I have been doing tai chi for more than 10 years and really love it. I am always in awe of how my highly experienced and skilled instructors can remember so much, not just Yang Style levels 1-6, but other forms and weapons, too.
The warm-up exercises with Noel or Margaret set the scene for us and mean that you can put aside other parts of your daily routine in order to concentrate on these sequences – some Qi Gong, some Shibashi followed by the voice of Eng Chor as he leads us through the tai chi levels. I find it meditative to concentrate on the graceful movements; I also find it helps develop mindfulness as one focuses on the here and the now and, by doing so, can put aside other distractions. Indeed, concentration is essential to avoid losing track of where we should be up to with the movements while exercising. In addition, I find tai chi really helps with balance, breathing techniques and flexibility – things many of us neglect when we spend so much time in front of computers. I like the way muscle memory kicks in – now after ten or more years I wonder why I found it so tricky to learn even Level One!
Tai chi also exercises the brain. There is always something to learn as you move from level to level and then to weapons. I have found the long pole routine a real challenge, but there is so much satisfaction when one masters a difficult move! The weapons are such fun to learn and the moves so graceful that one forgets that the instruments were, in fact, designed as weapons to defend oneself or hurt one’s opponent – though dropping the fan on your foot when trying to master the ‘toss’ gives something of a reminder!
And, perhaps as much as anything, I have found that taking part in the tai chi classes is a great way of developing a new circle of friends – people I probably wouldn’t have met in other parts of my life. I so look forward to Saturday mornings when I can join others at the class in Ashburton. The beginning of February is something I always eagerly await as tai chi begins again for that year.
Margot Hillel, student
Ashburton Tai Chi Centre
Updated: 12 February 2023