Many years ago when I was a manager I provided Tai Chi lessons for my staff during the lunch break as a stress reduction technique. I brought in professional teachers and participated myself. We learned to breathe effectively and move in the slow, rhythmical movements of this martial arts exercise..
I was acutely embarrassed initially because I could not pick up the movements. However, as I progressed I started to feel the stress release effects of Tai Chi and wanted to learn more.
The most surprising result for me was that my tennis improved, particularly my volleys. As I investigated this further, I found that Tai Chi helped me in two key ways.
1. Becoming centred through Tai Chi
Centering yourself or becoming grounded is a key focus of Tai Chi. Some proponents encourage you to adopt the “horse” position when you practise this martial art and this is designed to center yourself and let your energy flow freely.
When you are centered you can focus more strongly and for longer periods. Your mind is on-the-job and you are concentrating on your tennis game and tennis strokes.
You will often see the momentum shift in a game of tennis when one player loses focus, even when they are winning. This can happen to even the elite players. They may be thrown off-centre by a bad line call or a poor shot they played at a critical time. The very top players, like Federer, have developed ways to stay centred and maintain their focus over very long periods.
Tai Chi is very important for centering and maintaining focus – make it a part of your inner game of tennis.
2. Improve your balance through Tai Chi
Tai Chi is considered a moving form of meditation and focuses very much on achieving balance and awareness of balance.
You have probably seen groups of people use the slow motion movements in the local park or at the seaside and observed how well balanced they are when doing movements on one leg.
Tennis requires a lot of balance, getting yourself set for the next stroke. You will hear tennis commentators frequently remark, ‘It was a poor shot because he was off-balance when he hit the ball.’
If you have a sore ankle or leg, you will find that it is hard to do volleys properly because you tend to protect the sore leg by taking your weight off it. As a result, you do not transfer your weight properly when you play your volley. The same applies for serving and groundstroke in tennis.
If you take up Tai Chi, even for ten minutes a day, you will be able to dramatically improve your balance and your tennis game.
Tai Chi has lots of benefits including stress release, improved breathing and circulation, and a healthier heart. The desire to improve your tennis game could provide the perfect motivation to adopt this martial art. In the process you will improve both your balance and your ability to stay focused and, as a result, enjoy your tennis game a lot more.