The Benefits of Combining Tai Chi with Yang Mian
Instructor Lis talks
to advanced student Craig.
When did you start Tai Chi? Did you know what it was or did you know
about it first?
I started my Tai Chi journey approximately 7 or 8 years ago (I think). I
am now into Refinement for the second year and get to the weekly class
Tai Chi was recommended to me by a family member Ė they had been doing
it for some years by then and found it beneficial for their physical
health and they suggested I give it a go.
Why did you start? Physical reasons? Mental? eg stress relief. Just out
My interest came from this recommendation. I decided to go along to the
introductory class and found I enjoyed it enough to continue with it.
This was when the Yang style was taught. Over the years I went to
classes on and off on two separate occasions but never actually got to
Refinement. The next time I came back, Brett and Fontane had started
teaching the Hun Yuan style and so I had to start back at the beginners
What makes you come back? What is it you like about it?
Each time I had a break I missed it. Over time I would stop doing my
practice and it would get to the point where Iíd forget moves and the
sequence of them.
When I think of the Tai Chi, calm is the first thing that comes to mind.
This calming feeling as well as the gentle flow make me feel more in
tune with myself.
What benefits can you identify? Physical? Mental?
It definitely relaxes me more and I find the mental calmness appealing.
When I was in my early 20ís I ended up with a bulging disk in my back Ė
ever since this I have, over the years, had back complaint problems. A
normal practice for me was a visit to the chiropractor for some regular
re-alignment. I find that with the combination of both Tai Chi and Yang
Mian as well as regular practice, my flexibility and strength is much
better and my back stronger. I havenít had to go back to the
chiropractor for a while now.
Do you notice a difference in the Tai Chi styles Ė Huan Yuan and Yang Ė
in the way they affect your body?
Because I let my training in Yang lapse I donít really remember too much
of the style. Though I do remember when I first started the Hun Yuan
style there was more a gentle side to that technique; it was also more
foreign to me and I found it a little more difficult to pick up Ė it
definitely took some time for it to begin to feel more natural for me.
Why did you start the Martial Arts training? Were you doing any other
sort of regular exercise? I imagine the training would have been
difficult at first.
Apart from the Tai Chi, no. I used to get on an exercise bike, do
skipping to get the heart rate up etc but that's about it.
I was in my late 30ís when I started and it was physically demanding at
first Ė you're right about the shock to the system. My upper muscles
were sore for days afterwards. Now it's not a problem even though the
training is more demanding on the physical body as you progress.
I wanted to do something more than just Tai Chi. I knew that Brett and
Fontane also ran a number of other classes including the martial arts
ones. I jumped onto the website and did some research on the Wu Dao Gong
and Yang Mian martial arts classes. I was attracted to both but
decided to give the Yang Mian a go.
I have been doing it for some 14 months or so. I now find myself feeling
guilty if I donít get to the classes all the time and try to make sure I
miss very few. My current training focuses on fist and elbow strikes.
Because the moves in Tai Chi are slow and purposeful, itís often
difficult understanding what this should feel like if you need to call
on it quickly. The power and movement that comes through in the Yang
Mian helps me to translate this over to the Tai Chi form. It's about the
movement coming from the core. With Tai Chi it is not always obvious. As
Instructor Lis pointed out in a recent Refinement session, if you slow
it down considerably, you start to understand what it means to use the
waist and Dan Tian, instead of using your arms to generate the
The Yang Mian body conditioning exercises focus a lot on relaxing your
body; your back, your shoulders etc. In this relaxed state, I am
motivated to focus on using the waist to generate the force and not the
arms. The training encourages you to be more flexible and use your Dan
Do you enjoy Qigong?
I find Qigong helps to settle my mind and body and improves my focus and
It encourages me to use better breathing techniques by making my breath
slower and deeper and this becomes part of the exercise.
It also helps me to maintain good posture.
You must have a lot of practice to do. How do you manage to fit
everything into your busy life?
The biggest problem with practice is stopping to find some time in my
busy lifestyle. I donít get to do it as much as I would like but still
manage to be consistent.
I can save myself some time by doing my Yang Mian body conditioning
exercises and power training, then I follow this up with the form. I
find this actually helps me feel the movement of the form better and it
encourages me to slow down my pace and I find I donít go through the
form too quickly.
an actual interview, but the name has been changed for reasons of