To mark the ninth annual World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, U of U Tai Chi professor Bill Parkinson is leading a free Tai Chi class open to the public at the U’s Marriott Library Plaza on Saturday, April 25, with activities beginning at 9 a.m.
Isn’t Tai Chi just slow-motion martial arts? How does slashing and punching create a more peaceful feeling?
It is a kung fu system. It’s martial arts. But it’s more on the “arts” than on the “martial.” Its focus over the years has become the movement, relaxation and meditative aspects of the art.
Why doesn’t America embrace the “free Tai Chi in the park” you see the Chinese engaged in?
In China, Tai Chi is so much a part of the culture that everybody does it and accepts it as a valuable art. Here, if they’re not paying for something, they figure it is not worth very much.
What’s on tap for Saturday’s celebration?
We’ll have as many as a half a dozen schools that will show up. I’ll probably have some of my current and past students show up. Usually, we’ll have less than 100 students that actually dance. From 9 to 10 a.m., there are warm-ups and socializing. The actual dance takes place at 10 a.m.; that’s part of a worldwide celebration of Tai Chi that happens in every time zone at 10 a.m. over a 24-hour period. From 10:30 until noon, there are demonstrations people can watch and participate in.
Why do you teach Tai Chi through the U’s theater department? Is it just an act?
(laughs) Yes, it’s just an act. Actually, it’s taught in almost every theater school around the country. When I first started with the U’s Actor Training Program in 1987, it was mainly for actors to help them with movement and relaxation and to deal with stress. Acting is a stressful profession because you’re job-hunting all the time. You have deadlines, and you’re in front of the public. And then we expanded it to the whole university because of its popularity.
It’s not just actors who are stressed out.
I know it’s going around, and it’s a little bit contagious. Stress really takes years off your life. More importantly, it takes time off the moment that you’re living. After I found out that stress is an epidemic (it’s even affected me in the last year), I’ve been more forceful in letting people know the benefits of doing Tai Chi, yoga and meditation for stress reduction.