Listen to the wisdom of your body. Maintain the rhythm and form – the grace, precision, and coordination – of each movement, but pace the speed and size of the movements and breath to your own needs. Travel the wave of Energy with the group.
To enjoy Kai Chi Do (and that’s the whole point, isn’t it?) you have to do it at your own pace. Give up those competitive drives for an hour and just listen to the wisdom of your body.
When you listen to music you want the sound loud enough that you can hear it, but not so loud that it hurts your ears. It’s the same with the movements of Kai Chi Do – Set your pace so that you can feel the tune of your body – the pump and pulse of energy – but not so intense that it’s painful.
Here’s a few tips for finding a pace that feels great to you:
- Don’t try to keep up with Charles (or anybody else). Okay – face it – Charles does Kai Chi Do at least 6 days a week and he’s always been a hound for exercise. Athletes half his age struggle to keep up (he was born in 1956, if you were wondering). Watch him for rhythm and form, but find the intensity that’s right for you.
- Smaller and slower. The faster and bigger you make the movements, the more intense the experience will be. So if you need to pace it down and lower the “volume”, make the same movements as the leader, but do them smaller or slower. To make smaller movements, keep your elbows slightly bent, and close to your sides. Keep the rhythm but go at half pace. You can also make the pumping of your legs shallow rather than deep, or even keep your knees straight. Regulate and vary the pace by going bigger and faster, or slower and smaller, as you need, throughout the different Elements of a Kai Chi Do session (Haven’t we all had days where we were praying for Fire to end so we could relax into Water?). Stay with the process from beginning to end, just do it at a pace that feels good.
- Flexibility, not strength. If you want to take your Kai Chi Do up a notch, shoot for flexibility, not strength. Focus on gradually increasing the range of motion of each movement, rather than worrying about your stamina or muscle strength. There’s enough reps (repetitions of each movement) for strength to build on its own.
- Form and focus, not force. Rather than trying to force your body to do more than what feels good, focus your attention on improving the form – the grace, precision, and coordination – of each movement. Graceful is smooth – Make movements flow like you are a dancer. Precision is about keeping control of your muscles – No floppy doing-it-like-you’re-sleeping Kai Chi Do – Keep your muscles awake and stay fully in charge of them. If you’re doing a Thrust, snap it at the end. If you’re doing Chi Circles, integrate the top and the bottom so they are in the same vertical plane. Be aware of the shape of your hands and fingers. Coordinate what your hands and your legs are doing, the actions of your left and right hand. (Coordination exercises your brain).
- Let the group carry you. The momentum of the group will carry you along and help you to go further than you thought you could go. Let yourself stretch just a little – Keep the “music” of the movements loud enough that you can hear them – and then feel your connection to the group. Go with them, and relax into it, as they travel the wave of energy.