My Dad got me into martial arts, back when I was twelve, as a way to get me away from the video game console and out doing some exercise. I’m grateful for that, in a lot of ways. Martial arts has made me a lot more fit, and giving me confidence and a career, actually. My Dad kept on with it as well, and it’s started to take a toll on him. Where we used to do sparring matches, and throws and joint locks, he’s just gotten to the point where he’s enough older that he doesn’t enjoy being thrown on the mat abruptly.
I looked at Wing Chun videos for him, and he moved into that style. However, even that’s starting to take a toll on him. His blood pressure medications sometimes make him dizzy, and he doesn’t heal from bruises as fast as he used to (for that matter, I don’t either. I marvel at the videos my Dad shot of me when I was a teenager. Oh, to have the resilience I had then with what I know now…)
So, Dad and I are looking for something we can do together that’s got martial arts application, but won’t give pulled muscles, bruises, or force us to explain to my stepmom or my wife why the furniture has been re-arranged or broken. We settled on Single Fan Tai Chi Chuan.
Tai Chi has a number of divergent forms; they’d be called schools in other martial arts. The four dominant ones are Yang, Sun, Wu and Chen forms, and they’ve all got their adherents. If you’ve ever seen Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Worf is doing a “Klingon Martial Art” in slow motion, you’ve actually seen some of the Yang form of Tai Chi. The Wu form is compact, short motions, the Sun form is about swift movement, and the Chen form is about explosive movements, with Wu and Chen most important for using Tai Chi as a martial art rather than as a form of exercise.
Anyway, my Dad needed to get something easier on his joints, so we did single fan Tai Chi, which was developed by Wang Ju Rong, and uses a fan as an exercise instrument, and incorporates elements from all four of the Tai Chi forms into one whole form of motions.
Starting out, we both felt kind of silly, because we’re sweating and working our way through the forms, with a pair of news papers taped to wooden dowels to simulate the fan. It’s very slow – and you really feel the burn. Breathing deeply, you feel it in your abdomen, and diaphragm, and by the end, your calves are just burning. It’s a great way to improve flexibility and breath control. My Dad was grimacing from some of the more explosive movements, because it made his bad elbow hurt, but we quickly slowed it down to keep that from happening again. All in all, it was a good thing to do, and I’ll try to keep up with it, though I may not have time with all my other martial arts commitments. I tell you, the biggest hassle in my life is that there are all these cool martial arts I can study, and not enough hours in the day to do it!