Ester Marsh: What is tai chi?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 6, 2024

Most people have heard of tai chi, but do you know what it is?

We are so lucky at our J.F. Hurley YMCA. I seem to run into amazing people who want to be part of our great organization and share their talents. Someone walked into our YMCA not so very long ago. We instantly had a connection because of our martial arts background (the difference is that he still practices and I don’t). Our philosophy about practice, earning belts and degrees are right on the same wavelength. I felt I was in conversation with my late Sensei Jan v/d Horst, who is a 10th Dan black belt in Kodokan Judo.

I found out that besides being a sixth level Dan black belt in Chinese Kung Fu and karate (among many other martial arts), he is a grand master in tai chi! He is the owner of Mind Body Shen N.C. Branch affiliated with the Branch in N.Y. led by Dr. Derrick Trent, founder of Mind Body Shen.

Tai chi has been around for a very long time. Around the 16th century, the Chen Family of Chen Village in China, practiced their own style of martial arts — Chen style of tai chi. Chen style is the mother of all styles. Other styles are Yang, Hao, Wu, Li and Sun style. Craig teaches Yang style tai chi.

Tai chi has been around for centuries but it seems that just in the last 20 years or so, the western world seems to realize the amazing health benefits tai chi practice brings. In each health magazine I have read, there is a story about how tai chi is so beneficial. Just a few benefits: It reduces stress, improves mood, helps improve sleep, promotes weight loss, improves cognition in older adults, reduces risk of falling in older adults, is great for people with Parkinson’s, COPD, fibromyalgia, arthritis and so forth.

Exercising period has most of these benefits, however tai chi has become so popular because it can literally be done by anyone. Grand Master Craig ran a huge youth program in the Bronx where he guided so many youths to become responsible, active adults through the practice of tai chi. He told me I can teach tai chi to blind people, wheelchair bound or anyone who is wanting to practice the form of tai chi. Craig will start with introductory classes this Monday, July 8, at 4 p.m., Wednesdays at 4 p.m. and Fridays at 11 a.m. at our J.F. Hurley Family YMCA Branch in the aerobics room across from fitness. I am stoked!

I have learned tai chi moves and use them in my classes, and call them Ester Chi since I only know some moves and not the whole philosophy behind tai chi. The practice of tai chi teaches about the circulation of qi (life force/energy) through the body meridians and the martial arts applications of the form movements. If you are interested in tai chi, come check us out or any other organization who offers tai chi. I know I am so excited to learn from the best!

Ester Hoeben Marsh is associate executive director and director of healthy living at the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA.