Over 500 students representing universities across the globe set sail on the MV World Odyssey this January for the Spring 2016 Semester at Sea program. Their floating campus will take them around the world to 15 cities in 11 different countries, in just over 100 days. Among these world travelers is Paula Pecorella of Stony Brook University, who will serve as a correspondent for The Statesman this semester.
“Be happy every day and your heart will always be in good condition,” tai chi master William Ng told his class as they meditated on the waterfront promenade in Hong Kong.
When students on Semester at Sea signed up for Ng’s class on Feb. 5, they expected to learn a little about this traditional Chinese practice, but were surprised when they received a lesson on life instead.
“Tai chi is mainly for the harmony of the body and mind,” Ng said. “Be healthy and be peaceful. Peace in life is very, very important.”
In Chinese philosophy, tai chi is believed to balance internal organs and strengthen your joints, limbs and bones. This slow-moving form of martial arts was created by imitating the life and gestures of animals based on the theory of Yin and Yang, which means negative and positive. Today it remains one of the favorite means of keeping fit in China, especially among the older generation.
“Tai chi is a very good exercise for a couple of reasons,” he said. “If anyone who has ever suffered from heart troubles, hypertension or mental troubles practices tai chi, it can help you recover.”
Although it is a form of exercise, tai chi is most effective when practiced very slowly. This helps to relieve stress in the mind and body and create an overall sense of calm and balance. Ng explained that the movements are art, and when done well they are both graceful and elegant. The art is also extremely effective when it comes to fighting and can lead to broken bones in just one strike.
“Once you have learned tai chi, you never use it in attack or fighting because it can calm our emotions unless your life is in danger,” Ng said, explaining the philosophy behind tai chi. “It teaches us to be humble and not aggressive.”