My first experience with Tai Chi and MS

Having multiple sclerosis can be a humbling experience in many ways.  We all hit points where we can no longer do physical things that we used to do with ease.  When you have MS, you hit these points much sooner in your life than you would have anticipated.

When I was younger I very much enjoyed martial arts.  Most of my exposure was to Chinese martial arts.  But like many, when the mixed martial arts craze took off I also tried my hand at  jui-jistsu and muay thai.  Even with the Chinese martial arts, I always preferred the real thing to gymnastic dancing.  That means strapping on the gloves and putting in the mouthpiece for full contact sparring and kick boxing.

If I had any doubt that those days are behind me, being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis did a good job of convincing me.

Twice in my past I had northern shaolin teachers that insisted that we learn a little tai chi.  At the time, I really had no interest in it.  While tai chi can be a serious martial art for a skilled practitioner, I think that the individuals that can actually use it to fight are few and far between.  Tai chi was for senior citizens to do in the park early mornings.

MS is causing me to reconsider the benefits of learning tai chi.  Regardless of whether you believe in chi and that exercise can help you cultivate it, tai chi definitely requires you to practice your balance and your coordination of movement.  If my immune system is eating away at my myelin, it only makes sense that training my ever changing nervous system to try and overcome that to force the signals through can only help.  If nothing else, I doubt that it would hurt anything.

But hanging out with the grandmas early in the morning in the park?  That’s just not me.  Except that MS is telling me that it has to be.

I went online and found a few tai chi schools in the area and decided to check one out for a free trial class.  First off, when I arrived at the location I realized that it was at a dance studio.  I guess that is no big deal but just plays right in with the rest of my struggle to accept that my kick boxing days are long gone.

I got there early.  Two students were there warming up.  Both women, probably in their 70s.    I closed my eyes and just remembered the feeling of things like delivering a great combination to knock my opponent flat on his back.  So much has changed in just a few years.

More students arrived.  All women.  Ranging in age from approximately 60 to 90+.  I swallowed my pride and fought to suppress my ego.

In the end there were about 16 students.  Besides myself, two were males.  One was about my age.  Everyone else was 60+.  But maybe the most humbling thing of all was not my new martial arts classmates.  It was that I really had a tough time doing some of the movements.  Balancing on one foot while moving slowly has become more difficult for me.  I know that I shouldn’t complain; many people with ms are in wheelchairs.  But it’s all relative and it was eye opening to me to see how my balance has been affected.

The difficulty of it also convinced me of the potential benefit.  I am going to try another school after the holidays and see if it is a crowd that I can relate to a little better.  As I continue my tai chi journey, I will add updates as to how it is helping my ms or not.  If other readers have experience with it, please feel free to post or contact me.

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!

Leave a Reply