Meet the Southsea Tai Chi Instructor Who Boosts Residents’ Morale Through Meditation
Hearing the phrase “martial arts” an image of Jackie Chan comes to mind, bursting power moves with acrobatic self-defense and heart stunts in the mouth.
But on the other side of the spectrum is visibly more peaceful and calming art.
While Tai Chi incorporates self-defense, these are also the “immensely” gratifying health benefits of meditation – while standing. Focusing the mind’s attention on the here and now – not on a fleeting household worry like “when are we going to get the refrigerator fixed?” “
Cristian’s goal is to help his students shift their attention away from their “ape deceiver mind” that can worry people, recognizing what robs them of their happiness and in place given what they have.
He said, âYou have to consider three simple things. Do I have a roof over my head? Yes. So be grateful. Do I have food? Yes. Be grateful. Am I still breathing? Yes. Just be grateful.
Cristian explains that because Tai Chi encompasses so many topics, it can be quite complex.
âImagine Tesco referring to Tai Chi,â he says.
âYou have poultry, meat, dairy products, electronics, a pharmacy. âTesco and Tai Chi is a bit like the brand.
âBut inside there is meditation, fitness, well-being, philosophy. You have the practice of martial arts, and also the gentle internal practices like Tai Chi. ‘
In 2000, Cristian opened the UK’s first Wudang (non-traditional martial arts) business, Five Elements Academy in Southsea, and has since taught Tai Chi and Qigong (an ancient healing meditation practice) in various Portsmouth locations.
Raised in Chile, South America, Cristian returned to the UK in 1999.
In the 80s, at the age of 12, he found himself leafing through collectible martial arts sticker books and became so fascinated with their positions that he began to copy those same movements into his room because he wanted to be like those people in the cartoons.
âI was so inspired by the positions, the face, the way they move and all those body expressions that I decided to learn on my own at that time. “
But there was also a much sadder reason, which also meant that Cristian had almost had to start learning defense, in case a life-threatening situation arises in his homeland, Chile.
‘It was not easy. It all started when I was attacked by a group of gangs with knives.
“It was then that the police said to my father, ‘I think your son needs to train in martial arts.’
âMy father decided at that point that he would put me in an academy. “
From that moment, Cristian never stopped.
Inspired by his first wife martial arts teacher in France, where he immigrated after college in her twenties, Cristian learned the principles of Kung Fu – an art similar to karate and “a lot of Tai Chi”.
He followed his teachings for about five years.
âThen I met a man in Germany. He was very well known for Wudang martial arts.
âWe connected and he invited me to go to China with him.
âWe went to the Wudang Mountains in Hubei and met some of the monks up there in the temples.
“We trained and trained and trained every year and I was staying there for long periods of time and that’s when they told me to go back to England and open my own academy.”
âThe academy was already open in 2000, but without the blessing of the monks. So I opened it first and was teaching in what is now demolished, the Southsea Community Center.
Cristian’s training program in Hubei was relentless. From waking up to dawn to training until 5 p.m., it was tough. But the life force he drew from it was priceless.
âThere is no breakfast in the morning at this time.
“So you get dressed really fast, there’s no time for a shower or anything, and we used to go for a run.”
âWe had nothing in the stomach at all. It is a very difficult thing.
âWe then went straight to the temple in Hubei province where we did standing meditation. You don’t get energy by doing this. You get life force.
Cristian teaches at St Margaret’s Church, the Pyramids, Mountbatten Center, Havelock Community Center and the Butterfly Museum Garden in Canoe Lake.
The member, Val Allen, 76, attends three times a week and has been attending for 13 years.
Val says, âDuring the lockdown, we still had the lessons, so that gave you a purpose.
âIt kept you from getting depressed and made you come to terms with the situation.
âTai Chi is my first interest because it deals with everything. “
Cristians adds: âIt was wonderful. We had times when we were all doing meditation and we were in tears. But we had to do it. It had to happen.