T'ai Chi instructor says martial art relieves stress, restores balance

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Tue., Aug. 2, 2011
Reva Seybolt and Laddie Sacharko practice a T'ai Chi form. Photos by D. Coffey.
Reva Seybolt and Laddie Sacharko practice a T'ai Chi form. Photos by D. Coffey.

Instructor Laddie Sacharko led several adults through a T'ai Chi form on July 26. The group members had spread themselves out in the Community Room of the Thompson Public Library. They followed Sacharko's slow and carefully executed movements. Except for softly-playing music, they were as quiet as the patrons in the library, just on the other side of the door.

Sacharko first started practicing T'ai Chi as a way to reduce stress, but he learned there was more to the martial art form than stress reduction benefits. He has taught T'ai Chi since the 1990s, following the Yang family tradition. The art form helps you to understand how the hands and arms and legs work, he said. It helps you to understand how your opponent's body works.

“Understand the patterns of energy,” he told his students, as he demonstrated a move with Reva Seybolt. He put a hand on Seybolt's and moved so that she bent down. “It's about keeping in control,” he said.

“Let's practice the whole thing up to here,” he said. And they spaced themselves out, moving slowly. Their bare feet made soft sounds on the carpet. They did not rush their movements.

Seybolt has been taking classes for a year and a half. She said she was getting out of a chair one day and felt like an 80-year-old. The 60-something Seybolt tried yoga, but didn't like it. She credits T'ai Chi with helping her tap into resources of energy and changing the way her whole body moves.

Kathy O'Leary started practicing T'ai Chi when she hurt her ankle. “I love it,” she said. “It's helped with my balance. It's strengthened my back. I wanted to get back in balance and strengthen my joints.” She has been practicing for about one year. “I hear Laddie in my head,” she said, laughing. “It's taught me to relax and be conscious of my whole body. It's a work in progress.”

People hold onto tension, Sacharko said. Relaxation is a part of the exercise, but this is the thing people have a hard time grasping. “Tightness in movement is impaired movement,” he said. “Chronic tightness equals weakness.”

The martial art form evolved over time, as did an awareness of the health benefits of the exercise. This is what Sacharko stresses in his classes. “Go slow and easy,” he said while leading his students in another form. “All we want to do is learn how the body works.”

Sacharko will lead a “T'ai Chi for Seniors” class and a “Fall Prevention Program” in the fall for the Thompson Recreation Department.


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