It seems that there is no one who has not received the news that Tai Chi is important for health. The Taoist Tai Chi Society for instance went from being martially oriented at its inception to a total health orientation. I was one of the earliest members in Buffalo and so I know this from experience. Yet, former teachers of the Taoist Tai Chi state unequivocally that most who enter their doors will stop. I have had my own share of drop outs and one begins to wonder if the best way to get more people to do Classical Tai Chi is to tout the health benefits after all.
What makes an individual committed to Tai Chi? How much of a motivation are all the health claims of Tai Chi?
When it comes to exercise, (and let's face it, Tai Chi falls into the larger overall "exercise" group whether we afficionados like to admit it or not), lots of folks react adversely to even the thought of exercise. Researchers have even pointed out that some forms of exercise are bad for cardio health. My wife's Uncle recently had a heart attack after running a marathon and has been a runner for 25 years. Don't you just feel this just makes you the best excuse not to run? On the other hand isn't that just an assumption that you are motivated by concern for your health from the very start?
My M.D. who is originally from Shanghai, used to tell anyone and everyone who would listen: "Jim does Tai Chi, Jim does Tai Chi". He never had to tell me as I heard him tell others: "You need to do some better things to improve your health". I have no doubt that statement could motivate some patients. The motivation undoubtedly wears off after awhile. People don't feel things like bones, hormones and blood pressure making a change for the better.
My wife along with her friends will tell you they go to the lady's fitness factory to lose weight. My wife is a diehard for she tells me there are many more who had the same (what are really hard to see) goals that quit. She states that most say they "are busy with other things", "don't have the time", "too tired after work". Some will also never say "I just lost interest".
I have looked and looked for good research as to why people keep doing Tai Chi and have not found it. There is certainly no research whatsoever on why people keep doing Classical Tai Chi. I would bet however, that people derive pleasure from doing it, like me, they feel energized afterward. My mood is improved and the hard to put your finger on "restlessness" (because I have not done Tai Chi yet)is gone. I doubt there is no way one can "will" themselves to have these reactions.
I wonder if some of us aren't pre-programmed to make these choices to do things that are good for us and keep doing them. Like my wife's Uncle for instance who has stopped marathons and gone to an exercise bike only temporarily. If you ask him he will tell you that the act of moving simply makes him feel good. But he'll also state that it does not bring the same "high" that that a marathon brings. So one has to assume that exercise has to be mind bending difficult for some to feel good. So were those diehards initially motivated by the idea of improving their hearts, etc.? Is a long distance runner (and I've encountered a few) motivated to do Classical Tai Chi by the idea of improving their cardio?
The Uncle keeps running even though the Doctors told him to stop and they know that he won't, and he has not. In talks with him, he seems to identify himself with running.
I played basketball at a very high level in school and in the armed service. If you asked me at that time, I would have said that I enjoyed the competition and loved to win games. I lost all interest in the sport after leaving the service and I know I was depressed because I knew I was not going to compete at that level ever again. I struggled with finding ways to motivate myself once again.
Nowdays, I do Classical Tai Chi and take very long walks with our 2 dogs. My schedule for Classical Tai Chi is quite extensive for exercise purposes because I include the days that I teach as well as the days that I do it for myself. I have to think that my motivation has changed considerably from my younger days. I desire to "stay in the springtime of my life as I grow older". On the other hand, I get a great deal of pleasure from doing the Tai Chi, it is very challenging, I keep finding ways to challenge myself with it and to challenge my students, and I feel it is extremely important to my sense of well-being. I feel like my day is not complete unless I do Tai Chi.
So I begin to wonder, is the best thing to encourage people to do Classical Tai Chi by telling them it is good for their health? I have a top Cancer research scientist as a student. I wonder how she would react if the Tai Chi affected her adversely, would she be deterred from continuing? Perhaps I'll ask her one day. What would it mean to her for instance if the Tai Chi made her blood pressure rise instead of fall? She does not appear to be as enamored of it as I do, so perhaps I would be the one who would say: "I don't care if blood pressure rises a few points, I'm going to keep doing Classical Tai Chi because it feels good, pure and simple".