Since January, I have been going to a Tai Chi class twice a week at my local YMCA. The teachers are really patient, encouraging and laid back and I've enjoyed the whole experience much more than I had anticipated.
Initially, I had no interest in Tai Chi at all. I was more into picking up Tae Kwon Do again. After I had torn some ligaments in my ankle, I stopped classes and then with the move to Canada, then back to Korea and then back to Canada AGAIN, I never went back to Tae Kwon Do. However, the YMCA didn't offer TKD classes, only karate (and that was for kids!) So that left me with Tai Chi. I reasoned that this would be a good way to get back into stretching and movement. In addition, I was more comfortable as a gay man in a Tai Chi class than having to worry about it being an issue in a Tae Kwon Do class.
I was surprised that my background (1st level Dan or blackbelt) in martial arts made such a difference in learning Tai Chi. There are basic principles like the transfering weight from one foot to the other and the positioning of feet at certain angles that are shared between the two disciplines. It quickly became obvious in our beginner class that this was something I had an aptitude for! Who knew?
I also fell in love with the language of Tai Chi. Most of the posture steps have names that are really poetic. Some of my favorites are as follows: Stork Spreads/Cools Wings, Blue Dragon Flies Up From Ocean Bottom, Embrace the Tiger, Ward off Monkeys, Return to Mountain, Parts Clouds with Hands, Parts Horse's Mane, Grasp Sparrow's Tail (just to name a few).
There are 108 different steps in the first form. I am proud to say that I have learned them all ahead of schedule (the beginner class ends in May)! So now we are going back to the beginning and refining each individual move. This means going beyond the first three levels (hand, foot and hip placements) and focusing on posture and breathing. The instructors have started to get insanely picky but it's all good. I know that they see that I'm ready to learn more. It blows me away that someone like me, so inept at anything body related (read here for more), can discover a motor memory that I never knew I had!