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Learn Tai Chi in Three Weeks – or Your Money Back

October 2, 2011

So there I am, sitting in my office preparing the afternoon’s oral lesson (which, incidentally, nobody turned up to because somebody had a birthday – little buggers) when I hear the odd reedy tones of Chinese traditional music wafting in through the window; distorted partly by the glass, partly by the tinny speakers it’s being blasted through, and partly by the occasional punctuation of an authoritative, if diminutive, sounding Chinese voice barking out orders every few minutes. Curious, I take a peek out of the window and see, in the corridor, outside, a heard of people in their office gear stumbling their way through what looks like the same Tai Chi form I’ve been practicing with my wisened old man in the mornings outside my house.

I look out on this with a mix of interest and dread. Tiffany – my department boss – has already explained to me that there is a very big Tai Chi competition coming up, which her department wins every year. I of course found this interesting and had already begun the thought process in my head of watching such a spectacle, taking some nice pictures, whether it would make an interesting blog, when I realised Tiffany was still speaking, “…and we would like you to take part with us this year.”

Huh? What? “Oh, really? Wow!” Is all I can manage to say.

Perhaps assuming it is gratitude, not terror, that has choked me she smiles and nods, “Uh huh, it will take place in three weeks time.”

Three weeks. Splendid. Plenty of time to learn a skill from scratch and demonstrate it competitively to thousands of people who have probably been exposed to it for most of their lives. So, this is why I was not too surprised when a man sidled in to the office as I watched.

“Mr Cooke?” he enquires. I nod. A cold sweat breaks out across my forehead. “Would you like to come and do some Tai Chi with us?”

I smile, and nod again. Out I go, wearing my work clothes and my big heavy walking boots – not conducive to a graceful Nathaniel. Happily, the form is in fact not too dissimilar to the one I’ve been learning (it might actually be the same, I can’t pretend to have any idea what’s happening half the time – I just grin and copy the nice Chinese people) and I seem to get on fine. I even stay behind and get some much needed tips from the teacher.

Still this monumentally fails to prepare me for the next day, when I mention to Tiffany I’ve had my first class. “Yes, I hear you were very good” she says. I put this down to politeness. “And the Dean has decided she would like you to lead the group with her in the competition.”

This is declared with the same keen and friendly smile, like Tiffany has in fact just told me I’ve won staff member of the month, not that in three weeks time I will be leading a group of people in demonstrating a martial art that I have only just started, that traditionally takes ten years to master, and that requires more grace than I fear my body is capable of mustering.

Still, and however misguided the request in my humble opinion, it’s a huge honour to be asked and I’d be a fool to turn down the opportunity. So there I will be in three weeks time – if ever I needed an impetus for getting stuck in to training this is it, and to be fair I am quite chuffed to be asked. For good or ill, it’s certainly going to make one hell of a story…

Aside from that, we’re in Chengdu this week, the capital of Sichuan Province. Visited an ancient village and a very cool antiques store earlier, and off to see the Pandas tomorrow morning. Photos and some more amusing mishaps coming soon.

  1. Marc Moor permalink

    Three weeks, I will count that down with you…

  2. Stuart Wraith permalink

    they must have noticed your raw natural talent. I can’t wait to read about it in a few weeks.

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