Two-Part Series: Group Fitness Trends
Tai Chi: The Soft Side of Martial Arts
Tai chi, practiced regularly in China by
people of all ages, is one of the most nonaggressive forms of the martial arts.
Its controlled, fluid movements resemble a dance, and its slow speed makes the
moves comfortable and easy to execute. Because it is a martial art, tai chi
philosophy is combative: Its purpose is to help "fight" fatigue and
stress. The circular motions of the limbs and the body as a whole increase
endurance and strength without the use of external weights. Its meditative
quality improves mental clarity. Participants learn a series of movements while
focusing on executing the movements from their center, or "tan-tien".
An excellent introduction to the discipline of martial arts, tai chi is also a
great way to simply chill out.
Many of these mind-body styles of exercise
are being blended into combination classes that offer a mix of styles and
techniques. It is not unusual for teachers to add a yoga or tai chi warm-up or
cool-down to a traditional cardiovascular or sculpting workout. Health-club
schedules may list these mind-body approaches to exercise under different
names, such as Mind and Muscle, Flexible Strength or Balanced Body