over 60’s

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

Shefford Tai Chi Festival

We had a brilliant day again this year – despite the weather many more people came than last year and lots stayed for the whole day – we were delighted to see everybody. There was a lot of interest in all the classes starting with Tai Chi exercises to loosen up the body and a seated Zen meditation session to calm and connect both mind and body.

Shefford Tai Chi demonstration

Shefford Tai Chi demonstration

 

The first guest presentation was from the ENSO Jujitsu group based in Clifton and headed by Lee Alexander, who showed us a variety of exercises and self-defence techniques with flowing movement and exciting throws including a female student taking on a series of attacks from the rest of the class. Visitors were encouraged to join in some partner work and experience the effectiveness of Jujitsu for themselves. There was a lot of enthusiasm and some laughter as everybody worked together co-operatively to learn these techniques.

Jujitsu demonstration

Jujitsu demonstration

Ian Deavin then took a beginners Tai Chi class incorporating standing exercises and slow walking – the sort of activities that the Monday afternoon and Sunday evening classes regularly use to develop relaxation, balance and mobility and which are excellent for falls prevention in people over 50.

Massage and Aromatherapy consultation

Massage and Aromatherapy consultation

By this point in the day the hall was quite full with many people sitting or standing with tea and cake while they appreciated the activities in the display area. Visitors were also able to visit the presentation booths for Massage/Aromatherapy with Tom Rigby who was giving free tasters all day and to discuss reading matter with Joy Lakin from Shefford Library, who presented a selection of books related to the day’s activities – and lending them out to visitors who had their library cards with them.

Shefford Library presentation

Shefford Library presentation

Ian’s original and inspiring Alexander Technique teacher – Eileen Johnson took a group through postural work addressing their primary control of the head and neck leading to relaxed posture and use of the body. Eileen used hands-on touch to adjust each person – and the group was encouraged to adjust their own posture in simple movement.

Group doing Alexander Technique

Group doing Alexander Technique

More Tai Chi from Ian who sought to explain something of the history of Tai Chi and the way it is good for both health and for martial arts – the first thing that Tai Chi seeks to do is to develop a healthy body with relaxed posture and movement – these are the basic principles. This can then be used to aid movement in daily life and if the student wishes then they can progress further towards the martial aspects.

A demonstration of Wing Chun was next on the program – from the William Wong Wing Chun Academy in Shefford who displayed a range of exercises and patterns with students across the age range from young to mature. Finally featuring a young student doing a solo pattern to the delight of the audience. This breadth of relevance whatever age was a continuing theme of the day across all classes.

Wing Chun demonstration

Wing Chun demonstration

A much anticipated set was the Taekwondo demonstration by Instructor Tom Delve of the Shefford Taekwondo group – he and his class showed powerful martial patterns with punches and blocks and included a display of young students which drew much appreciation from the crowd – this finally culminated in a show of brick breaking by the instructor and his senior students, which had us all urging them on and applauding.

Performance of Taekwondo pattern

Performance of Taekwondo pattern

Ian took a further session of Tai Chi where he discussed the way that Natural Movement with relaxed good posture forms the basis for good martial techniques – taking standing exercise into walking and into light co-operative partner work. Ian demonstrated both the traditional slow hands free Tai Chi form and a brief but fast Broadsword form which he and senior students practice on Sunday evenings.

Tai Chi demo class

Tai Chi demo class

Tai Chi broad sword demonstration

Tai Chi broad sword demonstration

No health and fitness day would be complete without a Yoga class – which was taken by teacher  Rick Nunn from 9-Energy Natural Expression  – even at the end of the day there were many people still up for joining in with this excellent class which proved challenging and fun. There was even a little friendly competitive spirit expressed by some of the participants who had stayed from the morning and were still looking to enjoy themselves with healthy movement. Rick’s sense of humour in this shared learning environment was appreciated by us all.

Yoga demonstration class

Yoga demonstration class

The day closed off with more Tai Chi from Ian who took the class through walking backwards and how it related to balance and natural movement with a little more of the martial aspect.

Home baked cakes with tea, coffee and squashes were provided free throughout the day by the Shefford Tai Chi group – with donations for charity collected at the counter which finally totalled £110 – going equally to the World Wide Fund for Nature and Hitchin homeless.

refreshments

refreshments

Our grateful thanks go to the many volunteers from Shefford Tai Chi who gave their time (and cakes!) to making this annual free community event such a success.

Shefford Tai Chi FestivalThe Shefford Tai Chi Festival is held at Shefford Community Hall each year on World Tai Chi and Chi Kung Day designated by the World Health Organisation for the last Saturday of April. This year it will be complimented by a wider Community Festival held at venues throughout Shefford in September from 22nd to 30th.  Organisations wishing to participate in either this year’s Community Festival or next year’s Tai Chi Festival should contact Ian Deavin on ian.deavin@btconnect.com

Contacts:

Tai Chi – Ian Deavin – 07860 218334

Jujitsu – Lee Alexander/Nicky Tribble – 07780 971004

Alexander Technique – Eileen Johnson – 07717 154732

Wing Chun – Yvoone and William Wong – 07900 922486

Taekwondo – Tom Delve – 07743 918487

Yoga – Rick Nunn – 07535 676319

Massage/Aromatherapy – Tom Rigby – 01767 314185

Shefford Library – Joy Lakin – 0300 300 8067

Shefford Community Hall – Elsa Tattersfield – 01462 811607

Tai Chi and Alternative Health Exercises

Well there are many factors and to begin, as I understand it, during aging cellular replication slows down around 50 or so, that is the number of stem cells in our body start to run down. The 115 year old woman who died a while ago was found to have only two types of stem cell left in her bloodstream – greatly down on a younger person.

Then the cells that do not replicate do not die, they enter a lower energy state of senescence where they are not so efficient or effective at converting the energy of blood sugar work. Consequently we become weaker cell by cell, muscle fibre by fibre. The same of course happens with our internal organs which consequently become likewise as capable!

Now perhaps many things including Tai Chi, exercise in general, good diet, a low stress lifestyle etc. can prolong that period of decline extending the onset of senescence some years, but ultimately, unless we die by trauma, then we all die the same way, by gradual aging.

The difference is that Tai Chi offers a way of developing skill in body usage – Tai Chi people age and die like everybody else – they have simply learned how to deal with it better than most. They learn how to manage their body and if you have not learned Tai Chi by age 50 then this is when you probably still have enough energy left to learn.

The connected movement of Tai Chi allows the whole body to act together, supporting and enhancing the weaker parts. Like a convoy protecting and supporting the slower weaker ship. We need to get the whole convoy home – the whole body – with as little damage or loss as possible.

So, like a team who organise themselves so that the strong support the weak and the quick cover for the slow, the clever for the not so clever – of which each individual will exhibit a range of attributes that need to be meshed together so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and ensuring that the weakest link does not fail.

As they grow old Tai Chi people learn to do this with their bodies, minds and emotions so that by developing relaxed integrated movement, the body organs and consequently the cells of which they are comprised are less stressed and for any action the whole body is brought to bear – thus compensating for developing weakness.

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Shefford Tai Chi Festival poster

Each year on the last Saturday of April the World Health Organisation recognises World Tai Chi and Qigong Day – so for 2017 we are planning a Tai Chi festival at the newly refurbished Shefford Community Hall.

Entry will be free for all with plans for demonstrations, taster classes, falls prevention discussions, etc through the day as well as a number of guest demonstrations by teachers from other classes held at the hall – such as Yoga, Pilates, Taekwando, Tai Kick Boxing, – we are also expecting Alexander Technique and Massage to be available.

Tea and cakes will be available by donation.

We intend that there will be no charge for participants or visitors as we are seeking to promote local community activities related to Tai Chi – anybody wishing to be involved should contact Ian Deavin on 07860 218334 or e-mail ian.deavin@btconnect.com

 

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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Improved physical and mental health – from Tai Chi practice

6 November 2014

My friends and colleagues at The Letchworth Centre for Healthy Living have put together an excellent review of medical reports on the statistically significant effects reported in medical studies attributed to the practice of Tai Chi. These include: “Better physical and mental health statuses, lower blood pressure, less mood disturbance, more positive mood states”, “Breast […]

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Tai Chi for Carers

9 July 2012

A lady contacted me recently – her aged father suffering from Alzheimers had just been admited to a residential home – she refered to research suggesting that Tai Chi is good for Alzheimers sufferers and wanted someone to teach it to her father ideally for 20 mins a day. Unfortunately I could not help her or her […]

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Community class in Letchworth

24 January 2012

I am delighted that we are now holding a daytime beginners class at The Letchworth Centre for Healthy Living as part of their Community Program – which also includes Group singing and Latino dance.  The Tai Chi class is on Monday mornings at 11.30 to 12.30 when we do some gentle exercises aimed at improving […]

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Planning a Falls Prevention program

21 October 2011

I’ve done quite a bit of work recently teaching Tai Chi as a falls prevention program, with some brilliant feedback – but it has got me thinking a lot about the wider aspects of the subject and led me to produce a whitepaper on the considerations of setting up a Tai Chi based falls prevention […]

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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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