Tai Chi Chuan: The Healthy “Supreme Ultimate Fist”

taichi_HarvardThe more I learn, the more I am interested in researching the Tai Chi culture of Beijing.  The martial art itself hails back to the 16th century, and has since split into multiple schools and forms.  While it is now practiced for self-defense, it is also practiced because of apparent health benefits the exercise brings.  As reported in this article by US News, a study conducted by the University of Arizona College of Nursing found that stroke survivors who practiced Tai Chi had a sixty percent less chance of tripping and falling than non-practitioners.  Tai Chi’s emphasis on control and balance is believed to be the reason for this.  This study backs up the claim by many practitioners that the martial art is beneficial to one’s health.  It appears that many practice Tai Chi for the health benefits rather than self-defense, although I am sure the latter is an added bonus.  From what I know, the Chinese have many historical medical methodologies, many of which have been tested and verified.  Tai Chi can be seen as one of these, as what it promotes, balance, strength, and stress relief, is what it has been clinically demonstrated to do.

So how will I be researching Tai Chi?  Beyond the class I’m taking on the martial art, apparently many local parks in Beijing have Tai Chi practices early in the mornings.  Once I do more research, I could choose a particularly popular area conduct my fieldwork there.  Alternatively, I could find a local Tai Chi school and do the same.  At this point, however, I feel the park option has more potential.  I’d likely be accessing a larger pool of individuals, and thus be able to analyze a variety of perspectives and ideas.  I am not sure how I will be conducting the research as of yet.  I could do surveys or interviews, and I likely will.  But ethnography also seems to require observation and interaction. The best way to do this kind of research would be to join one of these Tai Chi exercise groups.  I would have to figure if I had the time, and if I can iron out other logistical problems.  But if I could join a group, I’m sure it would be a very informative experience.  Or perhaps the class I will be taking will be enough.  Its definitely something to ponder, and to figure out.