As you enter Three Rivers Aikido in Maplewood, Missouri the first thing that you notice is the wonderful scent of incense. The Old Kyoto Incense store that sits in the front of the studio is filled to the brim with all kinds of incense from all over the world. There is a small waiting area adjacent to the incense shop. The waiting area has a few lockers for the students to store their street clothes while they are taking their lessons. You might also encounter one of the owner’s dogs sniffing you out while you are waiting. They are beautiful animals that look like greyhounds and are colored like tiger-eye marbles. Not to worry, they are very friendly. I am here to take my weekly Tai Chi lesson. My friend Kay has come with me. We sit on the wicker furniture and wait for the Aikido students to finish. From where we sit we can look up into the studio and see what is going on. There is a lot of falling and rolling around on the mat. The Aikido is a little too active for my delicate constitution. I prefer the gentler movements of Tai Chi, which is almost like a danceÃ¢Â?Â¦meditation in motion. The Aikido lesson has finished and the students line up and bow to the picture of the martial art’s founder; Morihei Ueshiba.
There are about seven of us there to take the Tai Chi lesson. We line up at the entrance to the practice area and also bow out of respect to the founder. The practice room is large and well lit. There is a wooden bench and a fountain at one end of the room. At the other end is a large mirror that transverses the entire width of the room, sort of like what you might see at a dance studio. We all stand as the instructor enters the room. He stands at the front as we go through our warm up exercises. Then we watch as he demonstrates the next Tai Chi movement that we are working on. We are all beginners, so the moves are pretty simple. A lot of the moves require some balance and those are the ones that I have difficulty with. One of the reasons that I signed up for the lessons was to help improve my balance. I have suffered from a condition that is called MVL. The actual name is a mouthful to pronounce, but suffice it to say it involves some damage to the tiny blood vessels that supply the areas of the inner ear that control balance. I found that my balance has improved greatly over the six months that I took the course and since I have been practicing at home.
Now St. Mercy foot center in Washington, Missouri has a new computerized gait analysis lab. It is the only one like it in Missouri. The system is used in the evaluation of practically any condition that can affect the lower extremities and affect the way that we walk. It is also being used to help athletes see how gait problems can make them more prone to certain types of sports injuries.
The system works like this: using a paper-thin insole lined with some 196 electrodes, the computerized equipment maps out pressure points throughout the entire gait pattern. The system also uses 3-D motion cameras to evaluate the patient’s movements from the waist down. This is useful in diagnosing injuries and helps athletes prevent them. The system can also be used to evaluate the movements of players whose sports use a lot of motion in the lower extremities like golf, baseball, tennis, and track. More efficient movement equals better performance.
I wonder if this stuff could help me with my Tai Chi?