How I Have Benefitted from My Training in Tai Chi and
Wu Dao Gong
Instructor Lis talks
to advanced student Monique.
When did you start Tai Chi and why?
I started Yang style Tai Chi in 1998, in
my 30's. You were my first teacher, Lis! Since then, however, there
has been a series of fits and starts, including the birth of my child
along the way.
Reasons for starting were both physical and mental. I had developed a
creaky neck which came as a bit of a surprise, and I wanted to do
something about it. I had also been looking for a way to get fit for a
while and this was a trigger to finally start something specific. I had
also developed an interest in and a respect for mind-body medicine and
was very curious about Tai Chi in this regard.
You’ve been practising for a long time
now. What makes you keep going?
Reasons for continuing include basic
enjoyment and definite positive results. When I first saw the Yang
style, I was instantly captivated by the beauty and fluidity of the
movements. The naming of the movements was also fascinating, with the
knowledge there was always more to learn behind each. (Tai Chi is like
a window to another culture and another time.) This made Tai Chi so
interesting, especially when compared to the one-dimensional names and
approach of something like the 5BX / XBX exercise routine. Tai Chi is
addictive in a good way. In some ways, especially in the beginning, I
feel I have been making up for the absence of childhood extra-curricular
activities (e.g. ballet or callisthenics, with Tai Chi as a kind of slow
What benefits have you discovered from
Physical benefits: strong legs, better
flexibility and good balance.
Mental benefits: strong sense of calm, especially after a good session,
feeling light in body and mind (a natural high). In the first year of
practice, there was a very noticeable improvement in my flow of thoughts
for a research report I was writing at the time; my appetite also seemed
to be very healthy.
Some students find the Qigong (meditation) the most difficult part of
learning Tai Chi. Others love it from the
start. Do you enjoy the Qigong?
Yes and No. It really is the hardest part of the training. When I
attend more regularly to it, I feel more calm and focused (and virtuous
for having done it!). Enjoyment comes more often after the training,
but sometimes during it as well. It demands correct posture like
nothing else and really helps in this regard, along with its other
benefits. I found the earlier grounding in Qigong, with the sequential
checking of points of relaxation down through the whole body a great
The Academy offers many extra courses to
enhance and deepen our students knowledge. Have you taken advantage of
any of these?
Various extra courses I have done over the
years include (aside from
straight Yang and Hun Yuan Tai Chi classes, or Wu Dao Gong classes):
- Yang style special workshop with Grandmaster Fu Sheng Yuan
- Taoist Qigong with Fei Wang
- Tai Chi Sword with Fontane
- Ba Gua workshop with Grandmaster Ma Chuan Xu
- Hun Yuan Qigong with Brett
- Hun Yuan Cannon Fist 32 Form with Brett and Fontane
- Silk Reeling with Fontane
- Bang (Stick) with Fontane
- Yang refinement with Chris
- Yang refinement with Brett
- Guarding the Temple Form with Chris and Justin
Wu Dao Gong, the martial arts training, is much
more demanding physically than Tai Chi. What made you want to try
wanted more of a challenge, to extend myself and realize more of my
untapped potential; would I be able to cope? Also a basic curiosity
about and interest in the training, learning more in-depth about Tai Chi
and its allied arts; getting closer to the source.
And how are you coping with it? How is
Vigorous and demanding; initially quite
exhausting. It has opened the way to strengthen and flex the upper body
much more, as well as the lower body. My hand/finger strength has been
a noticeable improvement, the fingers feel more solid. Wu Dao Gong has
brought to the fore the importance of pacing oneself, of cultivating
reserves of energy, and of good nutrition as fuel and as an aid to
Have you found the training beneficial?
Benefits include an increasing ability to cope with the training,
enjoyment in learning new forms and techniques, having an outlet to let
fly! The commitment and inspiration of the teachers also rubs off. I
find I am exercising muscles that I haven't been aware of previously.
After some years of the slow, gentle Tai Chi movements, doing movements
at least with the intent of speed and force is a lot of fun. It's a
great outlet for the tensions of life. The body contact aspects of Wu
Dao Gong have opened up a whole new area for development and I am
becoming increasingly comfortable with this aspect.
Has the Wu Dao Gong training helped
your Tai Chi? In what ways?
The Wu Dao Gong has helped my
Tai Chi and vice-versa, so I see it as a 2-way street. Wu Dao Gong
has made the Tai Chi seem more purposeful and shows the power or force
behind it. It helps place the various Tai Chi forms in a bigger
context of a range of training types and options. Rather than
leave Tai Chi behind, it makes me value it all the more. On the
other hand, Tai Chi (along with all the extra courses done) has provided
a series of basics that translate well to Wu Dao Gong: e.g. the central
role of Qigong as underpinning all else; good posture, a certain degree
of strength and flexibility to be worked on further, particularly leg
strength, and basic stances. With the proviso of course that the
mental knowledge of all these things is one thing, translating it all
into the physical body is entirely another.
(This is an actual interview, but the name
has been changed for reasons of privacy.)