2023 has had many challenges but also much to celebrate and be thankful for.
January to March 2023: Record attendance at summer tai chi and qigong in Cornwall Park
353 participants attended over 17 sessions, making last summer (my 6th in the park) my best ever. This was despite having to cancel six lessons due to rain, more rain, and then a big cyclone.
Over six summers, I have now introduced the delights and health benefits of tai chi and qigong to a total 1,352 participants.
Special thanks to Barry, Juliana and Pauline for your valuable help as co-instructors in the park.
All are welcome to attend the 2024 season of free summer tai chi and qigong in Cornwall Park. Ideal for beginners of all ages and abilities. Details in this link: https://www.kiaorataichi.nz/free-tai-chi/
Snow Rabbit/Lotus Qigong became a hot favourite in 2023
This was going to be a ‘oncer’ in Cornwall Park for the Lunar/Chinese New Year in February.
However, attendees became so entranced by the lovely, flowing movements and the charming narrative about the little snow rabbit dreaming of Spring, that they always requested it at each session in the park. The delight of Snow Rabbit Qigong has spread to all of my other classes.
2024 will be the Year of the Dragon and there’s lots of scope to teach a form of dragon qigong. I can’t wait!
Spinning and twirling in 2023
What a fantastic collaboration! The team from Re-Creators showed all attendees how to make poi from reclaimed t-shirts and wool stuffing for every part of the poi. Excess scraps were incorporated back in, to make this a truly zero-waste activity.
At the event, people of all ages and abilities jumped at the chance to make a set of poi. As soon as each person and/or family group finished their creations I was there to show them how to spin, twirl and swing their poi.
Check out video of this really fun event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aT4tQ0cqLVQ
Later in 2023, I upgraded my SpinPoi qualification and taught SpinPoi to a group of adults with autism.
I was also honoured to be appointed (one of three) to the global Lead Instructor Team for SpinPoi. My area of expertise on this team is the kaupapa/principles of teaching.
April and May 2023: TV stars with my tai chi group at Acacia Cove Retirement Village
Myself and several of my older students at Acacia had the opportunity to trial a new app for fall prevention, called Nymbl. This app supports the important skill of dual-tasking by getting you to do combo of movement and quizzes (that’s the dual-tasking bit), which in turn helps you to improve your balance.
We were featured twice on TV3 about our experiences with Nymbl and you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnE5yhzFI1Q (There might be an annoying advertising clip at the start. Just click “Skip Ad” as soon as you get the chance to do so.)
Here are the links to download the Nymbl app, which is free for use in New Zealand, as it is funded for all New Zealanders by he Accident Compensation Commission (ACC):
- Google play app store link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.b4g.nymbl&hl=en&gl=US&pli=1
- Apple app store link: https://apps.apple.com/nz/app/nymbl-balance-training/id1155575069
- Please note that both of the Nymbl links above must be opened on a smart device (mobile phone, tablet, iPad etc) in order to be downloaded.
You can find out more about the Nymbl app here: https://fallsfree.co.nz/
May 2023: Vantastic Vanuatu
My 1st ever international tai chi and qigong retreat was twelve months in the planning and then three years of postponements during the global pandemic. In May this year, we finally made it to the aptly named Paradise Cove Resort, in Vanuatu. The wait was definitely worth it.
I taught the magical 5-Element Qigong, with a deep dive into the elements of Earth, Fire, Wood, Water and Metal. I was blown away with how the participants responded to this and what they wrote in their journals. We also ‘dived’ into the health-boosting 12 Rivers Qigong.
There was plenty of time for diving into other activities, too, such as snorkeling in the calm lagoon at the resort’s beach, and outings to real rivers (not just rivers of qigong) and waterfalls. Can you imagine swimming up to and under a waterfall? Totally awesome.
Thank you to the very special people who never gave up hope that we’d finally get to Vanuatu and who made this retreat so wonderful: Juliana, Fran, Kevin, Sarah, Caroline, Constance and Marc.
June 2023: A new beginners class
Our usual evening class venue suddenly became unavailable at the start of the year. After waiting several months in the hope that we could get back there, we eventually settled permanently into a different venue.
This meant I could finally start a new evening class for beginners. I now have 20 ‘newbies’, who are keen and enthusiastic (and also addicted to Snow Rabbit Qigong).
Thank you to Ned for your help in finding our permanent “home” in Clendon, Manurewa. When compared with our previous venue it is so much better – warmer in winter, with brighter lighting and a better car park. Find out more about my evening classes here: https://www.kiaorataichi.nz/classes/
July 2023: Matariki and Mindfulness Month
Thank you for your help, support and donations during Mindfulness Month in July, which helped me to raise nearly $400 towards the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.
As well as daily, mindful activities during the month, I donated my teaching time for three mindful sessions of tai chi, qigong and restorative journaling during Matariki as a fund-raiser for the foundation. With other volunteers, we collectively raised over $55,000 for the foundation during Mindfulness Month.
Thank you so much everyone. Your generosity means that more New Zealanders will be able to get help with their mental health.
I plan to be part of Mindfulness Month again in 2024.
September 2023: Doing tai chi in the home of tai chi – China
Photo: Jocelyn in the centre of the photo, wearing red shirt and red shoes
I had an unexpected trip to China in September on a family matter. While I was in Honghu City (in Hubei Province), I was invited to join a local tai chi group for their training session.
For many years, I have been taught an ancient form of tai chi that is not common in China today. When I demonstrated that style of tai chi to the group in Honghu City, I received a completely unexpected invitation to come back and teach that form of tai chi to the group.
Once I was back in Aotearoa/NZ, I talked about this experience with my advanced students, and they’re keen to explore the idea of a visit to China. Of course, all of my students (including beginners) will be welcome, should I organise such a trip.
I keep in touch with the sifu (instructor) of that group. He is very encouraging about me returning to Honghu City. At this stage, we have set a provisional date of April 2025 for a group of my students to accompany me. There is a lot to do and think about before then and I’ll keep you posted.
Throughout 2023: Earth Art – the art of letting go and coping with change
Earth art (also known as earth altars) are temporary art installations / designs / mandalas made from foraged leaves, flowers, shells, etc, that have fallen from trees or been released by the sea.
Over 2023, I explored how these installations can help with managing stress and change.
When practiced regularly, tai chi and qigong can be very effective for reducing stress. When combined with earth art, the stress relief is even greater.
Creating “art that doesn’t last” and then letting the wind, rain, time and tide change and reclaim it, helps us to understand and accept that change and impermanence is normal in the circle of life.
I am considering how best to offer a session on earth art with you in 2024.
Final words for 2023
Finally, a big thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged me over 2023 and particularly:
- Barry Vodanovich, for being my co-teacher both at Cornwall Park and also for my evening classes. He is our tai chi cane form master and many of you have learned this amazing tai chi form from him.
- Grant Williams, for attending frequently and also helping as an assistant teacher.
- Pat James, for leading the Acacia group in practice sessions when I couldn’t attend.
- My lovely husband, Ken, who attends every evening class, puts the tables and chairs away, lugs my charts and posters from and back to the car, checks the attendance register, is the appointed fire warden, and who also accompanies my students back to their cars at the end of class, including lighting their steps with a torch in winter.
Lastly, all of you for attending my classes, workshops, retreats and sessions, for keeping in touch with texts and emails, for reading my e-newsletters and giving me such positive feedback; and for telling me how much you love tai chi and qigong.