Almost Free in the City: Fitness by Tai Chi

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

IF WALKING around the Capitol Lagoon Park gets too monotonous for you, the Wushu Federation Phils. (Bacolod and Negros Chapter) hosts tai chi classes at the New Government Center (6 a.m. on Saturdays), SM Mall (7 a.m. on Sundays), and Yong Tho Temple gym at Montelibano Avenue (6 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays).

Dear friend Sofie Estoya had tried her hardest to get me to join but well…until I got wind that BDO Branch Manager Connie Espinos won a gold medal in her age category at this year’s Wushu Tao Lu Tai Chi Form National Competition held at the province’s Multi-Purpose Gym near the Old Capitol.

So off I went for the 7 a.m. exercise session at SM Mall. There, I got to meet Mr. Nelson Manahan, the President of Wushu Federation Philippines’ local chapter.


This 61-year-old Manila-born gentleman looks a decade younger and this he attributes to the practice of tai chi which he started doing when he was only 11 years old.

Perhaps it’s also his humility that makes him look less than his actual age - his dedication made him fit enough to represent the country at the 1965 SEA Games where he won a gold medal.

There’s something about tai chi that makes loyal attendees of the members.

This club was formally organized and chartered in April 21, 2007 by Mr. Manahan and 43 others. The group that meets at SM, set up in February 2008, has 35 active members. Anyone interested to join? An annual membership fee of P500 is required but this is miniscule compared with the benefits you get.

It heals illnesses and rejuvenates and slows down the aging process. Tai chi gives better mobility. You become less stiff and in pain. Immediate benefits include a clearer and more relaxed mind, improved balance, better breathing and sleep, reduced stress, and suppleness.

The local federation had produced winners, aside from Mrs. Espinos. This year, 16-year-old Kara Katrina Caceres won a silver! The federation joined twice in the National Wushu Championship in 2008 held at the SM Mall of Asia where it won 2 golds, 1 silver and 5 bronzes; this year, it harvested 1 gold and 1 silver.

Mr. Manahan explained that the word “wushu” means “martial arts”. So, this is a generic name under which tai chi is. Tai chi, a traditional martial art formed as a therapeutic exercise, is a form of wushu. It develops both mental and physical fitness - that is why it is called The Grand Ultimate Fist.

At the club, one may meet members from 8 years old to 73. One member, Joe, had arthritis which was so bad that he couldn’t even cross the street unaided. Five years into tai chi, he’s a spritely senior citizen who put me to shame when I joined on my first Sunday.

Tai chi may look easy to do but it’s not what I thought on my first try-out. The fluid motions look innocuous but are guaranteed to make you sweat profusely and challenge your concentration and coordination. In fact, movements are done mostly with a half-squat which is a killer on thigh and butt muscles.

How long does it take on the average to memorize the steps? “Six months,” said Mr. Manahan. Kara showed me the four stances or steps which I had to master because these are the foundations of the whole exercise. Arm movements are to be learned later.

I’m excited to do this because I so enjoy looking at members perform the soft, non-interrupted circular motions. The circular motions are numerous but disguised in this graceful exercise, so, it’s ideal for the joints. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons that protect and support the joints are being strengthened which keeps them mobile and healthy.

I may not have aching knees, yet some stiffness in my hip tells me that I’m getting there.

Tai chi is especially beneficial for women because it is not strenuous and has positive effects on internal organs.

The Bacolod and Negros Chapter is recognized by the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee. Hence, members who are qualified can compete in the South East Asian Games and the Asian Games.

Local activities which the association gets to participate in are during the Masskara Festival and the Chinese New Year. The city government is very supportive of the Wushu Federation and invites the group often.

As for me, I may be too shy to join the lion dance but having healthy joints and better mobility are good enough reasons to be a member.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 07, 2011.


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