The slow, smooth, deliberate moves look almost like a dance, as the breath follows the motion.

It’s Tai Chi, A Chinese martial art form that dates back to the 12th century.

“It can be thought of as a slow-moving meditation,” Debra Williamson, longtime instructor of Tai Chi and Karate, said. “Tai chi is performed slowly, softly, and gracefully with smooth and even transitions in between each movement. You get the same benefits of an aerobic workout without the jarring on the joints, which is great for arthritis.”

Williamson said the moves help practitioners “learn how to release you stress for better health, improve your balance to help prevent falls, strengthen your muscle and bone mass, relax your mind and body, breathe properly, improve your circulation, flexibility and posture. Tai chi is also known to lower your blood pressure and helps with depression. In recent studies on Tai chi it has been proven that Parkinson’s and Fibromyalgia patients have made big improvements.”

During the recent Culture of the Arts Festival in Denison, Williamson and several experienced students were joined by two individuals who wanted to try a free lesson during the Tai chi demonstration. Because the group moves as a unit, it is easy to follow those around you even for a beginner.

Fluid as a dance performance, Williamson and the students moved gracefully in meditatively slow motion. Viewers can sense the benefits of Tai chi by watching those who have studied for several years.

One of those students, retired physician, Jim Russell, describes Tai chi as “Meditation in motion. It has lowered my blood pressure and it is a good stress reliever.”

Going indoors where the classes are taught in Sherman, carpet replaces the grass and large mirrors on each end of the room replace the other distractions. One by one the students enter with a single bow at the door. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, men, women, the art is an equalizer.

Shoes and jackets are removed and stowed on the chairs that line the perimeter of the room amidst happy chatter of friends. The large fans and other oriental motif are punctuated by punching bags in the corner and a set of Karate belts on the front wall. As soon as instructor, Debra Williamson appears from her office, students immediately start to find a position. They space themselves as best they can into about three rows of three to four each.

Watching 10 to 20 Tai chi students perform their short routine you may feel that you are watching a slow-motion, modern dance. The gracefulness of the moves can be deceiving, but this is a martial art and every move or motion is defensive by nature. Williamson teaches students how to strengthen their cores, improve their balance and stay focused at eye level.

Even veteran students improve with every class. They build more strength, breathe better and improve each movement.

In just a few weeks, a novice will enjoy better flexibility, less pain in their knees and better balance. In a matter of months students have reported drops in their blood pressure and better stats on their bone density tests. Donna Adams who has been practicing Tai chi for several years noted that her “bone density has risen from -2 to +2.” (A T-score between +1 and −1 is considered normal or healthy. A T-score between −1 and −2.5 indicates that you have low bone mass, although not low enough to be diagnosed with osteoporosis. A T-score of −2.5 or lower indicates that you have osteoporosis. The greater the negative number, the more severe the osteoporosis.)

Besides the fluid motions and artist use of space during class time, better posture and walking habits help in the everyday routine.

“Tai chi movement can feel like a painting. Inhaling and taking in energy is like dipping a brush in paint and exhaling – letting the chi flow through you – is like making a brushstroke on canvas. The flow state in both (painting and Tai chi) comes with the interplay of relaxed yet disciplined awareness,” said Deeya Bain, a registered dietitian who works at the VA Hospital in Bonham.

For more information about classes contact Williamson at 972-998-8167 or