More than 400 students and more than 80 faculty and staff members at SUNY Cortland have embraced the ancient Chinese martial art of Tai Chi in the past eight years as a means to achieve overall wellness.
In the case of the students, they are engaging in this relaxing, slow motion form of exercise to also hone their philosophical credentials.
“It’s a form of exercise that’s not damaging to your body — there’s no impact,” said Andrew Fitz-Gibbon, a tai chi instructor who is a professor and chair of the College’s Philosophy Department. “It can be a lifelong process to learn the depths of this Chinese art. It’s also good for self-defense.”
Fitz-Gibbon, certified to instruct in the martial art since 2010, always teaches two classes that get students to try out tai chi movement for themselves: Asian Philosophy and Philosophies of Non-violence.
For a third time, Fitz-Gibbon has invited the West Coast-based tai chi master Jesse Tsao to campus to share his knowledge and techniques in a two-day series of talks, demonstrations and workshops from Sept. 7 to 8.
“He’s always been very well received by faculty and staff and members of the community who attend his workshop,” Fitz-Gibbon said. “And the students always love him. He’s a world-renowned practitioner.”
Tsao will lead a public lecture and demonstration from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 7, in Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge. He will present a workshop with morning and afternoon sessions in the same location on Saturday, Sept. 8. The morning session will take place from 9 a.m. to noon. Afterward, a light lunch will be provided. The afternoon session will run from 1 to 4 p.m.
The lecture and six-hour workshop are free and open to the campus community and public. For more information about the program, contact Fitz-Gibbon at 607-279-6584. Workshop parking is available in the College lots off Graham Avenue.
Fitz-Gibbon practices an hour of Tai Chi each day and teaches three classes a week during school semesters: Mondays from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. for beginners; Wednesdays from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. for intermediate practitioners. Students enrolled in the Philosophical Meditations or Philosophies of Nonviolence courses receive the martial arts training woven right into their curriculum.
Tai chi is offered out of the Philosophy Department and not the College’s Recreation program, said Fitz-Gibbon, who was certified in 2010 to instruct in tai chi.
“The notion of wellness is not really a modern idea,” he said. “One of my areas of expertise is somaesthetics, which is body consciousness in relation to mind and body.
This Eastern martial arts form is gaining acceptance in the mainstream of western medicine, according to Fitz-Gibbon. For example, there’s now the Harvard Medical School Guide on the Chinese Art of Tai Chi, he said, showing his copy.
“We like to keep tai chi as part of the Philosophy Program because wellness is actually a part of philosophy, which goes all the way back to Aristotle and the concept of wellbeing in the West and the Daoist philosophers in the East,” Fitz-Gibbon said.
The speaker has attracted a large following in Cortland on his previous visits.
Born and trained in China, Tsao has been practicing tai chi for more than 40 years, including 10 years of intensive study with world-renowned Grandmaster Li Deyin in Beijing. His family’s lineage in Chen style tai chi goes back 12 generations. He now lives in San Diego and since 1995 has served as a tai chi master for Cigna HealthCare of Arizona.
Tsao was the gold medalist in the 1980 Beijing Collegiate Wushu Competition. He earned a Ph.D. in traditional Chinese sport from Shanghai Sport University. He also has B.S. and M.S. degrees in economics from Renmin University in Beijing, China, and University of Arizona, respectively.
An internationally known tai chi master, Qigong therapist, and alternative medicine and wellness consultant, since 2005, Tsao has made regular teaching tours to Germany, France, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Russia and Greece. He founded Tai Chi Healthways and specializes in the areas of self-healing, preventive therapies, stress management and mind-body wellness.
He is the author of two books, Tai Chi Bang: Eight Immortal Flute(NB Publishing, South Carolina, 2012) and Compact Tai Chi — in Limited Space(Hall Samuel Weiser, Inc., Maine, 2000).
The programs are co-sponsored by the Philosophy Department, the President’s Office, the Center for Ethics, Peace and Social Justice, the Modern Languages Department, the James M. Clark Center for Global Engagement, the Center for Gender and Intercultural Studies, the Campus Artist and Lecture Series, the Auxiliary Services Corporation and a Faculty Development Small Grant.