Many worlds Tai Chi


Tai Chi practice at the Shefford Festival

Tai Chi is a bit like one of those online computer games where you start in a small world and need to work out what it is all about so as to open up another level after level on an apparently infinite journey. But this is real and you need to find and to learn to use all aspects of your body, mind and emotional spirituality. The exercises and a teacher offer tools for you to explore and to motivate.
Or perhaps like buying a jigsaw puzzle with a vague picture on the box and only a few pieces. Once you have assembled these you gain some more pieces, gradually you find gaps without pieces, you have to make pieces which fit and make sense of the picture. But the fit of each piece depends not just on the shape or image, matching other elements like texture, smell, squiginess and attitude are just as important.
At no point is it ever what you think it is, it is never the same, everybody experiences it differently, new doors open frequently. Age enables the integration of beneficial experience and learning – you get better as you get older.

Tai Chi master

Tai Chi has much to teach us about life and caring for others, for example:

  1. Intention – in caring for others we seek to support them when they are about to fall, to help them get up and to heal. In conflict we become destructive and seek to unbalance the other with a view to disabling them so they are not able to harm us.
  2. Communication is vital – physical communication is vital. The physical aspects of communication are more than two times as important as the words – it is also much faster and since our bodies rarely lie it is much more honest.
  3. I both cases we seek to be strong, well balanced, resilient and sensitive – so that we can act appropriately to help others – especially our loved ones, defend them and ourselves and not be hurt too much in the process.
  4. Like Yin and Yang these aspects of life are integral, it is important to recognise which sort of relationship we are in since they can sometimes become confused. Relationships outside of our caring circle can easily polarise into disproportionately aggressive defensiveness – like “road rage”.
Tai Chi master

I have recently taken to putting on the website articles which are not carefully crafted – rather they are what may be regarded as thought pieces – something quite traditional as one might recognise from the way the “Tai Chi Classics” were put together for example.

Once thinking about a topic after a while quite suddenly the thoughts just tumble out and it is all I can do to get them on paper – I simply don’t have the time these days to carefully craft them into well structured articles or to fill out the background on everything. So I must leave it to my readers to explore further. I expect that from time to time I will revisit and expand on points.

One that comes to mind is the reference to a difference between preventative and remedial Tai Chi when considering the health of older people. We can think that while a person has the ability to do normal Tai Chi exercises then this may be regarded as preventative of falls or other health issues – on the other hand once a person has reached a point where they can no longer do something like walk the length of a hall or stand for half an hour exercising then they are in need of remedial work. Preventative Tai Chi is simply exercising normally – but in the case of older people perhaps not so vigorously as we once did and can easily be accommodated in a normal beginners level class – this is why I often refer to them as “over 50s classes since  at that age people still have a good 10 years to learn and develop their skill  before they reach a point at which they would otherwise become vulnerable to falls. Start at 50 and one can hope to improve one’s proprioception, body mapping and Tai Chi skill to a point that staves off problems of falling.

On the other hand I sometimes see people with walking frames or in wheel chairs – or get phone calls from relatives who’s father/mother has just been diagnosed/admitted to a care home and  have seen that Tai Chi is good for their condition – and would I please go to the care home every day to teach their parent. Sadly it is expected that they have probably reached a point where more work is needed than either I or they can put in. It is possible they could do the work but unlikely if they do not already have the discipline, habit and skill  of doing it already. This is what I mean by remedial. In these case I suspect that some daily Tai Chi informed exercises and physiotherapy would be as helpful as anything else and would encourage physios and carers to learn enough to pass on simple exercises.

Recent examples of this sort of article include Thoughts on Tai Chi Movement and Martial Arts as a Philosophy also Managing getting Old with Tai Chi

According to a piece in this weeks New Scientist – research in Australia is using a harness and booby trapped obstacle course to train older people as a falls prevention measure, the piece at explains that results show a 50% reduction in vulnerability to falls. This is an important factor since the article states that “One-third of people over the age of 65 fall every year,”

The article goes on the suggest that “research is increasingly showing that exercises that challenge balance and involve lots of movement work best for preventing falls. These should ideally begin before older people have their first fall,”

This reminds me very much of the Tai Chi practice we do in our classes with balance and walking exercises and co-responds to findings by the World Health Organisation in their report which mentions the benefits of Tai Chi, Yoga and Dance in an active aging process. A theme further developed in this piece from the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

Tai Chi has long been recognised as an exercise for life and beneficial into later years – especially if practice is begun before age related physical deterioration leads to vulnerability – for example around the age of 50.


Areas of learning in Martial Arts

19 March 2017

Every now and again ( 10 years or so) I ask myself “why am I practicing martial arts?” and usually I get a fairly simple answer – this time I am grateful to a student who prompted me to ask it once again and this time to come up with a very much more complicated […]

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Considerations on Tai Chi in the role of Falls Prevention – a whitepaper

26 November 2015
Thumbnail image for Considerations on Tai Chi in the role of Falls Prevention – a whitepaper

Experience has shown that Tai Chi is an effective practice for addressing the problems of falls in the elderly and others vulnerable to falls, leading to a reduction in risk in the order of 40% to 50%. However while Tai Chi practice of itself can work well it is not necessarily suited to everyone. There […]

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Tai Chi and Vertigo

19 December 2014

I have found my balance improving recently and reflecting on my falls prevention work with older people who report similar experiences when practicing Tai Chi – so when a student mentioned her problems with Vertigo I thought I would do a quick bit of research. It seems that this is quite well documented so here […]

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New Tai Chi Classes in Biggleswade!

1 March 2013

Update – please note we are no longer running these classes – for up to date information on other classes please see our main classes page.   I am delighted to soon be running classes at The Courtyard Centre in Biggleswade with a Grand Opening Day on Saturday 16 March – followed by daytime and […]

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More on Golf and Tai Chi

23 May 2012

My own Golf lessons are proceeding well – lots of internal awareness and structural corrections, plus course craft about reading the layout and topography etc. Really satisfying when it goes well – laugh it off when it doesn’t! Following on from which I have arranged to run a 7 week series of “Tai Chi for […]

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Fall reduction research

11 May 2011

I am delighted that The Letchworth Centre for Healthy Living have managed to arrange a measured trial of Tai Chi classes to evaluate the effects of Tai Chi related exercises on balance and by extension on the likely risk of falls. Quality of life, longevity and cost to health career stakeholders are all major issues. […]

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