As you might note by the title that I have just finished my first week of Tai ChiChien, Chuan, or whatever. I suppose you could call it an exercise in futility or a discipline but most certainly I call it frustration. Not really, but it’s something new and sort of awkward for an older gentleman like me.
I have always been curious about those mystic eastern disciplines like Tai Kwan Do and Kung Foo but have never seriously considered practicing them until recently. I am retired and I spend an exorbitant time fussing in and about my house and not getting out much. I believe the term is recluse. It seems I only go to three places; to the doctor, to the Home Depot or Lowe's and to HEB (a grocery store) and occasionally to Sam’s Liquor Store. Of course there is always Sunday when I finally shave and put on something other than shorts and a t-shirt to attend church.
My wish was to just do anything that would get me out and about. I looked into some advanced art classes but I found none that were taught in English so that was a wash out. At present I am decoupaging my empty whiskey bottles. Hey! I’m recycling my empty glass whiskey bottles which you can’t throw in the blue recyclable’s garbage can because they are glass. They used to go into the trash but like the rocks I cut and polish, I turn the empty bottles into something beautiful. I guess my family and friends now know what they’re getting for Christmas.
Here I go pattering about empty glass whiskey bottles when this article is supposed to be about Tai Chi. Ha! I heard a quote the other day that said “I am distracted from distraction by distraction.” Makes a lot of sense to me.
I attended these classes at two separate facilities. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are at the Laredo Medical Center (LMC) and Tuesday and Thursday were at the Haynes Center which is an upscale senior exercise palace. For real and you have to buy a membership which isn’t much (remember senior discount and senior circle privilege) At least the LMC is a hospital in case you have a stroke doing the exercises. I commend them on their upstream thinking.
I might add that if you think all this slow moving, waving hands and slow motion acrobatic aerobics aren’t hard I will correct you. Actually they are easy but awkward and you stretch places you haven’t stretched in a long while. Believe me when I say I was a trooper and performed admirably and watched and copied the instructor’s leads as best I could. You know they actually ask you to stand on one leg and then the other and do it again but this time you are supposed to kick. Yea! Really! I fell over every time, my balance was atrocious.
I might add something of note. All three lessons at the LMC were in Spanish and I had no idea what they were saying let alone misinterpreting what I did hear. The very first command is “punta” which meant to raise your left foot and point your toe. I swear every time they said it I thought they were saying “puta” which means prostitute or whore. There was another command where they told you to push forward and draw back and the word for push is “empuje”but all I heard was “pussay”. Reminded me of Lee Marvin in the movie Big Red One when he was telling the pregnant woman to push in what he thought was French, “pussche”! Yea! I have a problem with my ears when it comes to Spanish. For example; “sospechosos” which means suspicious sounds just like “suspechos” which in Spanish means, your breasts. My wife and her friends have had a lot of fun with my Spanish so I don’t speak and often mistake what I hear. I just smile and pretend I understand but I probably look like a bewildered deer in the headlights especially when they speak fast.
Getting back to the Tai Chi and my experience. The first day I fawned masculinity and behaved macho but I was about to collapse and was preparing to sit down when the instructor told me it was the last exercise and it was just a cool down routine and easy. Lord! He didn’t know I was on the verge of collapsing in a heap. I made it through the last exercise and bid everyone adieu and proceeded to my truck. I got just outside the door of the LMC and my knees were so weak that I had to sit down on a bench. Several of my new classmates passed by and I acknowledged them and said I was waiting on my wife to pick me up which was a dang lie but I couldn’t walk another step. I sat there and chewed my lip and felt so annoyed about being so weak and out of shape. Crap! I hadn’t lifted anything or ran or jogged but I was whipped. I finally made it to my truck and drove home and had to take a serious recuperative nape. I progressively got better as the week progressed with ample amounts of "Alieve" and muscle liniment. I hate the liniment because it stinks and then feels like "Icy-hot" and of course you smell like an old person. Who-Me? Go Figure!
At points I was actually startled like when they told us to put our hands on our hips and rotate our torso first clockwise and then counterclockwise. Really? Bowing forward was easy but bending backwards was as if I had a spinal splint in place or stainless steel rods in my back. They were certainly presumptuous in their expectations. On top of that they asked us to rotate our necks the same way. Lord Have Mercy! My neck sounded like a car driving slowly down a gravel road with the window down. All I could hear was the sound of my neck bones crunching.
I might add that I am still male and positioned myself to observe the ladies in front of me but alas! It was a hopeless endeavor because there is no one in these classes under 60. Often times we would pivot and rotate so that I was in front which was hilarious because I had no one to watch and copy so I feebly attempted to look over my shoulder at what was being performed. I was told to ape the person next to me but all of us at the back of the class are inept. I just reverted to sheepish grin until everything turned back so I could watch an instructor.
My instructor pointed me in the direction of their web site and to their “you-tube videos” which I am supposed to watch and learn from and offered early instruction before classes started which I availed myself of. On the web site they offered references to buying a proper Tai Chi Sword. Swords for the men and fans for the women for an advanced exercise. I would not buy a fake sword so it would have to be functional one. Can you imagine me waving a truly sharp sword about inexpertly in close quarters as I learn? I didn’t think so! I will quail my eagerness for the time being until I am more proficient lest they arrest me for terrorism, Laredo Man Hacks Way Thru Tai Chi Class.
It has been a truly eventful week. My wife accompanied me on Friday and seemed pleased so maybe now I will have a partner to share the experience with. It’s Saturday and as soon as I finish this blog I will go watch a Tai Chi video. If I’m not proficient and agile I am certainly as obstinate and stubborn as a mule and will not be deterred. Wish me well as I “float like a butterfly and bend like a willow” with all the grace of a bear.