Can Taiji Be of General Appeal to Youths?

Taiji is an established and well-known exercise around the world, especially in China.  Why the majority of people who practice Taiji are senior citizens?  Why there are not many young people, like teenagers and younger, who practice Taiji?  Furthermore, why we seldom see children, like 10 and younger, in a Taiji class?

This article answers the question whether Taiji is a useful and relevant exercise for youths and children. [1]  It answers that question in the affirmative, and it discusses how we can make Taiji appeal to youths and children, as well as to their parents who have a strong influence in how their children should spend their time.  There are two main reasons why Taiji Is a worthwhile exercise for youths and children:

MindfulnessRecently, a number of schools has stressed the importance of the need to focus on the social and emotional health of young students, especially in the current environment of epidemics, school closings, racial conflicts, social unrest, layoffs, and poverty.

One approach adopted by some schools to help young students to handle social and emotional health problems that may arise from this environment is the focus on mindfulness. Mindfulness means that the mind is focused on the present task at hand, being aware of the environment but at least for that moment not overly anxious or worry by what is going on around us. Mindfulness can help a person concentrate on the current work, and not get distracted or overwhelmed by other events and the greater environment in which we live. Children attending school need to learn what the teacher is teaching them or the homework problem they are trying to solve, and at least for that moment do not worry about other things, such as that they may have sick siblings at home, or they may be bullied during recess, or their parents have been laid off.

The ability to concentrate is especially important when there is an observed increase among children experiencing ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), stress, depression, and even suicides.

A common technique of mindfulness is to focus on our breathing, e.g., teach the students to sit down comfortably, relax the body and mind, and focus on breathing in and out softly and slowly, paying special attention to the expansion and contraction of the tummy during the breathing in and out process. The mind is very conscious of our immediate environment, although extraneous thoughts are driven from the mind and forgotten at that moment.

Mindfulness, as well as the more general technique of meditation, is really an integral component of Taiji, where the body and mind are relaxed, where slow and relax deep breathing is practiced, and sensitivity and responsiveness of our bodily environment are enhanced. Most Taiji movements are soft and slow. Slow and deep breathing is practiced. Furthermore, utilizing the ability to relax, the practitioner’s sensitivity via touch is increased to become more aware of the opponent’s movement as well as the opponent’s motive or intended movement, while at the same time the practitioner’s body is so relaxed, his opponent cannot sense the practitioner’s movement and motive or intended movement. This is why Taiji, besides being considered to be an exercise that is good for health, is also considered to be a good martial art.  This leads to the second reason that Taiji is a worthwhile exercise for youths and children.

Self DefenseTaiji, besides being a good exercise for health, is also good for self-defense.  As a matter of fact, from the very beginning, Taiji was invented as a martial art.  A Taiji class, especially for youths and children, should always include the martial applications of Taiji.  For example, one doesn’t resist a force head-on, because then whoever is bigger and stronger will win.  In Taiji, you are taught to deflect and defend yourself and then once getting your opponent off balance, you counter attack with a force opposite to the direction of your opponent’s original attacking force.  This is the essence of the old saying that “four ounces can deflect a thousand pounds.”  It is also the meaning of the Taiji symbol:

Within the white part representing offense (or your opponent), there is a black dot representing defense (or you).  With constant motion, the small black dot can transform to become a big black part of the symbol, i.e., you change from being a defender to become the dominant attacker, and the original attacker becomes a small defender.

Every Taiji course, including those taught to senior citizens primarily for health purpose should also illustrate the martial applications of Taiji.  The reason is because by seeing the martial applications of the various Taiji forms, one can practice more correctly the forms and appreciate why the forms should be done in that particular way.

In summary:  Taiji is a wonderful exercise for all ages. It is not only a good exercise for senior citizens, but also a good exercise for young people and children. With the emphasis on mindfulness and self-defense, Taiji should appeal to youths and children, and their parents.

[1] This article contains ideas discussed in three earlier articles in this website: (1) “Can Taiji Be of General Appeal to Youths?” (June 2011):, (2) “How to Popularize Taiji?” (June 2015):, and (3) “Mindfulness, Children’s Social and Emotional Health, and School Initiative” (September 2020):

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