Recently I have given a presentation on how to augment Tai Chi or any movement centric activity to alleviate Anxiety, Depression and Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) or just plain Stress. I’ve been involved in Martial Arts for 60 years, but Tai Chi is my primary art because it is instrumental in dealing with my own PTS.
Instructors or individuals can use the ideas presented to augment Tai Chi and most other martial arts. I cover three areas of augmentation. The areas are ‘Ritual’, ‘Flow’, and ‘Community’. One enhancement can be relevant in all three areas.
This article is on Rituals to augment Tai Chi that will alleviate Anxiety, Depression and Post Traumatic Stress. The next two follow on articles will cover ‘Flow’ and ‘Community’.
Let me define the word Ritual as it is use here:
“An act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner.”
Rituals are found in society going back to prehistoric man. Rituals are found in all aspects of life.
Examples of Rituals in our society
Do you shake hands, give a fist bump, or give a hug to people you meet? Are you interested in finance? Why does the stock market have an opening and closing bell? Are sports more your thing? Football players do chest bumps. Some Baseball players tap their cleats with their bat three times when they come up to bat. Or maybe you’re a Basketball fan that watches King James doing a chalk toss. Don’t even get me started on Religion. Can I get an Amen? Amen!
Why Rituals help
Rituals help with Anxiety, Depression and Post Traumatic Stress or just plain Stress. You are in the now. Rituals give your brain a sense of control, structure, regularity, and predictability that it craves.
Most martial arts have rituals. I have seen a lot of Martial Arts Schools that have done away with rituals. Other schools have kept rituals because of tradition without an understanding of why the rituals exist.
Let ritual serve you, do not be a slave to ritual. What do I mean by this? Make sure you and those you train with understand the why of the ritual. Otherwise, rituals can go to a dark place that bumps your school into the grave. Huh?
The dark side of Rituals
When you bump up against religious institutions, the practitioners of the religion recognize ritual as a major component of what they do in their church, synagogue, temple, or mosque. Because of the association of ritual with religion they may consider your martial art a religion. Make sure those who observe or participate in your ritual understand why you practice your rituals.
Martial Arts Rituals
There are a lot of rituals that exist in Martial Arts. Most traditional schools have some sort of uniform; it can be as simple as a t-shirt or can include a Hakama and body armor. Many schools line up by rank. Each individual stands in a specific stance. A great many schools bow or have a specific salute. There may the sounding of a bell or gong and even music and musical instruments unique to the art. Other schools burn sage, candles, or incense.
Do you or those you train with have consistent rituals; You know like it says in definition of ritual we are using “regularly repeated”. If you have some rituals examine them and revel in them. If you don’t have rituals, find those that serve you. Being grounded and in the moment will help you and those you train with deal with anxiety, depression, and stress
Some rituals to consider:
Greeting (bow, words of acknowledgement)
Sound (Bell, Gong, Music)
Smells (Incense, Flowers, Fruit)
Organization (Senior to Junior, Seniors at corners)
Sequence (Warm-up, New Info, Spar)
Closing (Mat Talk, Chant, Thank You)
To see all of this in action. I gave my presentation with a demo class at the Clear Family Gathering 2022. A video of the Clear Family Gathering can be procured at www.ClearMartialArts.com.