The beginning of my Tai Chi journey
by Tommy Ho
Since young age, I have always been a very active kid, always running, climbing, jumping around and never sitting still. During teenage time, I used to participate in a lot of sports such as soccer, basketball, swimming etc and also martial arts such as Karate, Taekwondo and Judo. Until today, although I have started working and don't have much free time as I did before, I still keep myself active with regular strength and cardio exercise 3 or 4 times a week. I am currently working in fitness industry and I am an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and a MuayThai and Kickboxing Certified Trainer.
In October 2013, my partner asked me to join her for Tai Chi with Master Rennie Chong because she wants to improve her health and of course I was more than happy to join her since it is also something new for me. Like the majoritsy, I also think due its slow motion TaiChi is not that hard to learn and that is why the old folks enjoy doing it. Hence, I thought that it might not be practical for developing power or for self-defense.
My first TaiChi Class with Master Rennie Chong was on the 28th October 2013; that was when I realized that I was wrong about TaiChi. The day after my first TaiChi class, my whole body was tired and my legs were aching which really surprised me. I have never thought that only 1 hour of TaiChi session with Shifu will have such impact on my body. A typical TaiChi session with Shifu begin with warm-up exercises that combine slow, controlled and explosive movement that will surely bring your heart rate up as well as challenge and over-time improve your body's strength, flexibility and endurance. Although the exercises are hard, they are suitable for all ages since they utilize your own body-weight hence one can easily reduce the intensity if he or she feels tired. The warm-up session will usually finish with breathing exercises and/or meditation that will allow the body to recover before moving on to TaiChi Steps. At the beginner level, I got to learn the Cheng Man Ch'ing 37 Steps. For me, no doubt that memorizing all 37 steps is hard but in order to execute those steps properly is the most difficult of all. In TaiChi, every single movement has a meaning which can be applied to real-life if one can fully understand it. During the training session, I can realize that there are tremendous differences between our movement and that of Shifu. For us, we try very hard to get our form right and hence we cannot relax our body whereby Shifu just naturally flows through the movement. His motion is slow yet it is steady and firm, it involves the whole body not just the hands or legs. All parts of his body work together to balance and support each other hence help him to maintain a very strong yet agile base. Shifu always remains calm and relaxed when he does the TaiChi steps but that does not mean he is unaware of what he is doing. He is calm and relaxed because he is in control of his movement not forcing it. As a result, Shifu can react properly if there is an external forces approach him and his movement will be unpredictable to his opponent.
Due to a lot of hips movement in TaiChi, the practitioners can progressively improve their hips flexibility and mobility. This will help those who participate in competitive sports to improve their performance since it is the hips that will help to generate more power. Maintaining good forms and body mid-line is also imperative when practicing TaiChi as it will help practitioners to improve their postures and balance hence reduce risks of injury. Breathing is also the key in TaiChi since with proper breathing technique the movement will be more natural and solid. Apart from all, the most valuable lesson that I have learned from Shifu is his dedication, love, kindness and caring. He always shows up early in class, patiently helps us to correct every posture and answers all our questions. He always smiles and never throws temper at us no matter what the situation is. I still remembered there was one time when Shifu arrived in Singapore after an oversea trip, even though Shifu just landed on the same day and did not get enough sleep due to Jet Lag, he still come to class to teach us and happily share with us his experience. Shifu also taught us to be humble, patient and to respect each other despite our differences. I can see clearly how much Shifu appreciate and value the relationship between him and all of his students. Every class with Shifu is always an exciting journey, so many things to learn from and so many things to improve on, I promise myself that I will never give up on practicing Taichi and will always seek to become better not only in TaiChi but also as a person. As Shifu has told us when we first joined TaiChi “You guys still have a long way ahead”, well I really can't wait to learn more from him.
I would like to thank Shifu and his team of instructors for being patient and for sharing with the students their valuable knowledge and experience. I wish him happiness, health, longevity and all the best for Rennie Chong Tai Chi Training Centre.
I would like to thank Master Rennie Chong and also teacher Jaleen Ho for all their knowledge they are sharing while teaching, keeping their humour and perseverance and always being patient with me.