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Oct 21, 2013

{Fit and Strong Day 21}: Try Tai Chi

How about some martial arts?  Sounds scary or daunting?  Not really, when you're just talking about the gentle martial arts form called Tai Chi.  You know, I used to think that Tai Chi is some sort of a slow dance done by those Chinese elders in our community.  As a kid, I would watch them, entranced by the relaxing flow of movements.

When I enrolled in Tai Chi class, our coach emphasized that it is NOT a dance.  To the untrained eye, it looks like dancing, but do not be deceived by those slow movements.  They may be slow, but if you do it correctly, there is actually some force involved and the movements are more deliberate than just the swaying movements in dancing.  

Tai Chi is a type of internal martial arts, hence, the strength comes from within and not just a force of the limbs and muscles.  Physical strength is still an aspect of course, but not the brute force in highly combative forms of martial arts where you break bricks and wooden planks and maybe a few bones as well.  I don't think we'll ever do those things, but I know that Tai Chi can also be used for self-defense.  There are various explanation to each form and movement, so they are not just mindless movements.  And some of those are the slow versions of the defensive moves.  

It would take a few courses to really learn the movements and the principles of Tai Chi.  So, I will skip the lecture and I will leave the research for you if you're interested.  I would just like to stress out that this is suitable for all ages, whether you're 9 or 90 years old.  That's the great thing about it.  It does not discriminate between the young or old, male or female, strong or weak, athletic or not.  You just need to remember the moves, focus, find your style and develop your strength.  Of course that takes some time.

But why am I advocating this?  
  • It's a way to fight stress.  This is achieved by fluid movements coupled with the proper breathing techniques.  Believe me, it is very relaxing and it helps in lowering blood pressure because of that.
  • It enhances mental focus.  We have to remember a set of movements called the taolu or forms.  Those are the basics.  Of course you can always look at the instructor or your classmate, but how can you practice on your own if you don't memorize?  Some say this is like meditating while in motion.
  • The movements are low impact and very gentle on the joints and some people suffering from arthritis can benefit from this.  Although, those with bone fractures on the hips and legs may well consult a doctor before trying this out.  You may either avoid some moves, or modify some.
  • This is a cardiovascular exercise.  Yes you read that right.  According to my coach, if you do the taolu continuously for 30 minutes, the calories burned is comparable with brisk walking and jogging, minus the stress on the joints.  We have tried doing that and even if we're in an air conditioned gym, I could feel sweat trickling down from my forehead, but unlike in running, I am not panting with tongue lolling out like a tired dog.
  • It's fun!  This can be a part of social wellness.  It can be done individually, but it's also a group exercise.  The sanshou or push hands require a partner to pit some strength with.  I've met a lot of great people in my class and some of them are now my friends, extending our bonding moments beyond the class.
  • It fosters determination and self-discipline, like other martial arts.  
  • Great for strengthening the body from the waist down, although there are also moves that benefit the upper body, but most concentrate on the lower body.  That is why running was relatively easier to do because I have stronger hip flexors, quads, glutes and calves from practicing Tai Chi.
Tai Chi is comparable with Yoga in terms of the workout, minus the dizzying moments when you dip your head low or do a head stand.  Flexibility is also not a big issue, but you'll find that as you practice more and more, your body develops the required flexibility.

So what do you say?  Ready for some action?  

This is Day 21 of the Steps to Fit and Strong series.


  1. My brother used to do hwa rang do and even competed. His tooth was broken because of this but continued to play. I've never been interested with sports though I cheer for them :)

  2. I think that's a relative of Taekwondo...both of Korean origins. Tai Chi is a gentle art, so no broken bones and teeth for that matter. :-)

  3. My MIL and FIL do tai chi and it really does help to keep them fit. I haven't tried it myself though. I prefer to do zumba.

  4. I wanted to try yoga, but I feel I'm not flexible enough. Perhaps Tai Chi would be good for me? :-)

  5. i think tai chi is quite similar to yoga when it comes to benefits. it's something that i can imagine myself doing one day :)

  6. I really have no idea about tai chi, but way back in college, I choose to take teakwondo as my indivvisual sports in PE class. We even required to join an invitational tournament.

  7. They don't usually offer Tai Chi in PE...if it's going to be martial arts, it's either, Taekwondo, Judo, Karate, or Wushu. Besides, kids and teens would probably prefer the fast-paced action of those rather than the cool, gentle art of Tai Chi.

  8. Yes sis, almost the same health benefits. What I love is the slow, easy way the movements are made.

  9. Yoga is more popular, I guess...but Tai Chi is an excellent choice also. Flexibility is actually a non-issue because if you're not flexible, you can develop that. :-) Give it a try sis!