Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Separation Anxiety

As part of my general intent to improve my health and fitness (aka "become less of a slob" / "not die yet") i recently started going to Tai Chi classes. Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art, though I often think it must be the one that the makers of Kung Fu films had in mind when they began to show everything in slow motion, because all its moves are undertaken at a very leisurely pace. (Yes, I know they can be sped up if required, but Step Back And Ward Off Monkey as normally demonstrated would be more appropriately named Step Back And Ward Off Tranquillised Lobster.) The idea at its heart is to open up and balance the flow of energy around the body: or if you're not into the idea of flowing Ch'i (use the force, Luke) then it's a balanced series of warm-up stretches and flexibility exercises.

Tai Chi is normally taught by imitation: the instructor shows each move and the students copy it repeatedly until they get it right (or at least less wrong). It's interesting for me because that goes very much against my preferred learning style - I'm a cognitive kind of guy rather than a psycho-motor chap -which is probably good for me in itself. Anyway, there are a number of different schools or styles of tai Chi, and the one I have begun is Taoist Tai Chi, as taught by Master Moy Lin-shin.

The “form” or sequence of moves which we are learning comprises 108 moves of which we have just reached number 42 (Step Up And Punch). What with my cognitive bias, I have been finding it quite hard to memorise what follows what, so I was very pleased to borrow Master Moy’s book from one of the more experienced students. It will be especially useful as I shall miss the next two classes (I’ll be in Mallorca on holiday). I can now see at least that most of what the class will be doing comprises moves we already know, plus Striking At Tiger on each side and Strike Ears With Fists. (Or if we screw up, Strike Face With Palm.) more to the point, it will help me practise what we’ve already done and to hammer the sequence into my poor head. One of the instructors advised me not to rely too much on the book: OK, I know what he means, but it’s already helped me work out what I was doing wrong with my feet on one move (I looked like Johnny English in the new movie trailer as I ended up totally wrong-footed).

Actually, I know that most of what the class will be doing is repeating what we learned this week, which is a set of moves known as the “separations” (Separate Foot to Right, Separate Foot To Left, Turn And Kick) and which are the first point in the sequence when we have to balance on one leg while carrying out toe or heel kicks with the other. Not easy to get right without wobbling / falling over / waving arms frantically. (There is a move called Wave Arms Like Clouds which we have practised a lot and which might be called Wave Arms Like Lunatic when you see a roomful of folk doing it.) I shall be practising those: even before I had the book I found home practise very beneficial for those moves which are done several times in succession (Brush Knee and Twist Step, Step Back and Ward Off Monkey, Wave Arms Like Clouds) to get some kind of rhythm.

As an aside, our instructor told us they used to teach some of the moves with “colloquial” names to make them more memorable. So White Stork Spreads Wings became Unscrew Lightbulb, while Flying On The Slant became Serving The Pizza. But Master Moy felt this wasn’t totally helpful…… (In fairness to Master Moy, the moves do have standardised names which enable you to recognise them in other styles of Tai Chi so it probably wasn’t just a lack of humour on his part.) I’m hoping that our instructor may let slip a few more of the unofficial names.


At 03 July, 2011 16:04, Blogger Eddie Louise said...

So cool! I have always wanted to take Tai Chi!

Chip and I have a Wii now - just passed the 100 days make and I am down 20 lbs. Most of that weight loss has come in the past month when we have also started a proper diet. (mostly cutting back on empty calories like wine :-{ and upping our vegi intake).

Good luck sticking with it on holiday and have a Fab time with Vanessa in Majorca!

Love to Hilary!


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