Ahwatukee Foothills resident Don Fiore, 75, started practicing T’ai Chi as a way to relax away from his stressful real estate job.
He’d practiced other forms of self defense when he was younger but found T’ai Chi affected him in a completely different way. It got rid of the terrible migraines he’d been suffering from and it helped him relax so much he says many of his co-workers could hardly recognize him.
The results were so profound, Fiore decided to become an instructor and share what he had learned. He started teaching 18 years ago in a chiropractor’s office and then expanded to college classrooms and classes for staff at different corporations. Now he conducts classes for groups of seniors, Parkinson’s patients and even sells videos worldwide. Once a year he also helps organize a free outdoor class as part of a worldwide celebration known as World T’ai Chi and Qigong Day.
Legend says T’ai Chi began from watching a cobra and a crane fight each other. Fiore said monks took up the practice as self defense and it evolved as different families began to adjust it. There are about five major styles of T’ai Chi. Fiore teaches an easy T’ai Chi, which is basically a hybrid of Chen and Yang styles. He calls it self defense in slow motion. Studies have found that it can help with blood pressure, circulation, weight, balance, strengthening bones and much more.
Fiore discovered World T’ai Chi and Qigong Day through the Internet. It was started 15 years ago by a man in Kansas City who had a dream of T’ai Chi and Qigong (a sort of Chinese yoga) being practiced in each time zone for one hour beginning at 10 a.m., creating a continuous 24-hour cycle around the world. The goal is to promote the health benefits of the practice as well as world peace.
“When I started doing it, it was just for my students that I taught,” Fiore said. “I asked the Franciscan Renewal Center if they minded if I used part of their land for T’ai Chi. I only had about 50 students come out at first, but it was great to be outside and in between two mountains on beautiful grounds.”
Each year the event has grown and The Casa has continued to allow Fiore back. Fiore has invited other teachers to come out each year as well and bring their students. Last year they had about 200 people practicing T’ai Chi and Qigong together and Fiore expects about seven or eight different teachers to come out and teach this year. While Fiore instructs his group he said others across the Valley are participating at the same time and groups across the world are also taking part. Seventy countries are expected to take part this year.
The event is free and all are welcome. Even those who aren’t sure if they want to participate are welcome to come out and watch. Any donations collected go back to The Casa for all they do to provide the land. This year the event will be on Saturday, April 28 from 9:30 a.m. to about noon at the Franciscan Renewal Center, 5802 E. Lincoln Drive in Scottsdale.
“We want to share what we know with other people,” Fiore said. “It’s just a wonderful experience.”
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