The alarm jars me from my sleep. It’s 6am. I feel dizzy but I manage to stand on my feet and, my eyes still tightly closed, I stumble on my way to the bathroom to have a quick shower. The splash of water on my head forces me to open my eyelid to discover a pale and attracting light that filters through the window; that makes me just in the right mood for my Taichi practice.
I walk down the 13 floors — approximately 230 stairs — of my hall and cross the street to reach Lok Fu Park, a decent size area dedicated to sports with football pitch, running tracks and green spots. Although it’s still quite early, I catch glimpses of numerous people already warming up and stretching, preparing for their morning session. Most of them are a good 50 years older than me and don’t even do Wushu, but I’ve investigated about the location of different groups of people and I know where to go to train “my” Taichi.
Around me, everybody’s busy with their daily schedule, as regular as clockwork beings; I encounter a couple who likes to jog around the field and follow a keep-fit trail — small spots scattered here and there with practical indication on exercises for increasing the legs, arms and heart’s capacity.
After them, a small group of people, their age ranging from their 30’s to their 80’s, practices sword techniques. I’m not quite sure this comes from the Taichi I do or from another form of it, but they look impressive and I look forward to being able to mime their moves.
Another group of women are laughing while doing their aerobic exercises under the sound of small radio — it seems it’s not all about Asian culture around here. I finally arrive at my destination, right after the toilets location. Heh, you shouldn’t forget about the convenience of your training’s place after all!
The man I’m meeting is called Li Wai Hung. He’s around 50 but looks fitter than me and barely speaks English: “Welcome Kunqin!” he greets me with his eyes expressing a bigger smile than his lips, still not believing I’d come so early.
I gave him my Chinese name as he couldn’t remember the one my parents’ gave me; it’s all the same for me, as long as I can improve my Taichi with him.
He’s been practising Taichi and Qigong — another form of healthy exercises based on rythmic breathing — for the last 20 years of his life. To me, it’s frankly quite a long time, but he’s almost ashamed he hasn’t started before.
“Before, I was smoking a lot — too much. But I decided to be more healthy and I started Taichi and Qigong. It’s great now!”
I try to understand why he suddenly changed his lifestyle so much but the language barrier unfortunately stops me from understanding the details. What I’m relatively sure about him, though, is that he had a car accident when he was young and that he injured his leg. He wanted to walk better and started training Taichi. If he hadn’t told me that, I would’ve never thought he had had troubles to walk in his life; his motion is fluid, elegant and precise, and his balance is beyong god-like to me.
But enough with the talking, let’s start practising. After a good stretch, he begins the 24 forms. I only know about 18 for now, while he can go on until 48 of them, but he kindly stops and wait for me. To relax me, he tells me that I have to “be” the form and not think of anything else while not focusing totally on my moves. Great, that’s totally contradictory: I have to think about it and also not think about it. Is it some kind of metaphor?
I must say his peaceful smile and the easiness with which he shows me the forms starts to get on my nerves. I keep doing and doing the moves but I feel it’s all too clumsy and jerky, as if my articulations are nothing but an old set of cogwheels. Without much confidence, I try to focus on every moves, cursing myself for my physical abilities, when Mr Li’s applause takes me away from my thoughts. I look at him and I see that he’s smiling: “Very good, very good!”.
Wait a moment… Does that mean that I have to curse myself to have good looking Taichi forms? Erm, that’s not what I expected actually. Lost in my thoughts yet again, I hear Mr Li saying: “Don’t think, your body must do it alone.”
This puzzles me a little when I suddenly realise that my little day-dreaming / pesting-against-myself was the key to the problem — more exactly, from the moment I let my body alone with the motion. It’s true my mind wasn’t exactly at peace but I wasn’t fully aware of my body either. I slowly start to grasp the notion of “being unaware” of what I’m doing to let my moves flow by themselves.
Overwhelmed by my discoveries, I try to remember this state of my mind but I miserably fail. I’m certainly too excited for that. Although we stop quickly after “the revelation” — I have lessons to attend — I warmly thank Mr Li again and, after some relaxation exercises, I return to my small room, wiser than the previous two and a half months of Taichi made me.
Once arrived, I find my roommate playing computer games. It’s only 7.30am… What a strange contrast it makes on me. I haven’t slept much but this Taichi experience filled me with energy and enthusiasm. I’m really looking forward to practicing more, either alone or with Mr Li, who’s been so helpful to me. And I’m sure I’ll be ready for my Taichi exam!
In the meanwhile, I hope you’ll enjoy doing Taichi, or at least that you’re willing to discover this truly amazing spor… sorry, martial art.