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Tai Chi and Woodworking

Woodworking can be quite a rough master.   Besides cut, hit and worn fingers, woodworking can mean long hours holding yourself at odd angles.     Taking a break is more than just rest at times.   As I age, I find that taking a break can prevent clumsy behavor.    My back is not what it once was.

Working on computers in a lab, one after another, bending over just that little bit to reach the keyboards, not wanting to stop, hurrying before the computer labs is needed, took a rather large toll on me.  now I have to be very careful.   I have tried a lot of things, some have worked well, some have been less than helpful.  What I have found, that really works wonders for restoring my balance, decompressing my spine, and clearing my mind, is Tai Chi.

The Tai Chi that I practice is the Yang 24 step simplified or Bejing Tai Chi.  A rather pleasant break.  It takes four to eight minutes to perform depending on how slow you go.  Me personally, I am pretty slow.

Here is a rather good example of the form I practice.   My form is a touch different and no where near as well done, but it will give you a good idea of what the clear area around my woodworking benches is used for.

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I have become quite well addicted to Tai Chi.  It has become quite an integral part of my woodworking.  When  I am stressed, my back is tired, or I just need to clear my mind,  I practice my form.   If and when I ever take a woodworking  class, I will probably make quite a spectacle of myself.  Stepping outside every so often to perform this ancient therapy.

Bob

7 comments to Tai Chi and Woodworking

  • That sounds like an excellent way to loosen your joints, relax, and become centered so you can keep woodworking pain-free.

    If you do take a ww class, please make sure someone films you taking your tai chi breaks. I must see that!!

  • You will be the first to know, Kari!

    There is however a good reason why I did not post footage of myself. To perform Tai Chi, publicly, in our culture takes a certain resilience of pride or freedom from embarrassment.

    At my current skill level, my ending up here,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muP9eH2p2PI
    is a very real possibility.

    There are days however when my sense of humor outweighs my common sense, so if I do go that far, I will let my wife and daughter make the call, since my sense of humor impairs my judgment from time to time. 🙂

    Bob

  • A few years ago, I met a woodworker who spent all his time turning wood on a lathe. Not only did he find that his practise helped him relax, but actually improved his ability to work the wood, the slow rhythmic movements enabling him get the shapes he desired. So when he started teaching lathe work, he incorporated tai chi exercises for his students – to great effect.

  • Makes sense to me Richard! Just the improved balance I think makes a great difference. Like having a stable workbench, it is nice to have a stable woodworker.

    Bob

  • Skip J.

    Hello Richard;

    Richard said… “Not only did he find that his (tai chi) practise helped him relax, but actually improved his ability to work the wood, the slow rhythmic movements enabling him get the shapes he desired. So when he started teaching lathe work, he incorporated tai chi exercises for his students – to great effect.”

    I agree with Bob 100%. Relaxation is very helpful during woodworking, and is a/the primary goal of non-pro’s rather than production of projects.

    For myself, I can say that the shift-forward, shift-backward movement so central to all taiji (tai chi) styles is the same movement as the shift-forward, shift-backward movement of handsawing with the entire body rather than back-and-forth with the arms. Much easier to keep the arm holding the saw in-line if you’re not moving the arm.

    Also, the same movement is a major part of plane work, not having to move the arms is much less tiring. And being able to smoothly shift forward in a walk when jointing a long board is a plus.

    The more movements I learn of taiji, the better my handtooling gets….

    Skip

  • Bob

    I’ve been practicing Tai Chi for 4 years and both wood working and Tai Chi achieve the same results – less stress and more relaxation. Too add a little Zen into the mix I also work on Bonsai trees.

  • Skip J.

    Hi Bob;

    Good to hear that. You may remember that you gave me some little orange trees and a Barbados cherry to work on a few years back. I still have them in pots and am thinking I may be ready to style them this winter; I just need to make my up a LOT of bonsai soil before I do.

    Take care;

    Skip

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