June 2014 By Rajendra Menen Rajendar Menen meets Sunil Samant, a Tai Chi trainer and enthusiast Remarkably fit and full of life for a person in his 60s, Sunil Samant, president and founder of the Asian Academy of Tai Chi, is a man of many parts. Affable, fun loving, raconteur of jokes in several languages, global traveller and bon vivant, he is now spreading the goodness of Tai Chi after a successful career in the IT sector. “I retired rather early,” he tells me over hot chai, after one of his classes in Juhu in suburban Mumbai, while the rain pelts all around us. “I had a successful career with IBM, and later as an IT consultant. But after I turned 50, I wanted to do something else. I was into sports at the school and college levels, and also played Times Shield cricket. So I was always extremely fit. But it was during my visits to Hong Kong on work in the ‘80s that I saw people doing Tai Chi in parks and open spaces. I saw the slow, graceful movement, almost like flamingos in flight, and I was fascinated.” Later, after retirement, wanting to remain fit, he checked out Tai Chi trainers and the type and form of Tai Chi that would suit him best. “I was fortunate to identify a Qigong Forum based in Canada. The specific form called ‘Shibashi’ (18 movements) was being taught and practised by this forum. Sifu Wing Cheung was kind enough to provide me with the basic knowledge and that is how I started on my Tai Chi journey.” “There are many schools or forms of Tai Chi,” explains Samant. “The most ancient one is the Chen form. There is the Yang, Sun, Wu forms etc., but they are complicated and not easy to learn and practise. The form I chose is called ‘Shibashi’. It means the 18-exercise technique. It was designed in 1978 by Dr. Lin Hou Sheng, a renowned Chinese professor. It consists of some of the best movements from the Yang Form Tai Chi and is easy to learn and practise.” Samant adds that whatever the style and form the benefits for body and mind are the same. “I have studied all the forms carefully and they all promote well-being. The benefits are innumerable,” explains Samant. “A person can experience stress reduction, emotional stability, weight control, blood pressure management, enhanced energy, agility and flexibility, better concentration, improved blood circulation, strengthening of joints and muscles, better digestion, and so on. In short, the person benefits as a whole. Tai Chi is suitable for all age groups, is easy to learn and is a non-impact exercise which causes no harm.” He narrates instances of people whose lives changed dramatically after learning Tai Chi. “One is filled with confidence, a new zeal and a joyousness which reflects physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Tai Chi has given me the opportunity to serve the community.” He adds, “It is a win-win situation; all of us benefit. I am now in the process of developing Tai Chi techniques for cricketers, actors, and those from the software and service industries.” Bio: Rajendar Menen is a senior journalist and author of several books which have been translated into many languages. His last book Karma Sutra: Adventures of a Street Bum received international acclaim.
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