Tai Chi Brings a Fresh Outlook on Life
– interviewed by Instructor Lis
The events in Mick’s recent past sound like a ‘Good news, Bad news’ story. He related two most extraordinary tales of luck with his customary cheerful, positive attitude, and is convinced he owes his survival and good recovery to Tai Chi.
Mick has always been an active person, practising karate and various team sports. However, in 2005, he realised that something was very wrong with his health, when he couldn’t participate properly in his weekly Indoor Cricket match. A visit to his GP and subsequent specialists resulted in major chest surgery. The operation was deemed by one doctor to be very risky, but the next advised him that without it, he would be dead by Christmas. He went ahead and had the surgery. His surgeon told him he was lucky to be alive, as the condition could have proven fatal at any moment.
He went back to karate afterwards, but met with a very unsympathetic attitude from the instructor and his fellow students. No-one took into account his relatively fragile recovery state during training and particularly, sparring. Mick didn’t want to stop his active lifestyle so when a friend suggested he try Tai Chi, he did. He was immediately hooked and maintains it changed his life.
Brett was his first instructor at Wanniassa. He remembers being very impressed by his peaceful manner. Brett’s lack of arrogance and quiet confidence was in stark contrast to his previous martial arts instructors. “Brett didn’t show off. He didn’t need to. I really respected that attitude.”
In 2003, he fell from a ladder and did the splits. This resulted in a stiff hip joint and reduced flexibility on that side of his body. During his whole karate involvement, the hip never improved, but within a year of starting Tai Chi, he has noticed a major increase in movement.
Early this year, Mick continued his career as a faller-off things. He fell through his neighbour’s garage roof while retrieving a tennis ball hit by his son.
“I took a couple of steps, but I didn’t realise I was standing on a Perspex panel until I heard a crack. I thought ‘Oh no!’, then it gave way and I fell straight down. I went feet first, missed the car but hit the bumper. As I landed, I collapsed and relaxed rather than tensing up, but the bumper slammed into my lower back near the kidneys. I fell sideways, and my elbow went through some old sheets of glass propped against the wall. Glass went everywhere. Then my head hit a pillar and I was dazed for a bit. I was lucky I missed the chainsaw which was also leaning against the wall.
I didn’t think I’d broken my back because I could walk. However, that night, the area where the bumper had hit throbbed with the most excruciating pain, worse than my earlier operation. I went to the hospital the next day. They said I had no fractures and my kidneys were undamaged, but I had severe deep tissue bruising. I was incredibly lucky.
I did some very slow Tai Chi movements over the next few days, because I didn’t want the ligaments and muscles to become stiff and tight. I was so sore that I could hardly move at first. Within three or four days, I was very pleased to find that I was able to move quite well. As a result of this rapid improvement, I found that I had missed just one and a half weeks of classes. I’m sure my recovery was so fast because of my condition before the accident and the fact I was able to do some gentle exercises almost immediately to help. I thoroughly recommend Tai Chi as a healing tool.”
Mick uses some of the warm-ups and Silk Reeling (Chan Si Gong) exercises when coaching his junior soccer team. “I think they’re great for the kids, especially the Shoulder Rotation ‘chicken wings’. I tell them balance is really important so we do the Leg Circling and Stepping exercise a lot.”
Mick practises every day. He completes thirty or forty minutes of form before he goes to bed, and five to ten minutes of Quiet Standing at some time during the day. “It’s refreshing and rejuvenating. I don’t feel comfortable until I’ve done my practice. It’s like having breakfast or cleaning my teeth. I need to do it.” He even manages a couple of minutes of meditation in the shower each morning, while shampooing and conditioning his hair.
“Tai Chi has really changed my life. My concentration has improved immensely. I always had lower back and knee problems. I visited the chiropractor regularly, about ten times a year – cost me hundreds of dollars – but I haven’t been since I started Tai Chi. If my back is a little sore, I know which exercises to do and the pain goes away.”
Tai Chi was challenging for Mick at first, despite his sporty lifestyle and the years of karate training. “My co-ordination was really bad. It looked so easy but I couldn’t organise my arms and legs. I was very stiff and inflexible. Karate did nothing to improve that, I realise now, because within a year, my flexibility improved. I forced myself to slow right down so I could learn the movements. I practised them really slowly so I could understand the separate parts.”
“I’ll keep practising Tai Chi for the rest of my life and I tell everybody the role it’s played in my life. It’s given me a fresh outlook.”
So, from the bad news of major, life risking surgery came the good news of firstly survival, and secondly, Mick’s introduction to Tai Chi.
(This is an actual interview, but the name has been changed for reasons of privacy.)