Experience the ‘single dragon’s whip’
LUTON tai chi instructor Zoe Loke fell in love with the ancient martial art when she was teaching English to Chinese students in Beijing in the summer of 2007.
The 26-year-old came home determined to share her passion for its practice while simultaneously raising awareness of its health-giving properties.
She studied under international master Rob Simpson – known as Yuan Xiang in tai chi circles – and now holds free classes in Wardown Park on the first Saturday of every month, weather permitting.
She is also preparing to go to Malaysia later this year as part of team GB for the 2012 World Kuo Shu Championships.
“It will be a great honour,” she said. “And even greater to bring back several gold medals.”
The Bedfordshire University interior design and architecture graduate comes from an intriguing background - her father is Malaysian Chinese and her mum a mixture of English and Scottish.
Zoe remembers family members taking her to watch tai chi when she was a little girl.
“I loved it right from the start,” she said. “There was so much depth in it, I was fascinated.
“But you don’t need prior knowledge of Chinese philosophy to enjoy its advantages.”
When she saw it in action in Beijing’s open spaces, she was hooked all over again.
“I was amazed, it was incredible,” she recalled.
“Beijing is a very oppressive concrete city.
“It was just before the last Olympics and there was lots happening, lots of construction going on.
“But in the middle of it all were these lush green parks and all these people, mostly in groups, practising morning and afternoon with fans and tassels. Swords came out, together with all sorts of other exotic looking instruments.
“It was absolutely mesmerising.”
Zoe, of Dunstable Road, said: “Tai chi is low impact, a slow movement, often described as ‘moving meditation’ or even ‘moving medication.”
She took part in practising straight sword, calling it “one of the more spiritual exercises – very beautiful to watch, and very graceful.”
There are various weapons involved in tai chi, including broad sword, spear, pole and steel fan – her favourite.
“It’s very elongated,” she explained. “So the movements are elongated.” It was the weapon of choice with aristocratic Chinese assassins as it was easiest to hide when they went about their nefarious business in the Forbidden Temple.
Beginners will be pleased to note that bare hand technique is the first to be taught, together with the basics of stepping and moving.
Zoe said: “It’s designed to build up strength, agility, balance and aerobic conditioning.
“The reason it’s so successful worldwide is that it can be adapted to suit professional athletes or those with limited mobility.
“It has been used for hundreds of years for the prevention and rehabilitation of a wide range of health issues from stroke to hypertension, low bone density to depression.”
Last but not least, she loves the way the series of motions are named after animal actions – everything from ‘white crane spreads its wings’ to ‘single dragon’s whip.’
Zoe will be teaching bamboo fan and meditation at Bannatyne’s Health Club.
> For more information call 07535 990505.
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Weather for Luton
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 4 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North west