Tai Chi is a serious martial art and martial arts are practiced in a dojo – right? Well, not exclusively. You may see photos or movies showing large groups in China practicing in the park. At a school in Wiltshire, England you might find elementary school students doing Tai Chi in the classroom. The teacher, Anne D’Souzza, reported that Tai Chi assists students in calming down and preparing for their work. In her classroom students begin every school day with Tai Chi.
Another interesting Tai Chi program operates in prisons, rehab centers, and elementary schools in Utah. An organization called Tai Chi Youth was started by Master Zhen Shen-Lang. He volunteered to teach 15 inmates at Decker Lake Maximum Security Youth Prison in 1992. The inmates demonstrated significant improvement in their communication skills.
The basic goals of the Tai Chi Youth Program are:
- To balance the body – health, coordination, exercise
- To balance the mind – emotions, creativity, intellectual pursuits
- To balance the life – contentment, individuality, ambitions
- To expand abilities – increased physical potential, increased mental potential, increased expectations
- To expand awareness – new abilities create new abilities, better self understanding, and able to better understand others
- To benefit society – decide individual path within society, become self-sufficient, help others
- Lessen violence in the world – be at peace with self and personal history, spread contentment and confidence to others, discourage violence in others
- Live a good life – constantly strive to improve all aspects of self, enjoy and appreciate living and respect all living things, make the lives of others as good as possible
Many other schools, dojos, and community organizations are learning the value of Tai Chi practice. Although the physical movements are the method, the real focus is on developing character, respect, and self-control. These skills can then be transferred to many other situations including home, school, and social activities.