Martin Mellish: An Enthusiast of Tai Chi

Authors: Go Chengdu


There is an increasing number of foreign Tai Chi enthusiasts in Chengdu. Mr. Martin Mellish who is from the US, is one of them. He shares his own experience on practicing Taichi in this article.
Every morning in China’s parks (and other places such as residential courtyards and even shopping malls), you can see large numbers of people practicing the ancient, graceful art of Tai Chi. Most of them are in their fifties or sixties, but if you look closely you’ll see that most of them are nevertheless a lot fitter than you!
The Tai Chi practitioners in the parks not only don’t bite, but are also very welcoming to Westerners with any kind of genuine interest in their art. So don’t feel shy about practicing along with them — most of them are very keen to help spread the knowledge of their art to Western countries.
While some or most of the other practitioners may be wearing special "uniforms", you don’t need to be a ‘member’ or wear any special clothing to participate — just wear loose clothes and preferably light, low-heeled shoes.
There’ s kind of a convention that if you like a group’s Tai Chi, you find a spot on the edge of the group and follow along with what they are doing. Nine times out of ten they will make space for you and invite you to practice along with them. If they weren’t open to having others join in their practice, they wouldn’t be doing it in a public place. By the way, the same convention applies if you want to join in any other activity that is happening in a park, such as playing badminton, dancing, or even playing board games.
The experience of doing Tai Chi with a Chinese group can be very special. You may think of Tai Chi as a slow, easy exercise for old people, and of yourself as flexible, fit, and coordinated. It probably won’t take more than five minutes of attempting to follow a Tai Chi form before you start questioning both of those beliefs — particularly if you find yourself having to do head-high kicks, or lower your butt within an inch of ground.
Tai Chi, like Zen, is kind of a "brand name" associated with awareness, relaxation, and serenity. Also like Zen, its actual practice is a lot more demanding than you might think. Tai Chi has never really taken off in the West because people think that this slow, apparently soft and gentle exercise should be easy — until they actually try it. The good news is that there are no secrets and no magic in Tai Chi, nor do you need to be of any particular age, race, or ethnic background. The practice does, with time, really bring you the awareness, relaxation, and serenity it promises — at least, it has to every sincere practitioner I have ever known.
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