Stumbling Upon a Passion
“Practising Tai Chi instils a wellness, a calmness in me and there is a
quality of life which follows I haven’t found any other way. I enjoy
practising and the more I practise, the more I want to do. It’s
addictive. For me it’s like listening to music. I become so absorbed
in it that the world disappears and time ceases to exist.”
Malcolm, now seventy, began Tai Chi eight years ago and wishes he’d
known about it and begun in his teens.
“A family member was going through a very stressful period in his life
and wanting to help, I suggested we try a Tai Chi class together. I’d
seen an ad in the paper mentioning the benefits for stress relief. My
original perception of Tai Chi was that it was just another exercise
system but that in this instance all movements were performed very
slowly and deliberately. I had no idea at that time of the commitment
Tai Chi can demand of its students. The ongoing journey has become one
of the most fulfilling and enlightening experiences of my life. That
family member continued it for a year and learned the Martial Arts as
well but then stopped. Now I’m still calmly practising and he’s still
“A young woman in my first class said she was going to do Tai Chi for
twelve months, learn all about it and then practise by herself.”
Malcolm laughs as he tells me this. “I had much the same thought.
Eight years later I’m still learning and expect to continue learning
while I draw breath. She lasted about a term.
When I first started, my co-ordination was rubbish. I found it really
hard to remember the movements, let alone the sequence. I had trouble
straight away with the turning section of the Butterfly in the
warm-ups. Then when we started learning the Weaving Arms . . . ugh.”
More laughing. “I’d go home and practise until I thought I’d got it
right, then come along and discover I hadn't got it at all.”
Malcolm originally began in Woden with Brett but for a reason he can’t
remember, he stopped for about a year. “When I came back to Refinement
classes at Barton, I couldn’t believe how much I’d forgotten.
Instructor Lis told me one class per week wasn’t enough for me and I
should try to get to a couple more. I went to the other extreme and
started going to about ten. I thought if I was going out in the
evenings, I might as well go to all sessions and revise Level 2, 3 and 4
plus do revision in the Saturday morning classes.
On the days when I don’t attend the classes, I practise at home between
three and four hours, when I do go to class I do about one hour. I
regularly practise the Hun Yuan form, the traditional Yang style which
is much longer (three rounds takes an hour), walking routines, Qigong,
the Self Healing Qigong and sometimes the Stick form. I don’t it all at
the same time, not three hours straight. I do bits during the day.
Each Sunday morning a small group of us meet to practise the Yang style.
I still come to class to learn. There’s always a little nugget, a gem
of information to pick up. All the instructors have slightly different
styles and interpretations so each one provides a different aspect. I
want to keep learning, that’s one of the main reasons I keep doing it.
Plus I really like it. It saddens me to see many who begin the Tai Chi
journey drop out of classes for whatever reasons. I believe that they
are foregoing the benefits to their health and general well being that
the often difficult but always rewarding practice of Tai Chi can bring.”
Thirteen years ago Malcolm had an operation for prostate cancer. Two
years later it recurred. “I don’t believe in miracle cures but I am
convinced that the regular practice of my Tai Chi has strengthened my
body’s immune system, allowing it to do better what it was designed to
do — fight disease. It is a complete absorption of mind and body,
incorporating a type of mental discipline not found in other sports.
The well being which flows from the practice must have an effect, I’m
positive of that.
I originally struggled with the concept of qi (energy), its ‘flow’
throughout the body, that it could be ‘gathered’ and that it could be
‘blown by the wind’. Now I experience that qi during my practice.
The ‘calmness’, as distinct from ‘relaxed’ state, that I experience as
the result of regular Qigong practice lasts throughout each day. I
believe that it is derived from the complete focus upon our internal
energies that the Qigong demands. The practice allows my focus to be
centred on life itself and not all the unnecessary bits and pieces that
we all so readily attach to our daily lives.
This should not be viewed as ‘escapism’ – I am not attempting to deny
the pressures and stresses that living places upon all of us – they just
no longer seem important to me.
Living with cancer is stressful, but my practice of Qigong has helped me
shift my focus off that stress and on the joy of life itself and to each
new day that I am given.
Stress is often listed as one of the triggers for asthma. I have not
had an asthma attack in the last year and a half. Now there are many
factors that can provoke an attack and I would certainly not claim that
Qigong practice is an asthma cure, but I can reasonably infer that its
ability to create that state of calmness within me is a contributing
factor to my improved health.”
As for most of our students, Tai Chi has made Malcolm much more aware of
his body and how he moves doing mundane daily tasks such as vacuuming.
“I used to use only my arm to push but now I find myself using my whole
Malcolm has always been an active person. He ran, swam, sailed and did
gymnastics when he was younger. Target shooting was a thirty year
passion which he only stopped a few years ago due to time constraints.
“I was never interested much in team sports, I liked the solo
endeavours. Perhaps that’s why I’ve taken to Tai Chi so strongly. I’m
very grateful to have stumbled upon it.”