In almost complete silence, a dozen folks standing in three neat rows on the polished wooden floor of Kennedy Hall flow together through a series of movements.
Slowly, they raise and lower their arms, bend their knees, twist their feet and change direction in unison. The set of movements takes about 10 minutes to complete.
There are 108 steps in the series… Carry Tiger to Mountain… Ward Off Monkey… Fair Lady Works Shuttles, Step Up to Grab Bird’s Tail…
The final step is called Closing of Tai Chi.
It’s a Wednesday morning session for practitioners of Surrey/Langley/White Rock branch of Fung Loy Kok Taoist Tai Chi.
It’s a “soft” martial art, with Chinese roots, that has evolved over the last few decades to focus on health benefits.
Bob Carpenter, president of the local chapter, says Taoist (pronounced “dow-ist”) Tai Chi promotes stress release and improves balance and flexibility for practitioners – including people with joint problems.
“For most people who practise tai chi, it’s a series of movements that are very good for their physical as well as their mental body.”
He describes its four basic tenants: To help others, to make the martial art available to all (there are sitting exercises for people with mobility issues, for example), to promote health, and to promote cultural exchange.
It’s also harder than it looks, despite it’s “soft” image.
“I think (newcomers) expect to find it a bit challenging as far as learning the moves,” says Carpenter. “But they’ll start to feel the health benefits in a very short time.”
Amanda Dier says she joined more than seven years ago to help alleviate severe back pain.
“It’s helped immensely,” she says. “It made my life so much easier.”
Brush Knees, one of the 108 moves, is her favourite – for helping her back.
The motions are “very internal,” explains the veterinary assistant. “The slow motion makes for a soft glide through the moves.”
Shirley Hutchinson transitioned to tai chi from yoga about three years ago when she developed arthritis in her wrists.
“It’s very gentle and is something I can do into old age.”
Hutchinson says that although some of the moves might give her trouble sometimes, it works best if she just relaxes her mind and goes with the flow.
“It’s all good if I don’t think about it. It works out.”
Kathy Hack, a four-year veteran who has benefitted physically and socially from the weekly sessions, says tai chi also helps with memory.
Learning the set, she says, “is another form of exercise… learning something new.”
The local chapter of Fung Loy Kok Taoist Tai Chi holds regular classes at Kennedy Hall, Ocean Park Hall, Elgin Hall, Murrayville Community Hall and Douglas Recreation Centre, and makes periodic visits to other locations. For days and times, visit www.taoist.org or http://bit.ly/1aJJZl8, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604-507-0700.