I live in the suburbs of Bristol. While Bristol itself is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the UK the suburbs tend towards leafy suburbia where you can feel the crushing weight of normality on your shoulders. So, while seeing somebody in a central Bristol park doing Tai Chi on their own wouldn’t be unusual, it’s almost unheard of in my local parks. I’ve done Tai Chi in my local park of course – usually when training with somebody else and it’s not something I do solo, since I can just imagine the amount of funny looks it would generate around here.
Imagine my surprise then when I saw somebody else doing Tai Chi in my local park this morning. I looked to my right as I entered the park on the way back from the supermarket and facing towards me in the Push posture, just a couple of meters away was a man doing Tai Chi. One glance was all I need to identify that he was doing Yang style, or possibly the Beijing 24-step, which is based on Yang style. He had that large frame posture and super slow movement speed.
He was an older man with striking white hair, brushed back and John Lennon-style glasses, but tinted, so you couldn’t see his eyes. It was that moment where you see something that you recognise but it’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, so your brain takes a moment to process it and you freeze like a rabbit in the headlights. The Germans probably have a word for it.
After over 20 years of living in an area where it would be considered odd, even weird, to do Tai Chi in a local park, it had finally happened. I’d seen somebody doing Tai Chi in the park! And do you know what my first thought was on seeing him?
‘Gee, what a weirdo!’
I just walked off without saying a word and he just carried on, his attention rapt up in his movements.
3 thoughts on “I see you, doing Tai Chi in the park”
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I enjoyed the irony of your post.
I’ve done a lot of training in parks both as a student and as a teacher. It’s one of my favorite places to practice. I do tend to prefer a secluded corner with trees nearby over an exposed, featureless field. In my current town, the parks are inconvenient, either adjacent to school sports fields, so school hours practice is out, or in odd locations requiring an unfulfilling investment in travel time.
I’ve done taiji in a public setting only a handful of times in nearly 50 years of practising it and have never taught it in a park in 35+ of teaching groups and individuals. In a culturally diverse area, you might get away with it but you’re more likely in some parks to have the police called to investigate your “suspicious” behaviour or be accosted by a young drunk or be told by kids “that looks stupid, you old wanker”. I had all those comments and more before I decided to be a weirdo behind closed doors. It’s not eccentricity, if you’re only observed by friendly faces.