The movements of T’ai Chi, I learn as I join the class in a series of stretches and slow, synchronized breathing, are derived from Chinese Kung-Fu. “Economy of exercise,” Sifu (teacher) Bill Fagan says. The same motions used in sudden bursts of power for defense can be perfomred in a graceful flow of elegance for relaxation. We, the students, follow the unrushed arcing paths he demonstrates as he reminds us of the Western tendency to knot our daily tensions up in our major muscle groups.
That, I knew. Those same snarls of striated tissue had me proceeding through the exercises in pops and jerks compared to the silken grace of Bill and the more experienced students in the room. At times, the class worked in unison. Other times, we broke into smaller sections according to individual training needs.
Advanced students of T’ai Chi incorporate weapons forms and weight training into the practise of their art. Using no more energy than is required for each lithe motion while breating in slow, full cycles is the goal.
Having just moved to a 4,000-square-foot facility on Folly Road, East West Health Arts features high cathedral ceilings and two-and-a-half acres of woods in the back. Bill hopes to incorporate trails and a pond for meditation into the setting. The calming art forms practiced here stand in stark contrast to the jarring, squealing lines of traffic running in both directions on Folly Road. A bit of T’ai Chi may be just what our expanding urban center needs.
–Jason A. Zwiker