I am so happy that tai chi has received a lot of press recently. Articles are being published where researchers in the medical community perform in-depth studies about the benefits of tai chi. The latest buzz is how tai chi can benefit patients with Parkinson’s disease.
While I like seeing tai chi in the limelight, there is something in these articles that bothers me. Most of these articles outline studies where one controlled group participate in conventional exercise and the other group do a “modified” tai chi class (read for yourself on NPR.ORG or the New York Times).
Why was there a need to modify tai chi? I’m sure that the tai chi was modified because of the great learning curve intrinsic to the traditional tai chi form. I don’t blame researchers for doing this. Tai chi is a martial art that is rich in tradition. Imagine a patient remembering classic tai chi theories such as look left, look right, central equilibrium, advance, retreat, the list goes on and on. There are so many different theories in tai chi movements, it could make your head spin! You might already be asking, “What the hell is central equilibrium?”
Did you know that the secret healing power of tai chi lies in a much simpler practice called qigong? Pronounced “chee-gong,” this form of static and moving meditation is the key practice to cultivating the true healing power of tai chi. It is generally more health focused and requires less time to actually learn the various exercises. In other words, think of tai chi as a really advanced form of qigong. Traditionally, it would be best for practitioners of tai chi to get a better handle on qigong PRIOR to learning a tai chi set.
If you are going to modify tai chi to meet the needs of people with really bad balance or arthritis, then why not just do qigong instead? If people want to deepen their practice in their moving meditation studies, then the practitioner can learn a tai chi set later. No need to worry, there are plenty of really good teachers out there that have the knowledge to teach you a good tai chi set.
My prediction for the next 5-10 years
In an increasingly busy world, it is very hard to find the time to take up an art like tai chi. People want to get healthy and want the results to come yesterday.
I think qigong will actually surpass tai chi in popularity within the next 5-10 years due to a much simpler set of movement combined with breathing exercises. Tai chi will still be around for a niche group of people that are looking for a combination of a meditative practice and a means of self defense. The key to making this prediction come true, is to spread the awareness of what qigong is.
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