ID #1055

Mei Quan Academy of Tai Chi

Image provided by Mei Quan Tokyo

If you’re looking for some calm in your life, as well as a bit of a workout, why not give tai chi or qi gong a go?

To get a better idea of what practicing these arts entails, The Classifieds Blog went to Mari Saito from Mei Quan Tokyo for some information. Mari was kind enough to e-mail us some answers, as well as instructions for “Shoot the Golden Eagle,” one of Mei Quan’s forms.

Can you tell us a bit about Tai Chi and Qi Gong?
Tai chi (correctly spelled “taiji,” or fully as “taijiquan”) is perhaps one of the most famous ways to develop balanced health for the body and the mind. Most commonly, it involves practicing a sequence of flowing interconnected movements (or “form”) to relax and strengthen the body, improve coordination and develop awareness. It is largely unknown in the West, however, that tai chi is also a martial art and an application of traditional Asian philosophy. At Mei Quan Academy, interested students can decide to study any or all of the five aspects of tai chi: development of one’s health, meditation, martial arts, spiritual self-development, as well as aspects of Chinese medicine and traditional culture.

At Mei Quan Tokyo, we teach qi gong as a practice in its own right as well as a foundation for tai chi. In qi gong, the movements are simpler and initially easier to learn; practice is more meditative and the student learns to develop more subtle control and sensitivity to their alignment and breathing. My teacher once described it this way: “Tai chi is the dance, qi gong provides the dance moves.”

Students can practice just qi gong to relax the body and calm the mind, but with tai chi, you can also start to learn the bigger picture.

How did you become involved with tai chi and qi gong?
While I was living in London, I lived a busy life bringing up children after a professional career. I had been suffering for some time with tiredness, and as a Japanese, I had heard that tai chi might help solve this problem. Once I started tai chi, I just loved it. Soon I found I had become much more capable physically and mentally. I started learning all the different aspects, healing, martial arts, philosophy. I was lucky to have great teachers to guide me.

One day, I recall my teacher telling us how tai chi was only still available because of how it had been passed down through the generations to this day by people who loved and were dedicated to the art. I realized I could share with other people what I knew, because tai chi had made such a difference in my life.

What kind of training do you have?
I undertook my training with the Mei Quan Academy in the traditional way. This means that I worked my way up from being a student, to assisting in a local class, to training with more and more senior students until I was invited to attend a teacher training class. Assessment and feedback was continuous throughout; similar to an apprenticeship. The training was rigorous and challenging, but eventually my teachers considered me ready to share what I’d learned and I was invited to start teaching. I consider training an ongoing process and I continue to train regularly with my teachers in London as well as other members of Mei Quan’s group of international teachers.

Can you tell us about the history of the Mei Quan Academy of Taiji?
Mei Quan Academy of Tai Chi (pronounced “May Ch-one”) has been teaching Yang-style tai chi and qi gong since 1990, and now operates in 43 locations across London. The school was founded with the goal of bringing all aspects of the art to the West. Recently, the school has started to grow beyond the shores of the UK and has two new international branches in Sydney and Tokyo, with more planned in the US and across Europe.

I returned home to Tokyo in 2013. I was born and brought up here and I’ve now moved back to live, and to share the tai chi I’ve learned.

What is the general make-up of classes and what languages are spoken? Would it be hard to follow classes if a student didn’t speak English or Japanese?
Students at Mei Quan Tokyo are typically a 50:50 mix of men and women aged between 25-55. It seems to appeal to all walks of life, from those who want to improve health to those who want to learn more about Asian culture. Students are a mix of English and multinational students, including Japanese. Traditionally tai chi and qi gong were taught with minimal instruction, so you can still get a great deal just by watching, however, classes are taught in English (although I do also speak Japanese).

Are there any requirements for joining?
Tai chi is often more vigorous than people expect. Students will often break a sweat in class and find they are using muscles they have never used before. That said, it is not aerobic exercise and students quickly settle in. You can start practice at any time of life! But, if you’re concerned about your physical ability, you should discuss it with the teacher first.

What clothes should people wear to lessons?
You’ll need some loose, comfortable clothes — plain, subdued colors are recommended. All our classes are done barefooted to help improve the health of the feet.

Can you explain the usual lesson flow?
Our tai chi classes usually start with warm-ups and body-conditioning exercises. We then learn and practice some qi gong for its health benefits and to remove any energy blockages throughout the body. Initially, we work on exercises promoting coordination, balance and suppleness.

The rest of the class is dedicated to developing sensitivity, grounding, and the quality of being “centered” (like the calm in the middle of the storm). Some of the exercises in our style, which beginners start learning straight away, are the 24-step Tai Chi Form and Eight Pieces of Brocade Qi Gong.

Once students have enrolled in one of our courses, they also gain access to our International Community site. This includes articles on Asian culture, movies, recipes, and of course, extensive resources such as pictures, instructions and videos to aid practice.

What are the benefits of practicing tai chi and qi gong?
The benefits of regularly practicing tai chi and qi gong include:

  • Becoming calm, centered and grounded
  • Coordination, balance, suppleness and skill
  • Harmony of body, mind and spirit, and harmony with natural cycles
  • Self-knowledge, confidence, self-discipline
  • Developing increased energy

You also teach meditation. Can you tell us about how meditation works in your classes?
In classes, we teach a simple, non-religious approach to meditation. These are taught as part of our qi gong class and include exercises like simple focus on the breath, walking meditation and more advanced visualizations. Meditation helps to train the mind, which is a key part of developing the awareness and calm essential to tai chi and qi gong practice.

Where are lessons held and at what time?
Currently, classes are held at the Fortuna Studio in the popular Roppongi district (3A Roppongi Fortuna Bld., 7-12-23 Minato-ku).
Qi gong and meditation classes are on Thursdays at 6:30-7:15pm, followed by tai chi from 7:30-8:45pm. We also offer private classes, one-off classes in the beautiful parks of Tokyo (in the summer), and have plans for dedicated fan and Japanese classes in the near future.

Can you explain one easy-to-perform technique that our readers could try on their own?
I’ve taken the following exercise from the Mei Quan training resources. It’s a little simplified for easy use.

Shoot the Golden Eagle

This is a beautiful movement based on pulling the string of a bow and arrow. It helps to open the chest and shoulders as well as improve the health of the hands.

All exercises are best practiced under supervision, and this is just an example to give you an idea of some of the kind of material you will get to practice in class.

Starting position
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart
- Hands should be in front of your chest, palms facing towards you
- Fingertips should be pointing towards each other, your elbows pointing out to the sides

As you breath out
- Lift hand so the fingers point up. Turn the palm out to the right and push through the air away from you until your arm straightens
- At the same time, make a light fist with the left hand and pull your left elbow in the opposite direction, as if you are drawing a bow

As you breath in
- Relax the left arm and smoothly bring your right hand back to the start position
- Repeat on both sides eight times.

Extra Pointers
- Keep your knees slightly bent all the time and take deep slow breaths
- Try pulling back the fingers gently on the outstretched arm so that you can feel a stretch in your forearm and upper arm. You can also pull the elbow back to increase the stretch in the chest
- Keep your shoulders and arms relaxed throughout
- Don’t lock the elbow when you extend the arm to ensure you do not put stress on the joint

Thank you so much for all of the information. To get in touch with the Mei Quan Academy of Tai Chi, visit the Mei Quan webpage, Facebook page, or e-mail Mari at mari@meiquantaich.com. You can also check out their Twitter feed

Tags: advertiser, Body, classifieds, Features, Mei Quan, Mind, Mind Body Spirit, Spirit, Tai Chi

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Last update: 2014-12-19 02:09
Author: Metropolis Classifieds
Revision: 1.2

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