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Tai chi for beginners: How to take up the martial art

Big Issue vendor Simone Gill took up the most mellow of martial arts to ease her mind and body. She explains how to make it part of your everyday routine, in her guide to tai chi for beginners

Tai chi for beginners

Illustration: Matthew Brazier

Big Issue vendors have a wide variety of skills and experience, so we bring you the best of their knowledge each week. Find more vendors and their stories on our vendor map. This week, Simone Gill in Plymouth shares advice on tai chi for beginners based on her own experience of the martial art and its benefits for body and mind.

I started off with ninjutsu when I was very young but that’s a fighting style of martial art and I realised I preferred tai chi, which is more for the mind, body and soul. Your qi energy (‘qi’ literally means life force) inside the body can get blocked at times through everyday activities and tai chi helps to unblock it with certain taps on specific parts of the body, for example on the ribcage or the sternum. You’ll know if your qi is blocked because you’ll be run down and feel like you’re ageing quicker.

Anybody can take up tai chi at any age. You can get instruction from a DVD or online. Physically it’s a low-impact activity but you have to stand strong in your movements and relax your body into them. You can do it in your bedroom, you just need a couple of metres of space round about you to be able to do the movements. You don’t have to do it every day, though it is good to practice regularly so it becomes part of your routine.

I’ve got sciatica and rheumatism, so for me the main benefits have been how much it’s helped to strengthen my muscles and improved my everyday movement. I can move a lot better than I would if I’d never done it, I have a wider range of movement and my muscles have more strength. You won’t be out of breath because the movements are slow but you can work up a bit of a sweat. But it’s best not to strain the muscles too much, you need to relax into it. And like yoga, it’s important to have a good focus and be able to really concentrate on what you’re doing. It’s a form of mediation in that sense. If you get into it, you’ll see what I mean about it being good for the spirit and good for the soul.

Simone Gill sells The Big Issue in Plymouth. To buy a subscription from her visit bigissue.com/vendors. Fifty per cent of net proceeds will go directly to Simone.

Simone was speaking to Sarah Reid

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