Trying tai chi

YOURLifeChoices member Brian talks about starting tai chi, and the little slice of calm it has added into his week.

How did you get into tai chi?
It was one of those things that had been on the periphery of my ‘I would like to try that some day’, but I hadn’t really done anything about it until a flyer appeared in the mail box inviting me to attend a ‘try it and see’ class locally.

How long did it take to start getting the hang of it?
I came away from my first class flapping my hands around and falling over my legs. I expect it was after the first half-a-dozen classes that I began to get the inkling I just might be starting to get the hang of it.

Was there something you did to help yourself along?
Yes, initially it was about showing up to the classes. That was the hardest bit. I felt I was getting nowhere, and what appeared to be the simplest routines were forgotten in minutes. It’s really hard to keep going back to something that you feel you are not getting the hang of when everybody else is moving smoothly along. Then the body memory seemed to kick in, and bits seemed to fall into place. I also find that a quick run through the moves when I get home, outside the support of the instructors, helps to cement a series of movements in place. If that doesn’t work, I go back over it with the instructors the following week

Why did you keep going? What benefits were you getting from the class?
To begin with I’m not sure why I kept going, but I began to learn some of the routines, and there’s nothing like a bit of positive reinforcement to keep you interested. My understanding is that there are two levels to the tai chi form that I am currently learning. The first level is the one that we see; movement of the body in a co-ordinated fashion. The second is one that we don’t see; the meditative aspect. I think that most people would know that tai chi’s origins are in martial arts, but less well known is the meditative aspect.

I suspect that different schools of tai chi, (and there are many forms) concentrate on different aspects. I started with a Beijing form, not that I knew it at the time, and this appears to be a competition form. Then when the local school closed I went to another school which taught Wu style, and chi gung (qigong), and they incorporate meditation with the form. I don’t know that I’ve answered your question. I suppose the only way to really answer it is to go and try it, and it will be the right thing for you, or not.

Do you have any tips for someone who is thinking about starting tai chi?
Pick a local or convenient school as you’re more likely to keep going. Then if you take to it you can branch out into the forms that give you back the most, but to begin with its all just tai chi. My local school in Kew, ‘Moving Meditation’, offers a try-before-you-buy, where you can come to the first lesson for free. I’m sure that many of the schools offer similar options. Look it up on the web, I’m sure there will be one accessible to most people

For more information or to find a class near you visit the Tai Chi Association of Australia website.