Tai Chi and Qi Gong: its not just for old people. How it can improve your athletic performance.

I have decided to write this article because they are a lot of misnomers and misconceptions about martial artis in general and a lot more about Tai Chi and Qi Gong specifically. I remember my first exposure to tai chi vividly.

I was in Hawaii for a high school basketball tournament and a series of exhibition games.We had arrived to Hawaii a few days before playing any games to get some high quality conditioning and strength work in. The first morning in Hawaii our Coach had put us through a absolutely grueling 2 hour conditioning series. During this intense training session I remember seeing a group of elderly people practicing tai chi out of the corner of my eye a few times and I became jealous of the absolute serene and lack of running they were enjoying. My first reaction was that looks so silly. What will they gain from doing something that slow, it looks useless. After the end of our workout a few of my teammates made some quips about the group practicing Tai Chi. Our Coach responded by mentioning that the group practicing Tai Chi would love to switch places with us and be able to complete our workout so we should stop moaning and be grateful that we were able to complete such a hard workout.

While my Coach’s statement was imbued with wisdom, my initial idea of tai chi was absolutely incorrect. It was NOT a lesser form of exercise that old people do because they can not do anything else. It was in actually and extremely powerful and enjoyable form of exercises that is both great for your body AND spirit. However, it took me much longer than I would have thought to learn this lesson. After that day Tai Chi was placed in the deep recesses of my mind, and I did not come to my attention until I happened to stumble upon Brian Clay’s (2008 Olympic Champion in the Decathlete) autobiography in the Boston Public Library (A highly recommended read). In the book he mentions repeatedly how vital acupuncture and Tai Chi were in supporting him perform at a world class level.

I came across this book at the perfect time in my life as I had suffered from a myriad of injuries during my first NCAA track and field season and that summer I was scouring the entire Boston Public Library for answers. Even though I knew that it was absolutely tantamount that I take the next step forward and learn and practice Tai Chi it was a full 2.5 years later until I seriously and consistently began practicing Tai Chi. This is a great opportunity to highlight an important learning point, common knowledge is NOT common action. Knowledge is useless if it is not acted upon.

Nevertheless, once I came back to Vancouver to begin my graduate school training at the University of British Columbia I got connected with an absolutely amazing Tai Chi and Qi Gong Instructor (Josie) who runs the North Shore Tai Chi Spirt School (https://www.facebook.com/NorthShoreTaiChiSpirit).

To say that practicing Tai Chi and Qi Gong has had a positive impact on my athletic performance and more importantly my life is a gross understatement. Not only do I feel way more energetic, serene, and happy but my athleticism has skyrocketed while my those nicks and bruises I took for granted as the cost of doing business in competitive athletics disappeared. However, the most important aspect of Tai Chi that has helped me improve in all aspects of my life is increasing my body awareness. Sam alluded to this in an earlier post about mindfulness. Your improvement in any area is limited by the focus you are able to allocate to a specific area. Mindfulness or body awareness is your gym for improving your focus. It is something all great athletes such as Kobe Bryant know is essential to peak performance.

“Its not about how much you practice, it’s about how much your mind is present while you are practicing.” 

So I hope this article helped open your eyes to the wonders of Tai Chi and Qi Gong and clear up some confusions regarding Tai Chi. If you suffer from chronic injuries, or are unable to stay honed in during a game, Tai Chi is a tool I would highly recommend that will enable you to become the strongest version of yourself. If you have any questions or would like me to discuss a specific topic please message me on Facebook (Pavan Mehat) or LinkedIn.

Summary 

– Tai Chi and Qi Gong is a very versatile and powerful form of exercise that will strengthen both your body and mind

-Tai Chi and Qi Gong will help improve athletic performance by:

1) Increasing Body Awareness

2) Improving Flexibility and Strength

3) Decreasing the chance of Injury and Allow you to Bounce Back quicker from Injury

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