If you ever thought that the slow, steady movements of Tai Chi were just for old people, then you’d be very much mistaken. We went to try out the new classes at Talise Spa, Madinat Jumeirah, with Master Shi Yan Can, who, at just 26, is an expert in the discipline. Hailing from the famous Shaolin Kung Fu Academy, he has trained since he was a child and is in Dubai to teach the benefits of martial arts.
As we begin the class Master Can explains that Tai Chi is all about the mind leading the body, and he plays some calming Chinese classical music as we start. Can breaks the class down into three segments – a warm-up, meditation and Tai Chi form.
The first part includes plenty of deep stretching of the whole body, and activating our vital organs and muscles. Can guides us through breathing techniques as we move into the meditative section of the class. “Breathe in only through your nose,” instructs Can. “And breathe into your ‘dantian’ – your energy store.” This, Can tells us, is located three finger widths below the belly button and is where the body keeps all its energy, which breathing helps us release.
The movement segment requires us to stand with knees bent and hands outstretched with shoulders relaxed, and copy the master’s manoeuvres. Can’s class is often taken on the lawn or at the beach, but we were thankful for being in the mirrored studio on this occasion as although the movements appear simple they require a lot of thought, especially as you try to channel your breathing from the top of your head and into your belly. Such steps are unique to Tai Chi, not like the typical sharp martial arts kicking or punching motions but flowing ones almost like a dance. A dance we struggle to learn the moves to.
At the end of the class, the master gives us a little demo of how Tai Chi should look and he’s elegant and calm as he moves from one stance to another. For a first try we were definitely having to think about every movement and our steps were considerably more leaden footed and clumsy than Can’s deft moves, but we left feeling very relaxed, more focused and aware of where our energy lives.
Dhs100 (one-hour group class), Dhs400 (one-hour private class) Daily. Talise Spa, Madinat Jumeirah, www.jumeirah.com (04 366 6818).