How many years have you been practising Tai Ji? 18 years.
What stimulated your interest? During free-time while on a residential workshop with my Meditation Teacher John Garrie Roshi, a group suggested going out into the grounds and practising Tai Chi. Having heard of it but not having seen or tried it for myself, I was encouraged to join in. They placed me in the centre of the group so I could see others movements to follow, whichever direction we faced. It was the Yang style Short-Form. I felt like a duck drawn to water and needed to begin my Tai Chi journey and find a Teacher.
What does Tai Ji mean to you? Tai Ji enables me to connect with the world in which I live. Balance, harmony, chi, wu-wei, meditation, dynamic stillness. Learning from different Teachers to deepen my Personal Practice.
What is the most important aspect for you? Connection to Traditional Chinese Arts, music, poetry, medicine, painting, calligraphy and the Classics.
Coming from dantien, breath focus, weight and ease are all important aspects while practising Tai Ji. Life long learning. Tai Ji is very important to me.
I am not interested in the competitive side of the Martial Art Form. It maybe that I was born in 1945 ‘ the year of Peace’ and I was brought up as a pacifist following my parents experience of war. I find the movements bring a peace and calm to the mind, suppleness to the body and a feeling of general well-being.
Having been in competitive sports as a teenager, (swimming and tennis) I faced winning and losing frequently. It took away the enjoyment of the activity and so, just as I was reaching my peak, I quit.
Personal Goals in Tai Ji. I have been teaching Tai Ji for seven years, beginning with an open access class at a local sports centre. Very soon I was drawn to working with people who had physical or learning difficulties. They needed to exercise and get some positive benefits from the session. To feel a sense of achievement and a progressive journey to live comfortably with themselves. I have been teaching at the Royal National College (for the Blind) and the SCORE Project (young adults with learning difficulties) in Hereford for some time and I find the students can make wonderful realizations and joyful experiences from coming to a regular class. The visually impaired suffer the trauma of sight loss. Fear overcomes many, balance is lost and inward looking stagnation can occur. By using simple Tai Ji and Qi Gong exercises these panic and negative feelings can subside. Accepting sight loss and developing new skills and strategies to cope with the new situation brings enormous benefit to these participants. Push-hands exercises offer the students who study Remedial Therapy a practical understanding of touch, balance, pressure and listening. Plus a self-defence technique, which increases self-esteem and self-confidence. Not being a victim!
The young adults with learning difficulties find themselves excluded from mainstream exercise programmes. Co-ordination and a lack of understanding of teamwork prevents them from enjoying exercise. Tai Ji helps them within a group explore their physical ability. Again concentrating on balance, breathing and dynamic focussed movement.
Who or what inspired me? I owe the Teachers with whom I study a great deal. A Teacher guides his/her students, pointing the Way from their lineage/Form/self-realization. The student bows to this commitment of their Teacher, absorbs this knowledge into their being and Practice and makes it their own.
The miracle of life inspires me, the myriad forms, the interdependence of all things.
What do you make of Tai Ji current popularity? The life-style that has evolved in the west is very fast, complicated and stressful. We are not satisfied with what we have, always driving forward, searching for the new. Tai Ji offers ‘Time Out’ from the fast track. It needs no special equipment or expensive exclusive membership. Every Tai Ji Teacher is happy to share their knowledge with others. Classes can introduce beginners to a new life style, a new way of being, less chaotic and more focused. The benefits are felt once commitment is made.
As a teacher what do you feel about the martial aspect of the art? Horses for courses. Some people need the self-discipline and skills required to take part in a competitive hierarchical system. The Way of the Warrior. For others it is the ‘feel-good-factor’. The two approaches are one, from the same origins, just different interpretations.
What are your views on competition? Personally I try to have no competitive spirit. However for those involved in Taijiquan I understand it is the way to deepen learning and experience.
What direction would you like to see Tai Ji going in the future? I would like to see the TCCK for Health provide a teaching qualification that is Nationally and Internationally recognised. It will be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole as western concepts vary so much from eastern philosophy. In these days of more accountability and regulation it is very difficult for those without a formal qualification to be employed by the Health Service or Education, no matter how brilliant a teacher with years of practice and experience they may be. More access to these arts is required for a hungry public. I have concern that different Schools, Masters, Forms are seen by their members/followers as being ‘‘’better’’’ or ‘‘’the best’’’, ‘‘’original’’’, ‘‘’traditional’’’, rather than a homogenous whole where the essence of Tai Ji is appreciated and practised on many levels.
Libi Welthy teaches in Leominister and can be contacted at 1568 750616