Firstly, I want to say “Hello” to all my JinLi family. How are you going? I’ve been challenged and I know I’ve had it easy compared to most in Australia. Time is very strange; the day disappears and I reflect on how long we have been “protecting” ourselves and realise it’s been a relatively short time.
Maintaining physical, emotional and intellectual health is vital for us under normal circumstances, and is even more so now. We’re all trying to keep our life-routine as normal as we possibly can, which is no easy task. As we stay home, we can maintain our physical wellbeing through our Tai Chi and Qigong practice, but our intellectual, emotional and social interaction with Tai Chi has been taken away from us, or so I thought. But now there is a great solution!
Real-time online Tai Chi and Qigong classes, with the only difference to our normal classes being that students practice within their own space at home, whilst the instructor does the same. Our JinLi instructors conduct classes from their home gardens or living rooms as weather dictates. As a student, it may be inside or outside your home, whatever works. You don’t need a huge amount of space - 1.5m x 2.5 m can work perfectly. Sometimes it’s just looking creatively at the space you have; “Do I have an unused area or can I re-purpose that room for an hour?” The only thing to remember is that the camera needs to be about a metre high and the screen angled almost vertically; your instructor really wants to see you, not your floor or your ceiling!
Tara has prepared a step-by-step guide to take you through the process of using the video conferencing software “Zoom”, which is amazing because the instructor is able to see all of the students (I call it the Brady Bunch view):
... and the student has an individual full screen image of the instructor:
We are social beings. We crave human connection and interaction. As we cocoon ourselves for protection we need to have some form of release and to engage with others as we hold onto a vestige of regular life. In “normal” times, our Tai Chi classes are a way to relieve some of life’s frustrations as we stretch our bodies and our minds. In “Covid-19” times, Tai Chi and Qigong are even more important for physical and mental health. We just “must do them.”
As Covid-19 started to spread, JinLi, under Tara Brayshaw’s guidance, made an early decision to conduct outdoor-only, physically-distanced classes to give greater comfort to students who were potentially more susceptible to the virus. However, it quickly became apparent that a suspension of classes was required to guarantee students’ safety and wellbeing, not only while in class but more importantly in how they were getting to and from class.
But this was definitely not a solution in terms of maintaining our student’s physical and mental wellbeing. Once everyone went into lockdown, it was vital that we came up with a way of looking after our family of students, and to do it quickly.
Tara decided we needed to be in people’s homes, if that’s where they were. That led to considering all the options available to deliver an online experience. Videos were discarded as they don’t allow for interaction or correction. The best option was to be able to maintain as close as possible to a regular class experience, so we started looking at all the different teleconferencing platforms. The pros and cons of each were explored in depth until we decided on “Zoom”.
At that stage, we went through a number of trial runs with our instructors where we looked at what difficulties students may have in engaging via a virtual class. We wanted to make it as simple but as realistic as possible. Once we established that it was feasible, we then looked at the technical requirements for presenting a seamless and professional class; camera, audio quality, lighting, reliable high-speed internet, and large screens to see the students in greater detail. Once all of that was secured and we felt confident that we could provide a truly interactive and supportive “class environment” we sought interest from our existing students in continuing their training. The response was overwhelming.
Here’s what some of our students have said:
In these trying times, we are providing a solution!
Article by Glenn Bermingham
Postscript: None of this would be possible without the mentorship of Karen Jepp - A truly remarkable woman.