MARTIAL arts instructor Kevin Copeland has been chosen as one of just two in the country to represent Ireland in an international tournament in Canada later this month.
While he prepares to compete in the fourth annual Health Qigong Festival in Vancouver, Kevin has taken on yet another challenge by organising Clare’s first Tai Chi and Qigong Festival, to take place in Ennis this weekend.
The festival, run by the Ireland Tai Chi and Qigong Association, will be held on Saturday from 12 noon to 5pm at the West County Hotel. According to Kevin, the festival is suitable for everyone and is a “celebration of Chen-style Tai Chi and traditional Chinese Qigong”.
“This is completely new, we’ve never done anything like this before in Clare. Originally, this event was being organised as a little fundraiser for me to go to Canada and compete but it has evolved from that to encompass the whole Ireland Tai Chi and Qigong Association,” he said.
Instructors from all over Ireland will be coming to Ennis for the festival.
“I want to give people who have never done Tai Chi before the opportunity to get a real taste of what it’s about, and Qigong as well. There will be group work where people will warm up and get a foundation in the exercises, with clear instructions from the instructor and others there to give a hand.
“Then there will be sample classes and also demonstrations of the different Tai Chi forms and weapons,” Kevin explained.
Kevin, who teaches Tai Chi at the West County Hotel, said the martial art is becoming increasingly popular, with plans to expand his classes into Lissycasey and Kilrush. While Qigong is not as well known, interest in the ancient form is also growing.
“Tai Chi was formed in the 17th century by combining external arts with internal Qigong, which would be the Chinese equivalent of yoga, except it’s all done from a standing position. Qigong can be traced back 5,000 years and over the last 15 years universities have standardised the forms and clinically tested them for their health benefits.”
According to Kevin, the festival in Ennis will be the ideal way for those curious about both martial arts to try them out. “I get so many people enquiring about Tai Chi who don’t really know what it’s about but who want to find out more. People maybe don’t want to commit themselves to a 12-week class, so this will give them an opportunity to get a real taste and feel for what it’s all about.
“Tai Chi is probably one of the best martial arts ever. The people who practise Tai Chi in the Chen village, and it’s the Chen style that I do, were some of the most renowned bodyguards in China for centuries. It’s deceptive, the slow movements actually increase your speed because you’re doing it in a relaxed way so you’re focusing your mind.”
Kevin, who is originally from Scotland but living in Clare since 2004, has been practising Tai Chi for four years and has trained with Master Liming Yue from China but now based in Manchester.
“The benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong are life changing, with physical and mental benefits. There are physical benefits; they have been reports of benefits to arthritis, hypertension, lots of different things. Qigong is brilliant for the internal organs, because of the way the movements are you are sort of massaging your internal organs.
“The reason that it feels so good to do is you are actually giving yourself acupuncture; the movements activate the acupuncture points in the body.
“Through time, if you practise it regularly, you start to see the mental benefits. It brings you a better perspective and body awareness. It makes you aware of what your body needs and what’s good for it. Naturally over time, you start to change your lifestyle with it. It’s all in a gradual way and there are no quick fixes but the benefits are long lasting.
“Where I think Tai Chi beats a lot of other exercises is that as well as being suitable for the individual person, everyone can get the same benefits. You can have a person of 18 and a person of 80 in the same class and if they follow the principals correctly they will both get the benefits. It’s such a beautiful thing, like an art form, and you just want to do it all the time. It’s very enjoyable to do and people who come to my classes tend to come back each term.”
Kevin is optimistic that the festival will be a success and there are hopes that it may even become an annual event.
“We don’t know how many people will be there on the day as it’s the first time we’ve done something like this. But so far we’ve had lots of positive feedback so there seems to be a real interest out there. I’m confident we will get good numbers but I’m very philosophical about things and it’s not just about the numbers.
“It’s about the people who are there and making sure they get the best out of it. The festival will be a great chance for all our instructors to get together.
“I would love it if it could become an annual event but as this is the first one we don’t know how it will go but it would be great to have it again.”
The 38-year-old will be heading to Vancouver on September 15 for the international Qigong tournament run by the Chinese Wushu Association.
As part of the tournament he will be competing against others by performing some of the martial art forms, with each form taking 10 to 15 minutes to complete.
“I’m really looking forward to it but I’ve been so busy organising the festival that I haven’t really been able to think about it. I’ve never competed in anything like this before so it’s quite exciting and a great opportunity. I’m very proud to be representing Ireland.
“As well as the competition, this tournament is about spreading the word of Qigong, which is such a beautiful form of exercise. Winning isn’t the be all and end all but I’ll do my best to compete when I get over there,” he concluded.
For more details on the festival, visit www.claretaichi.com
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