I began doing yoga at the age of 36, Shotokan karate at 44, and tai chi at 46. I wish I had been exposed to tai chi sooner in life. I wish the same for everyone else. I was always active in my work, physical labor, for most of my life, but during my mid-thirties I had become disillusioned with seasonal work and hourly wage jobs. I was beat up physically with injuries from accidents and the usual misuse/abuse of my body common to this society. Early on, the career I thought I was working towards failed, so I drifted around for years looking for I don’t know what.
One day, I enlisted in college courses, got a four-year degree, got an office job, got a master’s degree, kept working in the office. My health waned and waned some more. Yoga helped to some degree, but I wasn’t practicing it enough. But I was so busy anyway. Sound familiar? I hear that from people about tai chi often. We have to make choices from among competing interests for our time. So healthy activities that slow the aging process lose out.
Then one day a physical therapist told me she couldn’t help me anymore with a pulled “groin muscle” that I had injured in karate. “Do tai chi,” she said curtly. Strangely, a co-worker was actually practicing tai chi with the only teacher in town. So I went with him to class one evening. Long story short. I’m still practicing tai chi 15 years later. I’ve been to Shanghai China to train three times. I’ve been to training camps many times and have hosted many training camps in my town. I go to the doctor once a year for the annual check up instead of many times a year for one debilitating problem after another. I’m healthy for my age of 61. But there is a long way to go, meaning the rest of my life. Some people are lucky that way.
But nowadays we’re entering a new phase in the history of tai chi. Young people, millennials, are discovering it’s something that could work for them to prevent many of the health problems us old guys are experiencing as a result of injuries, habits, and aging processes that took root when we were in our twenties and thirties. Three millennials have contacted me during the past year or so to learn tai chi and that gives me hope for the future of tai chi and for the health of the younger generation. Also, parents of kids under 12 have contacted me to start their kids on tai chi. This is very unusual. Furthermore, more and more discussion can be found on the subject of young people learning tai chi and integrating it into their lifestyles. This is very heartening to see.