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Holistic and low-impact exercise

by Toh Gin Pan


I started attending Master Chong Tai Chi Class in August 2010 because I wanted some form of exercise to keep myself fit . Before that , preparation for my yearly IPPT test during in-camp training was the only thing that kept me exercising . However , 6 years after my last in-camp and already in my mid forties , I discovered that my health is gradually going down slope . Jogging is not a suitable option as I also has some knee cap mal-tracking problem . I was looking for something holistic and light impact and Tai Chi became an obvious choice .

The first few lessons was not what I had in mind . We were taught the basics - how to relax your body , proper body posture ,using the minimum strength in any correct body posture , sink your shoulder and elbow , loosen our "Kua" and sink our 'Chi' to our "Dan Tian' and some stretching/warming up exercise, etc . Surprisingly , I was trying to catch my breath and my legs was shaking from the strain from those exercise and stance . It reminded me of the un-armed combat lesson during my active NS times in the 80s . That was my very first step into the world of Tai Chi .

It took me another 14 months to learn and execute all the 37 Yang Tai Chi steps correctly . The warming up and stretching exercises before the actual Tai Chi lessons are meant to improve our strength , stamina and flexibility , it really helped a lot in my health and fitness . I am able to bend and touch my toes easily now which I could not do before . My legs' strength and endurance are also better (although I still have the knee cap mal-tracking problem). The Chi Kung and Tai Chi practise also helped in building up the '«hi' within me which manifested itself as a tinkling sensation in my palm and fingers at times when I am relaxed enough .

In my experience , practising the 37 steps Yang Tai Chi form is like executing a set of martial art form in a meditative style with our mind leading all our body action in a relaxed and slow manner . Moving slowly helps to calm and relax our body while the meditative manner trains our mental focus or "Yi" which leads and direct our every action and internal energy or "Chi" . When we could synergise our "Yi" or mental focus with our body actions while practising the Tai Chi form , our body and soul will be harmonised as one which helps to develop our internal "Chi" and improve our overall health and well being. Practising the 37 Steps Tai Chi form without applying the proper "Yi" or mental focus will make it an "empty" set of exercise - just like going through motion while your mind is wandering or thinking about something else . This will prevent us from gaining the maximum benefits in the long term .

As Tai Chi is basically a martial art form , certain fundamentals on our body posture and stance are very important : Constantly relax our whole body (Song) , sink our shoulder and elbow , keep our spline straight , sink the Chi to our Dan Tian , loosen and sit on our Kua , keeping our body sensitive and agile . But it is easier said than done for us beginners , it may even take many years for some of us to achieve these basics . Beside practising many times to get all the 37 steps right , I am still trying hard to be "Song" or relaxed during my practise and my mental focus still wanders off many times while executing the 37 Yang Tai Chi Steps .

Tai Chi has a long history and is also considered one of the priceless Chinese Cultural Heritage passed down by our ancestors . Learning Tai Chi needs a lot of patience and hardwork , teaching it to others needs even more patience , effort and dedication . Hence , I would like to thank Master Chong ( Si Fu) and all the Si Siong for their patience , effort and time for teaching us the Yang style 37 Steps Tai Chi form at Bukit Gombak Sports Hall . I am sure Tai Chi will bring me a lot of benefit me for the rest of my life .

Thank you Master Rennie Chong.

October 2011


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