An ever-changing life inspired by the pneuma


My First Tai Chi Class


I have always been interested in tai chi, and Nathan and I have been discussing taking a martial art together. This past Saturday, we took the opportunity to try out a tai chi class.

The tai chi style we ended up trying out on Saturday is Wu style. There were a few schools we found searching online, but this one seemed to be a good one that was easy for us to get to. There was a good one in the suburbs, but since neither of us drives, we were looking for a school downtown or within easy access to frequent public transit. In any case, the school we went to is the Toronto branch of the International Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan Federation. The academy is run by Eddie Wu, the descendent of the person who created Wu style tai chi. All things considered, we were hopeful the school would be top notch.

The class on Saturday was from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. We arrived a bit early so as to be able to talk to whoever was in charge there. Then we changed into some training clothes. I brought my black pants from my gumdo uniform and a black T-shirt. Then, one of the instructors there took us aside and gave us some basic exercises teaching us correct posture and stances for tai chi. These exercises were fairly simple. However, for me, relaxation exercises that involve movement often involve me thinking about them too much and they aren’t quite as relaxing at first! I expect after a while once they are routine, they will be automatic and much more relaxing for me. In any case, since both Nathan and I have quite a few years of experience in martial arts, the instructor put us with some other beginners (they were only a few weeks ahead of us, but hadn’t taken martial arts before) and went through the first little bit of the basic tai chi pattern for the Wu style. This was the fun part for me because I always loved doing my taekwondo patterns.

Once we started the pattern, the stances felt more natural than in just the basic exercise drills. Because the stances emphasis movement and changing energy, it was easier to understand how to do the stances while doing the pattern rather than just standing still. We got to do quite a bit of the pattern, but it’s still pretty far from the complete pattern. The problem, of course, is that we don’t remember the schematics of the pattern yet, so it is hard to follow along because you have to keep watching the instructor.

In any case, it was interesting to try out. I can’t wait to learn the whole pattern and just work on refining it, but I’m going to take my time. I’m not planning on switching martial arts. Rather I decided to take tai chi as a complement to my taekwondo training. Since I switched do jangs over a year ago, I’ve been worried about the lack of training in hand techniques and stances at my new do jang. When I do end up taking a patterns class in taekwondo, I end up teaching it and don’t get the practice I would like. In any case, working on the tai chi patterns should help me maintain the precision I had when I used to do stance work more. I have to say at this point that I love the taekwondo do jang I train at, the Master treats everyone like family and is quite sincere, but he has a slightly different training style than what I’m used to when I was a colour belt.

I found the tai chi class to be challenging in a different way than taekwondo. It’s more meditative which is what I wanted. The interesting thing is that I felt a little energized after taking the class. I probably could have gone for some cardio afterwards. (However, I didn’t sleep too well the night before and was a little sick so in this case the tai chi class was good enough.) The tai chi class felt like a good warm up for me. Like all martial arts, tai chi utilizes the whole body – you will feel it.

The last twenty minutes of the class was set aside to run through the whole pattern as a entire class. It was challenging to try to keep up and try to do a bit more of the pattern just by following along. I think I got nearly halfway through before it got too complicated for me to intuit the next moves. (Since it is a pattern you can intuit some parts of it because some parts repeat but with slight modifications.) So, I stepped out and joined Nathan on the side to watch the rest of it. I have to say that even though tai chi emphasizes slow movements (referred to as isometric exercise), when you’re doing the pattern it goes by faster than watching it. I think once I learn the whole pattern (which consists of 108 forms), I will try doing the pattern slower and faster to get a different feel for it each time. My guess is if you do the techniques faster, you can definitely see the martial arts application of tai chi.

After the class, we spoke with the instructors there some more. I had some questions about some of their intermediate and advanced classes. They suggested that since Nathan and I both have martial arts experience, we could come to the martial class whenever. However, I don’t do much grappling sparring and I get enough of it at taekwondo, so I might pass on that. I was mostly interested in the health, push hands, and application classes. The health classes include meditation and qi gong among other things. Obviously, the focus is on using tai chi for health reasons. The push hands class will be interesting to try later. Those who study kung fu can compare this to “sticky hands”. Push hands works with energy concepts that need to be developed from working on the basic pattern and it is done with a partner. This will be interesting for Nathan and I to do together sometime. The application classes include things such as sword and sabre forms as well as rolls and break falls.

The two instructors at the school both have over twenty years of practicing tai chi. I have to say they both know what they are doing and they seem to be quite aware of other martial arts. They mentioned that another instructor there has a taekwondo background, so it will be interesting for me to meet him at some point. Eddie Wu, the head of the Toronto academy, is currently in Hong Kong. We were told he would be back in October. Hopefully, we will meet him then.

Overall, the experience has been interesting. The instructors and people there seemed nice. The energy there is quite meditative and relaxed which provides a good learning experience. Nathan and I plan to go back. Nathan is actually going to sign up. I, on the other hand, have commitments to taekwondo still. I hope that in the next five years I will make it to fourth dan (Master) and will then be able to teach taekwondo. For me, it makes more sense to go to the tai chi classes when I can instead of signing up on a package deal. The rates are $65 per month. One class is $15. I don’t expect to be able to attend five times in a month on top of running, weight training, taekwondo, my Wiccan studies, and making some time to work on reiki. All of this is part of my spiritual practice; however, some things take priority at different times. To avoid burn out, I’m not afraid to take my time with some things.

Another interesting tidbit… part of the basic posture for practicing tai chi includes placing the tongue on the top ridge of the mouth while breathing through the nose and keeping a straight alignment along the whole spine. This is also a posture that is used in Japanese reiki exercises where breathing is done all the way down to the tanden (navel) past the diaphragm. In tai chi as with reiki, this posture allows easy flow of energy (chi or ki) through the body.

Brigid’s Flame

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment