Saturday | April 18, 2015
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Residents, visitors celebrate Tai Chi and Qigong

To the sound of soothing music and crashing waves residents and visitors alike moved with fluidity and focus joining the rest of the world in celebrating World Tai Chi and Qigong Day.

The last Saturday of April is designated as World Tai Chi and Qigong Day. At 10 a.m. in each of the world’s 24 time zones, people of all sorts and backgrounds come together to perform tai chi and qigong, said Sifu Chee, who organized the Kona event.

“When we are one world, we are one breath,” she said. “There’s 24 hours of peace — it’s beautiful.”

For April Sutton, who took part in tai chi here and there in college, the art provides balance and makes her more aware of her body and movement.

“It’s also energizing and calming at the same time,” she said shortly before participants began their exercise at Old Kona Airport Park’s Pawai Bay area.

Saturday was the fourth year Chee has organized the event to make Kona part of the worldwide day of tai chi and qigong. Hawaii is also the second to last time zone, ahead of American Samoa, to take part in World Tai Chi and Qigong Day, Chee said.

The global event began in 1999 and was founded by Bill and Angela Douglas in Kansas. Today, it draws millions of people in dozens of countries, with this year expecting events in more than 70 nations, she said.

About two dozen people, more than years prior, took part in the event held Saturday in Kailua-Kona. They ranged in experience from novice to advanced.

While tai chi is popular on the mainland drawing many to clubs and classes, it is not quite the same on Hawaii Island, Chee said. She attributes the lower popularity to not enough promotion and the island’s rural nature.

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that, today, is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion, according to the clinic.

Qigong is an ancient Chinese meditation practice in the tradition of tai chi, which combines visualization, breath and posture to restore and maintain a natural state of mind-body vibrancy and balance, regardless of age or health condition, according to the clinic.

The practice entails coordinating slow movements with breathing to cultivate the flow of energy in a sort of graceful, fluid dance. It is a form of exercise, but is much less a muscle-based workout and more of a mindful energetic-based practice.

Practitioners say that tai chi and qigong help alleviate joint and muscle aches, increases energy and deepens their breathing. Both can create a very peaceful feeling, according to the clinic.

“Tai chi is a way of health,” Chee said also noting many of the moves in tai chi mimic moves from martial arts. “It’s slow, gentle movement that improves circulation and lowers blood pressure.”

South Kona resident Larry Glaum, who takes part in a tai chi class taught by Society for Kona’s Education and Arts teacher Alice Sherer, started practicing the art about five years ago when he was looking for a way to destress.

“I wanted a chance to relax,” he said.

He initially tried meditation, but opted for tai chi because of its movement. It’s also an exercise that doesn’t require a gym or equipment.

“You can do it right here, right now,” he said. “Anytime you feel it.”