Health or fitness?

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Tai chi for health

The modern perception of tai chi for health revolves around the idea that tai chi will miraculously heal up all ailments. Without any real exercise, diet or lifestyle change.
Like some sort of elixir. This is a very pleasant fantasy albeit somewhat ludicrous

Fix me up

Doctors often suggest tai chi to people who are overweight, stressed or suffering from fatigue. The well-meaning doctor is hoping that the patient will take responsibility for their own wellbeing
Instead of taking responsibility, the patient wants the tai chi teacher to fix them up or at the very least listen to their lengthy catalogue of medical complaints.


When people come in the hope of being fixed-up, they are quite perturbed to be faced with actual exercise. And are surprised when asked to join in with the rest of the class.

Prevention or cure?

Although many people seek to use tai chi as a means of curing illness, this is not where its strength lies. Tai chi is best employed whilst healthy, not sick.
When a healthy person does tai chi they are more apt to remain healthy. It takes far less effort to prevent something than to cure it...

Health attitude

A person who wants tai chi to address health concerns normally comes to class with a very different attitude to a fitness student. Usually the health student is reluctant to exercise.
Often they complain because they wanted the qi to do all the work... Or their commitment is lacklustre.

Fitness attitude

By contrast, a fitness student relishes the challenge of new and interesting exercises. They are very curious about ergonomics, whole-body strength, balance, coordination and alignment

Tai chi involves work

A person who wants to get fit normally has a positive mental attitude and fully expects to have to work to get fit.
Students with health problems are seldom willing to take responsibility for their own wellbeing

What do we teach?

Some tai chi classes are geared towards addressing ailments e.g. arthritis or mental health issues. Our class is not.
We are primarily teaching qigong, tai chi for health and tai chi. If you are looking for medical assistance, please consider another tai chi school. It is not our forte.

I've been trying to get this point over for years. It's mainly prevalent in the qigong world. We're not doctors. If students train regularly then they may gain health benefits but we can't pretend we can cure them! So many times I've seen last-gap causes who are often very over-weight and have done no exercise who have been referred to by doctors. The reality is that we can offer assistance for those who are prepared to train but most doctors have little idea of what is actually happening in a tai chi class and, then again, there is such a variety of aspects taught in the many differing classes available.

(Ronnie Robinson)

Page created 5 December 1999
Last updated 16 June 2023