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LifeStyle with Tai Chi and Qigong >> Tai Chi Qigong for Children

Teaching Tai Chi to Eighth Graders

by Glenn Rodriguez, ATCQA Certified Tai Chi Practitioner, published in August 2017

With what I have learned at Empire Tai Chi, I ran a Tai Chi Club at the school where I am a full-time faculty member. In my attempt to keep the goal of the class realistic, I asked myself, "How do you give eighth grade students something to take away with them in just a handful of classes?"

I started with something which was hopefully familiar to get the conversation moving. Beginning with the concept of Yin and Yang, and the duality between the two, I used the smartboard to emphasize that they are interdependent, and complimentary.

Later, we moved to the ideas of soft and hard, and how they coexist. To at least encourage the group to think about this concept, and get the boys out of their seats, I pulled up a picture they could all appreciate - a football player catching the ball. I asked them to first think about where Yin and Yang existed here. Then I had them write on the Smartboard and label the picture with Yin or Yang based on the player catching the ball.

We then explored this idea as it connects to something they are familiar with. I asked the group to choose their favorite sport. The assignment was to consider a very common and important movement used in that sport. They took some time to think about it, and in a few minutes, I checked in.

One student's sport was Squash: "The forehand shot is a really important movement in Squash."
The Baseball player mentioned: "If you are playing the field, you are always catching and throwing, so I'm choosing the throwing movement."
Another student offered something about Crew: "In Rowing, we have just a few movements, but the one I'm choosing is the position when your knees are in your chest and your arms are extended just before the big row."
A fourth student's answer was: "In Basketball, we are practicing a lot of things, but we always have to work on our shooting, so the shooting motion is mine."

I also gave them a homework assignment. I asked them to think about the Yin and Yang in those movements in their next practice. Specifically, which parts of the body appear hard, versus soft while executing that movement? The next class, we first jumped into some balance exercises, and later moved to the homework assignment.

Among the students who completed the homework, the basketball player's response interested me most. He started to break down the shooting motion, and was able to understand that the motion started with the legs, and "rolled up" the body. At the end, the hands are "soft" he said, "otherwise, you lose control". At the next scrimmage, I was watching that same student take a shot. He scored, and as he ran back down to the opposite end of the court, he pointed to me on the sideline and yelled "Tai Chi Soft". While this doesn't mean that he is a changed person in any way, at least he was able to conceptualize the basic difference between hard and soft, and that softness can exist, and is necessary, during any intense activity.

During the final class, I tried to emphasize that the duality between Yin and Yang is always existent, in everything we do and the world around us. Hopefully, it's something he will hold on to going forward.




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