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Tai chi relieving Turks' tensions

By Xinhua in Istanbul | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-11 09:50
Teacher Esat Atac leads his students during a tai chi lesson this week in Istanbul, where the traditional martial art is gaining in popularity. HE CANLING/XINHUA

Murat Baltaoglu is deep in concentration as he practices tai chi in a central Istanbul park.

He and 10 other barefoot devotees are trying hard to match the movements of their instructor, and are typical of a small but growing number of people in Turkey fascinated by the ancient Chinese martial art.

"Tai Chi has allowed me to have a good quality of life, and I recommend it to everyone," Baltaoglu, who works in advertising, told Xinhua in the Turkish capital this week.

He first took up tai chi in a salon, but now prefers to practice outdoors.

"When I went out into the open air, I felt the sensation of the soil under my feet," he explained.

"It is of great use to get oxygen outside and take the energy from the soil. It is both physically and mentally much more relaxed."

Tai chi's appeal to stressed-out urbanites is obvious.

"They are increasingly trying to avoid the stress and chaos of city life by practicing tai chi," said Mustafa Karslioglu, deputy head of the Turkish-Chinese Cultural Association, one of the biggest sponsors of tai chi groups in Istanbul.

"We opened a large number of courses in sports halls, dancing halls and yoga centers during the winter months.

"Since the beginning of summer, a growing number of people have filled parks and green areas in Istanbul to attend the classes."

Some take it more seriously than others - Baltaoglu's teacher, Esat Atac, quit his textile business in 1999 to devote himself to learning the meditative art, and in 2011 traveled to Wudang Mountain, Hubei province, to take instructor courses.

Since then, he has been teaching tai chi, "enabling people to raise their life energy".

"Tai chi combines slow movements, meditation and breathing exercises while bringing a physical and spiritual calmness to life," he enthused.

"When we apply the yin-and-yang philosophy of tai chi to our daily lives, we can catch the harmony and balance in our body."

Another of Atac's students, Ebru Ojen, has been learning tai chi for two and a half years and now attends classes every day.

"I feel much more vigorous compared with my life before tai chi," said the 37-year-old actress, who claims the ancient art also helps alleviate her sleep problems and stomach pains.

"I'm much more focused, feeling energetic and ample, and my metabolism is working faster," she added.

Atac, who also teaches in resort towns, pointed out that while his classes consist of a cross-section of Turkish society, tai chi remains a relatively niche pursuit in the country.

"I tutor psychologists, doctors, business owners and so on," he said.

"Tai chi's recognition here, though, is only around 6 percent of the population while yoga is 60 percent.

"But the world is getting smaller thanks to the internet. Whoever does a little search for the website can easily reach us."

Atac is also teaching classes in several resort towns across the country, including the western province of Izmir.

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