True Fortune Tai Chi is a centre for Tai Chi, Qigong and Meditation practice based in the city of Bristol. Our classes and workshops emphasise the internal movement and breathwork associated with these arts, using these traditional techniques to promote mental and physical wellbeing.
Our classes in Bristol offer in-depth instruction in several styles of Qigong, but focus in particular on the practice of Taijiwuxigong (‘Tai Chi Five Subtle-Breath Cultivations’). As the name suggests, this Qigong is closely integrated with the Tai Chi that we teach, and offers a very clear way to achieve many of its important health benefits. This way of practicing also makes use of Spontaneous Movement exercise, in which we allow the movement of our internal energy to stretch and open our body without seeking to impose direction.
Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese martial art that uses slow, gentle movements to cultivate strength, calm, and flexibility. Through the movements of the Tai Chi postures we activate the energy centres within our body, and then use this energy for martial practice as well as self-healing. This way of exercising places great emphasis on quieting our mind, and so can also be thought of as a form of moving meditation. Our Bristol based classes are led by Andrew Wormald, and follow the teachings of Dr Shen Hongxun.
Tai Chi and Qigong practice provide a gentle physical exercise which medical studies have shown to be beneficial for the health of the heart, bones, nerves, muscles, and immune system. Regular practice has also been shown to lead to improved balance, vigour, and flexibility. Within the exercises there is a strong emphasis on the health of the spine, meaning that regular practice can also provide great relief for those suffering with back & neck pain. The exercises practiced at our school are appropriate for people of all ages, and can be varied in terms of intensity according to each individuals needs.
On a very fundamental level, Tai Chi and Qigong practice help bring the practitioners mind back into their body, helping them to develop an awareness of their current physical state. This kind of awareness has entered public consciousness under the term “mindfulness”, research into which has shown it to benefit people’s emotional state, to reduce stress, and to alleviate symptoms of depression. In addition to this physical awareness, Tai Chi and Qigong practice also place great emphasis on developing a strong mental intention which can lead to a more lively and spirited state of mind.
A typical class will start with warm-up exercises to get the body loose and open, before moving on to practice simple Qigong exercises which incorporate important principles that will be explored in the Tai Chi form. In addition to these solo exercises, it is also possible that a class might include various forms of partner work to further develop awareness of our body and how we interact with others. The end of the class might incorporate some form of simple meditation practice, helping us to further explore the peaceful qualities we have developed.
The NHS website recognises that Tai Chi has been shown to reduce stress, improve posture, balance and general mobility, and to increase muscle strength in the legs.
The Harvard Medical School website also notes that Tai Chi can help maintain strength, flexibility, and balance and could be the perfect activity for the rest of your life.
This BBC article from 2015 suggests that in the future it might be possible to consider prescribing Tai Chi for patients with several types of illness.
It is best to wear loose fitting clothing and simple flat-soled shoes. Then, after practicing for some time, you might also like to invest in a pair of cotton-soled Tai Chi shoes. In addition to appropriate clothing, it can also be worthwhile bringing some water to class, and perhaps a small towel if you are planning to engage more intensively with the exercises. It is also advised that you remove any jewellery in order to avoid accidents.
Tai Chi is fundamentally a set of principles which the practitioner attempts to realise within their own body in order to cultivate physical and mental wellbeing. As such, anyone with a body is already in a very good position to get started. Younger people bring with them the advantages and disadvantages of youth, and older students those that come with age. Through Tai Chi practice we seek to work with whatever our current physical and mental makeup might be, attempting to restore health and well-being in whatever capacity is available to us. In practical terms, we can increase the intensity of the exercises for those with more vigour, and can often modify them for those who find the exercises too demanding. Given the nature of group classes, however, anyone who would find it difficult to engage in gentle standing exercise for about one hour’s time, might prefer to attend a class specifically tailored to their needs.
Many people associate the practice of Tai Chi and Qigong with absolute relaxation, but this means that a number of the important healing aspects of these practices are being ignored. Stretching is also important as it can help us to become more flexible, correct physical misalignment, and open the body’s Qi meridians. In Tai Chi and Qigong practice we often talk about the importance of harmonising Yin and Yang, and one manifestation of this is the need to harmonise stretching and relaxation. If we stretch too strongly we might create tensions in our body which prevent us from moving as one harmonious whole; however, if we relax too much, we are likely to just fall down on the ground like a bag of old bones. When we achieve a harmony of stretching and relaxation, our body will have a whip-like elasticity which reveals the internal strength hidden in these gentle movements.
We follow the teachings of Dr Shen Hongxun who regarded Professor Yao Huanzi (Yue Huanzhi), a proponent of Yang style Taijiquan, as one of his primary masters. Dr Shen’s other important Tai Chi teacher was his father-in-law Xia Zixin with whom he studied Nanpai Taiji Sa’qi (Southern School Tai Chi Thirty-Seven) – also known as Siming Nanpai Taijigong (Siming Southern School Tai Chi Cultivation) – which focuses on developing strong internal movement through the use of standing exercises. Another important influence on this style is the Emei Shi’er Zhanzhuang (Twelve Standing Exercises of Emei Mountain), a traditional Qigong system used by fighters and healers alike to strengthen their bodies, open the Qi meridians, and prepare themselves for meditation.
The Qigong exercises that we practice in class, whilst in some cases derived from Tai Chi, do not require that any reference be made to fighting or fighting concepts. When practising Tai Chi our emphasis is on developing subtle internal movements which stretch and open the body for the purpose of self-healing. In order to do this, we often discuss the martial intent behind each posture, but we do not engage in any kind of sparring or competition.
Tai Chi practice can at times be very physically demanding, and can challenge us mentally in many different ways; however, as long as we remember to smile and enjoy ourselves, we are already well on the way to mastery.