From the students…
The COVID-19 pandemic took us all by surprise and our lives changed overnight. I couldn’t believe that all at once, for the first time in my life, basic food supplies and other necessities were missing from the supermarket shelves. What also struck sad cords in my heart was the cordoned off playgrounds, restrictions on family gatherings and especially missing grandchildren as well as many activities like Tai Chi.
The panic buying that emerged was unsettling and I felt a growing sense of disorientation. As a distraction from what was occurring around me, I resorted to watching whatever comedy shows were available on TV and even replayed some to our Everybody Loves Raymond DVDs.
Fortunately, after a week and some time for reflection, and pulling myself together, I re-sumed the practices that I had established throughout the past 10 years. Hence I recommenced my morning routine of Tai Chi with the aid of the colleges charts, meditation and walking my dog, Nero. Thereafter tackled working from home.
Thankfully, my daughter and daughter-in-law skilled me up in the use of Zoom and WhatApp to enable me to continue with leading my meditation groups and connect with family and friends.
I have practised Tai Chi at the Moonee Ponds centre since the 1990’s and always enjoy the warm up exercises and graceful Yang style. The movements capture by imagination as they are associated with the stances and flowing movement of various animals — ‘brush the bird’s tail’, ‘white crane spreads its wings’, ‘snake creeps down’. Throughout the years, I’ve noticed that Tai Chi practice has helped me improve balance, flexibility and ability to focus. Being a meditative movement form, it is a wonderful lead into silent sitting meditation.
Over the years, our instructors, Margie, who is sadly no longer with us, Wayne, Joy, Doreen and David have always been welcoming, encouraging and patient. The instructors’ passion and dedication to the teaching of Tai Chi enthuses me to continue and refine the form. Of course we share a laugh, which renders the whole learning experience so much more enjoyable. Some memorable comments include: Wayne’s reference to armature, alluding to the position of the tor-so and his emphasis on a ‘white crane spreads its wings’ not a dead duck; and Joy’s and Doreen’s smiles whose demonstrations and graceful movements instil a sense of calm and smooth transition we aspire to emulate.
Our class has worked well together, the senior students always ready to share their skills. Hence we have forged friendships and at times shared a coffee and a chat at the Boat House along the Maribyrnong River.
I very much look forward to returning to classes when it is safe to do so. Hopefully soon!
From the Instructors…
As much as you may love your Tai Chi, do you feel yourself becoming slightly less motivated as the lockdown drags on? Or, perhaps, it is the opposite - you are energised with more time to practise? We all have a different lockdown experience, but what keeps us going without our weekly class structure and the joy of working together?
We all share the common goal of maintaining our physical and mental health for as long as possible, so it’s important to keep moving. And, there is that other dimension of mindfulness, moving meditation, and general mental focus. And the value of slow deep breathing exercises as part of this.
But we all know this, right? We also know that these goals will not be achieved sitting in a comfy chair. What gets me out of the chair is imagining what a creaking mess I could be in a few years’ time (or even before classes start again) if I don’t get up and move now.
The more meditative and mindful nature of the practice is also important in keeping me focused and calm. I’m not very good with seated meditation, but I find Tai Chi and Qigong very helpful. I also personally like to memorise forms, to keep my brain ticking over. But that's just me. We are probably all doing the same kinds of things during the lockdown, but in our different ways.
I have had many students over the years asking for a DVD or something to help them practise. Now, we have some wonderful resources on the College website, thanks to the Masters and Senior Instructors, so I would like especially to urge newer students to work with these. You can practise any levels of our long Yang form. If you have trouble with the ‘mirror image’ of the front view, follow the 'back view’ video. Or, do some warm-ups and limbering with the videos, join an online class once a week, or challenge yourself to learn just a few movements of a new Qigong set.
Or, if you prefer, just work on a small number of exercises and movements that you already know and enjoy, and stick with those. There is great value in repetition and more specific focus, and no requirement to learn and memorise lots of new forms if that is not for you.
After all, the great Chen Master, Chen Fake, is said to have practised his form 30 times each day, and I’m sure I read somewhere that the legendary Tao Master, Zhang San Feng, achieved enlightenment after practising Repulse Monkey 300 times! We have all heard the advice to practise something 10,000 times in order to master it. But we will never be perfect. Remember what our College Masters say, ‘perfection is in the journey’.
So, my thoughts are, choose aspects of Tai Chi and Qigong that are of benefit to you and your body. Things you like doing. Be kind to yourself. Enjoy your practice, even if you can only manage it occasionally - but don't give up. Best wishes to all.
Joy Muir, Instructor
Moonee Ponds Centre
Tai Chi in lockdown is not easy. It’s hard to get motivated when you’re doing your Tai Chi, “Nigel no friends”. The fact that it’s midwinter, makes it more difficult to get out there. The mornings for the most part are gloomy and cold and the thought of going outside is daunting, to say the least.
However, most of us have more time available, we’re not going anywhere, so it’s a great opportunity to improve our Tai Chi.
Here’s a few things I’ve been doing.
You know those moves you don’t do very well, the ones you don’t want to practise when others can see you? Well, this is the perfect time to practise them. Go through the routines you know, identify the moves causing you grief and practise them on their own on both sides till you’re feeling better about them. If you’re not sure of the detail, the college has several routines on the website to help.
My balance is better on my left than it is on my right, so, there are moves that I do on the right leg that could use some improvement, such as Tai Chi kicks or the Golden Rooster. Perhaps, I can practice up and down the hall doing the Golden Rooster instead of walking. Sounds ridiculous, but it will help improve your confidence on your non-preferred leg and, consequently, your balance.
Dig out your weapons’ bag and try to get through the fan, sword, or flute routine. I know you need room for that, so if you can’t get outside and have to practise inside, perhaps use a ruler instead of a sword or flute.
As Master Chin Min has been known to say, “After Tai Chi you should feel three things: strengthened, energised and uplifted.”
So, this is the time to be uplifted. Find a Tai Chi playlist on Spotify or similar and get out there and practise!
May the Chi be with you.
Wayne Bradhorn, Instructor
Moonee Ponds and Preston
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Updated 13 August 2020