Tai Chi Insights from a Professional Football Coach

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I have been taking Tai Chi classes at Hua Ying Academy since April 2017.

Working in professional sports for more than 30 years, I moved to KL four years ago – and coming from the competitive and physically demanding high performance environment of Western sports, I was eager to learn more about the ‘Eastern Style’ of exercise.

Western fitness paradigms often make us believe that the only way to improve health and fitness is through high-intensity, high-impact exercise. Fitness trainers and doctors promote aerobic exercise for cardio-vascular activity through jogging, bicycle riding or similar to increase oxygen use and boost immune systems.

As competitive sports stress the importance of an athlete’s ability to compete with nature, sometimes to overcome it, training demands for vigorous cardiorespiratory-endurance activity, resistance/strength or flexibility exercises.

Athletic fitness is defined as ability to superior external performance of high-performance activities. Athletes are expected to do push-ups, lift weights and run marathons for stronger muscles and better endurance– even if they suffer from damaged joints, organic constraints, unbalanced emotions or the inability to handle stress.

In the view of Eastern philosophies this seems not healthy – as health is traditionally defined as a holistic state of wellness in which the mind is clear and emotionally balanced, the body free from organic concerns or injuries and the soul experiencing vibrant vitality and a sense of well-being.

Tai Chi, as I have learnt in my first steps as beginner, offers a form of exercise that appeals to all these aspects through a holistic mix of philosophy, techniques, forms and practical applications. The smooth weight shifts and the slow movement pace of the forms improve my body orientation, my breathing, my reflexes.

My body position is shifting to a more upright and symmetric posture, which has a sensible impact in compensating my muscular dysbalances – caused by year-long competitive high performance training. On one hand, the slow and fluid motions put us in tune with nature and teach us to be mindful of our body.

On the other hand, I am observing similar effects on physical fitness as in high-intensity sports, proving that Tai Chi can be also effective in improving cardio-vascular capacities, general strength as well as mental balance. After a session I feel energized, physically and mentally present and vital.

I found insights in the subject of mental training and meditation, which has been another field of my studies over the years: when, at some point, you have learned the first elementary forms, and you don’t have to ‘think’ about doing them anymore, then, little by little, you begin to sense the flow of the energy.

Which reveals the potential of Tai Chi for meditation. Which comes as a wonderful discovery for an active individual like me, who is marked by the western paradigms of high performance sports – as I will ten times prefer “moving meditation” to something that is to be done while sitting in a chair or cross-legged on the floor….

Fritz Schmid, January 2018