Derelict supermarket becomes martial arts facility

Taoist Tai Chi Society members. Picture: Jane Barlow

Taoist Tai Chi Society members. Picture: Jane Barlow

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IT was once a destination known for a quick fix – the home of a discount supermarket that offered bargain-basement brands long before the introduction of Lidl and Aldi.

Now the former Kwik Save supermarket in Meadowbank has been transformed into a centre of calm where hundreds of people will discover the secret to long-lasting health and inner peace thanks to the ancient Far Eastern art of tai chi.

The Marionville Road building, which has lain derelict for years, has been refurbished to create the largest tai chi space in Europe.

As many as 400 people will be able to bend their way through their routines in a spacious 1000 square metre practice hall.

Volunteer instructor George Howat, who turned to tai chi about ten years ago to help with an inherited heart condition, said the Taoist Tai Chi Society was more like a large family than an exercise class.

The 65-year-old said: “Quite a lot of the men in fact report a lot of stress reduction. They feel much better, more energised.

“With the amount of multiple medias that can hit you from your phone to your tablet to your PC to your television, sometimes we need a wee place to go where we can be ourselves and just be internalised here in the moment.

“Tai chi is one of those things. Once you concentrate on it, it can push all these things away for a while.

“I have a family history of heart conditions. I had angioplasty, which involves opening up an artery that’s closed. I had to find a method of exercising that wouldn’t stress my body too much.

“I found I can do this. In fact, people with many health conditions do this, and young people particularly can do this.”

Known for its defence training and health benefits, tai chi has been practised for more than 500 years.

Around 600 people across the Lothians now regularly practise the art, endorsed as a technique to help prevent falls among the elderly.

Wallace Gilbraith, the society’s Scottish regional chairman, took it up in his 20s to find “meaning and direction” in his life.

He believes interest will peak on the back of the new centre opening.

He said: “It’s something that people can fit in around a busy working life.”

In traditional Chinese fashion, the building’s grand opening on Friday will include a performance using the society’s own 25-metre-long dragon.

A moving form of yoga

THE ancient art combines deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movements.

Originally developed in 13th-century China, tai chi is today practised around the world as both a health-promoting exercise and for its self-defence training.

It is characterised by its slow, graceful, continuous movements that are easy on the joints and muscles. It is perhaps best thought of as a moving form of yoga and meditation combined.

According to legend, a Taoist monk developed the first set of exercises by imitating the movement of animals.

In terms of health benefits, studies have shown that it can help people aged 65 and over to reduce stress, improve balance and general mobility, and increase muscle strength in the legs.

Celebrities such as Will Smith, Lou Reed and Hugh Jackman have admitted to practising the martial art and benefiting from it.

In China, no park or public space would be complete without an early morning public session.

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