Tai chi looks slow, synchronised and peaceful. But don't be fooled.

When tai chi instructor Alexander Ivanov spoke of the power of my pen, I was gloating inside. Now, how could he have guessed I was a fabulous writer?!

And then it all comes crashing down as Ivanov explains the power of the pen.

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Tai Chi is believed to foster the circulation of positive energy within the body, enhancing the health and vitality of the person.

"In tai chi, everything can be turned into a weapon. When I'm in an airplane, I always keep a Cross pen with me. It looks fancy but it's my perfect weapon, and I hope I never need to use it."

Now there's a new item airport security officers can add to their long list of banned airplane cabin items.

I figured I'd gamble with my life a little bit and ask Ivanov to show me some pen moves.

He asked for the inconspicuous lead pencil I had in my hand and asked me to stand up.

With a push of the pencil under my nose I nearly tumbled over to the floor, and with slight jabs to my neck, wrist and forearm, I was left with random red and slightly swollen marks on my body for the rest of the day. And that was only a death-free demonstration.

The concept

After sitting through a one-hour tai chi class watching Ivanov and his students perform slow, synchronised and peaceful movements, the sheer force of what he could achieve with a pen came as a surprise to me.

With a history of almost 6,000 years, the ancient art of tai chi is based in the Chinese philosophy and medicine concept of chi, a vital force that animates the body.

One of the avowed aims of tai chi is to foster the circulation of the chi within the body, the belief being that by doing so, the health and vitality of the person are enhanced.

"Tai chi is a way of life, where the practitioner is trying to achieve harmony between body, spirit and soul," explains Ivanov.

"The goal is to reach harmony with the entire environment."

For those who think tai chi is a martial art only made for people with extreme concentration skills and great athletic abilities, think again.

While the original form was a fighting art derived from Shaolin kung fu, tai chi is today associated with meditation, relaxation and health.

"All disease is a result of chi blockage or when the balance of good and bad chi is destroyed," says Ivanov.

"Tai chi is a healing thing, it prevents sickness and slows the ageing process and it really has healing powers. For other martial arts, you need to start with a strong body, but not with tai chi."

Healing with tai chi

Ivanov is a Bulgarian national who began his journey into martial arts with karate.

He was left with a double knee injury and found that tai chi brought him balance and healing.

When he first came to Abu Dhabi, he met Master Wong, a tai chi instructor who spoke no English but who deepened Ivanov's bond to tai chi.

"When I touched him, it was the first time I felt I was not the one controlling my body. He was trying to teach us essence without the form, trying to put the chi in us."

The chi may seem like a vague and psycho-babbly concept to some, but Ivanov clarifies that it is not a concept that should be explained, but rather shown.

In another demonstration which I also hoped would be death-free, Ivanov twisted my wrist until I could feel slight pain.

With the channelling and control of his chi, I first felt the pain in my wrist, then in my elbow, in my shoulder, and finally, in my stomach.

The man had not changed his position; he was merely in control of his energy and could move my pain around.

"When people try to explain chi, it's a sign that they're not into it," says Ivanov. "A real instructor just shows you what it is."

He did show me; I was stumped, and in a tiny bit of pain.

Julia Andreeva is one of Ivanov's students and has only recently approached tai chi.

A former dancer, she was looking for a sport she could do for herself without having to go through the agonising boredom that is the gym.

"I liked tai chi from the first day," says Andreeva.

"There was some kind of magic when I saw that I could do it. With Alexander, he explains why we do the things we do and how it should be, not just the movement."

Sultan Khatib met Ivanov through his wife who follows tai chi classes.

While Khatib himself does not practise the art of tai chi, he was quickly impressed with Ivanov's character.

"Alexander has dedicated his life to tai chi," he explains. "He relates with his students just like a psychologist; he knows how to deal with every single person."

Silencing the sceptics

As for the sceptics who doubt that a martial art like tai chi can yield actual results and be translated into your everyday life, Andreeva bears witness to the values tai chi has instilled in her.

"It has changed me," she says.

"I've become quieter, I'm relaxed, I feel good and I do it everyday. I work as a guest relations officer and work with a lot of different people, so it helps me cool down, forget and think of something else."

Ivanov stresses that tai chi is not an otherworldly sport which serves no use in daily life.

Tai chi is based in the principle that you are part of everything in the world and can improve from there, as opposed to the traditions of yoga that teach you to leave this world.

"We don't need to become monks," he jokes.

"The idea of tai chi is to achieve energy balance whatever you do. You can be a businessman, an artist or a journalist and apply the principles of tai chi in your life."

Once again, I drifted into a short-lived daydream, gloriously imagining myself as the ever-so-composed journalist he was speaking of who could achieve balance in every aspect of my life.
Could I ever become the picture of inner poise and cool, calm and collected energy?

Could tai chi mean the end of traumatic deadline stress, unnecessary temper flares and distressing writer's block? The only thing left to do is to find out.