Karin Collins Taijiquan & Qigong recently opened in Fremont and I had a chance to speak with Karin to find out a little bit about the practices, the history of the business and what newbies might expect if they stop by.
Tell us about your history with Taiji & Qigong and what led you to open your own studio here in Fremont?
I had no idea how profound my study of Taiji & Qigong would become when I started in January of 2000. I signed up for one class, and within a couple weeks, signed up for everything I could take. I’d grown up in the theatre, studying dance and movement, and when my theatre days were over there was something missing. Taiji and Qigong were the vessels that re- launched me into the content satisfaction I find while in motion. I was drawn to them as a refined and complex set of skills for fluid movement; an internal study of self, patterns, and potential; and a unique way to connect to our environment and those around us. I’ve been fortunate to study with many talented teachers from Seattle, as well as from abroad in both practices.
About two years into my training I was encouraged to consider teaching and by 2003, I was teaching regularly. I’ve been certified in multiple Qigong forms for health and wellness, the Yang 24 Taiji Short Form and the ‘5 Section’ Taiji Curriculum. Additionally, in 2009, I spent 3 months in an intensive training, analogous in Taiji training to a Master’s Degree program, to complete an in-depth study in the Traditional Yang Style Taijiquan Curriculum, which includes solo forms, interactive work & weapons training (Details about these forms can be found on the website).
I began looking in February 2010 for a dedicated studio. Originally, I was looking in various neighborhoods, including South Lake Union, Westlake and others. Plans had been made for offers on other spaces, but it wasn’t until I found the now nicknamed ‘Triple 2’ in July that I truly believed I’d found a long-term home. Fremont is a vibrant and ideal neighborhood and, because of its central location, convenient for both my current students and newcomers. The green, yellow & red-trimmed building at 222 Etruria is visible from the Burke-Gilman trail, the bridge and Nickerson with plenty of free street parking.
The studio has been renovated to make the best use of its open, expansive space, natural light, and enticing water views of the ship canal. The open feeling and water view lends perfectly to the calming and stress-reducing nature of the classes.
In addition to my classes, workshops and events, I have 3 offices with various therapeutic practitioners including Acupuncturists, Massage therapists, a Naturopathic doctor as well as a Life Coach and Reiki master.
For those that don’t know, can you explain the practice and what it entails?
They may sound mysterious, but they’re really not. And while the names are mouth-garbling Chinese lingo, it is only a matter of getting used to them, just like now familiar ‘yoga’, ‘pilates’, ‘reiki’, etc.
Both practices are ‘vital energy’ or ‘Qi’ (say chee) based internal arts, meaning we seek to cultivate an internal awareness of energy flow through focus or ‘mind-intent’, specific movements, breathing exercises and meditation. Consistent practice improves essential traits for a happier, longer life including keeping the body fit and free from injury, allowing for greater relaxation and stress relief, cultivating a tenacity of focus, concentration and clarity, deepening the connection to breath, body and spirit, and generating a deep well of energy or ‘Qi’. As Jane Brody, in a September New York Times article wrote so clearly, “the proper question to ask yourself may not be why you should practice tai chi, but why not.”
Taiji practices are a series of movements called ‘forms’. There are many types of Taiji from specific family lineages and traditions. My focus is on Yang Style Taiji, renowned for its slow, steady movements that challenge strength and concentration while at the same time allow for a deep sense of relaxation. On its own, Taiji is an ideal way to keep the body feeling limber and strong and to reduce the harmful effects of chronic stress. In addition, because it is based on internal awareness, it is an outstanding way to cross-train as it complements and adds to the richness of other physical pursuits.
Much the same may be said about Qigong practices—it also has various ‘forms’ and among many benefits, helps to improve breathing capacity, flexibility, strength and provides a deep sense of calm. I focus on several forms with a spectrum of options, from seated meditation, a simple form of 8 movements to more complex forms that provide a rigorous whole-body workout.
How has the reaction been so far from clients, students and visitors?
Since mid-December, I’ve hosted several open houses. So far the big hit was a ‘Friends & Family Movie Night’ where kids and adults enjoyed “Kung Fu Panda” projected up on the wall. The kids loved piling up on the floor to watch one of their favorites, we had popcorn and treats, and at the end of the movie made up a new game to play with the balls before they tumbled off to bed. More movie nights to come!
We have another open house this weekend, Saturday, February 5th to celebrate the Chinese New Year from 1-4:30.
I am very happy with the reactions so far to the space, described as “beautiful and comfortable” with everyone commenting on and enjoying the unique view of the ship canal and Fremont.
My students love their new home and we’ve settled quickly into the quiet comfort of group practice and the laughter that inevitably surfaces over the course of a class.
For a newcomer who is interesting in starting out, what would you recommend?
Beginning the week of February 14th, there is a special series of introductory classes running through mid-March. The ‘5 WEEK INTRO SERIES’ is the perfect way to try out a Taiji & Qigong class focusing on the basics and core principles that will provide an ideal foundation for future study.
Also, in May, I am pleased to welcome my teacher, Sam Masich (http://www.sammasich.com) for a very special weekend of workshops related to Taijiquan. A world renowned practitioner and teacher, Sam is one of the most accomplished practitioners of Chinese internal martial arts in the world today. We are fortunate to have him and it will be a weekend of training not to be missed. Further details TBA in coming weeks.