When I came back from uni a few weeks ago and started to practise social distancing, I picked up a new form of exercise. My mum is a qualified Tai Chi instructor, and as she is currently not teaching anyone, I wanted to learn Tai Chi from her whilst I still can and have the time.
It has been a real learning experience, and completely different from what I expected it would be!
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi was originally developed as a martial art in 13th-century China, and has remained a key part of Chinese culture ever since. If you were to visit China (when there’s no virus), you would often find older people practising Tai Chi in the parks.
My own grandmothers did it every morning after retirement, and it did them a world of good in terms of maintaining their mobility, health and social life. The NHS even has an article on the health benefits of Tai Chi.
It’s Not Just For Old People
I used to be quite hesitant to learn Tai Chi – I only really saw ‘old’ people doing it and it seemed so slow and boring. Since I already did a lot of karate, I didn’t see the need to learn Tai Chi. However, now I’m stuck at home and karate has been cancelled, I decided to take up Tai Chi.
I think I didn’t appreciate Tai Chi when I was younger because it lacked the action that excited me about other sports. I think it takes a certain maturity and presence of mind to truly appreciate Tai Chi as a form of art and sport.
Why So Slow?
The actions of Tai Chi are slow, but don’t mistake that for weakness! If you were to try and move someone properly doing Tai Chi, you’d find that their arms are actually very strong without being tense, and their centre of gravity is very stable.
Every movement has to be performed with intent, and there are no excessive or superfluous actions. Going faster actually makes it easier, because it’s easier to wobble less, hides any lack of coordination and also means you have your weight on one leg for a shorter amount of time.
This is why going slow is actually a real skill – wobbles are immediately obvious, any uncoordinated movements are clear to see, and you work out your legs and arms much more. Going slow makes you control your body movements.
How Tai Chi has Benefitted Me
Tai Chi takes up a lot of concentration to get the technique right, which calms my mind so that it’s not whizzing with thoughts all the time. I leave my worries and stresses behind after my first few breaths, and it allows me to focus. I haven’t quite got to the stage where it’s meditative for me yet, but I can see how it would be for people who have done it for many years.
Tai Chi has also made me appreciate how little control I generally have over my body, but I can master it by practising. I have a greater appreciation for the amount of coordination it requires, and for the workout it gives to your legs when you’re doing it properly.
I also find the artistic side very calming. It is easy to get into the flow state doing Tai Chi, and the movements are like water: ever flowing, elegant, and tranquil. Each movement is precise but fluid. Each form is beautiful but practical.
The best thing about Tai Chi is that it can be adapted to everyone. Even 100-year-old grandmas can sit and do Tai Chi, and move every joint. It is a flexible form of sport that everyone can enjoy and benefit from, which is something I never truly appreciated before.
Do you think you’d try Tai Chi? Had you ever heard of it before? What do you do to find calm or flow? Let me know in the comments!