Kayaking and canoes involve paddling and water. T’ai Chi, a style of martial arts, is practiced on land with neither water nor boats. The two seem unrelated but did you know that T’ai Chi benefits water sports players like enthusiasts of kayaking and canoes racing? Paddling requires moving gracefully, strongly, and balanced on rough waters. It also puts much strain on the arms and the back, if done incorrectly. T’ai Chi improves and enhances paddling skills because the exercise and the sport follow the same principles.
Karen Knight and Betsey Forster, experts in kayaking and canoes racing, admit to doing T’ai Chi regularly. According to them, T’ai Chi provides cross-training. They claim that kayaking and T’ai Chi reinforce the skills and principles of each other which make practice of both relevant for improvement. They add that doing complementary exercises boosts the skills and energy levels of paddlers. The two share kayaking principles and the complementary T’ai Chi practices.
In any water sport, it is necessary to keep your body centered, quiet, and stable. These traits are reflected in your boat and spell the difference between staying on the boat or getting thrown off it. How you position your body and your posture play significant roles in kayaking and canoes racing. Sit straight and spread your weight equally between your buttocks to create a stable pelvic base. This position liberates your upper body and allows your lower body greater control over the boat. It is important to align your nose, navel, and tailbone to create a single unit. Making your body move and paddle as a unit minimize strain and risks of injuries. Another principle, called the paddler’s box, incorporates power in paddling strokes. This is achieved by aligning hands and arms front of your shoulder plane. This ensures that your arms and shoulders are moving as a unit no matter how you paddle. Stable paddling is also a key factor in kayak racing. Most regard stable paddling as an accurate measure of the canoeists’ skills. It is difficult to paddle quietly and keep the boat from bobbing but a good canoeist can do it. Avoiding pitching and bobbing the boat are done by keeping the boat stable and the paddling movement slow and accurate. Every move must be calculated because unnecessary motions can topple the boat over in rough current.
Stability, balance, and power are the main principles of kayaking. These are the very aspects T’ai Chi practices take care of. The T’ai Chi walk is recommended before launching and can help racers center and quiet their bodies in the water. It is done by elongating the spine much like the aligning of the nose, navel, and tailbone in kayaking and canoes racing, only this time, exercise is done standing up. The walk helps racers focus on their bodies and make them aware of their movements to reduce inefficiency. The steps are taken slowly with deliberate movements from the arms like paddling. The Hold The Ball movement aids in maintaining racers’ paddler’s box. In this exercise, the waist, arms, and torso do the work enabling them to get used to acting as unit before racing. Waist rotation is another exercise to improve efficiency of movement. The waists and the hips are given added power and stability since paddling action is rooted in the lower body. With these exercises, the canoeists’ bodies are accustomed to being stable, maintaining balance, and efficient use of power.
Knight and Forster recommend practicing T’ai Chi regularly for those who are thinking of taking kayaking and canoes racing as a sport. This form of cross training also helps enthusiasts to become better riders and fluid paddlers. Regular training and T’ai Chi sessions keep canoeists ready and fit for succeeding kayaking and canoes racing events.