Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art dating back to the 12th Century. It was the way the Emperor's bodyguard did their training, in rows, following a master. The slow movement came about to give the men at the back of what might have been a thousand warriors a chance to follow the patterns and the patterns themselves carry elements that are obviously from fighting, with swiping, catching, pushing and pulling movements that at full speed and against an opponent work to turn their strength and attack against them, unbalance them and let you disarm and defeat them. It uses softness against strength, it's not macho, but defensive and in ancient Chinese descriptions is called an 'internal' or soft art. (a martial art such as Kung Fu is described as 'hard')
John had brought four members with him and together they demonstrated Yang Tai Chi and two forms of sword Tai Chi. The movements are set down in a particular pattern, often done to music and radiate grace, self control, mindfulness and focus. Tai Chi is a popular way to relieve stress, mostly because it's difficult to think of anything else while you do it!! and because the breathing and muscle control relax the body and create natural endorphins. As John explained, practitioners in ancient China were trained to push their 'chi' to places on the body that were in pain or stressed and so relieve the pressure.
The members there were so still when the demonstrations were on, although I did hear several comments on how graceful and elegant it looked. And there are several ladies who really are interested in following the subject further. John runs sessions on a Tuesday at Childwall Community College at 8pm. Sessions are £5 a time, but as a special offer the first two sessions are free. Please mention Woolton WI if you go (contact details to be added later) and keep an eye out on the Facebook page where details of a group visit or session may appear as soon as it's organised!