China 2019 – Day 5, Monday, 22nd July
Well, the red tea from last night was very nice but that and the humidity and heat meant that I was up half the night over caffeinated and too hot! So my day got off to quite a slow start with a gentle pre-class stretch and mobility warm up.
Today marked the start of my first full week training tai chi – as well as Mandarin, so it was set to be a studious day!
At half past nine in the ever sticky heat we went through a warm up routine, followed by a similar themed lesson to Friday morning – working on alignment, shifting, hip and pelvis positioning before going through the 18 move Chen form (which was interesting as I had never done it before!) and pausing at the end of each move – sometimes for quite a while – which really does build up some heat!
This combined with static qigong and meditation exercises (which we also did this morning) are designed to help build up strength, endurance, improve posture and most importantly learn how to relax and focus on the bones rather than the muscles.. which sometimes is pretty hard in some of these positions – but it’s these basic routines which really help you progress.
The morning was finished off working on the 74 Chen form, and learning some new moves – they teach quite differently to me – I tend to teach small parts of moves at any one time, here it’s normal to go through a couple of moves or more and get shown just 3 or 4 times and then you have to figure it out – it’s a challenge for my brain, that’s for sure!
… and speaking of challenges for the brain, it was my first Mandarin lesson here in China today – and I loved it! I’ve been studying for a while now on Skype with a fantastic teacher (Chinese but actually lives in Barcelona), so it was interesting to have a different teacher for a change – but Becky (I’m pretty sure that’s not her ‘real’ name’!) was very good, and I’m looking forward to three and a half weeks of intensive learning with her!
As with tai chi, Mandarin for me is a lifetime study… it won’t ever stop, there will always be something new to learn and improve on – and I love the way it literally makes me feel like I can sense the neural pathways being forged in my brain… it’s a good challenge!
This afternoon was spent focused on pushing hands exercises for a start, and we worked various routines. Making sure we were correctly aligned, hips shifting just enough but not too much, upper body relaxed, applying only gentle pressure, breathing fluid and relaxed…. pushing hands can be very elusive and just when you think you’ve ‘got it’, it’s gone! It really does bring the key principles of tai chi to life and for that reason it’s worth sticking with!
After another delicious meal (the guy doing the cooking here is awesome in his culinary skills!) it was an evening of training for me – another two and a half hours in the evening heat of open hand tai chi, and broadsword tai chi…. and now as I close the day with a blog update I’ll be heading off to sleep to the sound of a rainstorm lashing down – I’m sure most of the sleeping meditation audios I’ve ever listened to have just been the sound of rain – I get it for free this evening! Zzzzzzzzzzzz