Home

Martial Arts in Healing

We who have the honor of training with Yamakura Shihan have heard him state that Tai Chi Chuan is a major influence on Goju-Ryu.  This article is about my experiences in teaching Tai Chi to people with mental and physical disabilities. 

     When I was approaching my Shodan test in the mid-90’s, I looked hard at what I needed to improve.  One big area for me was what I perceived to be my lack of grace or fluidity of motion.  So I signed up for a Tai Chi class in my community.  It was a 90 minutes per week class and 10-15 people began with me, most rank beginners like myself.  Two years later, I had learned the complete (8-minute Yang Style short) form, but all the other students were long gone.  Since that time, I’ve continued daily Tai Chi practice along with my Goju practice. 

     We who have the honor of training with Yamakura Shihan have heard him state that Tai Chi Chuan is a major influence on Goju-Ryu.  This article is about my experiences in teaching Tai Chi to people with mental and physical disabilities. 

     When I was approaching my Shodan test in the mid-90’s, I looked hard at what I needed to improve.  One big area for me was what I perceived to be my lack of grace or fluidity of motion.  So I signed up for a Tai Chi class in my community.  It was a 90 minutes per week class and 10-15 people began with me, most rank beginners like myself.  Two years later, I had learned the complete (8-minute Yang Style short) form, but all the other students were long gone.  Since that time, I’ve continued daily Tai Chi practice along with my Goju practice. 

     In my day job, I’m a psychotherapist at a Philadelphia agency, working with HIV positive clients. Most have “triple trouble” – HIV, mental health issues, and history of addiction.  Many are at least partly disabled due to strokes, arthritis, diabetes, and HIV neuropathy.   I thought it would be interesting to offer Tai Chi to clients and staff, so I began doing this in July ’07.  Included in my class was a man who had suffered a stroke which had essentially paralyzed one side of his body; he got around in a motorized wheelchair.  In a year of classes (he hardly missed any), this man got up out of his wheelchair and now practices the entire form on his own feet.  I could hardly believe my eyes!  Other students (mostly) clients reported major changes in their lives: more strength and flexibility, more calm, better well-being. 

     So I looked further into these amazing health improvements, researching the internet.  I found a large number of scientific studies just beginning to tap into the mind-body-spirit health enhancements of Tai Chi practice.  I found a Tai Chi master Dr Zibin Guo who has set up a program for teaching Tai Chi to people limited to wheelchairs, and I’ve corresponded with him, with mutual admiration.  I’ve learned an interesting thing from him – that for people who can’t move an arm or a leg properly, they CAN exert the intention to make that particular move, and this intention drives the energy (the ki) that will heal them, if they practice diligently. 

     I see the same concept in action in the Three Battles of Sanchin.  I recall a conversation I had with Ms. Carol Gittins at the Ohio 50th event, where she told me of the work she and her husband were doing with Iraq vets suffering from severe PTSD; a Tai Chi-like exercise helped them heal. 

     This is powerful stuff and I am humbly grateful to be part of our community.