Tai Chi Fitness
by William Tan
“ One …Two….One….Two…..” The projected voice of Master Chong aka Shifu keeps ringing through the entire California Fitness Gym as we perform our usual warm up exercises prior to the Tai Qi Quan class.
I all along have tremendous faith in my level of fitness although I know that I’m a little overweight but little did I know that my ability to complete all those sporadic exercises before were only a mirage of my true fitness level until I attended my first lesson with Shifu Chong. I can clearly remember that in that very first class, I was panting like nobody’s business, my head was spinning due to lack of oxygen and my heart was thumping like a big bass drum right after the high and side kicking warm up exercises. AND MIND YOU…. This is just the WARM UP EXERCISES….
I would now like to take this opportunity to write about my personal experiences with Tai Chi Quan under the tutelage of Master Chong.
Continuing from the above, after approximately 6 months into this regular regime, I felt much better and stronger. My level of fitness has also improved and am now able to take these warm up exercises in my stride and Shifu has gradually increased the level of difficulty of these exercises for me as I build up the strength and endurances of my muscles. This is the most critical part of the martial art as without getting the fundamentals correct and strong, one would never get the true benefits of Tai Chi Quan but instead lead to irreversible damages.
I was introduced to the Yang Style of Tai Qi Quan at the tender age of six and during that time I was learning it from my father who has learnt it in 1 of the various Community Centres in Singapore. I would imitate his every move every time he practices and within a very short period of time, I have already mustered the entire form and was able to practice it without any supervision from my father. However, it was only pure form and there was no further exercises. This carried on until I was age 12 and then I switched over to learn Shaolin fists for a year and have to give it up due to my studies.
Approximately 6 months ago, I attended my first Tai Qi Quan class in California Fitness Centre after 28 years of abandoning it and this bought back sweet memories of how I was doing it in my younger days. But never did I know that in Shifu Chong’s class, he pays great emphasis on the basics of Tai Qi Quan which is where the very essence of this martial arts lies and of which I missed out in my younger days. In the ensuing 3 months, my thigh, calf and hamsting muscles will ache every time I complete Shifu’s lessons and that’s for sure since they now have a heavier body to contend with. I dread having to climb or walk down the stairs…. Yes the STAIRCASES are pure TORTURE…. With every step, I feel that my legs are going to give up and crumble. However, 2 days later, they are back to normal again and they felt stronger. It was then that I decided that just having 1 class every week is insufficient. I need more and also to catch up what I have missed out all those years that I have not been practicing properly. Hence, I signed up for another of Shifu’s lessons on Monday nights.
Strangely, as I continue to practice this martial art according to Shifu’s instructions, I notice changes in my body. I used to have hypertension with my Diastolic Pressure reaching 98 at one stage and somehow this Pressure reduced to within the normal range of 80 within the first 6 months of my starting the Tai Chi Quan class. My old injuries at my joints starts to surface 1 after another. They would first ache and then after a few days or weeks, depending on the extent of the injury, the aching feeling would disappear totally and they feel as good as before the injury. I am able to relax and have undisturbed sleep every night. Occasionally, I would also feel some kind of tingling feeling like I’m touching a live electrical wire on my finger tips as I practice the art ie sending the Qi to my finger tips.
Now that I have already completed 6 months into the lessons and the 6 years in my younger days, I feel that I am still an infant in this wonderful martial art as what I experience above is just the tip of the iceberg. What I really found out is that this art grows with you. Just when you think you have mastered it, along comes a part where Sifu will highlight to you that you have practiced it wrongly. There are so many aspects of this art and it all stems from the internalization of the art in the mind, in the heart and translating them to the body. For example, when we get the hand motions correct, our legs goes wrong….. when our legs get correct, our posture goes wrong….. when our posture gets correct, our breathing goes wrong and we are panting…..when we get the breathing correct, our torso is too tense ….. and the list goes on and on. However, what I do appreciate is Master Chong’s dedication to demonstrate, correct and teach me how to practice it correctly, though I do admit that these practises don’t come easy on the legs as I was required to hold the posture and etc. Well, as they also say, Nothing Without Labour and only when we have Laboured then we can taste the true sweetness of our achievements. At the same time, I would also like to take this opportunity to dispel the perception that Tai Chi Quan is only for the old or weak due to it’s slowness and softness during practice and it’s only use is for health reasons but instead, it is after all a martial art just like any others but chooses to use a different route to achieve the same aims. My challenge to all is to give this wonderful art a try and of course with a proper Master and you will get to know the depth of knowledge that is embedded in this art.
Hence all in all, I count myself fortunate to have found such a good master in Master Rennie Chong to learn this wonderful art whose attitude to teaching me has been one of selflessness and willingness to transfer all that he knows to me. At the same time, he has also co-related and explained the uses of the various strokes in the form both in defending oneself and also attacking an opponent immediately after defending as after all it is a martial art. He is also very knowledgeable in other forms of Tai Chi like the Chen Style Tai Chi Quan, Tai Chi Sword, and etc. I am able to ask him anything that I do not understand and he would be able to demonstrate it to me if it is correct of the art. Therefore, as I learn more about this art, I thirst to know more of it and to practice it.
Thank you Master Chong.