Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Tai Chi Rage
Tai Chi is one of those slow, low-impact exercises that is supposed to bring you feelings of peace and serenity. When you see folks practising it on the end of the pier, or in the park, they always appear very zen, very "I'm at one with the universe right now, so please don't bug me."
As much as I adore the increased circulation and the way it makes my popsicle stick body more flexible, I simply cannot believe how much rage is involved in learning Tai Chi. Cause it's really difficult to learn. I don't mean "Ooh, this is kind of challenging" difficult - I mean, stamp your foot, make loud huffing sounds, slam your fist into your forehead kind of difficult.
There are 108 moves in total. Instructors demonstrate each move three times and then the students attempt it themselves three times. Then the moves are linked together until you know the whole "set." It's frustrating to convince your body to do things like balance on one foot and kick the other into the air, not to mention learning 107other moves and remembering to do them in sequence. Worse still are the names of the moves. Apparently, snickering when the instructor teaches you "Golden Cock stands on One Leg" is frowned upon.
The philosophy for teaching beginners is that you never, under any circumstance, correct an individual in front of the class. I'm not quite sure why. Something about not discouraging people early on. So you have a few freak outs when you screw up the moves, and laugh about it with other people who are screwing up their moves, but you have no idea how awful you really are until you leave the safety of the beginner class and venture into the ADVANCED class.
Once you're out of beginners, the zen gloves are off. Instructors are more serious about providing "corrections." And they're not afraid to use your name or point you out in front of the other students. All the stuff I thought I'd finally figured out in the beginner class has turned out to be pretty much wrong. Either my fingers aren't pointy enough, or my foot is turned 4 degrees too far to the corner, or I'm not rotating my body correctly. It's enough to make me pitch the pot of green tea out the window at breaktime.
The worst part was when my instructor told me that no one ever really masters Tai Chi. It's a continual learning process. Even people who have been doing it for 20 years receive corrections. WHAT??! So I have to do it for eternity because there will always be something to correct? Good grief.
I've thought about it long and hard, and I still keep going back week after week. I've decided I can't let Tai Chi beat me. I can't let 108 floaty, slo-mo-karate moves drive me mental. I can't allow ten graceful retirees to outshine me in every class.
I am going to be zen if it kills me. And I am going to learn NOT to laugh at the Golden Cock.