Advancement in Tai Chi under Master Rennie Chong
by Stephanie Teh
I have lost count on the number of years I have learnt Taichi but I remembered my first lesson taught by Sifu at California Fitness Raffles Place. After spending a number of years learning Taichi, I eventually obtained my first elementary certificate in December 2009. From then on, I continue to practice, keeping in mind the important techniques taught by Sifu during our weekly taichi lessons. It has been an uphill task to progress from elementary to intermediate 1 as one needs regular practice and doing it right. As Sifu has often described the skills most of us have acquired as only equivalent to 'PSLE'. Hence, it will be a very long and challenging journey for us to be as skilful, flexible, nimble as Sifu.
What I meant by doing it right is knowing the basic principles of taichi such as making sure that our posture is correct, our spine is vertically aligned, our body is relaxed, our mind is focused, our hands and legs movements synchronise with each other and the flexibility of our 'kua' ie hip joint movement.
After mastering the basic principles, we will need to go more in-depth into various aspects for example, learning to shift our weight between the left and right kua in order to transfer our weight from the left to the right leg. The transfer of weight is important so that we could stand firmly on one leg and kick with the other. At the start of every taichi practice, meditation and breathing exercises, we need to ensure that our footings are correct by placing them shoulder width apart, firmly grounded just like a strong building foundation. We have to relax our body all the time, ensuring that our shoulders are not elevated, our hands are held at a curved, rounded angle with the thumb facing our nose and our fingers gently stretched out to defend ourselves. We need to use the force from our lower body and not our arms strength to push someone away.
Breathing is also an important aspect when practising our taichi movements. It makes us feel more relaxed and slows down our pace. While we go through the different forms, it is useful to imagine as though we have an opponent in front of us when perfecting our skills.
It has been an enriching experience learning taichi and knowing how tough it is to be an expert in martial arts. I will still strive to improve my skills as I believe it has contributed to developing my inner strength and general well-being.