We’ve made some great friends since moving to the mainland back in 2012, one of whom is Paul Read a Tai Chi instructor and author who lives in Granada. Paul is also the author of a number of books including Inside the Tortilla (you can read our review here).
I’d describe Paul personally as a good friend, an entertaining and imaginative writer (and speaker) and one of the most chilled out people I’ve ever met. When you sit and talk to him he’s very ‘aware’, very calm, he listens, and when he talks you listen. Just what you’d expect from a highly experienced martial arts teacher.
Now, don’t be put off by the mention of martial arts, we aren’t heading into Kung Fu movie territory here. Tai Chi is a martial art, but it’s not about fighting, it’s about movement, health and well-being and balance, both physical and mental. Paul will probably shoot me down for this but think more akin to yoga (without all those strange muscle stretching positions) than full contact fighting.
So what’s this immortality headline about?
Well, today the teapotmOnk (Paul’s Tai Chi alter ego) is launching an online Tai Chi course entitled ‘How to Become an Immortal‘. It’s a somewhat grandiose claim I know, and presumably an unlikely end result. However, in the words of the teapotmOnk himself, here’s what the course can do for you…
How to Become an Immortal aims to teach not just the physical movements of Tai Chi, but their meanings, their applications and how they can help us to expand each moment so that we fill it with all the energy, laughter and life we can muster. Whether you are a complete newcomer to the art, or an experienced practitioner, there is something in this offering for everyone, and it is all served freshly brewed in an empty cup.
So what can you expect in terms of results? I can’t speak for Paul on this one so decided to ask him and have a chat about his project.
Alan: Mr mOnk, what can people expect to achieve from participating in your Tai Chi course?
teapotmOnk: Well, the course is entitled: “How to become an Immortal” and this originates from the old practice of the Chinese sages that sought to extend their lives through the practices of Tai Chi. This was not to find an everlasting life in which your friends and family decayed and died whilst you remained unchanged, but rather that to extend and expand the quality of the present moment, and hence live more fully and with greater health. Other than immortality, Tai Chi offers different benefits to different people, it all depends on what you are looking for. Want to relax more, sleep better, slow down a little, not get too stressed? Then Tai Chi can help. Want better balance, co-ordination, strength? Then Tai Chi can give you these. Want to rediscover grace, ease of movement and higher energy levels? Look no further. What makes Tai Chi interesting, is that it teaches not just abstract principles, but actual physical exercises that convert ideas to action, theory to practice. This is what makes it such a powerful art.
Alan: How long have you been studying and when did you start teaching Tai Chi?
teapotmOnk: I’ve been practising martial arts since I was about 11 years old and haven’t really stopped since. I began giving classes in Tai Chi in the late 1980’s when my Chilean instructor returned to her homeland and asked me to take over her classes. Since then I’ve taught all over the place: in health centres, hospitals, martial art clubs, Town Halls, schools, evening classes, and now – onine. I studied philosophy and languages at university and this helped me see Tai Chi as not simply a martial art, but as an unspoken language that uses movement and silence as its vocabulary. Curiously, when we work in silence – without a reliance on words – our other senses become sharpened.
Alan: Who is the course suitable for?
teapotmOnk: Tai Chi is suitable to all: Young, old, male, female, mortals, Immortals – the benefits can be picked up and employed by anyone, at any stage of life. Over the years, I’ve noticed however, that many people come to Tai Chi because they want to improve their balance, coordination, boost their energy levels or develop better concentration. Some people want to learn to relax more, to let things be, to laugh at the absurdity of life and to frown a lot less. Others want to breathe easier, to sleep easier, to walk or move with less joint stiffness, less muscle fatigue.
Alan: In a nutshell, what is Tai Chi? Am I right in thinking it has much, if not more in common with yoga than Bruce Lee giving Chuck Norris a kicking?
teapotmOnk: It’s a bit of both really Alan. Unlike Yoga that emerged from India, Tai Chi has its origins in China – where it is referred to as “internal” martial art. This means it focuses on slow moves, relaxation and softness rather than speed, strength and hardness. Something that the famous black and white Yin Yang circle symbolises. In fact Tai Chi embraces a lot of Chinese philosophy in its movements. And it is the Movements that are really the key to Tai chi. For unlike mediation, in Tai Chi we are rarely still – movement is always present – even the breath is never held but constantly shifting from inside to out.
Alan: If I were to sign up, do I need silk pyjamas or any other special clothing and equipment? Or, can I come to your online classes in my normal jeans and t-shirt (or indeed my penguin emblazoned regular flannel jim-jams)?
teapotmOnk: As long as I don’t have to see them you are most welcome to wear your jim-jams or anything from your eclectic wardrobe Alan. Seriously, I tell my students to wear what they usually wear. It’s not a good idea to have to change into a uniform every time you need to employ a Tai Chi exercise or movement. Think how this slowed down Clark Kent.
Alan: Presumably given the wonders of technology it’s possible to participate any time anywhere in the world, health and safety risk assessment permitting?
teapotmOnk: I put off teaching online for a long time thinking it couldn’t substitute for a local class. But people started contacting me from far away saying there was no school near them, or their work timetable forbade them from attending regular hours, or they tried a class and couldn’t keep up with the pace of fast learners, so eventually had to leave. For these, and other reasons, online teaching offers flexibility of hours, no travelling, the option of working at a personal pace etc. As for health, if you can stand, breathe and walk, then you can do Tai Chi.
Alan: Where can anyone interested find out more about you and the course?
teapotmOnk: I should say that my approach to Tai Chi is not the standard approach. If you want mediation and incense sticks and Chinese music, then there are plenty of other teachers. To get an idea of what I offer, take a look at the school on teachable.com. Here you can download the course program and try out a whole series of sessions for free before making up your mind if its for you. If you’d rather just explore my 21st century version of Tai Chi, then visit my web site (teapotmonk.com) or listen to my podcasts on iTunes or Stitcher (Empty Your Cup with the teapotmOnk)
Alan: And if anyone has any specific questions, how might they contact you?
teapotmOnk: You can get me via Facebook or just write teapotmonk in google or elsewhere and I’ll turn up.
In all seriousness, I’m looking forward to seeing more of Paul’s course, even to the point of contemplating dipping my hands in my pockets myself (it doesn’t happen often). Knowing Paul as I do, I know he knows his stuff and I have no doubt it’ll be far more than just droll how to instructional dullness. He’s an entertaining chap with a sense of humour and an engaging presentation style and I’m certain those who do sign up won’t be disappointed.