Grandmaster Chen Extols the Health Benefits of Tai Chi

“Although tai chi is from China, it belongs to the world,’’ the 11th-generation direct-line successor of Chen Style tai chi said through a translator as he introduced China’s No. 1 fitness training. “It has contributed to the health of people all over the world.’’

Young and old, novice and disciple, and faculty, students and visitors turned out for the hour-long demonstration by one of China’s top 10 martial artists. Among the faculty was Margaret Fischl, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the AIDS Clinical Research Unit who needed no convincing about tai chi’s benefits, or the artistry of Grandmaster Chen, a committee member of the Chinese Sports and Science Institute. She said she has struggled to learn tai chi since meeting a physician with Parkinson’s who credited her incredible balance to the martial art.

“I tried it on a cruise ship, and failed,’’ Fischl said. “I bought a video – maybe it was the Grandmaster’s – and failed, so hopefully seeing it live will do the trick.’’

Hao Sha, Ph.D., a post-doc researcher in radiation oncology, isn’t a tai chi adherent – yet – but he couldn’t wait to upload the video he took of the Grandmaster’s demonstration so his mother could view it in China.

“There’s bunch of people there waiting for this,’’ Sha said, clutching his camera. “If there was a demonstration like this in China, there’d be a million people there. To be this close is amazing.’’

Though the use of tai chi for defensive purposes requires exhaustive training, it’s meditative and stress-relieving aspects have proven health benefits that, because of their slow, gentle movements, most anyone can do.

That’s why Chunming Dong, M.D., associate professor of medicine, a tai chi neophyte who facilitated the Grandmaster’s Miller School visit, told spectators that tai chi is particularly suitable for senior citizens. It not only develops “inner energy,” but lowers the body’s center of gravity, improving balance, he said.

Before the demo, Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., presented Grandmaster Chen with a certificate of appreciation. In turn, the Grandmaster gave the Dean, a fitness buff in his own right, a couple of his tai chi books, and a private tai chi demonstration.