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T’ai Chi Ch’uan: More Than Just an Old Folks’ Thing!

Ask anybody what t’ai chi ch’uan is and they’ll most likely tell you that it is a gentle form of martial art that helps older adults stay fit and healthy. This is, of course, all true. In fact, t’ai chi ch’uan has been found so beneficial in this population that doctors prescribe it for various medical conditions. What’s more, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has recently published new guidelines that officially recommend t’ai chi ch’uan as an effective intervention for those at risk of falls, a top killer in people aged 65 years or older.

Regardless, the view of t’ai chi ch’uan as a form of exercise favoured by, and favouring, the not-so-young-anymore is simplistic and stereotypical. As Chinese martial arts expert and teacher, Dr. Stewart McFarlane, explains in the book, Ways of the Spiritual Warrior, there is more to t’ai chi ch’uan than most think.

Dr. McFarlane reminds us, for example, that t’ai chi ch’uan, and martial arts in general, are becoming an integral part of an increasing number of corporate training programs. Specifically, “they are employed as means of handling the stresses and demands of modern management,” he says. And that’s because the principles underpinning the practice of martial arts “can be directly applied to the contemporary management environment, and are clearly orientated to the modern executive.”

That is quite a long shot from t’ai chi ch’uan being just an old folks’ form of exercise. And that’s not all. Dr. McFarlane, who has 35 years of experience in martial arts training and research, points out that people of all ages in Europe, America and Asia practice martial arts like t’ai chi ch’uan for recreation. Others consider them as a self-defence sport, and train long hours to reach high levels of effectiveness. Westerners see them as an important vehicle for understanding the Eastern culture, language and philosophy. And many consider martial arts a powerful health-promoting combination of movement and meditation.

But the most committed practitioners, says Dr. McFarlane, go beyond all this. They “regard martial arts as a mean of personal transformation, improving their sense of worth, quality of attention, as well as the acquisition of physical skills, such as strength, balance and co-ordination.”

So, clearly, t’ai chi ch’uan has far more uses than that commonly described by media and other sources as ‘exercise for old age.’ And the striking thing is that, whatever the reasons for engaging in this type of martial art, people across the world tend to experience the same amazing benefits.

The many surveys conducted over the years on the subject reveal that, whether they are practiced for leisure, self-defence, meditation, disease prevention or personal growth, t’ai chi ch’uan and similar arts help people feel physically and mentally better, increasing their self-esteem, reducing their stress levels, and enhancing their confidence in the ability to take on, and meet, new challenges and responsibilities. Most importantly, these benefits have been confirmed in dozens of studies worldwide. And the evidence continues to grow.

Ways of the Spiritual Warrior can be purchased from

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