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Area Tai Chi School Provides Fitness, Health Benefits

BY DAVE SHEA

Sean Boutin was a graduate student in Government at Cornell University in 2008 when he stopped in at a Tai Chi class looking for something to relieve the stress and tension of final exams.

The first class led to more classes which proved to be life changing.

Instead of following up on his degree in Government, now Master Sean Boutin, focused on intensive training and studying in Tai Chi with renowned coach I Ping Cheng. Boutin still studies and trains with I Ping Cheng visiting her in Austin Tex. once a year for a week of intensive training.

Boutin came to North Country in 2011 with his wife, Dr. Christin McKai, who is a professor of Government at St. Lawrence University and established the North Country Tai Chi School. He teaches Tai Chi classes which are held at Canton's First Presbyterian Church on the Park, Heuvelton's Pickens Hall, and in Potsdam at the Trillium Wellness Center.

When it's warm, the classes are held outdoor public venues providing students with life changing experiences.

A new term at the classes will begin on May 4 and because of the COVID-19 pandemic classes are being streamed on Zoom. New students are alway welcome at the beginning classes which cost $10 apiece which includes a free trial class. Interested people are always welcome to visit a class and see if they would like take part in the classes.

The essence of the Tai Chi is posted on the North Country Tai Chi website and the school also has a facebook page which provides a wealth of information and photos.  The schedules for the classes at all three venues are available on the website whose mission statement follows.

TAI CHI EXPLAINED ON WEBSITE

The slow and artistic movements of T'ai Chi Ch'uan express a Chinese way of being. Tai Chi is a sort of peace in motion, a series of actions that calm the mind and heal the imbalances of our bodies.  

At North Country Tai Chi, we practice a sequence of movements stylized by Yang Lu-ch'an in the 1850s. Yang developed this powerful calisthenic as a martial art, but the benefits to our health and wellness is perhaps its greatest legacy.  

Sean Boutin introduces Yang's style with a simple wave of the hand and slight turn of the waist. Adding a second hand to a returning waist, we slowly rock into a restorative wisdom tradition, replacing knots of tension, stress, and anxiety with a wave of relaxation, personal capacity, and self confidence. 

Neither youth nor charm is a prerequisite for this practice. In fact, no basic coordination is required to begin and we don't test for exceptional stamina, toned physiques, or a washboard anything. The only requirements are a willingness to play, a slight sense of adventure, and an intention to feel balanced and restored.      

Classes are held at Canton's First Presbyterian Church on the Park, Heuvelton's Pickens Hall, and in Potsdam at the Trillium Wellness Center. When it's warm, we also take advantage of outdoor public venues.    

Please join us for a complimentary class or come by for a demonstration at Canton's Farmer's Market during the season. Sean is always willing to chat about Tai Chi, so don't be afraid to give him a call (315-229-4003, northcountrytaichi@gmail.com) or approach him in person.  Who knows where it might take you.

Thanks for visiting our online home. Be good and stay balanced.  

BUILDING A SCHOOL, COMMUNITY

As in other sports, music or other performance fields advanced performers in Tai Chi can go into the competitive or teaching outreaches. Through training and testing students advance through the levels of the sport.

Competitive Tai Chi is scored a lot like figure skating or gymnastics with athletes scored on the strength and fluidity of their motions.

"I could have gone into competition but I chose to go into school building. At North Country Tai Chi we have a real community. We have have students from all over: Malone, Massena, Ogdensburg, Gouverneur, Colton and MaComb. Each class lasts for an hour and begins with a warmup and a short medication period. Then we do our exercising and movements and afterwards most of the students stay around and chat. They are very supportive of each other and the more experienced students help the new students," said Master Sean Boutin.

"It works for everyone. We have one student in Art Hastings who is 93 years old who has drawn great benefit from it physically and he didn't start until he was 92. It has been shown that Tai Chi has helped people with arthritis, hypertension, migrain headaches and Alzheimers Disease but people in our classes have said that it has helped them with other issues. Tai Chi has the same effect as acupuncture without needles."

Students in a North Country Tai Chi class go through their movements.

The beneficial effects were recently outlined by an article from the Harvard Medical Journal which can be accessed on line.

Master Boutin considers Art Hastings' exercise partner Bob Leroux one of the classes true success stories.

Leroux, a 78-year old retired high school guidance counselor and master woodworker who maintains a shop at his home on Route 37 in Ogdensburg, began Tai Chi after a hip condition prevented him from taking daily walks.

"Since I have been doing Tai Chi my hip has gotten better but where it has helped me the most was with my balance. I see a neurologist in Syracuse and after 6-8 months of Tai Chi I am able to pass balance tests that I couldn't pass before," say Leroux.

"For the past two months I was in Syracuse and I couldn't take the classes. I noticed that I got a lot stiffer after I did things. Tai Chi has really helped me with stiffness."

Don Clark, who has been taking Tai Chi with his wife Diane for three years, has enjoyed improved health effects but also enjoys the fitness and social aspects of the classes. He has advanced to the Intermediate level.

"I have been taking classes at Pickens Hall in Heuvelton and it has been tremendous for me. I had some issues for years and they have all been alleviated," says Clark who is a retired teacher and hockey coach from the Ogdensburg City School District who was a high school and college standout as a player.

"I have met so many great people at the classes and they really support each other. We had a member who was sick for a while and other people in the class brought her food all of the time. My son Eric who lives in California tried it and absolutely loves it. He takes classes any time he can, sometimes four days a week."

The school recently noted World Tai Chi Day with a demonstration by Grandmaster Aiping Cheng who offered a Master Class on Sun Style on the basic fundamentals and the "Short" 36 Form. See photo below.



Master Sean Bouton leads a North Country Tai Chi class. (North Country Tai Chi Photos).

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