Gerald Browning began teaching tai chi classes just over a year ago. His new session for kids and adults is set to start on Monday, September 9. Students of all ages and abilities are invited to learn this type of martial arts which will take place at the First Congregational Church (UCC) on Lincoln Lake.
Harnessing Internal and External Power
Browning describes martial arts styles as being broken into two categories – internal and external. Internal arts focus on delivering power from within such as “channeling energy from within the body and pushing outward”. External arts rely more on power from the outside which includes punches and kicks. “Tai chi tries to harness both.” he comments. “The stereotypical slow movements that one sees with practicing tai chi allows one to focus on the internal energy, whereas many martial arts focus on the external. Tai Chi [focuses on the external] in a way that many do not see as devastating. Hence the slow moving stereotype.”
Recalling watching “cheesy kung fu movies” as a child, Browning looks back at where his interest in martial arts began. In graduate school he trained in karate and ninjutsu. After college he kept up with his personal training. After moving to the Grand Rapids area he began taking judo classes and with that, a renewed interest in martial arts was found. After doing more training in ninjutsu resulted in bumps and bruises, he decided to look into an “art that expressed the softer side of martial arts”.
Tai chi was discovered accidentally by walking into a class on a Saturday morning. The class happened to be held next to a Mediterranean restaurant he frequented.
Classes for All Ages
Formally studying tai chi for approximately nine years, Browning decided to start offering classes in the Lowell community last summer. He met with students at Stoney Lakeside Park. However, as the weather turned cooler, UCC allowed him to use their space.
According to Browning, the only thing needed to begin tai chi is an open mind. A Wee Tai Chi program is geared toward preschool aged kids. Tai Chi-ldren is designed for kids 5-12 years of age. Finally, an adult class is available for those 13 and older. Each program focuses on different aspects of tai chi.
The youngest students learn about balance, breathing, and movement. Browning loves working on these concepts with his own two-year old son. The Tai Chi-ldren class also teaches the ideas in the younger class but goes beyond by also incorporating posture and self-defense techniques, the latter also helps with self-confidence. Regulation of breath to calm the mind is also taught.
Finally, in the adult class, students learn the basics of movement and 108 postures in the Yang Long form. Application techniques and different ways of expressing a form are also covered in addition to breathing techniques.
Tai chi is an excellent way to learn different techniques. Balance and well-being is also important at all ages. Older adults can benefit from learning more about balance as a means to remain healthy. Browning says, “I tell my adult students that I teach them (as I was taught) that tai chi isn’t merely the stereotypical ‘old people moving in the part’ mentality. I discuss self-defense techniques to explain why we are in the posture that we are in. I want them to have the tools to get home safely at night.”
The new session of tai chi will begin on Monday, September 9. The two kids’ classes are 45 minutes long starting at 5:30pm followed by an hour-long adult class beginning at 6:30pm. The session will run for six Mondays at a cost of $45 each for kids and $50 each for adults (or $10 each week for a drop in class). All classes are held at UCC located at 865 Lincoln Lake. For additional information about FLOW Fitness, visit their Facebook page.
Browning concludes with, “No matter if you are interested in wellness, meditation, martial arts/self-defense, tai chi has a lot of benefits to a person’s quality of life.”
Photos courtesy of Gerald Browning and used with permission.