Backswinging Monkey, Taking an Arrow to Shoot the Golden Eagle, or Gazing at the Moon, might sound like runners in last Saturday’s Grand National, or the rantings of a drug-addled madman, but they are of course all names of moves of the ancient Chinese art of Qigong (pronounced key-gong).
This ancient holistic approach to health and spirituality uses co-ordinated body movements and breathing.
Excuse the hugely simplified description but I hope to learn a lot more in time...
My first experience of it was as a relatively callow 20-something in a now defunct Brighton gym. I don’t think I was quite ready for it at the time because in the build up to our single session, we, hilariously, called it Kee-gong, in honour of the then Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan, and sniggered when, mid-session, the instructor encouraged us to lay down our roots and become trees.
Fortunately, I’m not quite so immature these days and like John Noakes in days of old, I’m happy to try most things.
I had the idea after a recent Pilates session at the Prince Regent.
Our venerable instructor Sean Mallet (a man whose feet are on firmly on the ground and would never encourage anyone to imagine they were a tree) opened the class with a smattering of Qigong moves.
I managed a graceless, clunky, off-balance approximation of those moves but enjoyed them all the same, and decided they could be great for future warm-up exercises.
Membership at the Prince Regent gym entitles you to a number of one-one-one coaching sessions with an instructor to help make your gym visits a habit, so I booked some time with Sean.
I write this not long after that session with Sean and it’s possible there could be some endorphins still buzzing around my head, causing me to be over-optimistic and envisaging a new life of quiet serenity and fitness. But I really enjoyed it and, for once, I think I’ll take an optimistic stance.
The gentle slow movements seem to be perfect for my bashed up back and generally wonky middle-aged bod.
At first glance the moves don’t appear to be too taxing but within minutes I was sweating like I’d just run the Brighton Marathon in a parka (good luck to all this weekend, and if you can help it don’t run the race in a parka).
Admittedly I did have a lot of help from a former world kickboxing champ, who has spent more than 15 years, learning about and teaching Tai Chi and Qigong. The moves seemed fairly immediate and Sean explained the Qigong has fewer composite elements within those moves and demands less co-ordination than Tai Chi (which, as anyone who has seen me dance will agree, is good news for me).
So, I’m keen on lots more Qigong and genuinely hopeful it could help me with long-term fitness and good health.
But I also hope this ultimately doesn’t lead to my (inevitable) mid-life crisis taking the form of attempting to grow my remaining grey hair into a ponytail, and slowly doing the Backswinging Monkey barefoot in a crowded Hove park on a balmy summer evening.
If it does, please push me into the nearest rosebush.
To find out more about the gym and classes at the Prince Regent visit www.freedom-leisure.co.uk and search for Sean Mallet’s videos on YouTube