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John Trifero teaching Taichi Chang Style. Article written by Paul Wang for aroundKent Magazine.

What is Qi?
The Chinese have a wholistic view of life and health. The Chinese word Qi means flowing life energy in the human body. Qi is: breath, blood flow, bio chemical system, bio-electric of the nerves system, lymph nodes system, energy flow, or life force. A better way to understand is it’s the synergic effect of all the body's systems working together for its maximum effect. Qi is found in Chinese medicine and martial arts; if your Qi is not flowing, you're dead!  Despite the widespread belief in the reality of Qi, scientifically, it is an unverifiable concept to date. Medicine is also known as an art. You apply your art and if you keep getting the same result over and over again, then you have a viable treatment. Taichi has been getting positive results for centuries.

What is Taichi?
Taichi is a martial art from China. Legend claims that in the 12th century, at a Taoist monastery in the Wudang Mountains, a monk observed a crane and cobra in mortal combat, and from his observation, the Taichi exercises were developed. That’s the legend. However, research casts doubts on the validity of those claims. Mystical origin stories are part of the Chinese culture and should not be taken literally, but metaphorically. Although some liberties were taken with the origin of Taichi, its health benefits have never been disputed. They are being proven by the Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic, and the American Heart  Association, to name just a few. Taichi’s unique combination of slow movement and deep breathing results in an exercise that creates  
a meditative state. This explains why Taichi has stood the test of time: it gets results for your health.

Health Benefits of Taichi
The study From the Mayo Clinic states: “Taichi can be a positive part of an overall approach to improving your health. The benefits of Taichi may include: decreased stress, anxiety, depression, and improved mood.”1

Why is this important? Remember Bob Harper from the television show the Biggest Loser? He was one of the original trainers and he recently survived a massive heart attack. He said he previously believed, “that when it comes to health, it’s about your diet first and foremost, and then it’s your exercise, then sleep, and then stress management,” and has been sharing this ideology for decades. Since his heart attack, he sees it differently.

“Stress management is the number one key to a healthy body and a healthy mind. Those are still my four core beliefs,” he adds, but he has now flipped that hierarchy. “I think that stress management is the number one key to a healthy body and a healthy mind. When you manage your stress, you’re more likely to make better food choices,” he believes. “If you manage your stress, you’re going to be more likely to prioritize a workout to take care of yourself and your sleep is going to be so much better.” Stress has been linked to all kinds of health issues. Taichi is known as meditation in motion, and meditation is one of the most healthful stress management choices of all.2

The American Heart Association, in an article published October 11, 2017, in the Journal of the American Heart Association, its author said: “Taichi is a promising and safe exercise alternative for patients with coronary heart disease who are unable or unwilling to attend traditional cardiac rehab.” Now, it doesn’t say it cures heart disease, what Taichi does is provide a successful way for people to get into or back into an exercise program.3

Another study from the Harvard Medical School said, “Taichi is often described as 'meditation in motion', but it might well be called, 'medication in motion'. … There is growing evidence that this has value in treating or preventing many health problems.“

“A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for Taichi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age.” Here’s some of the evidence from the study:

MUSCLE STRENGTH Taichi can improve both lower-body strength and upper-body strength. Taichi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.

BALANCE Taichi improves balance and,  according to some studies, reduces falls.  Taichi also improves muscle strength and  flexibility, which makes it easier to recover  from a stumble. Fear of falling can make you more likely to fall.

AEROBIC CONDITIONING Depending on the speed and size of the movements, Taichi can provide some aerobic benefits.4

Simply put, almost any exercise can improve your health; the catch is to find an exercise you can do consistently. Taichi is an exercise that can be performed by people of all ages and abilities. The practice of meditation in motion helps manage your stress and leads to better health. Taichi movements and deep diaphragmatic breathing massage the internal organs, and provide tremendous health benefits by improving circulation. No other exercise gives you so many benefits in one package as Taichi.

Fighting and Self-Defense Applications
Because it has had such noticeable health benefits, it has been mostly forgotten that Taichi is also a martial art, and its movements or postures have fighting and self-defense applications. There are many styles of Taichi; the style being taught at Kent Parks Recreation is known as Chang Style Taichi.  What does that mean, or should I say, to whom does it refer?

Chang Style History
Grandmaster Chang Tung Sheng (1908—1986) was a Hui martial artist. He was one of the best-known practitioners and teachers of Chinese wrestling, also known as Shuai Chiao. His drive and talent resulted in Chang becoming the youngest faculty member at the Nanjing Central Kuoshu Institute, the most prestigious and influential martial art school in China at that time. In 1933, at the age of 25, Grandmaster Chang Tung Sheng competed in the 5th National Kuo Shu Tournament, also called the All-China Full Contact Tournament, winning the heavyweight division over several hundred other competitors.

As the story goes, Grandmaster Chang was observing General Li Chien, considered the leading expert of Yang style Taichi, practicing pushing hands (a type of sparring in Taichi) with some of his students. General Li asked Chang’s opinion. Chang, never one to pull punches, both figuratively and literally, replied that he thought the students were letting him win due to his high rank. Surprised at the audacity of Chang’s remark, Li asked Chang if he would like to have a try himself. Chang accepted the offer, whereupon Chang promptly sent Li to the ground. Eventually, General Li came to consider Chang his equal and a friend. He was so impressed by Chang’s combat skills and applications that their collaboration resulted in an entirely new style of Taichi, today known as Chang style. Never defeated in martial arts challenge matches, Chang died in Taiwan in 1986.  
He was considered a national treasure.

Chang Style Today
Enter Grandmaster Chicoine. He became interested in the martial arts while serving in the military in Japan. Thus began his life-long journey into this discipline. In the 1970s,  Grandmaster Chang and Grandmaster Chicoine met. For a long time, non-Chinese were not permitted to train in Chinese Kung Fu. The boxer revolution had left hard feelings for the Chinese masters for quite some time. Fortunately for us, Grandmaster Chang did not share this view, so much so that Chang did the unthinkable: he adopted Chicoine as his 13th son.

During the following years, Grandmaster Chicoine reached the highest rank in the world next to Grandmaster Chang himself. After the death of Grandmaster Chang in 1986, the rank of Tenth Degree Black Belt was retired. Ten years later, this distinction was awarded to Grandmaster Chicoine.

Grandmaster Chicoine had a long career in law enforcement. To this day, he still teaches law enforcement agencies and our military in unarmed combat. His abilities in iron palm are legendary. As a student under Grandmaster Chicoine and with his approval, I am honored to teach this rare form of Taichi. I consider it an obligation to pass on this legacy.

That’s how you are now able to have such a rare opportunity to learn Chang style Taichi. I am fortunate to have been a student of Chang style Taichi since the 1990s. I believe it’s one of the rarest styles of Taichi on earth.

Available to You
The first class of Taichi is free to new people! When coming to your first class, you will be met with many friendly people. To get the most out of Taichi and learn the complete form, it will take a little time and commitment, although just learning the first set and practicing several times a day will provide you with the health benefits mentioned. You will gain confidence and a desire to learn more. My students have mentioned that since they have been doing Taichi, they have noticed that they are more focused on other aspects of their lives. Once learned, you can practice Taichi for the rest of your life. Come join us!

Taichi classes at 1205 West Main Street

Kent Parks and Recreation Now has Taichi
Classes are held at 1205 West Main Street on Wednesdays at 11: 30 am and Fridays at 4:00 pm All are welcome; any age or ability. You don’t know what Taichi is? It is worth finding out. It’s fun and it could help improve your health! You can join any class at any time. Classes start with warm up exercise and the Taichi form is taught by the postures (movements), step by step. It’s easy to get started and no special equipment is needed; just loose clothing and comfortable shoes.

1. From the Mayo clinic web site: Article name: Tai Chi: A gentle way to fight stress By Mayo Clinic Staff, https://www.
2. From Popsugar fitness website: Article name: Popsugar Fitness Bob Harper Bob Harper Weight Loss Advice, June 20, 2018 by Dominique Michelle Astorino
3. From the American Heart Association website: Article name: Journal of the American Heart Association Report, October 11, 2017 Categories: Heart News “https://newsroom.”tai-chi-holds-promise-as-cardiac-rehab-exercise
4. The health benefits of Tai Chi Updated: December 4, 2015, Published: May, 2009

John Trifero and friends Jennifer and Paul Wang

aroundkent Digital Magazine is a local, regional website containing relevant information about Kent, Ohio, Akron and the surrounding area, including all of Northeast Ohio. Thinking about what to do in Kent?, or where to eat in Kent? Our focus is on art, music, food, family and everything in-between. Our content is sent to us by local professionals so it's both accurate and updated regularly. Our goal is simple: to showcase the amazing people, places and things in and around Kent, Ohio. We are also designers and photographers working on the webflow platform.