Free T'ai Chi sessions offered weekly in Rotary Park

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Aug. 22, 2011
Jeff Boccacio leads a group through T'ai Chi forms at Rotary Park. Photos by D. Coffey.
Jeff Boccacio leads a group through T'ai Chi forms at Rotary Park. Photos by D. Coffey.

Sixteen people moved through a series of T'ai Chi forms in Rotary Park on Wednesday, Aug. 17. The gentle sound of music from a stereo eased the group from one position to another. They presented a counterpoint to the 5 p.m. traffic rushing by on Kennedy Drive, as Jeff Boccacio continued to lead the group in slow practice.

“This last one is a difficult one,” Boccacio said, as he showed the group what he called a “fishing net form.” He moved his arms and legs to demonstrate. “Put your left foot forward,” he said. “Your left palm is up. Inhale. Throw the fishing net.” As he moved his arms from one side of his body to the other, it looked as if he were throwing a net over the water. After demonstrating the form several times, he moved through the crowd, correcting hand or arm positions on those gathered for the free weekly lessons.

Boccacio reminded those attending the Wednesday evening T'ai Chi session to be mindful and breathe deeply as they moved. They looked peaceful, as if they were hardly exercising at all. Boccacio, who has a black belt in karate and is a certified personal trainer, believes T'ai Chi is one of the healthiest forms of group exercise.

“The movements are all natural ranges of motion,” he said.

Boccacio is an American Council on Exercise certified trainer. He works primarily with patients undergoing physical rehabilitation. He bought his first set of weights when he was young and has been exercising for the better part of 30 years. When injuries forced him to give up karate, he turned to T'ai Chi.

The movements he makes his body go through are called “Qi gongs,” or forms. He said they are healthy because they emphasize the natural articulation through the joints of the body. They are fluid movements, both circular and linear. And while they can help people recovering from surgery, or enable older people to keep up an exercise regimen, they are also deceivingly powerful.

T'ai Chi is a martial art that looks anything but dangerous. The movements are slow and deliberate. It can take several seconds to move an arm or leg into position. But each movement has a martial arts application.

“This is a block,” Boccacio said, demonstrating with his arm. He demonstrated a strike, an arm break, a push. And yet the senior citizens in his group have really taken to it. For people who are sore or who haven't exercised in a long time, practicing the forms helps the body to start moving again, he said.

“The seniors in my class love it,” Boccacio said. “They are bending and moving and walking.”

 


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