Practicing Tai Chi in China differs to the West

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Practicing Tai ChiOpposite the apartment block where I live is a row of shops, perfectly ordinary nothing exciting about them. Except maybe the artisan bread shop which reminds me a lot of the Bread Shop on Gloucester Road in Bristol (I really miss the cranberry and macadamia nut bread mmmmm)

However, every morning while going by, at least from 6am and up until I returning from dropping my daughter off at school, there is always group of people practicing Tai Chi / Chi Kung / Exercises. It’s lovely to see so close to home, but makes me think about how it is perceived here. How the practice of Tai Chi in China differs to that in the West. Most people practicing are fairly old, some younger people, but never anyone younger than 40 (from what I can tell), but it the air of spontaneousness or lack of formality that I think makes it different from home.

They practice  like it is something you do in the morning, similar to brushing you teeth, then getting dressed, then a bit of Tai Chi outside. I think this is why it seems so informal. When a teacher turns up, it seems more like someone who knows a bit more and is happy to share it, rather than a set class at a set time. This of course happens too, but from what you see it all seems more, well, relaxed.

Other exercise is practiced in exactly the same way. The tennis court near our flat also has people in first thing in the morning, two chaps in the pouring rain, this morning were out attempting to play tennis, but it will be used for Tai Chi or the well loved ballroom dancing, or marching around chanting (seriously).

I was chatting to a friend the other day who is a qualified Youga instructor and she was saying she couldn’t find a good class here to practice Yoga. “Wht don’t you do it yourself at home” I asked. “Oh I don’t have my mat here in China, so I need to go to a class to use their equipment, anyway, you can’t practice with out a class”. It’s like we need that formality to make us do it, of course, there are exceptions and people do practice themselves int he UK at all activities and sports but I think the majority of people need to class to motivate themselves.

So how do I think this is different from home, well I get the impression that this isn’t practice at all, it is purely doing. Something you do everyday, not for a purpose, result, or an achievement. It is simply something that you do everyday and it isn’t questioned. I find it hard to get my head round that idea, I personally like to question things and work out whether what I am doing is correct or how I can improve it, but it seems to suit China very well. I guess that’s a cultural difference and it is lovely to see that it still remains here.

Some Bristol Tai Chi Schools where you can start practicing Tai Chi