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Tai Chi groups taking over the parks

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

12-04-2015 17:15 BJT

By CNTV Commentator Tom McGregor

Chinese martial arts has captured much global popularity in the past few decades, starting with the release of Hong Kong-made Kung Fu films, featuring Bruce Lee in the 1960s and 70s.


Many Westerners perceive martial arts as a sport for Chinese fighters to defeat their rivals in hand-to-hand combat. However, Tai Chi Chuan can be considered a more peaceful version of the ancient custom.

According to Stanford University Wushu Club's Website, "Initially, Tai Chi was practiced as a fighting form, emphasizing strength, balance, flexibility and speed. Through time it has evolved into a soft, slow and gentle form of exercise, which can be practiced by people of all ages."

A legend goes that a Taoist priest from Wu Dong Mountains was mimicking the movements that he observed of a white crane preying on a snake. He taught the routine to students.

A win-win with health benefits

The Mayo Clinic describes Tai Chi as "meditation in movement," a gentle method to fight stress while increasing strength and flexibility. The mind & body go through flowing movements accompanied by deep breathing.

Tai Chi is an art form with each posture flowing into the next one without pause. Such exercises are better suited for outdoor group settings. Senior citizens, especially the Chinese, practice it daily either in big cities or in rural villages.

Medical experts cite studies saying that a regular Tai Chi routine can improve the mood, aerobic capacity, energy and stamina; enhance sleep quality, immune system; lower blood pressure; reduce joint pain, symptoms of congestive heart failure and the risk of falls for older adults.

Chinese Tai Chi clubs swarm city parks

The elderly Chinese recognize the health benefits of Tai Chi; for women it increases blood circulation and strengthens thinning bones. Meanwhile, seniors, both men and women, can enjoy socializing as they gather at parks.

Nevertheless, Tai Chi has evolved, where such groups break out and dance with loud music blaring from speakers. Such activities have led to widespread public criticisms. Many hope, the elderly will silence the music and return to their old-fashioned exercise routines.

Yet, many elderly, either residing in China's cities or rural villages, feel isolated with their children away. They can escape the boredom by joining Tai Chi clubs. After a lifetime of struggles, they deserve the freedom to enjoy their twilight years.

Tai Chi gets Americanized

The Western world has shown a growing interest for Chinese culture. Tai Chi holds a strong appeal because certain exercises are coined with poetic phrases: ‘wave hands like clouds,’ ‘dragon stirring up the wind,’ ‘swallow skimming the pond’ that evoke a oneness with nature.

"Doing Tai Chi makes me lighter on my feet," Harvard Medical School instructor Catherine Kerr told Harvard Magazine. "I’m stronger in my legs, more alert, more focused and more relaxed."

Kerr has devoted nearly her entire academic career to studying the effects of mind-body exercises on the brain at Harvard's Oster Research Center. Meanwhile, Peter M. Wayne, director of a Tai Chi mind & body research program at Oster, insists that the "inner mindful movement" at a continuous state keeps them more healthy and serene.

Accordingly, Tai Chi sessions are opening up all over the USA with Americans enrolling in droves.

Peaceful Kung Fu meditation

Tai Chi is riding a giant wave of popularity in China and in the rest of the world. The exercise routine does not demand high-flying acrobats or even strenuous exercise. It's like Kung Fu in reverse. As the Chinese population grows older, you can expect to see more and more Tai Chi groups taking to the parks nationwide.



( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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