Tai Ji Softball (Taiji Rouli Ball)
Our Class at Temple of Heaven 2006
Numbers: 18 People
Date: 5th April 2006
Written By: Jeff
Our workshop with Teacher Li
we left the hotel en route for the Temple of Heaven Park, about one hour away to the south of the city. This is a large and beautiful park where many people congregate to do Tai chi, exercise and engage in all sorts of activities. We were to take part in something called Tai Chi Ball. None of us were quite sure what that entailed, although we did learn that it was created in 1991 by Prof. Bai Rong of Shanxi University Physical Training Dept, a boxing trainer with a background in Tai Chi. He wanted to create an exercise that was fun and could be practised by anyone at any age.
Our guide took the opportunity to teach us a little Chinese on the way there. He also tried to teach us a well-known Chinese song. We were not too bad with the tune, but needed to write the words down in order to have any hope of singing it with him. We did, however, learn how to say "I love you" ....you never know when that could come in handy!
As we approached the place in the park where we were to do Tai Chi Ball we saw lots and lots of people. many were doing ribbon dancing. Some were doing repetitive exercises to music that looked a little like line dancing, some were playing with a large feathered thing that looked like a shuttlecock. They were kicking it around with their feet. Between 3 to 4 people played together in a group. There were also people doing large circular movements with things that looked like plastic tennis racquets and plastic balls. There must have been hundreds of people joining in. They made neat, regular lines. Many more people were standing at the edges of the groups and watching. Some of the groups worked to music. Each group was up close to the other groups, so you could hear the music clearly. It turned out that the tennis ball thing was actually what we were going to do. The idea was to make large semicircular movements from side to side whilst keeping the ball on the racquet. As we progressed we learnt how to change the direction of the racket, then we learnt how the do it with a slight figure-of-eight movement with the hands. The time passed very quickly because it was such fun - and required a lot more control than you would think, but it has endless possibilities. At one point, after we had been practising for a while I saw our teacher do a few moves with the racquet and ball that were quite amazing - it was part of hand form, but the ball did not leave the racquet. Someone else saw a lady doing lots of hand and feet movements that looked really graceful while the ball appeared to be glued to her racquet. People were so kind. They would smilingly off help, moving their hands to show what the movements should be, smiling encouragement - and taking photos. Everyone was so positive and welcoming you wanted to join in. They made you feel very welcome. It was an amazing experience, one we all thoroughly enjoyed, so much so that many of us bought racquets to bring home.
On the way out of the park we passed hordes of people in groups engaging in all sorts of activities, some playing cards, some knitting, some practicing karaoke, some playing musical instruments. Everyone seemed to be engaged in some sort of activity.