‘Waving Hands Pushing the Mountain and Repulse the Monkey’

tai chi3

Some years ago, whilst gainfully employed by an organisation that I am forbidden to talk about, I received an e-mail inviting me to partake in Tai Chi classes specifically aimed at employees with arthritis and diabetes.  Having an infliction of both, as well as an interest in the participation of an activity that hitherto had seemed to be performed in parks by hundreds of old people wearing silk pyjamas, I signed up.

It was being held at a venue close to my workplace, at half-past five and only cost three quid.  Bargain!

On arrival in suitably baggy clothing and sensible footwear (no silk pyjamas though), it transpired that the email had attracted a diverse bunch of people, a few of whom obviously hadn’t read the ‘baggy clothing’ instruction.  Some of the attendees, like myself, looked quite happy to be there.  Others bore distinctly resentful expressions and I later found out that they had been referred by (scary music) Occupational Health and told that there would be dire consequences if they didn’t attend.

Our Tai Chi instructor, far from being a wizened pyjama-clad martial arts man of an Asian appearance (Grasshopper), was a young NHS physio in a polo shirt, trainers and tracky bottoms.  He was lovely; patient, a very good teacher and particularly kind to those who were obviously pressed men and women.

Most of us participated and had a good time. Some of the hard-core pressed people started wincing and grimacing before they had even been shown the warming up exercises and by the time we actually got around to learning the moves, had collapsed in agony onto chairs at the back of the room.

The drop out rate therefore, was quite high and by the third week there were only half a dozen of us who had been charmed by our instructor’s enthusiasm and relieved to find that the slow, gentle movement did actually help out with management of the achy bits.

It wasn’t easy learning the moves, especially for those of us not blessed with the ability to tell right from left. There was a certain amount of coordination needed between feet and arms too.  After a few wrong turns, minor collisions and occasional fits of giggles, we all picked up the sequences (after a fashion) and I managed to remember enough to be able to practice at home.

I bought a CD of music specifically for use with Tai Chi, and thanks to the tolerance of Hub and the boys, began to have my own Tai Chi sessions before work every morning.

The environment had to be right; not too dark or light, with some fresh air and sufficient room to parade up and down, backward and forward (about 2 metres by 1 metre).  Our front room could just about accommodate this provided no one left diving gear, Airsoft guns or paintball markers in the way.

I did so well that my instructor asked me if I would be interested in training as a Tai Chi instructor.  The NHS would fund my training but I would need a current first aid qualification – either funded by myself or my employer.

Fuelled with enthusiasm and the thought of a weekend learning Tai Chi at a hotel in Stockport, I asked my boss if he would nominate me for a first aid course.  I didn’t envisage any problem; we ran these courses every couple of months and though they were always well-subscribed, there was no desperate rush as the next Tai Chi course wasn’t till after the New Year.

He refused.

He said that we already had two people with first aid qualifications on the team (one had lapsed and she had no intention of taking it again) and that was enough.  I was surprised at his attitude – usually a combination of laissez-faire management and ‘can you do this for me?’ but when I questioned further he clammed up and refused to discuss the subject.

I returned sadly to my instructor, only to be told further sad news that he would not be running any more courses for my employer ( they hadn’t paid), and that was why he had suggested that I do the training so that I could carry on the sessions at no further cost.

I asked my boss again. He refused again and nominated me for a fire marshal course instead.

Six months later, there was another email about Tai Chi classes.  They were going to be held in out own building but with a different instructor.  I signed up and tried not to giggle at the women who turned up at the first session in pencil skirts, tight white blouses and high heels. They didn’t read the bit about baggy clothing either.

The new instructor was dressed in black and spent most of the session telling us to listen and making sure that no one was creeping up on us from behind.  It was all very ninja. Not everyone took his exhortations seriously and as a consequence there was much giggling but at him, not with him.

He didn’t turn up for the second session.

I carried on with Tai Chi at home; not as rigorously as before but enough to try it out in various different venues when we were away on holidays.  The balcony at the hotel in Cornwall was good – if a little damp from sea spray.  The bungalow we rented when we went back down South to visit family was very accommodating and I often had an audience of birds and squirrels as I waved my hands at invisible mountains. I even managed to keep up my routine when I went away on a residential course.  Luckily I had blagged an accessible room with an en suite, my fellow students were stuck in shoeboxes that barely accommodated a bed, chair and desk. I had a longing to return to the scene of previous holidays in Majorca or Cyprus, and a villa with a sun-drenched balcony where I could Tai Chi to my heart’s content.

Hub and I were attending a health and fitness centre and I enrolled in Tai Chi classes there.  The instructor bore a startling resemblance to Gary Glitter in the Vietnam years and even wore a matching scarf.  He lined us up and announced that we would be exercising to music.  Far from the delicate and soothing tunes that I had become accustomed to, he put on a CD of what can only be described as Red Army marching instructions. As the  instructions were not in English, they had to be interpreted for us and as a consequence we were all rather behind with the steps, more giggling ensued and our instructor was deeply displeased.

I didn’t turn up for the second session.

Fate intervened and I bumped into my first Tai Chi instructor whilst shopping in Asda – as you do.  He was running another set of courses on Friday afternoons.  They were supposed to be for the over 65s but if I was interested then he could get me in.  The Tai Chi master behind the sequences I had learned previously, had added another nine moves.

Accordingly I booked long lunch hours for every other Friday afternoon – not really a problem as no one EVER wants a meeting on a Friday afternoon.

The lessons were lovely.  I was the youngest in the class – barring the instructor – I picked up the further nine moves eventually and managed to incorporate them into my early morning sessions at home.

Then I had the accident that I’m not supposed to talk about.

The accident that turned my life upside-down and put paid to any kind of exercise for months.

We also acquired Scooby, his bed, dinner and water bowls.

The combination of Scooby’s stuff and boxes of legal paperwork ate into my Tai Chi space, so that even once my injury had healed, there was no room to move any more.

Ah, but now we have the new kitchen and with it – more than a space 2 metres by 1 metre. I can open the windows for my fresh air and lower the sparkly black blind so that I don’t frighten the horses or distract the mad mother drivers as they round the bend on their way to school.

I have Tai Chi-ed every day since May 22nd.

Rusty at first and I had to send off for the wall charts in the end to remind me of the moves, but it has all come back.

Scoob insisted on watching me for the first couple of days.  He wasn’t sure about the arm waving and the strange music – doesn’t bat an eyelid when we play Motorhead or the Foo Fighters in the kitchen – but this weird tinkly stuff…….

He has settled down now and stays in the front room until the music stops and he knows that toast may be in the offing.

My blood pressure is down.  My blood glucose is down. I have lost the half a stone I put on during the kitchen renovation.  My Tai Chi makes me feel at ease again and able to tackle some of the less palatable jobs that I’ve put off.

The parcel delivery man just called.  He hadn’t seen the kitchen since it was done.  He loves the twinkling lights and the sparkling worktop. Obviously a man of great taste.

Love the kitchen.

Love Tai Chi.

Love family and friends.

Love life.

http://www.taichiproductions.com/[/

Dr Paul Lam – a very bendy man in silk pyjamas who provided the inspiration, the moves, the music , DVDs, books and the wall charts

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