An Art for the Ages: Why You Should Do Tai Chi — And How to Get Started With Master Dao, the Host of ‘Shaolin Tai Chi’
Tai chi is like a slow motion form of the martial art kung fu. Photo: Chris Robinson
You too can do tai chi.
And quite possibly, you should do tai chi.
“It’s for everybody,” explains Shaolin tai chi master Shi Chan Dao, “old, young, people with arthritis, fitness beginners, kung fu experts, professional athletes.”
The 35th generation Shaolin disciple leads classes in the ancient form of gentle movement in a new series, Shaolin Tai Chi on ZoomerMedia’s OneTV. The classes air twice daily, Monday to Saturday, at 9 a.m. EST / 6 a.m. PST and 6:30 p.m. EST / 3:30 p.m PST. OneTV is available as a free preview until May 31.
But first, some background.
Tai chi is like a slow motion form of the martial art kung fu. Master Dao describes it as ‘the yin to the yang of kung fu.” Shaolin kung fu is the style practised by the monks of the Shaolin monastery, a Buddhist temple in Henan province of China. Shaolin tai chi transposes the tight, fast muscular, whip-like action of Shaolin kung fu into serene, soothing, mellow, meditative healing movements.
Just watching a master’s tai chi movements can be soothing, even mesmerizing, like watching anemones swaying in the sea.
“What’s amazing about this art,” says Dao Shi, “is that it combines breathing with movement that goes deep into the body to generate more circulation. And the slower you do it, the better.”
For people who are very active and put stress on their muscles — expert practitioners of kung fu, professional athletes, even weekend warriors — tai chi can help restore balance to the body, he explains.
“When you do Shaolin tai chi, you’re moving without using muscle. You’re getting flexibility training, more circulation, learning how to relax, improving breathing. We want to improve breathing technique and capability with chest breathing and belly breathing, becoming aware of breathing — six seconds in and six seconds out.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Tai chi helps reduce stress and anxiety. And it also helps increase flexibility and balance. Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. In fact, because tai chi is a low-impact exercise, it may be especially suitable if you’re an older adult who otherwise may not exercise.”
The Mayo Clinic suggests that the benefits of tai chi may include:
- Decreased stress, anxiety and depression
- Improved mood
- Improved aerobic capacity
- Increased energy and stamina
- Improved flexibility, balance and agility
- Improved muscle strength and definition
More research is needed to determine the health benefits of tai chi. Some evidence indicates that tai chi may also help:
- Enhance quality of sleep
- Enhance the immune system
- Help lower blood pressure
- Improve joint pain
- Improve symptoms of congestive heart failure
- Improve overall well-being
- Reduce risk of falls in older adults
Dao Shi, age 47 and a native of Niagara Falls, says he is appreciating the benefits of tai chi “even more as I get older.”
He found his calling 15 years ago, after working as an accountant, a computer programmer, a project manager and managing a photography studio.
“One day, I saw a little posting, handwritten and taped to a restaurant window: ‘Call this number.’ It just felt right. I dropped everything else and really got into it. And then I met my master. After a few years of hard work, he asked me to be his disciple and gave me the name Shi Chang Dao.
“Everything happens for a reason. Life is full of events and it’s hard to make the decision about which is the right way to go. But if you take the time to settle down and think, the answer will come to you.”
Now, Dao Shi, whose legal name is Brian Ko, is the chief Shaolin instructor at the Shaolin Temple Quanfa Institute in Toronto (currently closed because of the pandemic). Along with the classes on OneTV, he teaches online classes in Shaolin kung fu, gentle kung fu and qigong.
Master Dao’s classes on OneTV were filmed outside in a private landscaped area near High Park in Toronto. Participants include a 57-year-old retired teacher with knee osteoarthritis, ZoomerMedia anchor Amber Gero and a middle-aged woman with lung-related health issues due to second-hand smoke.
“Each episode has different wisdom embedded,” Master Dao explains. “I talk a lot during the show. Everything is explained, this is what we’re doing and why. And if you start to let go, you become aware of the space between the intention to move and the actual movement. You become aware of something in between.”
Most notably, he emphasizes, “You can be imperfect. There is no perfection, no extreme. You just do.”
That’s a very different approach, he says, from the competitive, striving lifestyle most of us experience.
“Like Healing Yoga and Anjelica’s 22 Minute Workout, Shaolin Tai Chi will run indefinitely so OneTV viewers can count on it as part of their regular daily fitness routine,” says Leanne Wright, ZoomerMedia’s senior vice-president for communications.