Balance

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  www.newscientist.com 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.

 

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 answer – for interest it was essentially a list of things I have found over the years in and around martial arts and continue to work on, in no particular order:

Co-operative working, working with partners, group working, appropriate response, flexibility, strength, resilience, difference between reaction and responsiveness, commitment and over commitment, balance, relaxed movement, falling into emptiness, leading and following, physically listening and asking questions, the language of physical contact, empathy, compassion, patience, modelling an activity, learning about the mind body emotional linkages, learning about the body – how it works and how to use it and how to look after it, awareness of self and others, respect for self and others, personal development, communication, negotiation, sensitivity, the art of listening, observation skills, understanding use and abuse of power, good/evil,  a mirror to myself, humility, developing a true lens to view reality, physical development, co-ordination, congruence of mind body and emotions, honesty, forgiveness, personal defense, fitness, health, openness, desire for learning.

To become comfortable with and learn to manage physical contact, to learn to deal with conflict and intimidation, to learn self-awareness and self-discipline and self-control and self-expression, to improve proprioception/special awareness, neuro-stimulation, circulation/metabolism, change management, learning to deal with bullying, managing personal space and intimacy, training in a place of safety/sacred space, training partners trusted persons, friendship/companionship, maintaining contact with our ancestry as human animals, finding the true meaning of our humanity, becoming a balanced human being – personal development, change habits of stress into habits of relaxation, managing health issues, develop strength and understand personal power, spiritual development, Taoism, Zen Buddhism, understand the breadth and variety of human activities and relations, giving others the opportunity to learn some of this for themselves, receiving the positive feedback of others who have benefited from my passing this on, potentially making a difference in helping others to look after themselves and to consider society from a wider perspective.

Also I enjoy it, so no doubt not a complete list – and with many overlaps – but a useful one. Good luck in finding your own answers.

Tai Chi Stepping at an angle

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 are a wide range of contextual factors that need to be considered and which may improve the acceptance of a program to the participants e.g. the amount of social time and the quality of social interactions built into the class schedule. In addition it is clearly important to establish a lesson plan of Tai Chi based exercises focused on improvement of balance and mobility as well as being within the capabilities of the participants.

Read the full whitepaper here.

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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New Monday afternoon classes – balance and mobility

11 May 2011

Building on my work with the Letchworth centre for Healthy Living I will be running classes in Shefford for people approaching their 60’s and for those already in their 60’s or older – these classes will cover Tai Chi exercises aimed at improving balance and mobility – simple, gentle exercise suitable for those feeling vulnerable to falls […]

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Tai Chi at Aromatics in Baldock

9 May 2011

Update – for information on current classes in this area please see the classes page on our main website.   I will be running a short series of 4 beginners classes on a weekly basis at Aromatics Beauty and Holistic Treatments saloon in Baldock, starting on Monday June 13th – time is from 6.00 to 7.00pm. […]

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