Dr. Don Jones: professor, lover of mountain hiking, avid chess player, and now, tai chi student. What do all these things have in common? Tai chi is the common factor; the skills learned in tai chi are highly influential in the other two and that is much of the reason Dr. Jones decided to seek out tai chi in the first place.

Tai chi, as explained by Dr. Jones himself, is, “considered a martial art, but most people, including me, don’t take it as much for the martial art aspect as for the fact that it helps with breathing and balance and flexibility.”

Dr. Jones had been seeking out the opportunity to learn tai chi for quite some time, but was really influenced by the book, The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance. The author is Joshua Waitzkin, whom Dr. Jones knew from his love of chess. In his book, Mr. Waitzkin discusses how he used the methods of chess to improve his tai chi and how tai chi influenced his success in chess.

Women performing tai chi in China.

Women performing tai chi in China.

This book was given to him two summers ago, so why is he just beginning now? Dr. Jones says, “I always thought they were down in Fort Wayne, and that’s too far for me. I happened to be looking this summer for internship ideas for students when I discovered that tai chi classes are offered in the Angola library.”

Dr. Jones is now in his third six-week section of tai chi. Each section teaches a different element of tai chi. He says, “I still feel awkward…I’m still very much learning!” It takes a lot of time to master the different forms, movements, and breathing that are required to be successful. Dr. Jones emphasized, “Each new position that I learn is difficult to do because it is a combination of moving arms and hands in a very precise way while moving your feet and legs in a very precise way, all while breathing in a precise way.”

Tai-chi doesn’t only have physical benefits; much of it requires developing mental capacities. Dr. Jones has used hiking and chess as ways to sharpen his concentration and focus skills. However, as he puts it, “Tai chi is helping me to be even better. We do balancing exercises and to balance well you have to have strong mental focus, otherwise you collapse. It helps me connect a mental concentration with physical effort.”

It is apparent that tai chi is rather difficult, but as Dr. Jones has expressed, the benefits far outweigh what difficulties may be encountered. Don’t miss your next opportunity to ask your teacher what they’re doing outside of class; you may just get a tai chi demonstration.

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Sonsee Jenkins is a communication major.