Motor skills (2)

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Learning better motor skills takes time, effort and patience. But it is not strenuous. You just need to practice frequently in order to gain familiarity. Corrections, refinement and progress are important.

Why bother?

As people get older their motor skills can diminish. Instead of being agile, physically dexterous and well coordinated, they become clumsier and less able to move freely.
This notably affects the quality of life and accelerates a feeling of growing old.

How does an older person move?

Their steps are often very heavy and their legs are locked and immobile. There is a sense of clumsiness. People frequently walk in an agitated manner; over-striding and erratic.
The lower back is inflexible and the sacroiliac does not move correctly. The back is stooped, the neck stiff and the hands are tight.

How does a young person move?

This is an interesting question. There is a sense of ease. No struggling, grunting or groaning, no pain in the back or the knees.
The body responds instantly to the dictates of the mind. A young person is spontaneous, graceful and free.


The simple seeming qigong exercises featured in the syllabus gently train the body to move in a better way.
Ergonomic, balanced, coordinated and comfortable - your body acquires new habits through the regular practice of basic movements. Key principles are adhered to throughout.

Tai chi for health

Tai chi takes the qigong considerations and explores them across a more dynamic range of movement.
A major feature is the Long Yang form; a complicated series of movements that demand considerable motor skills.
To make the task slightly tougher, this form is practiced slower than you might normally move.
Slowing down works the muscles harder, makes balancing more difficult and gives you time to really experience each moment as it unfolds.

Tai chi

Tai chi involves another level of motor skill altogether. Not only is it a martial art, it is an internal martial art - an advanced method.
This means that your motor skills must be exceptional in order to perform the art properly.

Gross motor skills

One element of tai chi is to encourage people to use their larger muscle groups to perform the majority of physical tasks. This takes less effort, uses up less energy and is more biomechanically efficient.
As people age, smaller muscles will inevitably weaken whereas larger muscles remain stronger for longer.

Fine motor skills

Handling weapons, developing physical sensitivity and performing subtle applications requires a very high level of motor skill. Students become incredibly good at using their own body.

A few other guys were watching a teacher of tai chi. Never had I witnessed such deceptive power. He performed the art with enormous dignity and force, and I realised I was seeing something which, although I could not understand, I had to respect. Mr Wang was at least fifty, and probably older. His power was fantastic.

I once asked Nakayama if he thought karate was the best of the unarmed fighting arts. He answered that he thought it was. In that case, I countered, what about tai chi? Nakayama sensei laughed, and with a smile he said, "For human beings, karate is the best way. But there are some men who are superhuman, and perhaps a few of the tai chi sensei are just that."

(C W Nicol)

Invest in yourself

Gaining great motor skills requires commitment, investment, practice and time. But the outcome is terrific and well worth the effort.

Page created 21 May 1998
Last updated 16 June 2023