Monday, April 6, 2009

Tai Chi

I began a Tai Chi class tonight. I was going to do Yoga, but, I'm a person who is more likely to attend an exercise class if it is conveniently located to either my work place or, Tai Chi won the coin toss. And, as I was moving painfully slow through the first movements of an exercise (the perscribed way to do the exercise) I relished the days when I studied Shotokan Karate. Tai Chi is at a MUCH slower pace and while the slow pace seems like it might be just what I need to relieve stress, I'm wishing that I were in a Dojo training in Shotokan.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. It struck me as odd that I would immediately miss my old form of training after such a long hiatus (more than 5 years), especially since Tai Chi is quite beautiful and peaceful. I began mentally examining my thoughts, what I was feeling and what my body was experiencing. Most Martial Arts origins are based in self defense by hand, in other words, you are trained to defend yourself with your hands and body, ONLY as a form of defense, not offense or attack and while I don't know, yet, how Tai Chi fits into that spectrum I immediately noticed the similarities between my old art and this new one. And, what was most interesting to me was that my body remembered how to move within the exercise.

I am of course piqued by this art form, as I was taught in Shotokan that almost all martial arts have the same moves, strikes, kicks, stances, etc, only each style might expand on those key moves, they all remain the same and have the same uses. So, in the first part of the first exercise we learned tonight, a series of hand moves are executed as blocks, (in Shotokan they would be blocks to a strike), and when my body recognized the move's intention, or rather purpose, my impulses all fired at once and I inadvertently executed a Shotokan Knife Hand block! The instructor noticed I discovered something as I was moving, however, she did not know I had previously studied another art form and commented on how I wa s 'examining' my movement. She assured me that we would practice these moves many times and not to worry about 'catching on'. That is when I discovered that maybe Tai Chi isn't going to be enough to keep me interested, because I wanted to keep going, learn more, move forward, FASTER. Several old parts to Katas I learned in Shotokan ran through my mind and my body flinched in recognition. The night was full of discovery, ( I love discovery and even more, recognition of discovery), energy was being moved. Yes, I could actually feel energy moving with me as I executed my exercise. Energy pushing back against my hand as I was ushering it to and away from me.

The more advanced students broke off from the beginngers after we warmed up and in between demonstrations of the movements we were to do I watched in the mirror to see how good the advanced students looked and their movement was quite entrancing. They appeared to be doing a very well choreographed ballet, only with blocks, kicks and punches....and they were quiet. In Shotokan you expelled energy by puncuating your movements with yells or in some cases grunts. I realized I missed that, I wanted to puncuate the ending of our exercise with a 'hayaw!' The class ended on a good note, I did not sweat, have to roll around on the floor and my old body remembered a time when it was younger. I am anxious for the next class as it did not seem like we really worked very hard or for very long.

I am nostalgic for my old Dojo and classmates. I really enjoyed training in Shotokan, it gave me a certain amount of self confidence and a sense of being responsible for my higher self. While the instructor was explaining some parts of our exercise, she alluded to the origins of our movements, but, cut herself short explaining that the purpose for the class was merely the exercise and that she might cover the reasons for some moves later on, but, that it was not imperative to know these things. As I continued on with the exercise and my body recognized more movements, I realized that I also missed knowing why movements were done the way they were and what the movements might have been used for, because as Imentioned, all Karate is executed for a purpose. I guess maybe I was as attracted as much to the 'ceremony' of Karate as I was to the energy expulsion!

Big night in a small way. Moving energy is always good for the soul. Oss, Sensei!


Jamey02 said...


Thanks for your post. Tai Chi originated as part of the martial arts. The practice of Tai Chi uses the moves from Karate and Kung Fu done in a slow and certain way. The practice of martial arts has been done for centuries in Eastern cultures. While originally used as a fighting method the martial arts are now more refined and are a way to learn discipline of both the mind and body.

An Open Heart said...

I am familiar with most of the philosopy, however, in Shotokan, most moves are quick, powerful and decisive, where Tai Chi seems to be more of a dance, than a form of defense. Thank you for the insight!