The quality and usefulness of tai chi studies

Dr Paul Lam To ensure tai chi studies being meaningful and useful to the community, the contents of the tai chi and the way it was taught must be carefully considered, standardized and monitored. To ensure tai chi studies being meaningful and useful to the community, the contents of the tai chi and the way it was taught must be carefully considered, standardized and monitored. Tai Chi Contents
  • Ease to learn: The most popular tai chi set has 108 forms which would take an average person one to two years to learn. The original Chen style would take a talented student 5-6 years full time to learn to a good standard. Clearly these are not suitable for most Tai Chi for health studies. A tai chi program (a set of tai chi) to be studied is best constructed and standardized by appropriate medical and tai chi experts to ensure it is easy enough for the majority of the target subjects to learn and benefit from.
  • Effectiveness to produce health benefits: This depends on objectives of the study and the available time. An effective program should be chosen or designed by health professional and tai chi expert. Often medical experts don’t understand tai chi effects and tai chi experts don’t understand outcome measurements. It would be highly desirable to include someone who has knowledge of both areas. At the intervention period, it is important to allocate time for learning as well as practice. At the learning phase, subjects are unlike to gain much health benefits, so adequate time must be factored in the subjects to practice in order to gain measurable outcomes.
  • Safety: There are numerous forms of tai chi; most traditional forms have some high risk movements that required modification for elderly people and people with chronic conditions. It is unrealistic to expect any tai chi teacher to devise the appropriate modifications for people with different conditions. Medical and tai chi experts should collaborate to chose or design a program with appropriate safety factors built in for the target population.
  • Potential benefits to the community: Some tai chi forms are treated as secret while some forms have copyrights to the composition. A publicly funded study must ensure the design of the tai chi program being open and accessible to anyone. It would be an advantage that there is an established training system available. For example, the Tai Chi for Arthritis program has a well established training system and many instructors trained through arthritis foundations and age care organizations around the world.
The Teaching
  • Learner friendliness: A learner friendly teacher is more effectively at delivering health benefits or better outcome measurements.
  • Adherence: Effective teaching skill and the program’s contents have significant impact on adherence. If most subjects leave the class there won’t be creditable outcome measurements.
  • Motivation: A good teacher inspire and motivate students to practice and to enjoy tai chi. If people enjoy what they do, they will continue to practice tai chi.
Monitoring the tai chi contents and teaching quality A monitoring mechanism and regular updates for the teachers to ensure the right contents being taught and taught effectively is essential.