Many people exercise to lose weight and get fit. Many more are looking for gentler forms of exercise like Tai Chi to reduce stress. But what if you want to practice a calming mind-body exercise and need to lose weight and get fit? Both are possible with a relatively obscure ancient Chinese system of health.
Known as the `Chinese Wand Exercises' the system is a form of Chinese calisthenics / Qigong (breathing exercises) that balance and stimulates the flow of `qi' or life force along energy pathways.
The exercise system was brought to the West in 1945 by American Bruce L Johnson. It is a calming therapy involving the manipulation of a light 4-foot pole, traditionally made of bamboo. Graduated, safe stretching and strengthening movements are performed in a meditative frame of mind with deep breathing.
As a Tai Chi practitioner and teacher for over 30 years I was so impressed with the art that I wrote a book in 2011 titled Jiangan - The Chinese Health Wand.
Shortly after writing Jiangan - the Chinese Health Wand, I created a moving set of postures using a stick of the same dimensions. The resulting form is called the Tai Chi Boating Wand. Just like Tai Chi the movement are gentle and the body is constantly in motion, flowing from posture to posture with deliberate stepping.
The Tai Chi Boating Wand involves `hand tasking', coordination and focus skills as the practitioner wields the bamboo pole. These hand-eye coordinated elements offer similar benefits to exercising using traditional Chinese weapons forms. Movements are highly coordinated with breathing and mindful attention.
The Tai Chi Boating Wand is essentially a set of graceful postures embodying the concept of Tai Chi.
Expansion and Breathing
The wand is held in an expansive wide grip throughout most of the form, opening the chest (which, coordinated with deep diaphragmatic breathing improves lung capacity). The gentle movements also gradually loosens the shoulders, stretches the arms and entire back.
Spiral and Circular Movement
Most of the postures involve spiral and circular patterns that gently massage and twist the spine and internal organs.
Peaceful and Relaxing
Unlike Tai Chi weapons forms, the postures are non-martial and have no fighting focus. They imitate traditional boating movements such as `rowing’, `punting’ and `turning rudders.’ The practitioner is taken on a challenging and interesting `journey' through a visionary landscape of rivers, lakes and gorges.
This form of exercise is gentle on the lower back, hips and legs (especially the knees) as there is no bending, single-leg-weighted postures, squats or kicks. We never place more than 50% of our weight onto the front leading leg, which reduces strain on the knees.
While Tai Chi is performed with awareness on the fighting applications, the Tai Chi Boating Wand stresses non-martial movements such as rowing, punting and steering a rudder. We embark on a more peaceful mental journey through rivers, gorges and lakes, using mental imagery to create the sounds, aromas and sights of boating in peaceful surroundings. This makes the Tai Chi Boating Wand the ultimate art of mindfulness within moving meditation.
Chinese Wand Exercises
Tai Chi Boating Form
My name is Michael Davies. I began studying Tai Chi in 1979 - over 40 years ago. I formed the White Crane Bamboo Club in 1996 and I am currently a senior instructor and Honorary President of the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain. In 2011 I wrote only the second book on the Chinese Wand Exercise, an ancient therapeutic practice using a four-foot stick. I later saw the potential of using wand techniques to expand and enrich Tai Chi and set up Tai Chi Wandwork.
Although I now focus on wand exercises I still teach some Tai Chi, mainly in classes for over-50s run by local councils / Age UK. I am also involved with White Crane Bamboo Club on Saturday mornings. For details of Tai Chi tuition please refer to the White Crane Website.