Bob & Orma McDougall - Tai Chi
Bob and Orma are the longest serving volunteer leaders with the 50+ Activity Centre. I thought it was about time they got some recognition.
I have a personal interest in these two amazing people as they were able to teach ME Tai Chi. I must say it was a struggle. Their support and passion combined with my stubbornness to not be defeated got it done. However I must also say that it is a lifelong endeavour. Tai Chi is never learned completely. There are many layers to the exercise but one thing is for sure - everyone benefits, from beginners to continuing participants. Bob passed me an article from Prevention.com. It is all about Tai Chi and its benefits. Balance is a primary advantage along with maintaining strength and flexibility. Taoist Tai Chi is also about spirituality, community and what happens on the inside. Everyone, regardless of their level of physical capability, can do it and benefit.
This is another example of how Bob promotes Tai Chi. He is always available to answer a question or help with a problem. He is passionate about this form of exercise and is an example of its benefits. He can be seen at St. Lawrence Park on any day, winter or summer, after a long walk, doing a set of the 108 Tai Chi steps...followed by the long walk home.
I can't thank Bob and Orma enough for setting me on this path. Not only have I learned a form of exercise that I will be able to do my whole life, but I have also gained a community in the 50+ Activity Centre and specifically the Tai Chi group. I encourage everyone to try it.
Following are the questions I asked along with their answers.
1. How did you get interested and started in Tai Chi?
We got started in Tai Chi by going to a demonstration at the BGH and Bob was immediately intrigued. We had made an agreement with each other to find an activity we could do together. Bob chose Tai Chi and Orma chose ballroom dancing.
2. What formal training did you have?
Bob received training through the Kingston Chapter and various workshops. He was at one workshop that was also attended by Master Moy (who founded the Toaist Tai Chi Society of Canada). He spoke to Bob through an interpreter and told him one day he would be a teacher. This was long before he gave it any thought.
3. How long have you been doing Tai Chi?
We have been doing this for 35 years! Bob was more devoted at the beginning but both have been reaping the benefits for a long time.
4. What motivated you to become a teacher and 50+ Activity Centre leader?
Bob became an instructor when his teacher was transferred due to work. This basically forced him into teaching! He taught in the evenings at local schools, but the classes were small.
Bob has been with 50+ Activity Centre for at least 19 years. He started with the Shepherds Welcome Centre through Orma. Before Orma started her work day at the Second Cup in the Thousand Island Mall, she would do a set of Tai Chi and the Shepherds Welcome Walking Group would see her. After her set, she would open the coffee shop and chat with the Shepherds Welcome members who wanted to learn the Tai Chi set. So, they asked Orma if Bob would be willing to lead a class. Finally, when Bob retired, Orma asked them to give Bob some time to get settled into retirement. That was 2 weeks and off he went! Previously they had taught small classes of around 10, Orma knew that many people had been told about Tai Chi through her connections at the coffee shop and that the classes would be larger than before. What a shock when over 60 people turned up for the first class. Through necessity Bob learned how to change his teaching style and started using the stage in the gym at Wall Street United Church.
5. Why do you think the classes are so popular? Can anyone do it?
Tai Chi is often mentioned in articles and media as being good for overall health and balance and suitable for seniors as it is gentle and non-jarring on the body. The other reason is word of mouth from class participants.. (Editor's note: I can attest to this! Bob and Orma are very popular. They are caring and dedicated to their students.)
Most anyone can do it. If necessary the form can be modified for physical problems. Bob is pretty good at seeing how people move and helping them find a way around their inabilities. He goes slowly while teaching; making sure they are not hurting themselves.
6. Do you do any preparation for your classes?
Since Bob has been doing this for so many years. He has refined his methods of teaching and has found the best way. He reviews the lesson in his head (good brain stimulation) and if necessary he refers to the manual (The Art of Taoist Tai Chi).
7. Any final words?
We really enjoy teaching Tai Chi and to watch people when they finally get it. It is not an easy thing to learn, but so worthwhile. You learn patience and how to really observe the movements.
I would like to thank Bob and Orma for taking part in this interview and allowing the 50+ Activity Centre membership a peak into their lives. Given that they are at Tai Chi 4 days a week (during semesters), it truly is a passion and we as an organization get to benefit. Thank you both!