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Why train Tai Chi? – Phoenix Tai Chi London

Some of our students explain "Why Tai Chi?"

Words can't really explain how t'ai chi makes me feel. It's like a form of moving meditation and I can feel the energy flowing through every part of my body come out of the class feeling de-stressed calm and focused. It's made me realise that there are so many layers to our physical being and appearance is just the surface. Feeling happy from within is what it's all about. Women are brought up to think about what they look like and it's difficult to change that mindset, but it's possible. I haven't just learned a new form of exercise; I've learned to apply my mind and body to my work, relationships and so many things in life. I lived an excessive life for years. Now I'm much healthier in terms of what I eat and how I behave. I firmly believe relaxation is the key to good health. If you're stressed, you just give your body more problems. With t'ai chi, I've found balance. I'm much less critical of my body and I like myself more now, too. I used to say 'I'd like to change this, I'd like to change that', but now I'm happy with it. I look at my body and think about all the things it can do - and it's amazing.
Angela, 25, a multi-media producer
featured in Boots Health & Beauty Spring 2001

"My name is Chandni and I am 16 years old. I have been attending Pheonix Tai Chi Chaun for around a year now. I used to do karate for about 5 years but then I stopped and started Tai Chi. People my age may fall into the general thought that Tai Chi is usually for old people but it’s not. The hidden moves inside the forms will surprise you! Along with it being good for your health it also has the fighting side to it. It may seem slow but after you begin to do intense training you will realise that there is so much more to it. There are many different tai chi forms to learn- not only the short and long form but the sword and fan form too. Tai Chi follows the concept that the power doesn’t come from physical strength, it comes from the internal strength from using your waist in every move you do. I would recommend Tai Chi to all age groups as you can benefit from the both the health side and the martial arts side."

"I am delighted to have been accepted as a pupil of the Phoenix Schoool of Tai Chi. if you want a thorough training by an inspirational teacher, then Mr Ong is your man. He takes a personal interest in each and every individual in his class and in his wisdom can motivate each one to strive and learn. Every teaching point is accompanied by an enlivening, illuminating story. He takes care that you learn every detail to perfection. Only be aware, as he will tell you, you need patience and humility to succeed!"

"What Is Tai Chi?
Simply put I would say Tai Chi is Martial Art. The interesting point being that very few people take up Tai Chi for Martial Art purposes. However many people who take up Tai Chi report that the feel they have an martial art ability after a number of years training as one of the ‘benefits’.

My reason for starting Tai Chi.
Initially I started Tai Chi for posture & health. At the same time I also started practising TaeKwon-Do so thought that the two would complement each other. I thought, somehow, you could switch from External martial art (TaeKwon-Do) to Internal (Tai Chi) when appropriate.

So what have I learnt about Martial Arts from studying Tai Chi with Eddie?
I have learnt that the principles of Tai Chi can be seen to be applicable to all martial art. In fact I believe that all martial art played to a high level are ‘Internal’. The difference between Internal & External martial arts are the paths they follow. External martial arts initially focusing on physical strength these become refined or internalised after many years (decades…) of training. Tai Chi is a very refined system with focus on how to generate internal energy by correct posture, transfer of body weight, energy flow, borrowing energy and using mind. Although this is more difficult to develop it can be used by all not just the physically strong.

What this really boils down to is that a physically able bodied person may become competent with External martial arts quicker than with Internal martial arts. But that ability will fade with diminished physical ability. Internal martial art ability does not depend on physical prowess & would fade less with diminished physical ability.
So far I have not used the terms Hard & Soft martial art. I believe the terms are misleading as this implies Tai chi is ‘Soft’. Tai Chi may seem to show ‘softness’ & ‘yielding’ but when it strikes it is an iron bar wrapped in cotton wool.

And why do I keep training Tai Chi?
To me it is like reading a book where each chapter reveals new insights and understanding. Each new chapter can spring open from a small correction or few words from Eddie or through practise. You never know when that new chapter will open so I rarely miss the opportunity for it to happen. I would like to write I am far into this book but realise I’m still at the beginning - you see quite often those new chapters make you go back to the start again to see what you have missed out……"
Max (12 years with Phoenix Tai Chi)

"In this internal martial art the balance of the mind is necessary to gain control over the body. While this balance starts improving the physical and mental state is improving alongside and deeper spiritual understanding might occur as a subtle or more profound experience. Moreover, the chi flow becomes more apparent. This is based on teachings I had, my personal experience and research.
Of course everybody has different experiences and focus on different directions in their practice. Fortunately, tai chi might suit many different people whether they want to practice to be physically fit and healthy or are seeking understanding of universal truths.
Besides of the skills I highly value master Ong’s teaching style. Each person is an individual for him and he is teaching tai chi principles so students can understand their practice instead of just copying the moves. After joining Phoenix Academy my practice definitely moved to a higher level."

"I have been practising Tai Chi for almost 3 months now with Master Ong. I trained in Shaolin Kung Fu for 5 years when I was a child but always was interested in what the adults were learning. Finally, I made the decision to start Tai Chi and have not been disappointed. I attend the Sunday sessions which provide the fundamentals of Tai Chi exercises and forms. The forms are incredibly intricate and provide an ongoing challenge to improve on. The exercises considerably strengthen your legs and lower back. The first couple of sessions my legs were shaking uncontrollably after just 5 minutes of stance training, showing how weak they were. The exercises not only increase circulation and promote good posture, but also focus the mind, and some meditation is also part of the training. Since the exercises are weight-bearing, they are very safe and there is little concern for injuring oneself. Master Ong is a very warm and considerate teacher. He interacts closely with all his students, providing one to one tutoring. Tai Chi is an investment of the body and the mind, the more you put into it, the more you will gain. It takes time but results slowly but surely follow."

"Since practising Tai Chi with Eddie Ong I have benefited in mind and body as well as spiritually. The Ten Principles which underpin and are at the very heart of Tai Chi philosophy transcends the sport itself as it is a lifelong and life-enhancing experience. Without really realising it, the discipline and dedication required during training has equipped me with the mental skills to cope with my daily life. For example, my memory and performance skills have improved, I am more self-assured and confident, I worry far less than I used to and this in turn helps to relieve my hypertension. Also I feel spiritually uplifted during and through studying Tai Chi as I try to recite and memorise the Ten Principles, one of my favourites being Yong Yi Bu Yong Li (or Using Yi or intention and not physical strength). The mental agility gained when putting such a Principle into practice has somehow enabled me to gain in physical strength giving me the skills to cope with the demands and rigours of the exercises necessary to improve my form."

"I strongly recommend this Tai Chi class. The teacher is excellent and very patient. The students also have to be patient as Tai Chi cannot be learnt in a hurry. It takes a long time to learn the movements, but this patience is rewarded by the many benefits. It is a weight bearing exercise and therefore very good for the bones, it is also relaxing, calming and de-stressing."

"As a practitioner of meditation, I find Taichi a perfect complement to it, and a great help in improving physical health, balance and flexibility. Taichi and meditation share the same attitude of relaxation combined with focus. Eddy Ong is a very patient and inspiring teacher, who is able to explain the basic principles as well as he demonstrates the graceful and powerful movements."
Francesca - author, translator and teacher in the Buddhist Dzogchen tradition

"Thank you for your excellent tai chi classes. Your long experience,dedication and masterful teaching make your classes most enjoyable, and as a doctor I am also very impressed with your attention to health and safety.It is a priviledge to be your student and I look forward to mastering the yang 28 tai chi form !"

"People often ask me why I do Tai Chi and it’s difficult for me to explain. It’s not because I cannot find a reason, but because there are so many reasons to give. Every person has a different relationship with Tai Chi and is attracted by different aspects.
For me, it was the stretching and flexibility that first caught my interest. I vividly remember the first day I walked into Eddie’s class at David Lloyd’s gym. After years of practicing yoga I had convinced myself I was fit. However within minutes of the class, I could feel my legs buckle under strain and was shocked at the extent of my own lack of strength.
Since taking up Tai Chi my body has slowly began to change. I’m far more flexible and supple than I have ever been. The classes have taught me the importance of stretching and keeping my body loose. Every month I try to push my flexibility just a little bit more, and am always happy with the progress I make.
What makes Tai Chi so different from everything I’ve ever tried in the past is how challenging it is. It doesn’t just challenge my body but it challenges my mind. Under the most intense exercise I am taught to relax my mind and find calmness. At times this seems almost impossible, but it is this very challenge to find peace under strain that I find so fascinating. Tai Chi has an incredible balance between soft and hard that I’ve never experienced before. It can be difficult and at times frustrating but ultimately very beautiful and rewarding.
There are many principles behind the practice of Tai Chi, and if I’m honest I understand very little about them. My teacher often jokes with me that the day I fully understand Tai Chi, will the day I have a beard and walking stick! I think he maybe right with this comment because there is simply so much to learn. It is very satisfying knowing I have a challenge that will span my whole life. I very much look forward to learning each new aspect.
Walking into Eddie’s class that day has had a very unexpected and profound effect on
my life. I’ve find a passion inside me I never knew existed and it sparked a curiosity that I’m enjoying. Since that single class at the gym, I now train 3 times a week with the Phoenix academy.
I am very grateful for the lessons that Tai Chi has taught me in my own personal journey. It has taught me discipline and humbleness. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to expand myself and grow in character in ways I never anticipated. I never in my life thought that I would ever do Tai Chi and am very thankful that it unexpectedly arrived in my life. My teacher once said to me “only when you’re ready will Tai Chi come into your life,” and he was right.
If I were to offer any advice to someone considering going to a Tai Chi class, I would say be patient and have an open mind. If you can abide by these two rules, then you are opening yourself to a very beautiful art."

"Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese martial art. It is a soft martial art which when done slowly and precisely, is good for the muscles and joints and when used for self defence it can be speeded up accordingly. Slowing down the body also slows down the mind, therefore helping mental balance and well being. There are various styles and forms.
All that said, what is tai chi to me? My life has always been fast and crazy and probably always will be. I chose tai chi, to learn to relax, to try to learn how to make my mind still at times and to try to learn to relax my body and get rid of tension.
When I first joined your school, we were at that time being taught for health. As time has passed, you have introduced application and the martial art aspects to people when you think they are ready.
I am interested to learn the application and martial arts side of tai chi though I do not find it easy as it does not come naturally to me.
I consider myself to be a student of tai chi. I am constantly learning and if I live to be 100, I will never know everything there is to know and understand. It is an art that I can only improve in but never master. That makes it interesting to me rather than a frustration.
I understand the importance of warming up, not only to loosen the joints, but also, to calm the mind, in order to begin the process of clearing the mind. I may not always be successful, it is a struggle for me, but I do my best, so that I can then go on to get a good focus.
Foundation is important in every aspect of life. So too are foundation exercises in tai chi. I personally enjoy them. Doing them slowly and repetitively helps you to learn them. Doing them slowly allows you to have time to think about what you are doing, to have control of your body (balance, weight distribution, width, knee over toe, posture etc.) and the repetition, helps learn them so that it becomes second nature.
If you cannot do a movement slowly, you won’t be able to do it fast when needed.
I understand that by being soft, it is the foundation to be able to connect the body to turn the movement into a martial art. It is an inner strength. It is mental as well as physical. It allows you to work with your opponent’s body to make judgements on their intention i.e. in push hands.
The use of the waist is key. By using the waist it helps the body to move like a corkscrew. This lends power when speeded up for marital art. It also moves the hands in the direction they need to go, so that they do not move independently of the rest of the body (one part moves, every part moves).
Although I know I am a bad student and don’t know all the meanings, at least I know that all movements in the form have a meaning and one day I will know and understand them all and be able to perform them. Then when I can put that all together with the 10 principles, I will finally impress my Master!
My character I am sure was already defined before I became a student of tai chi, however, some of the principles of tai chi, I have definitely applied in everyday life.
Patience is something which comes naturally to me with other people, but I am learning to be more patient with myself too. Humility I think and hope is already part of my make up.
I am perhaps not as relaxed as I would hope to be, but I am better and know that I often get better results in all sorts of things in life, if I can find myself being tense and correct myself to the best of my ability. Even to fall down relaxed, is better than tense.
I have perseverance which is essential in learning tai chi, as you cannot learn how to do it properly, quickly. There is no fast track. I am interested to learn how to do it properly.
Something you said to me once with regard to a specific exercise, I also apply to life. It was to look further ahead and you will get there.
This is what Tai Chi is to me after 12 years as a student with Mr Choo Poh Ong."

Why did I choose to start Tai Chi?
I'm 26, and I have been doing Tai Chi for around 2 months I reckon. I started Tai Chi after I had to stop the martial art I was doing (and enjoying) for medical reasons. I had been really quite ill and initially I just wanted to get back into some kind of physical activity without causing yet another medical collapse. I think if I had any picture in my mind of Tai Chi it was those guys on the BBC logo a while back, in red, doing form on a hill somewhere...It's difficult to say if I thought there was more to it at this point. I knew it was reputed to be good for your health. I knew (vaguely) that it originated in China. I had heard it called a martial art but I didn't really understand how it could be (from the image I had of it). I was therefore pleasantly surprised to discover an approach and a philosophy of much more physical and mental depth than I had anticipated. I am still extremely new to it and I am looking forward to increasing my knowledge of this.
Why do I enjoy it? I have always worked best in physical activities when working in a group, under the leadership of someone I respect. I enjoy working with others with the same shared focus and goal. I have also realized over the years that I like my physical activities to have a mental dimension as well, which I think is what attracts me to martial arts in general. Also I like the fact that you don't need to be physically "huge" to do it (not that you don't develop excellent muscle strength via Tai Chi - what I mean is that being a 5"2 and weighing around 8 stones is not a barrier to participation). I hate gyms. I get bored within 10 minutes. I would rather be doing something interesting outside. I do Tai Chi and a bit of running, which seems to do the trick for me.
Tai Chi in contrast to other martial arts:
I used to do Shorinji Kempo and I really enjoyed this, but medically speaking at the moment it is too risky for me. Tai Chi is a martial art that I can do without taking that risk.
One aspect of Kempo that I found difficult was the grading system, which tended to push you to move forward well before you had completely mastered a technique - especially if you were not the world's quickest or most co-ordinated learner. This is not the case in Tai Chi (no belt grading) - or not in the Phoenix classes in any case! Here the focus seems to be on walking before you run, and encouraging you to practice the basics independently until you "own the movement" - which is a lovely idea.

"I have been attending the Phoenix Tai Chi Academy regularly for almost three years now.
When I first joined the classes, I had been diagnosed with the early onset of both osteoporosis and arthritis. My joints were stiff and painful and my knees creaked when I walked down stairs. I hoped that the gentle introduction to exercise through Tai Chi might be of benefit. Thanks to the patience of my Laoshi (teacher) and a little perseverance, I now have no pain and all my joints feel supple and mobile. I attend a class once a week for two and three quarter hours and also practice a little at home too.
Consequently, my physical strength has increased tremendously.
Of course, the body and the mind are integral and, therefore, my mental wellbeing has also improved substantially. Nothing benefits an over-anxious psyche more than gentle meditation and concentration on the harmonious flow between the internal and external. As one relaxes one’s shoulders, lifts one’s crown and uses the mind to focus on bodily co-ordination’ the tranquillity and continuity of movement melts away any ruminations and pre-occupations that clutter the mind. Thus, in my opinion, the regular practice of Tai Chi exercises seems not only to enhance the memory but also to strengthen one’s ability to concentrate and remain calm. In fact, I now endeavour to apply the above principles to the trials and tribulations of everyday life and, hope therefore, to respond to difficult situations with clarity of thought and a new found philosophical balance.
When I first joined the Phoenix Tai Chi Academy, my belief was that a little very gentle exercise might benefit an extremely battered old body which was careering towards the ‘third age’. Now, I am physically fit and full of vitality. I hope that with dedication, humility and patience I am equipped for many more years of practicing Tai Chi, as I travel the spiral that leads toward higher levels of understanding.
Friends have recently remarked on how well I look. All I can say is…. “Maybe it’s the Tai Chi."

"Although I was aware of the beauty and elegance of seeing a Tai Chi exponent demonstrate their exercises and movements or forms and therefore appreciated and respected the effort and dedication that enabled it’s students to perform these ancient and graceful moves, I never personally explored the art further than that. As such the special benefits of Tai Chi remained hidden from me, which was even more extraordinary because I actually had previously practiced Chinese Kick Boxing for a number of years, attaining my Black Belt and also instructing in my particular style. With Kick Boxing training I was naturally able to enjoy a good level of fitness, reduce most of the stresses of life and achieve other benefits which that sport delivered. However I gradually found that mainly due to my increasing professional and personal commitments, but also my advancing years, I was forced to reduce the amount of Kick Boxing training that I was able to undertake. This created a situation for me where the incidences of training and combat related injuries became more frequent and with my advancing age recovery periods increasingly longer.
Two years ago however after a period of outside observation of the calmness and harmony that seemed to exist in classes as mentioned earlier, I started attending the Phoenix Tai Chi Academy under the tutorage or Instructor Eddie Ong. I quite quickly learnt that this gentle martial art being non combative meant that there was no longer the possibility of contact related injuries. In addition I was almost immediately aware that after each lesson I was experiencing a level of mental and physical calmness previously not achieved and as this style was easier to effectively practice at home, even when seated in the case of the mental exercises, this conditioning was easier to sustain.
As stated in the Ten Principles of Tai Chi I remember being advised in my initial lessons to execute all of the movements or forms “with my mind” and not by using physical strength. This was difficult to comprehend, but I soon discovered that with practice I did manage to develop the ability to more effortlessly clear my thoughts and be “in the moment”, as each movement and technique was executed.
I also learnt that you needed to appreciate that the objective was not to learn one form as quickly as possible, moving on from one to another, but to focus only on gradually striving to achieve perfection in movements and understand and accept that this perfection was in fact something that you could spend a lifetime striving for.
This may seem alien to the way we are conditioned to function today, but when I began to realise the importance of this philosophy, time began to cease having the normal significance when I practiced my techniques in the lesson, as thoughts or concerns which I brought into the lesson, or fears and worries about the future melted away.
Learning to harness the ability to be “in the moment” and seek “stillness within movement” transported me from the state that we all too easily adopt, based on instant gratification and sound bites, enabling me to gradually and very subtlety reduce and control stress, be more aware of my centre, to better achieve physical body alignment and improve my mental discipline. I was also able to improve my posture and movement, which led to strengthening of my joints, and marked improvements in some old impact injuries and conditions such as an arthritic hip.
I am confident that the principles and techniques of Tai Chi, taught through the excellent teaching and expertise of Instructor Eddie Ong is a timely discovery for me, which I hope to continue practicing in order to always benefit from the extraordinary advantages that it offers me both mentally and physically, and for those I am sure in time will also be revealed to me."

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