Sumter 63-year-old, national champion, shares enthusiasm for Tai Chi

Sumter 63-year-old, national champion, shares enthusiasm for Tai Chi

SUMTER, SC (WIS) - After a career of nearly two decades in the military, Joseph Whiting of Sumter is not retired.

"I'm no spring chicken" he admitted.

Two years ago he started practicing Tai Chi, and at 63-years-old, he's now teaching it to senior citizens at senior centers in Sumter and Columbia.

"Tai Chi helps with the balance and control by movement. It is a flowing movement that helps with your spatial, your range of motion," he said. "It gives you an aware of where you are in your time and space. Not only that, but Tai Chi focuses on concentration. So you're concentrating, it's not just something that you just walk and you do without thinking about."

Whiting teaches Tai Chi at the Lourie Senior Citizens Center in Columbia and Covenant Place in Sumter. Although Tai Chi is a martial art, its forms can be modified so people of all ages and physical abilities can easily learn and practice them.

"Once you learn the principles of Tai Chi, then it doesn't matter if you're using it for fall prevention, prevention that is modified, or if you use it in competition. If you have the principles intact, then you can go far with either competition or for your own practice and well-being."

Whiting has taken his practice beyond the well-being and into the competition level. He is the 2017 United States Ko Shu Federation National Title holder in Tai Chi other forms in the 50+ age division. He said he didn't know at the time he signed up for the competition it was advanced level. He is a four-time gold medalist.

"I employ the philosophy of 1,000 forms, 1,000 times a day," he said. "Which simply means that in the beginning of my Tai Chi practice, when I learned Tai Chi forms for fall prevention, I practiced the forms because I wanted to be good at it."

Whiting said everyone who practices Tai Chi is on their own personal journey. His competitive nature took him beyond wellness to competition.

"It's like peeling an onion," he said. "You peel the onion as you develop and grow in your practice. You pick up more nuances. You begin to see things, be more aware of things that maybe you hadn't noticed in the beginning practices."

He's a firm believer that Tai Chi can help anyone.

"Motion is lotion for the body," he said. "A body that stays in motion will remain in motion."

Whiting is leading a free Tai Chi practice Friday at Irmo's Community Park. The event is part of National Falls Prevention Awareness Day for older adults. It's from 6-8 p.m. at the Palmetto Health Amphitheatre on Eastview Drive. Registration is not necessary and everyone is welcome.

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