Monday, February 22, 2010

Tai Chi

This evening I stopped by the Avon recreation center to explore some Tai Chi.  It seems so random. So how'd it even come to this point?

Last Friday, I went with my uncle to a friend's Chinese New Year dinner. I met a lot of his friends and acquaintances and just chatted here and there. Most of them were/are instructors and know each other via the mountain. All good people... friendly... open... and just enjoying themselves. One of the guys, Terrell, was from Oahu and grew up in Haleiwa. So we start chattin about this and that.... how when he was growing up, there were only 9 houses between Haleiwa and Sunset Beach.... how's it so developed and ruined... commercialized and taken over. He said he never would want to go back to that island. He said, maybe Big Island. I start telling him about my time there and trip to Kauai and we're just having good conversation. I find out later from one of his student's, Briony, who was there, that he's a Tai Chi instructor. So later I talk to him about that a bit and he shows me some interesting stuff.

On another note, Briony is this interesting and cute girl. She's a local girl, who grew up around where I'm now, a bit younger than me, who's studied in China, can speak more than me, and seems to have an interesting outlook on life. Fair skin, light eyes, skinny and a bit shorter than me. We seemed to share a similar desire for adventure. Maybe, I'll have a chance to get to know her after her road trip. One thing that caught my attention is her general expression... bright eyed and open to the world. It was endearing. I wanted to talk with her again, hoping to run into her at the rec center to chat but also hoping not to, fearing it would seem like I'm going there just to run into her. I hope to write about her again.

So back to Tai Chi.  My background of the art is somewhat lacking. I just knew it had some health benefits, increased circulation, increased fine motor control, and ideas of body energy which seemed to be a bit of nonsense. After talking with him, I thought to myself, it's another way to look at your own body, specifically the mechanics of it. In a sense, the philosophy of it was analogous to my current lifestyle in certain respects. My move out to Colorado and Hawaii was a way for me to recapture and re-interrupt what I had always taken for granted. The idea of exploring my own physical movement and balance could possibly be obtained through Tai Chi. He showed me in a few short movements how to rethink my own motions. You never really question it. Once you walk a certain way, you take it as fact and continue to do it that way until it doesn't suit your purpose. Take that thought and it apply it to other minute movements you perform. It seems so basic that it never crossed my mind to question it or explore other options. I hope to find different ways to move.

So upon arriving at his class. I had only intended to catch the last 15 minutes, observe, and chat a bit with Terrell about Hawaii and life here in Avon, I'm thrown right into the class. There were 5 others attending the class. He asks one of the students to move to another spot and directs me to his spot. I wasn't quite sure why he asked him to move (and not sure if I still do). So I begin, awkwardly, observing the people around me and trying to follow their slow motions. Terrell explains the movements but still too fast for me to piece it together. I listen and look and do my best to mimic what I see. The motions are slow yet every piece of your body is moving... well not mine... I'm still trying to piece it together.... breaking down the already broken down steps even further for my understanding. I find myself struggling with certain motions due to lack of flexibility, lack of balance, and/or lack of motor control. I notice my hands seem to have a mind of their own when I'm focusing on where my legs should be and vice versa. They seem to contradict what the rest of the class is doing. Nonetheless, I loosely follow. I realize mid way through, that I'm surrounded by his other students... smack in the middle... and with every movement towards left or right, I have someone in my sight. Ah, that's why he placed me here. I notice that turning my head to follow a single person is more difficult and distracting than transitioning to the next closest person in my line of sight. It seems obvious but my initial instinct was to always look at the instructor. Some odd names of movements are spewed out, "repulse the monkey" and a terms like "empty stance." They are very specific but I don't know the specifics. I get paired up with a guy name Jade, who seems to be the most knowledgeable of the bunch.

We work on a certain movement, starting with your back leg bent and supporting a majority of your weight, front foot on the heel with toes relaxed... transferring all your weight to your back leg and stepping your front foot behind you while retaining your balance on what is now your front leg. Upon stepping back, your heel touches, opening up your hip, rotating your back foot to where it is opposite of your now front leg, which is still supporting most of your weight. Keeping your weight on the back was the most tasking as it seems very unnatural but it has a purpose. The next a final is to rotate your now front foot to match the direction of the other, while transferring a majority of your weight to the other leg (the one you used to originally step back). You're now facing the opposite direction. As he explains the hand movements, to explain the counter and strike, it makes sense why your weight was on that one leg. It's so that you can retain that tension and strike with not just your hands but the rotation of that leg and transfer all your weight and motion into the one strike. It's difficult to understand in just words. Now I also had a better understanding of what is meant by energy... or at least in this instance... it isn't this random force that floats around in you... rather the tension of your muscles and how it can be released in certain ways to utilize it more efficiently in a strike or counter.

It was interesting. I plan on going on Wednesday as well for a full hour and a half session. Will I continue? I'm not quite sure. It's partially contingent on how much he will charge. It didn't come up this time but I can't imagine it's free. It does fit into my schedule and I'm sure it will help out with skiing and boarding as well. More importantly, it just gives me a new perspective on something that I've known for all my life.

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