Bang (Stick) Gave Me Back the Full Use of My Right Hand”
interviewed by Instructor Lis
When Mark started classes with the Academy, he wondered
why we did warm-ups, the Chan Si Gong (Silk Reeling exercises) and
Qigong. He had done a couple of years with a different Tai Chi
group some years before, and they spent the whole class learning the
form. The contrast at first was a little frustrating.
“I thought, ‘Why can’t we get on with it instead of
wasting all this time on this extra stuff?’ ”
Now he understands. In fact, it didn’t take long,
perhaps a couple of weeks, for him to realise the importance and
relevance of the preliminary exercises.
“Everything is connected. All those joint loosening
exercises help you do the movements. Bits of them appear in the
form. At first, I had lots of clicks and clunks in my shoulders
doing the Arm Rotation, but after about a year, the noises disappeared.
It feels smooth now. My posture has improved, too — makes me keep
my shoulders back instead of stooping. Tall people tend to do
Mark admits he should spend more time on the Qigong at
home. “I don’t practise it. I know it would make a difference.
I think I’m calmer from my Tai Chi practice, but my wife and son would
probably disagree. I do go through the ‘Lower the Qi and Cleanse
Internally’ movement from the Hun Yuan Qigong, before I do the Bang
(Stick) set, though.”
The Bang has been an extraordinary find for Mark; regular
practice has resulted in the arresting of debilitating arthritis in the
Mark is an engineer with Urban Services. Several years
ago, he had a change of job, moving from field work to desk bound
duties. He noticed his weight creeping up, his posture deteriorating
and his general fitness level declining. He embarked on home gym
training complete with punching bag, but this resulted in a very sore
wrist. Using a computer mouse right handed was impossible, shaking
hands extremely painful and his arm ached. His doctor diagnosed
arthritis and said, “Stop punching, take up Tai Chi.”
Mark went home, opened up the Chronicle, and there was an
Academy advertisement announcing classes would commence the following
week (Term 3, 2004). During his first term, he saw students practising
the Stick at the back of the room. It looked intriguing. When the
next workshop was offered, Mark, having read of the benefits for
arthritis sufferers and of increased grip strength, signed up. In the
class, he remembers Fontane telling him to bend his wrist more and
replying that it didn’t bend at all.
Six months of daily practice resulted in an amazing
improvement. Although not as flexible as his other wrist, Mark’s right
wrist definitely bends now. He can use the mouse normally, and shaking
hands means pain for the other person rather than for Mark. The Bang
training strengthens the tendons and muscles in the hands and forearms.
In Mark’s case, these had been rendered weak and useless by his
arthritic wrist joint.
Spinoff benefits of the training were an awareness of
particular body movements used in the form and increased flexibility of
the shoulders and waist. The phrase “engage the back” suddenly took on
meaning. He could feel what Fontane had been talking about and
this new understanding permeated his Tai Chi practice. “So
that’s what she means!”
Another breakthrough came recently when the Aranda
Refinement class did the Centering Exercise. Mark was surprised at how
solid he felt when his partner pushed against his chest. He had no idea
he had developed such a strong feeling of “groundedness”, although he is
aware, in a general sense, of better balance and posture.
“Remembering the sequence was difficult at first, but it
comes with practice. Having different instructors was good. They each
emphasised slightly different aspects and sometimes something would
click. It’s good when you get the feeling for the whole thing.
I like the way the form flows. If you stop at all, it’s
really noticeable, an interruption.
I practise some part of the training every day. When I
travel, the first things into my bag are the Bang and my flat soled
shoes. If it’s carry on luggage on a plane, I can’t take the Stick,
though. They think it’s a weapon!”
(This is an actual
interview, but the name
been changed for reasons of
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