Movement is vital to health, even more so when addressing movement disorders. "Regular movement has a measurable effect on the signs and symptoms of the disease .. (it) Also improves dopamine levels" 

"Effectiveness of tai chi for Parkinson’s Disease: A critical review," Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, Vol 14 (2008) 589 – 594, Myeong Soo Lee, Paul Lam, Edzard Ernst

Additionally, those with Parkinson's disease who exercise regularly are shown to have superior gait velocity as compared to those who do not exercise regularly. There is a reduction in the rate of deterioration of motor skills, and a strong potential to reduce the risk of secondary dangers, such as falling. 

"Multidimensional exercise of people with Parkinson’s disease: A case report," Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, Vol 22(3): 153 – 162, 2006, Patricia Kluding, PT, PhD, Patricia Quinn McGinnis, PT, MS, ABD

While research is still very new in this area, there also seem to be indicator that exercise has neuroprotective or neuroregenerative capabilities in addition to neuroprotective properties. 

“Physical Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease: Influence on symptoms, disease course, and prevention,” Rev. Neurosci,  2013: 24(2): 139-152, Rita Grazina, Joao Massano

The Effects of Tai Chi?

Tai Chi, as a martial art taught through slow and gentle movements, has been an ideal starting point for investigations into the impact of martial arts on movement disorders. One study found a 10% improvement from baseline in balance and an 18% improvement in directional control. 

"For Parkinson Disease Patients, Tai Chi can improve balance and reduce falls,” Neurology Today, 5/3/2012, Richard Robinson

The results of study by Hye-Jung Choi and Carol Garber et.al. noticed improvements were significant in participants’ mentation, mood, behavior, and motor functions!

“Therapeutic Effects of Tai Chi in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease,”ISRN Neurology, Vol 2013, Article 548240, Hye-Jung Choi, Carol Ewing Garber, Tae-Won Jun, Young-Soo Jin, Sun-Ju Chung, Hyun-Joo Kang

To ensure an understanding of treatment modalities and their impact, many scientists are looking at Tai Chi. There is a general consensus that the practice of Tai Chi improves conditions, but no consensus as to the mechanisms of its impact. For example, one study finds that the"...mechanism behind therapeutic change (caused by Tai Chi Practice) in motor control and mobility remain less understood and warrant further exploration"

“Tai Chi and Postural Stability in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease” The New England Journal of Medicine, .Vol 366:6 February 9, 2012, Fuzhong, Li, PhD, Peter Hammer, PhD, Kathleen Fitzgerald, MD, Elizabeth Eckstrom, MD, MPH, Ronald Stock, MD, Johhny Galver, PT, Gianni Maddalozzo, PhD, Sara S Batya, MD

In their critical review,  Zhang and Yong (et.al.) find issue with the complexity of Tai Chi and its degree of difficulty for beginners - especially the elderly. 

“Effects of Tai Chi and Multimodal Exercise Training on Movement and Balance Function in Mild to Moderate Idiopathic Parkinson Disease,” American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Article No. 0894-9115/15/9410-0921, Authors Tian-Yu Zhang, BS, Yong, Hu BS, Zhi-Yu Nie, MD, Rong-Xiang Jin, MS, Fei Chen, BS, Qiang Guan, MD, Bin Hu, BS, Chun-Ya Gu, Ling, Zhu, BS, Ling-Jing, Jin, MD

In their review of a partner-based program, authors Klein and Rivers cite lack of evidence as a reason they determined that, while the program was beneficial for the participants, it's impact on Parkinson's disease was inconclusive. 

“Taiji for Individuals with Parkinson Disease and their Support Partners: Program Evaluation” Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy, Vol Mar 2006; 301, 1,  Penelope J Klein Pt EdD, Lynn Rivers, PT PhD

Tai Chi as a movement intervention for Parkinson's disease is a wonderful approach, not to be derided or dismissed.  There is no "one answer" to such a complex set of diseases and conditions. The goal of Movement You is not to replace or dismiss Tai Chi.  Rather, we seek to join the movement for effective exercise through a unique intersection of the martial arts insights of Aikido and personal experience!

Aikido Inspired Movement Classes

Many exercise routines have been developed to assist the movement disorder population including traditional physical therapy, dancing, and even boxing!  The martial art which has received the most research attention is Tai Chi.  In working to create easy and accessible material, however, there is a core challenge.  Tai Chi – in it’s full form – is really complicated!  As the mechanism linking Tai Chi practice to secondary symptom improvement is not well understood, it may be that truncated Tai Chi classes do not impart the core elements of movement needed to master balance and movement.

A main element of Aikido is to simplify movement down to its core elements, often ignoring detailed things like “techniques” or “steps.”  Because of this, Aikido does not have forms, unlike most other Japanese martial arts. It is taught through basic balance shifting and movement exercises, and then applying these exercises to real-life situations. It is a direct study of economy of motion, or training to have the most impact with the least amount of movement.

A core foundation of Aikido is to learn and apply the “shapes” of our body; the square, the circle, and the triangle.  By learning to create, fill, and/or move these shapes in various ways, Aikido students learn how to move with balance, strength, stability, and fluidity.

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