My Taijiquan journey with Master Rennie Chong
by Loi Keng Liang
I have been training under Shifu for more than 10 years and would like to share some of my training experiences over these years. I studied mainly the Cheng Man Ching's 37 form (simplified Yang style taijiquan) from Shifu over these years. Shifu's lessons usually consist of about 45mins of warm up exercises followed by 45mins of learning the form. It takes about 1.5 years to 2 years to learn the basic form.
There is heavy emphasis on the warm up exercise (which is also the foundation exercise) as these exercises help to loosen the joints and strengthen the body (especially the legs which are important for preventing injuries). Over the years, little have changed in the warm up exercises except one which was deemed risky for older folks (this exercise is still included in Shifu's book for younger people as reference to practice) and some striking techniques for self-defense and strength training.
Being a competitive swimmer from my younger days, I used to sprain my ankle easily. Since training taijiquan under Shifu, the occurrence of getting my ankle sprained has significantly reduced due to better balance abilities.
Learning taijiquan also helps to trains my posture and help me relax as such I am still able to handle 1.5km swim followed by 10km run on the hilly slopes of Sentosa during once a week recreation biathalon training in my late thirties.
After marriage with kids, I do not have much time for exercises such as swimming and running. Taijiquan became my main form of exercise as very little space is required and bad weather does not disrupt my practice.
During the past few years, Shifu has kindly allow me to assist in his classes. It is also through teaching that deepens my understanding of the warm up exercises and their link to 37 form. Exposure from teaching students with different physically abilities and backgrounds also helps me to understand the posture requirements of the form.
During the first 4 years of training with Shifu, I can feel my fitness increasing especially my legs where my thighs and initially calves felt sore after each training. After 4 to 5 years I felt little improvement and my training hit a plateau. Despite hitting the plateau, I can feel there are parts that I am stuck when doing the form especially at the hip joints (kua area).
After marriage with kids, I continued training mainly to maintain basic fitness. During recent years, I felt that my thighs are not as sore after each training and even if they are sore I am able to recover quickly. Instead the soreness can be felt at my hip joint area. I can also feel that the ligaments at my hip joint feeling stronger, enabling me to make stance transitions smoother (much like the ability to change gear smoothly in a vehicle with manual transmission gearbox).
During classes, besides teaching Shifu sometimes also shares his life experiences, health advice from TCM point of view and he shows genuine care and concern for all his students regardless of whether they are his disciples or not. Shifu does not hide his knowledge from his students, he trains them according to their skill level and their willingness to learn.