Tai Chi - A Beginners Guide

Feb 4 09:56 2009 Dave Bruton Print This Article

What does an ancient Chinese martial art such as Tai Chi have to offer modern day people living in the UK?  Read about my personal journey into the art of Tai Chi.

What does an ancient Chinese martial art such as Tai Chi have to offer modern day people living in the UK?  The slow meditative movements of Tai Chi appear to be at the opposite end of the spectrum to modern day living,Guest Posting yet Tai Chi continues to gain popularity in the West.  Popularity alone, however, is rarely an indicator of intrinsic worth (take binge drinking for example!), so how are you to determine whether Tai Chi has something to offer you personally?

This was the question I found myself facing five years ago.  Unsure as to why I was even considering the question, I came to the conclusion that nothing could substitute for personal experience and, with some misgivings, I decided to take the plunge.

On hearing that some friends of mine had registered on a ten-week introductory course in Tai Chi starting the very next week, I decided to call the course organiser immediately.  Perhaps this was fate, perhaps it was my destiny to study Tai Chi.  Fate, however, had deviated from my expectations.  The course was fully subscribed.

I felt quite aggrieved that my grand plan had been thwarted.  How dare my friends start Tai Chi without me!  Although living in a large town there were certainly other teachers available, I failed to overcome this set back and chose the route of apathy. Apparently my aspirations were not particularly resilient, and I comforted myself in the knowledge that at least I had tried.

Ten weeks later my spiritually advanced friends told me that their Tai Chi course had ended and classes were now open to all comers.  Although my initial zeal had diminished somewhat, I was left with no excuses and agreed to join them at the next class.

Until we arrived on the following Tuesday I hadn't recognised the full extent of my apprehensions.  My desire to learn Tai Chi had been replaced with an unsettling feeling that I could not place.  I realised that I knew next to nothing about Tai Chi, and began thinking, 'what the hell am I doing here?'.  Understanding it was far too late to entertain these thoughts I resolved myself to the fact that I would be there for the next two hours.

The teacher was instantly recognizable.  Other than the fact that he was one out of only a few people who was not pacing nervously, or protectively huddled in a small group, he had a distinct air about him along with an intensity and confidence in the eyes.  I instantly felt as though it would be futile to try to deceive him in any way, which left me feeling quite vulnerable.  It was not that I sensed an intrusive or menacing disposition, in fact quite the opposite.  It was simply that the teacher's calm, authentic attitude demanded a similar openness in return.

The lesson began with a warm up, which involved gentle stretches and rotating of the body and limbs to loosen joints and muscles.  This was followed by some simple movement exercises, two-person practice, and the Tai Chi form.  Throughout the session the teacher discussed some of the concepts and principles behind Tai Chi.  It was stressed that without adherence to these principles, a student of Tai Chi would achieve only minimal benefit from their practice.  These concepts were very simple to explain and conceptualise yet proved extremely difficult to put into practice.  I left the class feeling confused but yet at the same time some part of me had been inspired and I knew that I would be coming back the next week.

Five years on I still practice Tai Chi and I feel fortunate to have discovered the art when I did.  Whilst I have made a great deal of progress, I am beginning to learn the truth that Tai Chi takes time and dedication to learn, and cannot ever really be mastered.  This is sometimes one of the most difficult aspects to come to terms with, especially living in our culture of impatience and instant material satisfaction.

This challenge is, however, one of Tai Chi's greatest assets.  The patience that the art demands helps us to step out of the cycle of desire and satisfaction, allowing us to become more present and aware in everyday life.  This allows us to face up to things that we have subconsciously been running away from, and to solve problems that we never knew were holding us back.

Tai Chi is often perceived as a mystical thing, something that people often tend to believe to be beyond their understanding or otherwise not deserving of their attention.  The truth is that Tai Chi is not supernatural, it is simply a very effective tool that we can use to improve our experience of living.  It is true that Tai Chi does appear very alien in our current society, yet just five hundred years ago the concept of a spherical world was also a very alien concept.

Whilst Tai Chi may not be right for everyone my experience has shown me that this ancient art has great potential to improve peoples lives.  Tai Chi can be a social activity but it is, ultimately, a personal endeavour.  For this reason it is very hard to convey it's true meaning and merit.  The only way to really gain an insight into what Tai Chi is really about is to actually do it.  I hope that if you are considering learning this ancient art you will go ahead and 'take the plunge'.

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Dave Bruton
Dave Bruton

Dave Bruton runs the website Holistic Community - The Home of Alternative Medicine, Complementary Therapy and Holistic Healing.   

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