There are few things that warrant my rising early enough to attend an 8 a.m. class on a Saturday morning. But after listening to the raves of several tai chi enthusiasts, I figured Kenneth Marx was a good reason.
Marx, who has been studying and teaching tai chi for more than two decades, leads weekly classes inside the west entrance of Greynolds Park in North Miami Beach. Under his tutelage, students study the ancient Chinese practice of Tai Chi Chuan --- part exercise, part meditation, part martial art, the roots of which reach back in history to the original Shaolin Temple. According to traditional Chinese medical theory, the presence, absence or blockage of chi (which means "breath" or, in this case, "vital energy") determines the state of one's health. By learning how to remove anything that prevents their chi from flowing freely, students hope to live longer, healthier lives.
Admittedly, I had my hesitations as to whether this was merely the latest New Age trend du jour, but Marx proved me wrong. While health benefits are not apparent instantly, there is no question that within one class, tai chi helped relieve me of the stress collected over the span of the week. The intense focus required to execute the movements and exercises transports you into a completely different realm of thought and physical and mental fortitude.
"Tai Chi consists of a precise series of slow, graceful movements that create virtually no stress on the body whatsoever," says Marx. "That's why it's so beneficial for people, regardless of age."