An Introduction to Tai Chi: Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School

As an ancient Chinese practice, tai chi may seem foreign and even intimidating. Perhaps your only experience with tai chi is watching video clips or seeing photos of large groups of Chinese people doing tai chi in parks—a rare occurrence in the United States. Only about 1% of the U.S. population, or about 3.65 million Americans, reported doing tai chi in 2015. That means a lot of Americans are missing out on myriad benefits that tai chi has to offer. The goal of this report is to make tai chi more familiar, more accessible, and easy to practice regularly—even right in your living room.

Mind-body exercises, such as tai chi and yoga, have been gaining popularity over the past few decades. This is not surprising, given the increasing number of studies on the positive effects of these gentler forms of exercise—everything from lowering blood pressure and managing depression to building strength and improving balance. There is even evidence that tai chi may help you live a longer, more vital life.

For roughly two decades, I’ve been working to bridge the gap between the practice and the science of tai chi and to integrate it into Western health care. By day, I am a medical researcher at Harvard Medical School, and by night, I am a community-based tai chi instructor.
My interest in tai chi grew out of a passion for sports and martial arts that started when I was in high school. It was during that time that I also became interested in science, which led me to study human ecology and get a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from Harvard University. But it wasn’t until a trip to China in 2000 that my two worlds came together, and I made a major career shift, ultimately resulting in my current position as research director for the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, which is jointly based at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

In my role as a scientist, I focus on objective, rigorous scientific research to understand what works, what doesn’t work, what is safe, and what offers promise to help people. Yet while I use research and science to inform my personal tai chi practice and the classes I teach, I must suspend pure rational thinking at times in order to get the most out of my practice. Tai chi and other meditative arts include tapping into intuition and imagination, processes less understood by science. In this report, I’ve brought these two worlds together to introduce you to tai chi and give you a program so you can begin practicing this gentle, mind-body exercise today.

Prepared by the editors of the Harvard Health Publishing in consultation with Peter M. Wayne, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Director of Research, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. 45 pages. (2018)

Australian Participation Rates in Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong: Where is Everyone?

by Brian Corless

In the March, 2017 edition of the Tai Chi Association of Australia newsletter I wrote about the benefits of tai chi chuan for mental health and commented on published survey data from the USA by Dr. Romy Lauche* and colleagues (2016) which highlighted differences in U.S. participation rates between yoga and tai chi. At the time I noted that similar rates on participation for tai chi in Australia were difficult to obtain as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in its Participation in Sport and Physical Activity report of 2012, grouped participation data for “Tai Chi” under the category of “Martial Arts” together with data for other martial arts such as kungfu, karate and taekwondo etc., whereas yoga was given its own distinct category for participation data. My point was that it would be helpful for the Australian tai chi community to have easier access to this information so that we can assess where we are now and consider how to best promote tai chi’s physical and mental health benefits into the future.

Recapping the results of Dr. Lauche and colleagues’ (2016) paper, it was estimated from the 2012 U.S. National Health Interview Survey of about 35,000 participants, that about 7 million people (≈3%) in the U.S., of a population of about 240 million, had practised tai chi at least once in their lifetime, and about 2.6 million (≈1%) had done so in the previous 12 months. The estimate of people who had practiced tai chi in the previous 12 months in 2012, showed only a slight increase (≈100,000 participants) from the estimate of 2002, compared to the larger increase for the 12-month participation rate for yoga which rose from an estimated 10 million in 2002 to 21 million in 2012 (an increase of ≈11 million participants). The authors suggested that a more aggressive marketing approach to publicly promoting yoga in the U.S. was a possible explanation for its success. The data also showed that compared to non-tai chi users, tai chi participants in the U.S. were more likely to be female and older than 30 years of age, and that younger age ranges were generally more represented in yoga research studies, compared with older age ranges in tai chi research. Those interested in other characteristics of tai chi and qigong users are referred to Dr. Lauche and colleagues’ (2016) paper.

I am now pleased to say that…

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About the Author:

Brian Corless is a (recently retired) Clinical Psychologist and now full-time Tai Chi practitioner on the South Coast of NSW. He trains in Tai Yi Taijiquan with Sifu Wang Yunkuo in Sydney.


Unisonance in Kung Fu Film Music, or the Wong Fei-Hung Theme Song as a Cantonese Transnational Anthem

Ethnomusicology Forum 

Colin P. McGuire 

Published online: 04 May 2018


Wong Fei-hung was a Cantonese martial arts master from southern China who became associated with a melody called ‘General’s Ode’. Since the 1950s, over 100 Hong Kong movies and television shows have forged the link by using this melody as Master Wong’s theme. During fieldwork in a Chinese Canadian kung fu club, I observed several consultants claiming this piece as a Cantonese national anthem—a hymn for a nation without a sovereign state. Virtual ethnography conducted online showed that this opinion is held more widely, but that the piece also inspires broader Chinese nationalist sentiment. My analysis of speech-tone relationships to melodic contour in Cantonese and Mandarin versions of the song, however, has revealed a tight integration with the former that the latter lacked. By sharpening Anderson’s concept of unisonance, I explore how this song has become an unofficial transnational anthem for Cantonese people, arguing that Master Wong’s theme auralises an abstract sense of imagined community.

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About the Author:

Colin McGuire is an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Music at University College Cork, Ireland. He holds a PhD in Ethnomusicology from York University and a Graduate Diploma in Asian Studies from the York Centre for Asian Research, both located in Toronto, Canada. His work looks at music and martial arts, with a current focus on Chinese kung fu, examining heroic display and somaesthetic meaning. Through investigations of intertextuality, resistance, transmission, diaspora, transnation, community and identity, McGuire contributes to broader discussions of embodied being-in-the-world.


The Wushu action design based on computer three-dimensional auxiliary system

Journal of Discrete Mathematical Sciences and Cryptography 

Volume 21, 2018 – Issue 2: Application of Modern Optimization Algorithm in Management Science

Zhi-Yang Han

Pages 601-605 | Published online: 20 Apr 2018


As a challenging topic in the field of computer vision, human action recognition has been widely used in many fields, such as virtual reality, intelligent man-machine and sports. Therefore, this paper proposed the method of decomposing and recognizing human body Wushu action based on computer three-dimensional image recognition. This method obtained the edge of body silhouette and extracted each frame of image silhouette edge to achieve accumulation in the same image, and used the image motion feature vector to compose three-dimensional image, decomposition process of Wushu action based on the image recognition. Experiment shows that using three-dimensional image recognition can effectively decompose Wushu action.

Practice of occupational therapy in Tai Chi diagram: Adopted from traditional Chinese culture

World Federation of Occupational Therapists Bulletin 

Zhaojin Zhu,Yujie Yang,Jiabao Guo,Yanning Yan,Kuicheng Li,Jun Wang,Jun Yu & Yi Zhu

Published online: 12 Apr 2018


This study proposes a novel occupational therapy (OT) practice tool derived from the native concept of the Tai Chi diagram. Four elements of the Tai Chi diagram, namely, Yang, Yin, Yang kernel, and Yin kernel, are matched to the elements of the OT practice, namely, person, environment, economic condition, and mental condition, respectively. The entire circle of the diagram represents occupational performance. The interaction between persons and the environment can be regarded as the interaction between Yin and Yang with balance as the focal point. This proposed tool may be an innovative means to facilitate communication between clients and therapists for OT in China.