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Going natural with Tai Chi

How I would love to write about the exuberance I felt in playing Beethoven's piano trio with a local cellist and violinist! The three hours put me on a natural high today. But I will save that for another day. Instead, I shall write about my first Tai Chi lesson.

I have always associated Tai Chi with a morning exercise for old people, such as those you see in the public parks in mainland China. However, today's lesson taught me something quite different.

Like yoga, pilates, and other "alternative" exercise regimens, Tai Chi comes with a philosophy of its own. Unlike other exercise classes, our teacher told us to turn our backs to the mirrors. He said that he didn't want our "ego" to come into the picture. Unlike other classes, he also didn't want to tell us every move for fear of voice dependence.

Tai Chi is about following the natural movements which have strength of their own. When we're told to bend our knees, we do so without necessarily supporting our backs well. However, if we're about to kneel, we do so naturally, because kneeling is natural but merely bending our knees is not.

I do detect some Taoism in the philosophy of Tai Chi. For example, having your arms slightly bent is more powerful than having them extended straight out. Someone could easily push you off balance if you have your arms extended straight out to someone else.

Our first exercise was to figure out what is shoulder width. When our feet are shoulder width apart, we are stable and strong. Then we learned to move and relax our arms so that our palms are facing the back and there is enough space in our arm pits. Next pushed our wrists back, making them perpendicular to the flour. We then pushed our fingers forward. All the movements were slow.

Being the only Chinese person in the class, I felt as if my teacher was talking directly at me. After all, Tai Chi came from China. After being bombarded with Western values, I am now going back to my roots --- going natural.

3 November 2002 Sunday

Related links:
Taoism and the philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan
Tai Chi Finder in UK and Ireland
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Anne Ku
writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.