Black-Belt Therapy

The search for composure and concentration in tai chi can provide concrete, and frequently elusive, focus to ADHDans.
Treating ADHD Blog | posted by Bill Mehlman | Friday May 9th - 8:39am
Filed Under: Exercise and ADHD

I tend to be contrarian, but not dogmatically so. For example, I'm totally in accord with the notion that appropropriately vigorous exercise is an unmitigated positive for everyone. Furthermore I think that it's essential for ADHDans.

Name your game: cycling, swimming, soccer, jogging, anything that gets you to break a sweat and burn off some of those heebie-jeebies. (As much as I love a good game of nine-ball, time spent in the pool hall doesn't count.) I think that martial arts fulfill this requirement, and bring an additional, specific set of benefits to us.

The martial arts I'm going to talk about in this and future posts are the "soft" or "internal" disciplines. Those of you devoted to shotokan karate, taekwando or capoeira or any of the other more aggressive forms, knock yourselves out, so to speak. All aspiring writers are taught to write what they know, and my experience in this area is limited to tai chi chuan and aikido.

"Soft" should not be construed as "wimpy" or "ineffective." Advanced — and I use that adjective deliberately — students of tai chi frequently win competitions open to all martial artists. Friends of mine, undercover cops, who find themselves in distinctly non-dojo situations, advocate aikido as the most practical, efficient form of self-defense in the street. Aikido students may not be able to break cement blocks. Wrist and legs, yes, but not cement blocks; personally, I've never been threatened by a cement block.

Tai chi comes in many flavors. For those who are resolutely non-violent, there are forms, such as Taoist tai chi, that eschew any and all combative activity, concentrating on the spiritual and health benefits of the art. At the other end of the spectrum, you can find instruction in weapons forms and tai chi boxing, which will definitely satisfy your aggressive instincts. And, while aikido claims to have no, none, zilch, offensive moves, the defensive moves will deter pretty much any aggressor, unless he likes being bounced off the sidewalk, very hard.

Both of these forms emphasize balance, both physical and emotional, and some notion that developing one's inner strength is more critical than any bodybuilding routine. This search for composure and concentration can provide concrete, and frequently elusive, focus to those of us in the ADHD community.

So we’ll get to both of these in short order. Meanwhile, I hear a plaintive chorus sighing, “What about yoga?” What about it? I’m sure, as the punchline to the old joke goes, it couldn’t hurt. But I know nothing about it, never did it, and you’ll have to look elsewhere in ADDitude to find information thereupon.

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