Tai chi for hunters
From squatting for hours in a deer blind to whacking through brush searching for caribou, hunting is strenuous work, demanding a certain level of physical fitness. To prepare, you can pump iron and hit the elliptical machines at the gym. Or, you can embrace the ancient martial art of tai chi.
But first, forget everything you think you know about tai chi. Forget the image of elderly Chinese ladies performing slow-motion moves in city parks. Forget the idea it’s too tame for a manly hunter such as yourself. Tai chi is all about your inner warrior. And it may just help you bag that elusive big buck.
“It gives you grounding,” says instructor Iain Cuthbertson. “Any time you’re steady, you’re going to aim better, shoot straighter and be quieter.” The focus on proper breathing and walking has certainly sharpened my senses, allowing me to be extra-stealthy when I move through the woods—and keep my cool when it’s time to shoot.
Cuthbertson recommends the following three basic exercises to get you started.
Diaphragmatic Breathing: This breathing technique helps you behave like the hunter, not the hunted. Simply imagine your favourite smell and breathe in slowly through your nose while pushing out your abdomen; exhale through your pursed lips while pulling in your abdomen. When you breathe this way, your brain says, Okay, I’m calm. There’s no reason to panic. I’m the threat—not the animal. Such controlled breathing regulates your nerves, so when that bull moose makes its appearance, you’re less likely to make a mistake.
Dan yu: Squatting in this stance develops your balance and leg strength. With your feet positioned slightly wider than your shoulders, bend your knees and sit back as if you’re about to squat. Don’t let your knees move inward, and avoid letting them go over your toes. You should look like you’re straddling an imaginary horse. Relax into the position, hold it for as long as it remains comfortable, then slowly rise.
The 45-degree walking form: This basic walking technique has you stepping out at 45-degree angles. Cuthbertson says to imagine crossing a stream with rocks in it. “Standing on one rock, you put your foot on another rock, and test if it’s stable before putting your weight on it,” he says. “You don’t just crash down on the next rock and hope it will hold.”