Today I rearranged what I had to do in order to take up my first Retirement Activity. I discovered that there’s an over-50s Tai Chi class every Tuesday, under five minutes’ walk from our house. I did some Tai Chi many years ago when I was a resident tutor at what is now Liverpool Hope University College; then, as now, one of the selling points was that the classes were so close to where I was living.
Back then, it was all rather serious. I made a trip to Liverpool’s Chinatown to buy the right shoes. I now find that these are called ‘Mary Janes’. They were very comfortable
and gave me that sense of having the right gear for the task in hand – deeply satisfying.
What drove me to the internet in search of Tai Chi classes was precisely these shoes. I noticed the waitress at our Thai restaurant was wearing them, and started reminiscing about Tai Chi. The husband claimed he’d never known that I used to do it. It all came back to me (well, not the moves – I could barely manage them even then – but the sensations). I started Tai Chi because it’s all about moving very, very slowly. I know I rush around, and I wanted to make myself slow down. I discovered that moving very slowly for an hour can be very powerful in terms of feeling warmer and being aware that muscles have been used. We used to have a master come in and show us his moves, and when you watched him you could understand the ‘art’ in ‘martial art’.
So this afternoon I put on some stretchy trousers and suitable shoes – not Mary Janes, as the decision to join the class was an overnight one – and turned up. I shall be going again. Interesting experience, though… My first foray into the World of the Retired.
There were about 20 people there, mostly women (I suspect the World of the Retired is like that), and mostly nearer to 70 than 50. They weren’t terribly chatty, but it’s hard to talk in a Tai Chi class. The moves were even more gentle than when I did it as a Non-Retired Person, but the teacher was excellent and managed to weave some interesting Chinese medicine and myth into his instructions. The format is half an hour of stretching and relaxing and balance – including a time of ‘self-massage’, which was very pleasant and not what may first come to mind when you hear that term – followed by half an hour of the ‘five animal’ postures. It wasn’t easy, particularly for me as I don’t really do left and right, but watching the teacher meant I could tell I was doing roughly the right thing, and in true Tai Chi style he occasionally came over and very gently prodded a bit of me into the right place.
I could get into this. The group running the classes – through the local FE College – even does 4-hour special sessions in the next village, if I ever felt up to that (unlikely). But it does feel very odd, and significant, to be in an over-50s group. It’s one thing when you get a form to fill in and you tick which age group you’re in and realise, for example, that you’ve ‘graduated’ from the 45-54 group and arrived in the 55-64 group. Cheerfully, in marketing the next categories up may be ’65 and over’ and then ‘Decline’. Or maybe I read too much into that last one…
And those Mary Janes? In the over-50s class, not a sign of them. Sensible trainers all round. However, that won’t stop me finding some for myself!