Tai chi as a tonic

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Prevention or cure?

Although many people seek to use tai chi as a means of curing illness, this is not where its strength lies.
Tai chi is best employed whilst healthy, not sick.
When a healthy person does tai chi they are more apt to remain healthy.
It takes far less effort to prevent something than to cure it...

Miracle cure?

Despite regular media claims trumpeting tai chi as the 'perfect exercise' - there is no such thing as a panacea (cure all).
We cannot 'fix you up'.
Rather than seeking to fix individual, specific health concerns, tai chi and qigong address the overall wellbeing and functionality of the body.

Medical problems or lifestyle problems?

Many medical problems begin as a lifestyle issue.
Headaches, backache, fatigue, stress...
Such problems are often the result of poor lifestyle choices.

Too late

People are quite reluctant to take responsibility for their own fitness.
By the time you go and see the doctor the damage is done.
What started as a lifestyle issue has now become a medical problem.

Lifestyle problems

Lifestyle issues are often caused by a failure to see what is right in front of you.
The truth can be unpalatable or inconvenient.
For example: people who suffer from fatigue usually begin by over-committing their time, being unrealistic about their capabilities, failing to rest, being poorly organised, unwilling to say No, not working on themselves...

Your whole being

To address a lifestyle problem you must approach it in a multifaceted way...
Work on mind, emotions, body, lifestyle habits.
Accept that you may have to stop doing  certain things in a familiar way.
You might need to consider alternatives.

A tonic

Tai chi is not going to fix you up.
It was never intended (or designed) to be something employed for repair.
At best, it may be seen as a tonic.
It helps to keep you fit, healthy and vital. It is a preventative measure, not a fix.

Do it every day

A tonic is a medicine taken daily in order to maintain and invigorate the body.
It may significantly improve your fitness.
However, you should take note of the small print, the conditions of use:

  1. It must be administered every day

  2. When you stop taking it, the fitness benefits go away

This is something to really think about. Re-read the paragraph if you need to.

Not a treatment

Tai chi was not designed to be a medical treatment.

12 weeks

There have been a number of medical trials to assess the health benefits of tai chi.
They determined that daily practice between lessons has helped a lot of people improve their fitness.
It can take up to 12 weeks for the health benefits of daily tai chi practice to have an effect.

Home practice

Most people are not used to training at home.
The key to home training is to work into it gently.
Try doing a small amount every day.
Nothing ambitious.


Gradually cultivate the habit of doing tai chi at home. Eventually, you will find yourself wanting to do it.
And if you miss the training, you will notice its absence.

Make the time

Make time for tai chi in your life.
That way, your body receives a daily tonic.
You unkink those unpleasant aches and pains, stiff muscles and sore joints.
You gently, softly encourage your body to move freely and comfortably.

Take it easy

Instead of hammering and punishing your body, you treat it with respect and care.
Your body must last you a lifetime.

A commitment to your body

Is a threadbare commitment to your fitness, strength and wellbeing good enough?
Suppleness, flexibility, joint mobility and a strong, pliable spine should be a given.
Think of tai chi as being a daily investment in your own wellbeing and longevity.


When people come to tai chi class in the hope of being fixed-up, they are quite perturbed to be faced with actual exercise.
And are surprised when asked to join in with the rest of the class.
This in itself highlights an issue.
Doctors are sending people for treatment... but tai chi is not a form of treatment.


How long do I need to train? Many people have asked me. And I answer, "Until you die. " They're not very happy with that answer. In the West people want to learn fast; some people think once is enough. But the dojo is not like a university. You have to practice until you die.

(Taisen Deshimaru)

Page created 26 September 1994
Last updated 6 October 1997