When I finally started classes at the Northern School of Tai Chi, I had children just coming to school age, and found it tiring keeping up with them - I'd find myself drinking coffee just to stay awake in the afternoons. I told myself that I needed to relax, and went along to the class (luckily only five minutes drive away) with a friend and my mother. I found my first session a very intense experience, but once I started, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue as far as I was able. After a few weeks, I found that rather than being relaxed, as I originally wanted to be, Tai Chi gave me energy , and it was much easier to cope with the children. I find this is a feature of Tai Chi; it may not always give you what you want, but if you stick with it, it will give you what you need.
My original teacher, Dan Russell, was (and still is) an intriguing character. As well as running Tai Chi classes, he was a black belt in Goju Ryu karate and ran a Hypnotherapy clinic. When my eldest boy started Karate (thanks to the Power Rangers!) I was 'persuaded' to learn too, and stayed with it for nearly three years, stopping just short of brown belt level. At the time I enjoyed it - it also gave me a lot more energy, I lost weight, my fitness level went through the roof, and it helped me to better understand the martial aspect of Tai Chi. I eventually gave it up, because as I progressed, the risk of injury increased, and I felt more comfortable with Tai Chi and with the Yoga style that Dan's partner Lulu taught, a very dynamic style called Astanga. I still practice Yoga when I can although I will probably never manage the more athletic movements.
Through Dan, I met a phenomenal Taiji teacher, Patrick Kelly, originally from New Zealand. He was one of the first Westerners to be accepted for training in Yang style Taiji by Master Huang Shen Shyan in Taiwan. He studied intensively for some years, then started to teach in and around Europe. Dan heard of him and was so impressed when they met that he asked him to come and visit our school, and he came regularly; originally once a year for a week at a time, and then less frequently. He also sent some of his senior students to help us 'polish up' our Form and partner work.
Whilst all this was going on, one of my training partners invited me to her class. Yvonne (sadly no longer with us) ran a class for older people close to her home. After a couple of sessions, she told me she was planning to move away, and asked if I'd like to take over her class. I was completely taken by surprise as it had never occurred to me to teach - and I still had so much to learn! However, I agreed, and she taught me some simple and gentle exercises that were more suitable for the class. Over the years, I took on more classes - sometimes on my own, but mostly people would ask, and I'd set it up. Sometimes they really took off and other times they didn't, but I built them up and by the time my younger son left home for University I was self employed and worked every day of the week in various locations.
That day when I decided to follow my instinct and start Tai Chi has brought me a long way - but I'm aware there's still so much to learn, and I love helping others to discover how much it has to offer. I'm looking forward to every second!