This blog post is reproduced from our sister site White Crane Online – where you can learn Tai Chi, Qigong and Meditation online…
Whilst Tai Chi is a wonderful activity to integrate into your life, there are – apparently – other things that people enjoy doing – so I am told! 🙂
For many people, tai chi becomes their sole activity and for them this is enough to keep active, healthy, fit, flexible and of good mindset. This is great and regular daily practice will go a long way towards remaining in optimal health.
One of the amazing things about tai chi, is that it can be many things for many people – and when the only external requirement is a little bit of space and time, it’s the ultimate portable training modality.
If tai chi does not become your main interest/hobby/pastime (yet :)) – it will help and enhance almost anything else that you do with with spare time.
For a start, it’s a perfect warm up and cool down from any other form of exercise which may be slightly more physically demanding. I often do a tai chi form before weight training, for example. For me it seems to gently get the blood flowing, the energy shifting, muscles warmer, connective tissues awakened and perhaps most importantly: the mind focussed. After this physically demanding training, performing tai chi helps to calm the CNS, gently stretch the muscles, calm my energy down – beginning recovery straight away, meaning less soreness and tension.
For those who love their racquet sports and pastimes such as golf – tai chi is perfect. Other than a bit of tennis, I don’t have personal experience but I have taught many many people over the years who tell me that their golf swing has improved immeasurably after even just months of tai chi training. It doesn’t just loosen you up for these activities, it helps with focus, balance, remaining calm under pressure, transfer of power and energy (from the ground, through the legs and into the body and the arms), the increased mobility tai chi provides will aid effective movement around a court as well as hand/eye coordination and posture. It also brings balance to a body, which may be overdoing it slightly on one side.
Participants in ever popular sports and activities – such as rugby, football, running, athletics, swimming – can greatly benefit from cross training in tai chi. As we age, these relatively physically demanding hobbies can take their toll on the body. I know this personally from a few knee operations in my early 30’s. Tai chi was an amazing aid to physiotherapy and got me back to full fitness much quicker than most people I know who have had similar issues.
Imagine starting tai chi in your teens or early 20’s and using it as a PRE-habilitation activity, where you can keep injuries at bay by remaining strong, mobile and flexible in all the right areas.
Going back to strength training again (and, as an aside, I think everyone – young and old – should be doing some kind of strength training!) I firmly believe that if you start cross training in tai chi, you will be able to keep strength training, or doing other similar physically demanding hobbies, for much longer. Most football playing friends of mine didn’t play much later than their mid-30’s and often finished up with bad injuries (usually knees) and being quite inflexible and having an almost brittle physique. I’d love to see people still playing these sports until well into their 40’s and 50’s – and I’m sure with a long term tai chi practice that this is possible.
Mindset is really important and when injuries strike, we can often go from leading quite a physical life to being sedentary and sitting on the sofa whilst we recover… this isn’t good for the body and particularly for the mind! When you cross train in tai chi, there’s no need to do such a thing. You can remain active by practicing this martial art and not let your whole body atrophy and your frustration levels rise whilst your injury recovers.
Finally, for martial artists of other styles, cross training in tai chi can elevate you to levels way beyond your current comprehension!
It’s very natural to merge tai chi with kung fu and even sanda (Chinese Kickboxing). At my club, White Crane Academy, we do exactly this. Without fail, the students who choose to do tai chi in addition to the ‘harder’ styles are better at kung fu and sanda. I can’t think of one case where this isn’t true.
Boxing, kickboxing, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, are all hugely popular sport based martial arts. Often practitioners will cross train in tai chi but from personal experience, many feel that because of the fast flowing combative nature of MMA or BJJ, for example, they won’t be able to render any particular benefits from training in the slow and gentle martial art of tai chi. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Basic principles in tai chi such as rooting, yielding, learning strength within relaxation, sensing your opponent’s intentions through contact, controlled breathing, weight distribution, focus, mindset, fluidity of movement… they all carry over perfectly to the competition based martial arts. What’s more, performing martial arts techniques at a very slow pace means you focus on pure technique – rather than strength – and are able to see where small improvements can be made.
Without exaggerating, I don’t think that I can think of any activity that wouldn’t benefit from some cross training in tai chi – even if your main hobby is sitting on your sofa eating pizza and playing Fortnite on your PS4 or bingeing on Netflix – tai chi will more than likely keep you doing that for longer too!! It will at least keep those thumbs flexible and eyes in better health!