Young Musician's Perspective on Tai Chi
– interviewed by Instructor Lis
Contrary to the experience of many of our students, Jessica, now completing her second
year of Tai Chi, enjoys and gains most benefits from the practice of Chi Kung (Qigong).
This wasn't always the case. At first, she found both the Tai Chi movements and the Chi
Kung difficult. Her concentration was virtually non-existent and she hardly practised at
all. Jessica had been sent along to Tai Chi classes by her violin teacher, who recommended
it to her as a way of overcoming severe neck, shoulder and upper back pain. She had just
commenced full time study at the ANU Institute of the Arts, School of Music, and was in
the first year of her Bachelor of Music, majoring in performance.
The extra practice load exacerbated already existing posture
problems. She had to do something about it, so she took her teacher's advice and went
along to one of Brett's classes. She did not know much at all about Tai Chi, except that
it was slow and involved arm-waving movements. It was much harder than she expected but
Jessica stayed with it, believing that it would eventually help.
Her biggest problem, apart from the physical
one, was concentration. "I was one of those people who would go to a concert and
after about fifteen minutes, I'd start fidgeting. Even when I was practising violin, I'd
get distracted really easily, start looking out the window and forget what I was supposed
to be doing." That's where she has noticed the greatest improvement, and she
attributes this to her daily ten minutes of Chi Kung. If she misses out, she can feel the
difference immediately. "I feel edgy, a bit nervy. The concentration goes. But I can
get back into it really well now when I practise again."
During that initial term, Jessica didn't practise much
and managed to scrape by with just the weekly class. She floundered in Level 2 and became
extremely frustrated at not remembering the movements and the sequence. She decided to
repeat the level. I asked her why she had wanted to continue at all. Was she someone who
didn't like to give up something she'd started? Did she enjoy it, despite the frustration?
"I think I felt it would be good for me. It was interesting rather than greatly
enjoyable. I liked the things the instructors said, Brett's stories. I thought I might as
well keep going."
The second time through Level 2, Jessica began to notice some real changes. She was
practising regularly and her concentration increased accordingly. She became more aware of
her posture and the increased ability to relax which helped her playing. Still, at that
stage, she found it easier to do the movements than to practise the Chi Kung. Now, two
years later, it's the other way around.
Jessica attends one class per week and barely manages to find time to practise the form.
She does the warm-ups and Chi Kung every day, does a stretching routine and goes to
aerobics once a week. She knows if she doesn't keep enrolling each term, she won't have
the self discipline to keep practising. She would love to have the time and the space to
do more form practice. However, at the moment, and probably for the next two years of her
degree, she doesn't. Going to class provides the motivation.
Jessica stated quite categorically that the Chi Kung and to a lesser extent the Tai Chi
form (probably due to lack of practice), have had a tremendous effect on her
concentration. She also knows she is more patient and less prone to debilitating
performance nerves than previously. She is aware of tension when it occurs while she is
playing her violin and can relax effectively. The physical problems with her shoulders and
arms are being helped by physiotherapy as well as Tai Chi, but she admits more movement
practice would probably speed up her recovery. I suggested she incorporate some of the
Taoist Chi Kung exercises into her daily routine, because they take up less space and are
very effective, for example, Yin Yang Fish, Rotating Ball, Spiralling Arms.
"But you must enjoy it to stay with it for two years," I commented. Not many
students start as young as Jessica (she was 18) and continue. "Yes, I suppose
so," Jessica said. "I wake up feeling good. It makes you feel happy." What
better reason for continuing could there be?
(This is an actual interview, but the name has been changed for reasons of privacy.)