Columnist may incorporate Tai Chi into his regular routine
By Bill Tamburrino
I recently called Joe Bess, retired teacher, coach athletic director and current friend, to see if he wanted to work out.
The term workout can be defined in many ways. For Joe and me, the definition of workout is “getting out of the house before our wives come up with honey-do jobs.” In other words, our workouts are getting out of work.
Our workouts usually consist of walking with Joe’s dog, Evie, and talking, arguing and trying to solve the problems of Ramona, California, the USA and the world. We have come up with some great solutions, but nobody will listen to us so I will only give you one example. Our solution to the unemployment problem is simple: Hire more people.
I was geared up for our usual three-mile walk when Joe suggested that we go to the library for Tai Chi. I told Joe that I don’t drink Tai tea. I only drink iced tea. He explained that Tai Chi is a form of working out. Since Joe was driving (probably not the way to start a workout), I went along for the ride.
I didn’t have time to go into the library to look up Tai Chi because we arrived just as the class was about to begin.
When the class started, I realized that I had seen Tai Chi before. My sister lived in San Francisco and when I worked out in The City by the Bay I often saw older men and women performing what I guessed was slow motion Kung Fu in the parks and on the beaches. Most of those performing Tai Chi in San Francisco were Asian ladies and gentlemen.
Tai Chi classes are held every Thursday at the Ramona Library in the Community Room at 9 a.m. Holistic Health Practitioner Wendi Morgan conducts the classes. Wendi is nothing like the senseis in “Karate Kid” or “Napoleon Dynamite.” Wendi is a very calm, nice, quiet, skilled professional. She runs a great class and there are no bullies there.
Wendi explained that Tai Chi is a form of martial arts. When I researched further in the wonderful Ramona Library, I found that Tai Chi (taijiquan) comes from an internal Chinese martial art practiced for self-defense training and for health benefits. It is also practiced for a variety of personal reasons and a multitude of traditional and modern training forms exist.
Let’s just say it is slow motion martial arts, but it goes way beyond that. Like all martial arts, there is a spiritual aspect to Tai Chi.
Before Wendi started class, Paul Cruz, a student and experienced Tai Chi and martial arts practitioner, put on some soothing music. I am not sure what to call the music, but it is nothing like the music that Coach Baldwin plays when the football players are working out in the weight room. It reminded me of music one might hear if one was riding an elevator to a very high-classed Asian restaurant. The music set the tone for the workout.
Wendi, who has been practicing Tai Chi for 18 years, led the 24 students through some very light stretching exercises. Tai Chi helps with balance, breathing, muscle tone, stretching and concentration. Research shows that senior citizens who practice Tai Chi have a fall rate 70 percent lower than those who don’t practice Tai Chi.
The class was originally planned for senior citizens but is now open to all who wish to attend. It is free and very informal and friendly.
Wendi explains the movements very well and demonstrates them. There are also experienced students in the class that one can watch while practicing the movements. Nobody mistook Joe or me for one of the experienced practitioners. Our movements were not as fluid as the veterans or Wendi’s.
While explaining the movements, Wendi uses explanations that seem to come from Chinese porverbs like: “Pick up the bird.” “Release the bird and watch it go.” They make perfect sense during the session like “Wax on and wax off” did in the “Karate Kid” (original version).
All of the people in the class are friendly. Joe was especially friendly. He seemed to laugh every time I attempted to perform a movement. Instead of watching the bird go, I flipped the bird to Joe.
Tai Chi is not typical of what I previously called working out. It is low impact and is not physically taxing. According to Wendi, it should be practiced at least three times a week to get maximum benefits. To me most workouts are like beating your head against a wall. They feel good when you quit. That is not the case with Tai Chi. I may incorporate it in my stretching routine.
In past years to get stories in the summer I have climbed Mt. Woodson and Iron Mountain, hiked Cedar Falls, kayaked and hiked into Kealakekua Bay and ran a 5K race. Tai Chi is the smartest workout that I have attempted for the Ramona Sentinel.
Wendi is a holistic health practitioner who is licensed and has over 1,000 hours of study in anatomy, massage, Tai Chi, nutrition and several other disciplines. In other words, she is a pro and is professional in her approach to teaching Tai Chi. Check it out for yourself.