Interviews with Taiji Practitioners

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What is the everyday benefit from Taiji

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Ploutarchos Vlachopoulos, Chen Style Taiji Instructor based in Athens, Greece
Q : When did you start Chen Style Taiji?
I did Kung Fu for about a year and a half when I was 15 but it was not anything serious; I did it mainly for the exercise. I used to be a track athlete. I did track for about four years, the 200 m and long jump. In other words, I always used to do some form of exercise. But, Taiji was the first discipline I have gone into seriously. I started Taiji in 2001 with Master Liming Yue who was my first teacher. Now that I come to think of it, it is a bit weird because I always wanted to go seriously into martial arts. But of all the martial arts I know, I never really liked any, so I did a small research in internal martial arts and I came across Taiji. Also, at that time, I met a lady who advised me to go into Taiji ifI had the luck to find a good teacher. So, for me, meeting Master Liming Yue was more than luck. It was fate. Click here to read Nasal Polyp in TCM.

Q : Is it key to find the right master?
It certainly is. Master Liming Yue is probably the best teacher in UK and Europe and one of the best in the world.

Q : So you are highly committed to Chen S'tyle Taiii?
Yes I am. I started doing Taiji as a discipline, as an art, for its health benefits and for its physical training, but I ended up doing it for many more reasons. After my first trip to China, in 2002, I decided to go fully into Taiji and prepare myself as an instructor. I was in the university at that time doing my Mphil, but Taiji had gotten my full interest. I took the decision to work as a fulltime instructor in Athens.

Q : What is your opinion of the health aspect of Chen Style Taiji?
The one specific I can tell you is that, during the time I have been doing Taiji, I have become calmer. People who do not know me and people who do have told me, quite a few times, that I emanate calmness. I was not like that when I was younger. I used to be more nervous, more tense. Taiji has definitely helped me to relax, physically and mentally. So, I can personally speak for relaxation. If you practise Taiji, you are definitely going to relax. Click here to read Nasal Vestibulitis in TCM.

Q : How would you summarize the broad benefits of Chen Style Taiji?
The thing is, when you start practicing Taiji, depending on the person, sooner rather than later you start to feel the Qi inside your body. It can improve your physical well-being without you noticing it: Things like agility, joint suppleness, flexibility, balance and coordination of movements. Your body becomes more aware of positioning, such as the placing of the hands and feet. And all of that simultaneously train your mind because it is a mind exercise as well. Once you start feeling something, you have to think about it. If you do not think about, it is gone. You have to concentrate on what you are doing. So, Taiji also helps concentration. As you can see there are many aspects to health. For example, if you have a particular problem like a bad knee or a waist problem or a neck problem, all these can be eased and made better with correct Taiji postures. Also, if you have sleeping problems, or if you suffer from headaches or migraines, again Taiji can help.

Q: Has your experience of a more intensive training schedule led to acute developments?
Indeed it has. I mean, I started as everyone else doing Taiji once a week. But even with that, I saw some difference in the first few months. It depends on the person basically because someone might be more physical so he can take more exercise and thus he will feel the effects and benefits of Taiji sooner rather than later. In the West, people often think about benefits and how soon they can attain them. So, for example, when someone starts going to a gym, it is about how fast he can lose weight, or build a better body shape, etc. Taiji is not like that. The short-term benefits come as soon as you start feel the energy inside your body. Then as time goes by, depending on your training and your effort, the longer-term benefits can grow substantially and exponentially. Click here to read Chronic Sinusitis in TCM.

Q : What sets Chen Style Taiji apart in your estimation?
A lot of people do not realize that Taiji is actually Kung Fu. It is the original style of Kung Fu, I mean it is one of the earliest, basic forms of Kung Fu. Chen Style is the original style of Taiji. From Chen Style, all the other four branches of Taiji - Yang, Wu, Woo and Sun - have been developed. I have to admit I have not done any of the other styles, but I have seen people perform Yang Style and spoken with people who did Yang Style and Chen Style. They claimed there are big differences between the two and most of them preferred Chen Style. For me, the basic difference is that, with Chen Style, you can feel much more the martial art application. And you feel like you are doing martial arts together with, how can I put it, health exercise. Again depending on the person, you can put more emphasis either on the health or the martial arts aspect of Chen Style Taiji. Someone who puts more effort on the martial side gets the benefit of the health as well because it is the same exercise and vice versa. Another main difference is that the energy releases are missing in the other styles. With Chen, and maybe this is because it is the original style, you can feel the energy, the Qi, sooner and stronger. Click here to read Pharyngeal Paraesthesia in TCM.

Q : Could you shed some light on the internal side to Chen Style?
The internal side of Taiji is like a separate category of the martial arts. You can learn Kung Fu, the moves, the kicks, the spins and all that in quite a short time if you really put effort into it. But internally, manipulating your energy, your Qi, is a whole different thing. You can do it by practicing Silk Reeling exercises and Qigong, but it is also something that in order to achieve it you have to use your mind. Thus, Taiji is a lot different than the external martial arts only because of that internal aspect of Qi and how you can manipulate it in order to help yourself or others. Martin Millar, 58, Office Manager based in Manchester

Q : Could you outline your route into Chen Style Taiji?
I am in my second career at present. Previously, I was a police officer in Manchester for 33 years. I have always kept fit. In my youth, I played rugby and when I got too old for that I kept the physical side of my activities going. I worked out regularly for many years jogging and weight training. Although I was physically active, I had a traumatic experience some years ago. I went to my doctor for a minor ailment and he gave me the news that I had suffered a heart attack. And that stopped me in my tracks. After various tests, they decided that it was a very minor one. He was never happy about my weight training and he advised me against it. But, he encouraged me to take up a physical activity, because, as part of my condition, I suffer from Hypertension (High Blood Pressure). So, I had to get some physical activity. My son had recently started practicing Taiji. I knew nothing about it. Through him, I found out it was good for hypertension.

Although my son did Taiji, my impression of it was old dears waving their hands about on the banks of the Yangtze. Though I had a condition I was not ready for that until I saw my son practicing on my back lawn. Then, I realized the Taiji that he was practicing had nothing to do with old ladies waving their arms about in the air. So, I read up on Taiji and decided that I would go with him to one of Liming Yue's classes. That was 2002 and I have been coming ever since.

Q : So what were your initial impressions of Taiji?
I felt a benefit from the breathing. I felt better for it, I felt healthier. And it also helped me relax and certainly reduced my blood pressure. Now, I practice a couple of times a week at home and 1 come to the classes regularly. I am really convinced that there is something in Taiji. I have certainly benefitted from it. Click here to read Atrophic Rhinitis in TCM.

Q : What, for you, is the everyday benefit from Taiji?
The everyday benefit of Taiji is that I am able to relax. I can practise Qigong breathing at work when I feel I am getting stressed. I can do these breathing exercises which I feel helps me relax.

Q : What health benefits do you sense when practicing Chen Style Taiji?
When doing Taiji, I feel I am exercising my heart, my lungs, and my body although not as physically as some of the exercises I have done. But, I am no spring chicken anymore and I have to be aware that I can not get my body into some of the positions which I could when I was a younger man. But, on the whole, I feel the exercising in Taiji benefits me physically and, certainly, being able to relax benefits me mentally.

Q : So do you see Taiji as a kind of total health system?
I would not say it was the total health system, but there is something there and  I benefit from it personally so I continue to do it. Ijust feel I am benefitting from it and yet there is more to come.

Q : Better to call it a complementary health system?
All I can say is there is something in it which I do not understand.

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