I'll readily admit that Tai Chi doesn't have a macho reputation. You don't find many would-be street fighters aspiring to be a Tai Chi master who can kick butt.
Partly this is due to the familiar photos of people doing Tai Chi in China. They usually look pretty darn old and harmless.
OK. I haven't seen either film. But I'm three years into thrice weekly Tai Chi classes at Warren Allen's Pacific Martial Arts studio here in Salem. So I'm qualified to talk to guys like me who might have qualms about taking up Tai Chi.
By "guys like me," I mean more than 58 year old men with previous martial arts experience who are aging halfway gracefully, but want to help assure this trend continues. Maybe even more than halfway – 75%, say.
I'm using guys in the modern generic sense, just as the waitress does who comes to take our order, looks at my wife and me, and says "So what do you guys want for dinner?" (I suspect she says the same thing to a table full of women.)
So here, in no particular order, are ten macho and not-so-macho reasons for guys to like Tai Chi.
(1) The older you get, the better. Tai Chi embraces the Chinese respect for old age. The Tai Chi magazine I get regularly features glowing articles about eighty year olds. Try finding that sort of thing in an Ultimate Fighting mixed martial arts publication.
(2) It really is a martial art. I've heard skilled hard style black belts say, "I don't do Tai Chi because it's too damn difficult." Yes, it is, when pursued as a martial art. It's a lot tougher to redirect and control an opponent without punching and kicking. But more effective. Really.
(3) You don't get hurt. A big benefit. Today I ran into a guy I used to play tennis with years ago. He says he gave it up because he got tired of injuries (like tennis elbow). Tai Chi will make you more healthy, not less. When I was into karate I always wondered why this "self defense" activity caused people to get hurt so much.
(4) There's more women involved. Tai Chi is pretty well balanced, male and female wise. Not surprising, given its foundation in Taoist Yin and Yang. So you aren't surrounded by sweaty guys for an hour and a half, which was par for the course in my previous martial arts and tennis days.
(5) You don't sweat. Well, rarely. Mostly Tai Chi is practiced (or "played," in Tai Chi lingo) at slow speed. You'll feel a kind of burn, but not the dripping with perspiration kind. More of the "I didn't know I had that muscle" kind.
(6) The dress code is casual. In my classes, at least. Compared to my Shotokan karate days, it's refreshing to be able to wear whatever the heck you feel like. Shorts. T-shirt. Shoes. Barefoot. Whatever. I like not having to change clothes from street wear, except for my shoes.
(7) Tai Chi-ish t-shirts are cool. The first thing I did, when I started Tai Chi, was go online and find some cool-looking t-shirts to wear in class. I figured that even if I didn't know much Tai Chi, I could look like I did. Yin-yang symbols are a common theme. Dragons too. I like.
(8) It comes with a built-in philosophy. Taoism. Which is so inclusive, you can be a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, or anything else and also be a Taoist. Does tennis have a profound philosophy attached to it? Does golf? Nope. Tai Chi is great for philosophical types like me. Also, for non-philosophical types.
(9) Tai Chi will make you a better dancer. I've never considered myself much of a dancer. But after taking quite a few tango, nightclub 2-step, and other classes, I'm a lot more confident than I used to be. Tai Chi has helped a lot. You learn the importance of balance, weight differentiation, not thinking too much, and having a good time.
(10) It's fun. Which brings me to the most important reason. Try it. You'll probably like it.