Tai Chi teacher in China

I came to China in 2008 to study Kung Fu. I was practicing Kung Fu in Belgium and came to China for the first time in 2007 to travel through the country of this beautiful martial art! I visited tourist places, like Yangshuo, Xi’an and Beijing and also went to Shaolin to see some real Shaolin Kung Fu. When I was in Yangshuo, I met a Kung Fu teacher who had a beautiful family style, BuDiZhen, a mix of Shaolin and Wudang Kung Fu.

 

I decided to live in Yangshuo for 1 year, study Kung Fu and then I thought of moving back to Belgium. Little did I know back then that my life would never be the same again…
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I stayed in Yangshuo and learned from my Kung Fu teacher for 2 years. I had some money saved, so I was an English teacher just part-time and I focused on learning a lot of Kung Fu.

But, after 2 years, I started to hear more about Tai Chi and how it helps you to cultivate your internal energy. I was intrigued by it and finally found a good teacher to teach me Chen Tai Chi.

From 2010, I started to practice Tai Chi. I loved the slow graceful movements, but also the martial aspect of it. Every movement represents a self-defense technique and it is actually hard work. I practiced really hard and went to a couple of competitions: in 2013, I went to Henan, Jiaozuo, the birthplace of Tai Chi to participate in an International competition and I got a gold medal and silver medal. The year after, I went to the World Championship, but didn’t get a medal there.

 

In 2015, I moved to Shenzhen and I started to teach Tai Chi to expats that I met here. I never thought I could be a Tai Chi teacher in China and I didn’t profile myself like that at first. Some people wanted to know a bit more about Tai Chi and because I could speak English, they asked me to teach them. Little by little, I started to be known as the ‘Tai Chi master’ and more people were texting me to know my teaching schedule.

 

I am teaching almost every month now and am having more and more students. I am thinking of a whole project to teach Tai Chi as a whole lifestyle: the movements, the history and the philosophy.

 

When I tell Chinese people that I teach Tai Chi, the first reaction is almost always: but you are not old! Apparently, for Chinese people you have to be old to practice Tai Chi. I always answer: “it’s because I don’t want to become old that I practice.” Because Tai Chi helps to balance your body and mind, makes your body stronger, you will not become old that fast.

 

I find it a shame that Chinese people don’t want to practice Tai Chi anymore. The new generation is not putting much value on it. I heard that in my country it is becoming very popular. The West is discovering ancient Chinese philosophy: Chinese medicine, Chinese arts and Chinese martial arts are all becoming very popular. But, in China they are becoming less and less popular. Do we, Westerners, in the future will have to teach the Chinese about their traditional culture?

 

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The eternal question of nurture and nature

I like to analyze myself and other people. I want to know all aspects of life and am curious, so I love to ask people a lot of questions and I read a lot about philosophy, history,… What makes people the way they are? Life is a wonderful journey and I want to live every aspect of it.
Today, I was talking to someone and all of a sudden she asked me: ‘Are you born in December?’ I was surprised by her question and she was right, I am born in that month. ‘You are a real Sagittarius,’ she continued. She was a Sagittarius as well and could relate to what I was saying. I must say, I am a bit in Astrology, but am a bit skeptical as well. I want to believe that we are not only who we are because of a certain day and place we were born in, but also by our environment, our experience: the eternal Nurture – Nature question.

But, I was intrigued and as we talked more and more with each other, I realized that whatever she was saying, I could relate to a lot of it and found that we do think the same. She is from a completely different country, has a completely different culture and still we had so much in common.

ImageAt home, I started to look for more information on Sagittarius and I found that this describes me in many ways. I am on the cusp of Sagittarius and Capricorn, so I thought for a long time that I was a Capricorn, but I could never relate to any of those characteristics. Sagittarius is the real me, I realize now. But, it also leaves me with a big question: Does this mean that we are not that much influenced by our culture, that our personality is shaped by the stars after all?

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I must say that, after I broke up with my ex-boyfriend, someone from China, I thought about this question for a long time. Did we break up because of cultural differences or because of our personality? He was a Cancer, according to the internet: a sensitive person who loves the comfort of home. He wants to have security and stability. Totally the opposite of Sagittarius, who love their freedom, want to philosophize, are adventurous, impulsive, and love to communicate.

So, 2 different personalities, 2 different cultures,… It was bound to go wrong. And still, we had 2 amazing years where we got along very well.
Until, I guess, it became all too serious. We shared a lot of the same interests and this went well in the beginning of the relationship, but in the end you want to have a person who you want to grow old with and that is where it went wrong.

He, being a Chinese man, wanted to go back and live in his hometown close to his family. I felt it would restrict me too much and I would end up in a small Chinese town with no family, no friends, only him to rely on at first (after some time, I could make friends and start a life there as well, I think). We already had some communication problems, because he was very quiet and he never discussed anything with me. Which let to some arguments before. This could be his personality (being a Cancer?!), but also something I observed in many Chinese men: they never discuss something with their girlfriends or wives and they avoid confrontations. Even if the girlfriend would yell at them, they just stand there and don’t react or react in a submissive way. After the girlfriend made a scene, the boyfriend is still doing everything for her. Incomprehensible in Western eyes: first of all, we wouldn’t make a scene in public. Secondly, we don’t like a man who doesn’t react, we want to argue with him, we want to hear his point of view. We want him to yell as well or at least show some emotion and after that we can solve the problem. The way I see it now, is that with Chinese men, everything builds up until it explodes.
So, this is something cultural, unfortunately, because it means that a lot of marriages are not based on love in China, but on a mutual acceptance: let’s just tolerate each other for our parents and have a child, so that our parents are happy. We, as a couple, don’t need to be happy, which, is changing, but it goes slowly. Chinese don’t seem to know how to communicate about their feelings, not even to their closed ones.

As a real Sagittarius I love to communicate. I can’t understand why people wouldn’t want to share a lot of stories, a lot of their dreams and desires with someone, in the least the person they are committed to. We can learn so much from each other, but then we have to talk to each other, no talk, no knowledge, right?

So, Nature – Nurture? I guess we are a combination of both, which makes it all the more interesting. If we would be completely like our star sign, we would know people immediately and there is no mystery, but because everyone has their unique life experiences, we can listen to them and learn more from everyone around us. Every person is unique and every person is worth listening to.

I hope that everyone will meet their soulmate and start life’s journey together to make their own unique stories….

 

Out of Nothingness came Everything – From Wu Ji to Tai Ji

“In the beginning was Nothingness, Out of Nothingness came a random thought. A thought caused a movement within the stillness that generated infinite ripples, Movement gave rise to Qi, vital breath. Breath congealed into the five elements – metal, water, wood, earth, fire – symbolic of matter. Then this chaos became organized by Yin and Yang. Breathing knew inhalation and exhalation, the universe was ordered according to duality; for only in the interaction and tension between polar opposites could movement and evolution arise.”

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This is the beginning of Tai Ji (or in Western spelling Tai Chi). With our Western mind it is hard to understand the concept of Nothingness, Everything, duality and Qi. Why should everything in the world be understood in terms of duality? What does Qi mean?
Tai Ji is more than just some health exercises or a martial art. It’s a whole philosophy, a totally different way of thinking. Once you start doing Tai Ji you start at the tip of the iceberg, but there is a huge mountain hidden underneath it. A mountain that is not easy to climb down. Most of it stays hidden, or is so difficult to understand with our Western mind.

The focus of Tai Ji is not on your hands or legs, it’s on your hips and Dantian. Dantian is your energy (Qi) centre, which lies more or less 2 thumbs under your navel. When you practice Tai Ji you have to focus your mind on your Dantian and send the energy (Qi) from there to other parts of your body and send it back to your Dantian. This simple concept (at least for the Chinese) is already so difficult to grasp for us. How can we feel that we are sending our Qi from our Dantian to the correct bodypart?? My teacher always told me that I am sending my Qi only to my knees and never the whole way down to my feet, so I put too much pressure on my knees and my feet are not grounded. For years, I had no idea what he was talking about. Now, I start to understand… I think (!?) Who can ever tell but a real Tai Ji master if you have enough Qi and if it is flowing through your body?

All this makes Tai Ji very interesting. You never stop learning. You can never say that you know 1 form really well. It takes years of practice to learn a form in detail and to connect all the details together: your hips have to be flexible, your whole body should be relaxed, but your legs should be firm, your breathing should connect your movements, your hands have to be open, but not too open, and so on, and so on,…
I would recommend everyone to start their own journey into Tai Ji and feel for yourself how you get to know your body all over again in a different way!