An insider's guide to the county's best kept secrets
West Norfolk Tai Chi Chuan
Classes in Hunstanton, Downham Market and King’s Lynn
Private classes available throughout West Norfolk
A highly rewarding friendly class by an experienced and approachable teacher bringing the art of ‘meditation to movement’ to all to benefit from as a regular session, private group or 1:1 block making it perfect for locals and holiday makers alike to take time out and calm their mind.
Where to find it
The West Norfolk Tai Chi Chuan group is based around the areas of King’s Lynn, Downham Market, Hunstanton, and surrounding villages. Regular sessions are held at set venues; some as part of the Norfolk county council adult education service (which need to be booked per term) and some on a weekly drop in basis. Glenn Belton, a teacher since 2005 with over 20 years experience of the martial art form, is also available for private group bookings and 1:1 consultations that can be tailored to individual needs and cover general fitness and diet as well as Tai Chi and Qigong which forms the perfect complement of movement and meditation.
What is Tai Chi?
Originating in China there are around five main practiced forms of the martial art that date as far back as the 1500s. Yang style is perhaps the most common form – first practiced around 1799 – which is Glenn’s preferred method of teaching.
The original philosophy behind the routines is the idea that if brute force meets brute force then both parties will face injury. If however that opposing incoming force is met with softness and the motion is followed through until it exhausts itself and can be safely redirected, the yang can meet the yin and avoid harm. It’s all linked to balance, control and harmony. Tai Chi is practiced now mainly for its health and well-being abilities; focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form brings about, with practice, a state of mental calm and clarity that is a Godsend in the fast pace of life most of us now live in.
What to expect
A typical class will involve a basic warm up routine that gently awakens and stretches your muscles from top to toe. Then an element of Qigong – deep breathing and mind preparation - is interwoven to get you in a relaxed state ready to commerce with the actual Tai Chi form.
You’ll usually work on the Yang style 88 form which consists of a sequence of slow movements performed in a precise manner whilst clearing the mind and directing all thoughts to the flow of energy involved. The in and out breathe is linked to the yin and yang of energy flow that surrounds your body as you practice the form. It sounds wacky but over time you do actually start to feel this energy force and it’s then that you truly start to benefit from Tai Chi.
That’s not to say you cannot benefit straight away though for it’s not so much about how many movements you can clock up in a sequence but more about perfecting the act of individual movements for maximum benefit to be achieved. Concentrate your mind to the job in hand and you will be amazed at the positive effect this exercise can have on your life.
Why try Tai Chi?
Studies have shown it reduces stress and anxiety, improves fatigue and sleeplessness, combats depression and helps with pain management. Although not a high impact cardiovascular sport unless performed vigorously, in a calorie count it still burns more fat than activities such as surfing and downhill skiing* so all in all it’s a pretty good way to stay in shape.
Above and beyond all this, learn Tai Chi because it’s a fun and enjoyable activity to engage in. It’s rewarding on so many levels. For me it’s a sociable hobby and a way of unwinding after a hard day’s work. It’s most uplifting practiced outdoors in nature; my favourite is on the beach. It really can lift your mind and revitalise a tired body. It has a way of putting everything on hold, just for a while, until you’ve regained equilibrium once more. It’s something you’ll instantly wish you’d discovered sooner and something you’ll draw on from that day forth for the rest of your life. A big statement but justifiably so; give it a go and you’ll find out.
Glenn is an advanced level instructor with the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain, having learnt from masters such as Ken Homan, Wen Linjun and Wang Wanji. He is first aid trained and CRB checked. He runs classes on Monday evenings, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and evenings, and Friday mornings at various places across West Norfolk. Visit his website for more details. He usually charges around £40 for a private group plus hall hire and travel costs. 1:1 sessions can be negotiated and are tailored to the client’s individual needs. Email him for more information: [email protected]
Annual Tai Chi in the Park day is the last Sunday of June where everyone meets on the cliff top green overlooking the sea in Hunstanton to practice the form outdoors.