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Thursday, February 9, 2017

TAI CHI IS REMARKABLE

Well, I just this week took my first lesson in Tai Chi.  I've never before bothered to get into yoga, judo, karate or the whole range of other options worthy of your consideration.  One class, and I already now walk better.  Something else that I kind of knew but never really applied:  strength comes when you exhale.  It immediately occurred to me that every time I swing a golf club, I should be exhaling. 

I remembered Monica Seles (left) initiating these sounds.  Considered distracting and obnoxious, if not cheating, Wikipedia has a whole treatment on grunting.  It is legal, with Michelle Larcher de Brito producing a 109 decibel scream.

I've been golfing for more than half a century.  I've had various instructors and most of what you do on a golf course is talk.  Never once did a golf pro or friend mention that I should INHALE on the upswing, pause, then EXHALE through the backswing.  NOT ONCE!!!  In fact, I had no idea how I was breathing.
I checked the internet and found no consistency about breathing.  Some instructors say breathe OUT, then hold your breath throughout the swing.  Tom Watson says take a deep breath, let out half, then hold it through the upswing and downswing.  Here a lesson for your downswing.  No mention of breathing.  I guess, then, that there is no one best one way to use your breathing to advantage in golf.

So I went golfing yesterday and tried inhaling at upswing, pausing, then exhaling at backswing, including when putting, where I skipped the pausing part.  The first few holes this largely hurt my crummy game.  Then, by the fourth hole, something began to happen.  I hit the ball more consistently.  By the 18th hole, my drives were going mostly down the middle and 20-30 yards further.

I think two things happened.  First, I fashioned a synchronous groove which was more repeatable than my usual technique.  Second, power does come when you exhale.  I did not make any obvious noises, and probably never will, but I'm looking forward to improving my game from inconsistent to better than average.  If this happens, one hour of Tai Chi can be credited for this monumental advancement to my golf game.  Stay tuned for my journey to the Champions Tour.

While I don't recall ever hearing any significant swinging sound from a PGA pro, it turns out that some long drive golfers do grunt on the downswing, for more power.  Baseball players tend to exhale when getting ready to swing a bat.

The most popular martial arts include Taekwondo, Karate, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Aikido and Kung Fu.  However, while Tai Chi is considered to be a martial art, more and more, people are getting into it for the health benefits and clearing the mind for stress reduction.  In particular, too, you learn balance, which is crucial for seniors, because we are prone to falling.  Further, while hiking and anything that takes you outdoors increase your prospects of becoming a traffic statistic, being mugged and falling prey to dogs and bears, Tai Chi is practiced indoors, usually in air-conditioned comfort.  Tai Chi is easy and safe.

Tai Chi, though, lacks the aerobics points you need for a truly healthful life, so you still need to complement this exercise form with something else that increases your heart rate.  Of course, you also need to eat well.

So while Tai Chi can be traced back to the beginning of religion in China, there are signs that the Summer Olympics might soon add this practice as a future event.  Tomorrow I continue my lifestyle series by posting on B12, a vitamin that will be a revelation for most of you.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke its all-time record, up 118 to 20,172.  The Nasdaq and S&P 500 also posted record highs.

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