure that with time, practice and energy we could one day become part of this amazing flow. Twelve years on, Tai Chi is such an important part of our lives and the promise that we made to each other at that first Park Lesson has borne fruit.

Our masters always remind us that Tai Chi, an ancient art, is always practiced in the open air. It is only in recent times that we have brought it inside, cut off from the fresh air, the breeze and the many elements the natural world provides. Of course, it is only practical that we utilise our enclosed spaces to learn our form, but also vital that we take our form outside and practice it where possible in the fresh air.

One will also be faced with the challenge of uneven footing, distracting noise, people within view, (and as we often experience at Malvern Park, dogs running between us). But such distractions simply require us to drill down and focus in on each of our moves, to consciously look where we are stepping, to adjust to the uneven surface, to really tune in to the shifting of weight before making the move. The need to focus even more really enhances one’s engagement with the form, leading one to a deeper connection with the various moves.

In time, the wailing ambulance, the passing trams, cars and noisy kids, initially so prevalent, fade into the background as you enter into the flow of each move, now more conscious of the breeze at your back challenging your balance. And, while at first your form may not feel as smooth as it does within the hall where you regularly practice, over time, with practice, you will come to experience that it is out in the open air where your form really begins to take a deeper hold.

Now, whenever and wherever we holiday, we take our Tai Chi form with us, to the beach, to the forest, the canyon, by the side of a river, a pool or botanical gardens. It has become such a vital aspect of our holidays, an opportunity to really connect with a location, to feel the energy of that unique space, to mark that moment in time and truly connect with the earth, our form and ourselves as was the original intention when Tai Chi was developed 700 years ago.

Graham Sullivan
Assistant Instructor, Werribee

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Updated: 19 February 2020