What Happens in the Tai Chi Class?
Glennis began to learn Tai Chi in 1986 at the Woodlands Physically Disabled Day Centre in Colchester. She became hooked on learning. Moving from Colchester to Skegness it was not until 1995 she found a group to join. 1995 saw her learning from Master Errol Bunce in Ulceby, Lincs. Since 1998 Glennis has been teaching it to the Woman’s Institute as a Travelling Tutor; visiting many parts of East Anglia and East Midlands, until her disability prevented her from doing any more travelling.
The Palms Tai Chi Club began in 2002. Glennis was at the inaugural meeting of the Skegness University of the Third Age and immediately became its Secretary. Tai chi has been practised each week since then except for a short break from August 2009 to April 2010. Until June 2011 the Club was 100% U3A membership. Since July 1st 2011 the Club has become Independent and now welcomes anyone who wishes to be a member.
The Club caters for people who are able-bodied and those with disabilities. Everyone takes the same grading sashes. There is no separate syllabus for anyone, merely adaptions as necessary. If you find a movement difficult than it is adapted often by that person.
Anyone can learn to practice Tai Chi. We also enjoy helping each other to learn, a sharing of knowledge is good for the instructor as it proves it has been taught correctly and also for members to learn how to teach. There is no need for a Leadership Training Course as this is included naturally in the syllabus.
The club has a strict anti-discrimination policy.
We spend the first 30 minutes doing Tai Chi forms and always start together as one club. We then separate into groups according to the colour of sashes or Dan grades. We also learn other forms and exercises including the Tao walk, Wu walk and ways of moving to prevent falls and how to act in self-defence. The next 20 or so minutes are spent in laughter and having fun using apparatus such as Frisbees, skipping ropes, hoops, Tai chi fans, Tai chi flutes, Tai chi pipes and bats and balls. Lastly we sit quietly and relax with our thoughts and finish with an energy buzz.
At first one follows the exercises [form] eventually the level of competence is reached whereby the very action of it creates a meditative state. Tai chi is sometimes called a ‘Moving Meditation’. Some of the Names of Forms include Wu Form, The Green Dragon and Lotus Form.
What is the art of Tai Chi?
Centuries old, Tai Chi is an exercise that explores awareness of the heart-mind, the life force and the body and their harmonious interactions. Deeply rooted in Chinese medicine, meditation and martial arts, this intriguing and enjoyable practice consists of a series of precise, gentle, physical movements combined with energy awareness and mental concentration. The movements are always done in the same order as the early ones lay the foundation for later development.
Western Science has studied Tai Chi and verified the many benefits that have long been known in the East. Extremely well tested and proven, Tai Chi has long been prescribed by doctors to alleviate a wide range of conditions including stress, arthritis, hypertension, balance difficulties, lower back pain, etc, as well as for anyone needing the general revitalisation that results from improved respiration and circulation. Stress management is an important part of overall health and Tai Chi teaches specific and effective techniques to alleviate stress.
The first steps involve learning the opening movements while increasing physical awareness and training yourself to be relaxed. Relaxation leads, with guidance, to energy awareness which is the first element of the very important meditative aspect of the discovery of the harmony of body, heart-mind and spirit.
Tai Chi uses slow, smooth and gentle turns and steps combined with mental concentration on the very important natural principles to promote a harmony of energy within all the systems of the mind and body. For example, the shapes and flow of the movements combined with relaxation help improve respiration. As the limbs move gently up and down and in and out, the breathing gradually deepens, more of the capacity of the lungs is utilized and vitality is enhanced.
Almost anyone can participate due to the gentle, self-paced and non-competitive aspects of Tai Chi. Therefore Tai Chi is currently the world's most widely practiced health exercise system.
The Baduanjin is a series of 18 movements as practiced in the Palms Club. We learn 8 for the White sash, a further 4 for the Yellow and by the Orange know the whole sequence.
Shaolin gives us short forms that are easier to learn for those just stepping out on the Tai chi road. Later as we progress on the Tai chi road we learn a Wu form which is a series of over a 150 movements that makes up the total form. Yang Forms and others. Any person who joins us and who has experiences of different tai chi forms is encouraged to teach them.
There are many forms of Tai chi, in the Palms Club those with chronic diseases are cared for but most importantly is the prevention of ill health and Tai chi is proven to help with this aim. Glennis, your leader is unable to have any painkillers for her arthritis [both RA and OA she also suffers from osteoporosis and more recently inflammation of the whole pelvic area.] Tai chi has helped her keep some of her mobility that she would have lost had she not practised this Healing Art.
Meaning of the Colours
Originally, the white belt was simply dyed to a new colour and as the colours became darker, the sash continued to be used. The symbols of colours has been a recent innovation and signifies rank and progress of learning the Art of Tai chi.
White Sash, White signifies a birth, or beginning, of a seed. A white belt student is a beginner searching for knowledge of the Art. The white belt is the beginning of life's cycle, and represents the seed as it lies beneath the snow in the winter.
Yellow Sash, Yellow signifies the first beams of sunlight which shines upon the seed giving it new strength with the beginning of new life. A yellow belt student is given his first ray of knowledge, opening his mind, from his instructors.
Orange Sash, Orange represents the growing power of the sun as it warms the earth to prepare for new growth in the spring. The orange belt is starting to feel his body and mind open and develop.
Green Sash, Green signifies the growth of the seed as it sprouts from the earth reaching toward the sun and begins to grow into a plant. A green belt student learns to strengthen and refine his techniques.
Blue Sash, Blue signifies the blue sky as the plant continues to grow toward it. A blue belt student moves up higher in rank just as the plant grows taller. The student is fed additional knowledge of the Art in order for his body and mind continue to grow and develop.
Purple Sash, Purple represents the changing sky of dawn, as once again the student undergoes a new change and prepares for the transition to advanced student. A purple belt begins to understand the meaning of the black belt.
Brown Sash, Brown represents the ripening of the seed, a maturing and harvesting process. A brown belt is an advanced student whose techniques are beginning to mature, and he is beginning to understand the fruits of his hard work as a beginner.
Black Sash, Black signifies the darkness beyond the Sun. A black belt seeks new, more profound knowledge of the Art. As he begins to teach others, he plants new seeds and helps them grow and mature. His students, many whom will form roots deep into the Art, blossom and grow through the ranks in a never-ending process of self-growth, knowledge, and enlightenment.
Dan grades follow, First Dan grade, then after Two years the Second Dan Grade, then another Three years the Third Dan Grade etc.