– interviewed by Instructor Lis
After a lifetime of travel, Charles and his wife are in the process of packing up and moving for the last time — retirin g to the coast. This doesn’t mean long days of doing nothing. Charles has seen too many people give up work, only to discover there is nothing to fill the gap. Several have died or suffered heart attacks, shortly after retiring.
Charles has no intention of doing the same.
“I’ve just done an Executive Coaching Course, so I’m really only semi retired. Have been since earlier this year. I figure I have at least ten productive, healthy years left and I aim to use them. I plan to do a lot more Tai Chi practice,” he said. “I don’t do enough. I know that.”
Moving away from Canberra means he won’t have a regular class to attend, something he knows will test his will power. “I need the discipline of a class. I sleep really well after the Monday night session. On other nights, I sometimes wake up during the night and sometimes I can’t go back to sleep – but never after a Tai Chi class.” He’s looking forward to having the time to do daily practice.
“I’ll be coming back to Canberra fairly regularly, so I’ll drop in to a class and maybe try to catch a workshop. I intend to keep it going. I can’t imagine letting Tai Chi slide completely away. It’s too good. It’s fabulous.
I’ve learnt more about my body, and the link between my body and my limbs, in the last five years than in the last fifty five years. I’m not very co-ordinated — I have, or rather had, no body awareness — and I carry a lot of tension in my shoulders. I originally started Tai Chi to reduce that stress and to get me out from behind a desk. I had a very demanding job at that time.”
Charles came to his first class in 1990. He attended for a couple of terms, then moved away from Canberra.
“I knew what Tai Chi was. I’d seen people practising when I was in Asia. It looked beautiful, but it’s surprisingly demanding, both in the physical and mental sense.
When we came back to Canberra, I was made redundant and I decided to start again. This was in 2002. I learned the traditional Yang style, then mid way through 2003, Brett introduced the current Hun Yuan form. I was convinced I’d never get the change in style, but now I realise how much better I use my body. I didn’t mind the switch; it was just a completely different way of moving.
Plus, there are the other related things like the Bang (the Stick form) and the Cannon Fist. I really like the Stick. I think it’s because it stretches the shoulders and works the back. I sometimes have minor back pain and I’m sure the practice helps relieve it.
I enjoyed learning the Cannon Fist because it was something new. I need to work on those movements a lot more though, or I forget them. Without some specific detail, everything goes out of shape very easily. I know I’m not getting a lot of things right, even though I’m following Brett and I’m imagining I’m doing the moves the way he does.
In general, I really enjoy the holistic nature of Tai Chi. I didn’t and don’t have any particular health issues apart from stress — which isn’t as much of a problem now. I like the challenge of improving, and I do feel I improve almost on a weekly basis. I like learning more about the form and about myself.
I found an interesting correlation between Tai Chi practice and the Executive Coaching Course I just did. It was a course for teaching you how to help others get the best out of themselves — to realise their potential and get rid of blocks to progress. You learn as much about yourself as the person you’re coaching. You quickly confront your own underlying beliefs and prejudices.
In the same way, Tai Chi makes you face up to aspects of yourself. You learn how to improve, whether it be physical co-ordination, attitude, a calmer approach or general relaxation.”
(This is an actual interview, but the name has been changed for reasons of privacy.)