With the Olympics opening ceremony being shown on American TV tonight, I'm enthused about the possibility of Tai Chi becoming trendy in this country.
I've been learning Tai Chi for almost four years and do a modified version of the Cheng Man-ch'ing "short form" several times a week on the wood floor of a weights room at our athletic club.
So far I've been asked what I'm doing exactly once – by a couple who took Tai Chi at the club until classes ended, and hoped that I could lobby the manager to get them reinstated (or, teach them myself).
Most people, I expect, just see a gray-haired guy waving his arms around and doing something strange. Hopefully after tonight they'll recognize it as Tai Chi, assuming that my form somewhat resembles what's going to be displayed at the opening ceremony.
I couldn't find any video of the ceremony, which has already happened. But some descriptions of it make me eager to see the Tai Chi.
[Update: Check out this video of the main Tai Chi section of the opening ceremony. Amazing!]
A liveblog: The dancers fan out again, and it's time for the next section of the ceremony, which will demonstrate the unity of man and nature. And I know what this first bit is too - it's a group of people performing Tai Chi. The dancing squad are holding up reflective screens, which are making ribbons of light flash across the arena. Then the huge plasma screens at the top of the stadium kick in, giving the impression of very specifically focused torrential rain.
Another blog: Some other exhibitions follows but what I like best is the Tai Chi part of the program. A massive group of Chinese people formed a circle around a grand piano while doing their Tai Chi steps. It's so amazing on how did they manage to keep their line straight while jumping and hopping to different places. I am so impressed!
CBS sports blog: Hundreds of guys in white outfits perform a finely choreographed tai chi routine. Wow, that was much more impressive then the solo tai chi routine performed every afternoon at the park near my apartment by that shady unemployed guy.
And: Sydney may have had an army of Hills Hoists and lawn mowers, but the Chinese came wielding drums, light sticks and for their martial arts display, nothing but themselves. Tai chi, or kung fu, or it may have been a mixture of both featured as several hundred performers moved magically as one through a series of moves and spiral kicks. Even their battle cries came as if from one person.
If you live near Salem, Oregon and are drawn to try Tai Chi, you're in luck. My instructor, Warren Allen of the Pacific Martial Arts Academy on Court Street downtown, is top notch.
Don't be thrown off by the "martial arts" mention. Tai Chi indeed is a martial art – the foundation of all martial arts, in Warren's informed opinion – and it can be practiced as such.
But most people in my classes aren't focused on Tai Chi as self-defense. They enjoy it as a movement art, for the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. It helps keep you flowing and flexible, a benefit at any age.