Tuesday, May 7, 2013

5 Ways Tai Chi Has Made My Life (and Jiu Jitsu) Better

I've been practicing Tai Chi about 4 years now. I love it. It has become one of my passions. Last year I also started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Neutral Ground in Milwaukee.  About 6-7 months ago Jon Friedland, the owner of Neutral Ground, gave me the opportunity to teach a Sunday night Tai Chi class there.

One day I saw one of my fellow Jiu Jitsu brothers at a concert and I was telling him about my Tai Chi class . He asked me how I got into Tai Chi and what I felt the benefits were. In the concert atmosphere it was hard to put together any concrete thoughts so I answered with a very generic "Uh… I don't know. I like it." - Hahahahaha

I feel like these are 2 really good questions though, so I thought I'd take the time to answer them here. Each question is pretty important, so I've decided to separate them into 2 different blogs :) This is part 2 of 2 and focuses on 5 things Tai Chi has done for me in life (and in Jiu Jitsu :) ).

1. Tai Chi makes my body feel electric and alive.
After doing my Tai Chi form my body feels as if I have heightened sensitivity from the inside out. I'm sure some would describe this as 'chi', but I'm more western and the concept of 'chi' just doesn't quite resonate with me as much as some people. Maybe my blood is flowing more or more freely into areas normally constricted by everyday postures such as desk sitting or couch lounging. Maybe its the deep breathing that oxygenates my blood more or maybe its the much needed relaxation my muscles need. I'm sure its a combination of all of those and probably 1000 other things that create that tingle-ey, vibrant feeling that happens through my whole body while doing Tai Chi.

2. Tai Chi calms me down.

Since I started doing Tai Chi, I am able to better control my emotions. This isn't to say I don't get into arguments with people or get upset ever. But when arguments pop up now, I feel more 'in control' of myself and my ego than before I started Tai Chi. Also any post conflict stress seems to melt away almost immediately. Leaving me with a clear mind to examine the situation and hopefully gain perspective from it.

3. Tai Chi trains my body to be more relaxed and flexible.

At Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class people are always remarking about how flexible I am. I don't really practice a whole lot of stretching. Mostly my body is flexible from keeping the muscles relaxed. When my muscles are relaxed there is way more flexibility than a stressed or tensed muscle. In life, this 'muscle state awareness' helps you breakdown and dissect which muscles you actually NEED for any given task. Even in things like driving or cooking there are unnecessarily tensed muscle groups which lead to body stress. In BJJ terms, this extra flexibility might give you an extra few seconds to think of an escape or way out of a bad position before tapping. Or maybe someone doesn't have a submission on properly, relaxation gives you the extra flexibility that you need to not tap on something that isn't done correctly.

4. Tai Chi makes me more aware of my own body
The Tai Chi I do focuses on one 'basic' 37 posture form. The form is refined first from the external/physical aspects - body alignment and positioning. Because the process is an endless refinement of one set of movements, there is a meditative quality that comes into play as you begin to work on the internal aspects of the form such as breathing or muscle states or being aware of your 'center' and balance. This all adds to a heightened body awareness not only when doing the form, but in all aspects of life - walking, driving, rolling at Jiu Jitsu.

5. Tai Chi gives me a fresh perspectives on life
Tai Chi was originally developed from Daoist philosophies. If I find I'm having trouble with something and need new perspective I tend to examine it through a Tai Chi 'lens' where I can put to work the principles of staying relaxed, not trying to meet force with force, and keeping with the 'flow' in all aspects of my life from work to relationships to Jiu Jitsu.

Even after 4+ years, I feel my Tai Chi is just developing. Yet even so,  the benefits above (in addition to countless others) have already enriched my life so much that I will always be on my Tai Chi journey :)

-Shane Olivo
The New Loud

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