A little over thirty years ago my daughters competed in roller skating. I attempted the sport with them competing in figures.
|"Zombie Puppets on Roller Skates" is a procion dyed raw silk and cotton print banner from 1984.|
And now many years later I wish I could learn Tai Chi instantly. I just started, in April, learning Dr. Paul Lam's Tai Chi for Arthritis at the Sam Fit Gym here in Albany taught by a very good certified instructor, Joann. The reason for this new class is that among many health benefits for seniors Tai Chi increases balance. Lam's Tai Chi choreography is the only Tai Chi endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation of America as a proven fall preventative exercise program for all ages especially for seniors. Very important for me because I need to be more mindful of what my body is doing, maintaining strength and balance. I have a history of gawking, not watching my step, and tripping especially when site seeing.
My goal is getting fit for travels with granddaughters this September. This soft martial art will increase my confidence making me less of a target for unwanted incidents. In addition I am enthused about this class because I hope to be more aware of the chi in my painting just as rollerskating became important in my art in the 80's.
Traditional Tai Chi has competitions. But in Lam's, there are not any judges or Tai Chi police. Perfection is not the goal.
| Three turn moving forward |
twisting at the waist and locked
Many similarities cross over from my early roller skating experience. One similarity is bending the knee of the supporting leg so the body can rise and fall making for a fluid movement. Skating figures and Tai Chi both need focused concentration like meditation. Never my dream of a magical zombie auto pilot!
One difference is the changes in speed of movements. In Tai Chi speed is consistent. In skating speed varies. Shifting from one direction to another is performed with an abrupt quick snap for instance.
In the three turn, one, the torso twists; two, the upper body locks the torso in the twisted position; and three, the supporting leg and skate is pulled around to the same direction as the locked torso. The skater continues to move in the same direction and speed as before only the body is facing the opposite way. In the three turn the body revolves 180 degrees while the direction of skating movement continues in the same direction.
In a roller skating pivot the skater first sways in the opposite direction that they intend to go in a 90 degree change in skating direction. The skater does not twist at the waist but opens their hips to a 90 degree angle. Then with a snap, fast move transfers weight to the opposite skate swaying in the direction they wish to go.
The Tai Chee pivot I am now learning is called Brush the Knee. Briefly, the process is breath, shift most weight on foot on the side preparing to turn. The opposite foot swivels pigeon toed in the turning direction at the same time the torso swivels away from the turn winding up to throw an imaginary pie with the opposite hand to the foot advancing. The eye follows the hand back for better movement back. When the throw advances the eye shifts to where the pie is aimed. During the throw the advancing foot naturally swivels on the toe before stepping forward placing the hee down first with most of the weight on the forwarding foot the back foot advances. Then gently rests down with only a little weight on the foot a little behind. The hand on this resting foot gently falls to that knee. The foot is poised to move either forward or back.
So used to extending movement, I feel my Tai Chi is wrong until I see myself in a mirror. When I become accustomed to Tai Chi, I will feel what I am doing better.
One important similarity between the two is the usefulness of imaging in the mind's eye.
both use the image of a string attached to the top of the head. The string holds the body in alignment. Some steps are quick and locked in skating while Tai Chi strives to be even. Locking an extended leg or arm blocs the blood flow.
In Tai Chi the moves are contrapposto, a term used in art in which the hips and shoulders are opposed up and down. Tai Chi embodies the ying yang concept!
|Progress on painting inspired by last week's blog|
on the benefits of keeping my old work
The old work was a painting of the same location over 30 years ago
and Van Gogh whose paintings have the energy of chi.
I am excited to continue and feel the chi not only in my exercise and better health but also in my painting.
|Swallows, oil, 11" x 14" |
My understanding of Chi:
In painting the life force is made visible by paths of movement.
Last evening's Tai' Chi class I heard what is impeeding my progress in learning. I practiced looking in a mirror or look for cues from the instructor. Better not to be concerned about perfection and look within own space and mind doing my own Tai. Interestingly the same advise in Lee Ann Lehni's lyrics for my illustrations.
More on my painting experience next week.