Is Tai Chi the best martial arts for a person with back injuries?
Quite possibly but you should consult with your doctor or chiropractor before doing so. The gentle movements involved in Tai Chi might benefit someone who is recovering from a back injury, but maybe too painful for those who have had either surgery or have constant pain.
I would like to say yes it is, because there's now actual bending of the lower back, at all. I use to do Tai Chi, and I done it for about 5 years or so, I actually stemmed away from the teachings to develop my very own techniques of self healing, and spiritual balance.
I love the art of Tai Chi though, there's nothing quite like the energy rush you get from such posture control, and overall stability of your body parts, unlike Yoga, which is somewhat stressful looking. Awesome Question.
Tai Chi is probably the safest, least violent form of martial arts for a person with back injuries. Having said that, I like blending techniques for a more balanced training. Yoga, floor work in the horizontal plane, are ways to use gravity to its advantage rather than suffer its constant downward pushing force, which is detrimental for the back. Hanging upside-down on a gravity inverter balances out and cures back problems. Tai Chi is great though, especially when performed outdoors, in nature.
It depends upon WHICH form of Taijiquan and exactly WHAT the nature of your back injury is.
Of the five main forms of Taiji, Yang and Sun style are perhaps the "easiest" on the body - the least likely to aggravate an existing injury, PROVIDED the instructor fully understands the body mechanics involved. Definitely stay away from Chen style - the rapid, forceful movements are contraindicated for back injuries.
The selling point for Taiji (at least how it is sold in the US) is that it is gentle and slow. This can be true but even slow movement can be harmful if performed improperly.
Ask your prospective instructor about proper spinal alignment ("Taiji Pole") and how he/she teaches and practices it before you sign up for classes. Watch a class if possible: there should be NO bending from the waist - the students should be carrying themselves as if balancing books on their heads. The only exception to this is "coiling", the horizontal rotation or "twisting" of the waist and hips, during certain movements. This can be minimized as long as the instructor is aware of your condition.
I've taught Taijiquan for over 40 years, and many of my students had some form of back injury. All of them have benefited from proper movement practice, so with a little bit of caution and research I would say that Taiji is an ideal exercise for you.
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