Silk Reeling Training Saved the Day
– interviewed by Instructor Lis
Silk Reeling training has given Michael the freedom to
live the life he chooses. If he doesn’t maintain his daily regime of
Tai Chi practice, he is quite sure he would be unable to function in the
normal daily life most of us take for granted.
About eleven years ago, he underwent an operation on his
lower back to remove a piece of bone which had broken off the spine.
The procedure wasn’t completely successful and Michael thought he was
in for a lifetime of heavy duty pain medication. Five years later, in
December 1999, his surgeon performed a second operation, this time more
successfully. The back operations have left Michael with heavy scar
tissue on the bone. He says it feels like a band of cement across his
lower back. He is in constant low level pain and has reduced use of his
As part of his recovery, Michael went to a Bowen
Technique massage therapist. She recommended that he do Tai Chi. He
commenced classes at Woden about 5 years ago. He is now in the
Refinement class, although he doesn’t feel qualified to claim that level
The Silk Reeling exercises are his saviour. Michael did
a summer course with Fontane in January 2003. The emphasis on circling
the joints in a gentle, repetitive but wide ranging sequence of movement
is invaluable for loosening the rigid areas in Michael’s lower back and
hips. He particularly loves the “Open and Close” pattern we teach in
class, saying he could practise that forever.
great respect for the Eastern way of health improvement. In February
1998, he began receiving acupuncture and still follows the routine of
alternating acupuncture one week with Bowen massage the following week.
His acupuncturist commented that although Western medicine is very good
in certain areas, we tend to neglect our bodies after the treatment —
after we’ve undergone an operation, for example. If Michael hadn't
begun Tai Chi when he did, he is quite sure he wouldn’t have maximised
the benefits of that second operation. "The improvement in the back has
been constant since I commenced Tai Chi. Also, the degree of pain,
discomfort and lack of mobility in the back has significantly reduced
He is able to work at his Public Service job, cycle, walk
and do all the normal activities without pain killing drugs.
Gardens of Du Jiang Yan
If he wasn’t forced to take up Tai Chi for physical
reasons, which in Michael’s case are imperative, would he practise the
“I love the fluidity of the movement. I like the way
it’s slow but hard. I think it’s extraordinary that the power comes
from floor level rather than from the arms. I like the whole body
involvement, the way the weight transference involves the whole body.
It’s economy of movement.
I take a long time to learn the movements. I need to
understand how they work before I can truly incorporate them into my
body. In the last six months, I’ve suddenly made the connection between
the waist and the force coming from the feet. It suddenly clicked.
It’s a massive change — intellect versus feeling — it’s starting to
It’s strange how that happens. The incremental
improvement is there but I seem to plateau for a while and then there’s
a sudden improvement.”
Michael fits in forty five minutes of practice every
morning before work. He admits he isn’t so conscientious about the
Qigong training although he does enjoy it.
Tai Chi has revolutionised Michael’s world in more ways
than one. He relates this story, attributing his quick reactions
entirely to his Tai Chi practice.
early one Sunday morning, I was a passenger in a car driven by my wife
on a suburban Canberra street. We travelled through a roundabout at
about 20 kmh. In front, about 150 metres on the left, I’d noticed a
utility stationary in a driveway and didn't think much more about it.
As we increased speed to 40-45 kmh, I noticed that the utility was
reversing. Then I saw that a heavy, long plank of wood was sticking out
over the back of the tray. There was no towelling, or other warning
sign, at the end of it and it was protruding over the road. We were
heading straight for it about 15-20 metres away, and it was heading for
me at eye height. I only had enough time to yell and grab my wife's
arm. In an instinctive Silk Reeling action, I forced her left arm
sharply to the right, to attempt to avoid the plank. I didn't have
enough time to duck and I knew that my wife had not seen the wood.
Luckily, at the low speed we were travelling, the car just swerved
sufficiently to avoid the plank and fortunately there was no oncoming
traffic. We veered sharply to the gutter on the far side of the road.
close behind us also veered. As we were later told, on the basis of
such a severe reaction on the part of our car, the driver realised
something was wrong and just reacted accordingly.
From such a
mundane event of driving slowly along a
suburban street, a situation suddenly arose where the Silk Reeling
training instinctively took over. You just never can tell when Tai Chi
training can be invaluable.”
(This is an actual
interview, but the name
been changed for reasons of
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