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Intern Updates: T'ai Chi at Ritan Park (Beijing)

Beijing is a city characterized by a somewhat constant state of confusion and contradiction. Living is Beijing, you often feel as if you are continuously straddling two different worlds. One world is a city undergoing full-throttle modernization, the other is still trying to honor the  foundation of the capital's past, one built on centuries of history and tradition.

The swirling of the past, present, and future - that is what Beijing is about.

And though you are able to take a world-class subway system to work and pick-up a Starbucks coffee on your way into the office, there are certain parts of life in Beijing that serve as a reminder that the city is a crucible of Chinese culture, and that even as much of the city transforms, certain traditions carry on.

One of these notable customs is the practice of T'ai Chi. Head to one of Beijing's many parks during the early morning hours and you will be rewarded with the sight of Beijinger's, both individually and in groups, practicing this Chinese internal martial art which is renowned for both its defense training and health benefits. To many Beijinger's, especially those from older generations, T'ai Chi is a way of life, and their focus and dedication to the craft is remarkable.

A quintessential Beijing experience would not be complete without a formal training session in the art of T'ai Chi from a master practitioner. As such, we provided a small group of our interns the opportunity to learn T'ai Chi at Ritan Park in Beijing during the recent Dragon Boat Festival holiday.

Three of our female interns jumped at the opportunity and spent a Friday afternoon with us at Ritan Park. Katherine Harris, a Scottish intern with the China-Britain Business Council joined her friends Yarinette Ero and Allison Kirst - both American interns working respectively in the digital media and architecture industries - for an hour long lesson with Teacher Zhao.

Zhao, the incredibly fit and commanding T'ai Chi instructor, started the ladies off with a warm-up of stretching and basic cardio. Though Zhao displayed a kind face and friendly smile, his authoritative demeanor signaled to students that he was not one to be messed with. If Zhao says run, you run.

During the lesson, the interns shared with us some of their feelings on life in Beijing as well as how they felt about their internship placement. Hailing from California, Allison Kinst came to Beijing to participate in an internship with an Architecture firm. She mentioned how China's growth and development has presented significant opportunities for young, aspiring architects. One of the biggest benefits of her experience thus far has been the responsibility placed on her as a result of working in a small office.

Working as a digital marketing intern in Beijing, Yarinette Ero has not let the infamous "Great Firewall of China" get in the way of her gaining great experience in the realm of social media. She also did not hold back from releasing some fierce roundhouse kicks during the training session. Seriously. Check out the images below:

Like the city of Beijing, T'ai Chi is known for having a wide-variety of training forms, both traditional and modern. In T'ai Chi, the aggressiveness of physical martial arts is married with the slow movement, focus, and mental strength derived from soft martial arts. Literally translating to "Supreme Ultimate Fist," the theory and practice of T'ai Chi has evolved from traditional Chinese philosophical principles, including those which form the basis of Confucianism and Taoism.

T'ai Chi is widely praised in the Western world for its perceived health benefits, both mental and physical. The slow movements are said to bring about a state of mental clarity and calmness.

In China, as well as the Western world, the low-impact training of T'ai Chi has proven popular with senior citizens. Yet it is important to understand that the physical and mental benefits of T'ai Chi extend to individuals of all ages. We even came across some youngsters at Ritan Park who were eager to get involved.

For more information regarding the practice of T'ai Chi, check out the link below:

T'ai Chi Ch'uan - Wikipedia

Medical Benefits of T'ai Chi from the Mayo Clinic

For information regarding internship placement in Beijing or Shanghai, please follow the links below for Get in2 China:

Get in2 China

Get in2 China Facebook
Article and Photo Credit: Scott Singerman
Gi2C Testimonial: Peter Wall (London, UK)
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