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August 28, 2012 / catherinebwrites





In my dreams I’m the heroine.      I fly through the air with my sword of justice,  protecting the weak and defeating tyrants with my  Martial Arts skills…My hair tumbles like a black waterfall, I wear a gown of gorgeous silk-brocade, I look like an exquisite, porcelain doll but the evil men who cross me live to regret it.

But it’s not going to happen.   For a start, I’m not Chinese. 

I’ve wanted to study Tai Chi for years but I could never find a class till I heard about Chris Devala.     I arrived  with flat shoes, loose clothes and a willingness to learn.       I listened to everything he said, watched closely and paid careful attention.    Chris is a very good teacher so  I expected to master the art of Tai Chi soon enough.   I could see myself in a park, by a lake, balanced, coordinated and moving with elegant serenity.    I didn’t think I’d master the art instantly but I was confident that I’d master the first lesson in lesson one.  

 I imitated every move that Chris made and felt I was making a rather good fist of it.   

“Not bad at all.” He said.

Then he moved my hands, straightened my fingers, pushed back my thumbs, shifted my elbows, pushed down my shoulders, swiveled my hips, re-set my feet and adjusted my stand.    Okay…so it mightn’t have been that bad but clearly, it wasn’t that good either.    By the end of the lesson my head was in a whirl with phrases like “Dragon plays with Pearl”, “Crane stands on one Leg,” “Tiger shakes his Head”.  But my body hadn’t the foggiest of what it was doing.    I felt  more like “Bear bumbles in Bamboo.”   Make that Idiot Bear. 

Next morning I was sore in places where I never knew I had places.    As I lay in a hot bath recovering I began to realise the first rule of Tai Chi for beginners.

1.You will not master Tai Chi in one lesson, or in ten or in even a hundred.  

After the second and third and fourth lessons I’d fallen in love with Tai Chi but I still felt like that old bear bumbling about constantly confused.   This stuff was a lot harder than it looked.  At home when I attempted to practise I could only remember  isolated bits and  when I went to do them I still wasn’t  sure I was right.     Then during one  class, I suddenly realised  what Chris had been saying every time.   

2. Don’t worry about what you don’t know.   Just practice what you  remember.

The one thing I was sure of was how to stand, so I started doing the Tai Chi stand whenever I remembered, at the cooker, at the bus stop, talking to the butcher.    At least I was practising something.   This made me feel a lot better.   And slowly but surely  other bits started to stick and I could practice them too.

I practised daily but every time I came to  class, I discovered that, Grrrrrrrrrr,  things I thought I had  right were wrong.     I think of myself as pretty laid back but every time Chris  checked my posture he had to remind me to relax my jaw, my shoulders,  my  fingers, my hips, my knees .   It was months  before I took in what he’d been saying  all along.  

3.   Tai Chi only works when you relax.

I started to  notice  how often during the day that my body was tense.   I’m not nearly as chilled as I thought but slowly, slowly I’m learning to breathe, to let go of  tension, to relax.  

In Tai Chi terms I’m still in Pre-school.    I know I’ll never be fly through the air as  a  raven-haired, tai Chi crime fighter but I am enjoying the journey.   I’ve more energy and I’m more alert  than  I have been  for years.  My concentration has improved so something must be working.


Beginners class starts: Mon.   Sept.3rd.   7.30p.m.    Boylan Centre, Dun Laoghaire.

MORE INFORMATION:  Telephone Chris Devala:  0876568330

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