Taiji Roliball: When Fitness Meets Fashion
People doing morning exercises in a park is one of the special scenes you can see in almost every city in China. If you visit Chinese parks in the morning, you may see a group of Chinese people doing aerobics to music holding a racket which absorbs a ball like a magnet, making the performance seem just like a graceful collective dance. This special sport is called Taiji Roliball (太极柔力球 Tàijí Róulìqiú), also named Taiji Bailong Ball (or Taiji White Dragon Ball) (太极白龙球 Tàijí Báilóngqiú). It has become increasingly popular not only in China but all over the world in recent years.
TAIJI ROLIBALL ORIGINATED from Jinzhong city (晋中市), Shanxi province (山西省). It was invented by the Professor of Sport, Bai Rong (白榕) from the Shanxi Jinzhong Health School (山西晋中卫校 Shānxī Jìnzhōng Wèixiào) in 1991. As a boxing teacher, Professor Bai Rong tried to look for a way to prevent his students from getting injuries. He filled the bladder of a discarded volleyball with some water and put it in a boxing glove. Later he found that the water-filled bladder is easy to toss and catch, and that its movements are gentle and soundless like Tai Chi (太极拳 Tàijíquán). Eventually, he changed the bladder into a ball with a bit of sand in it and transformed a badminton racket into a soft-surface one with some wind holes in it. He choreographed several tossing and catching postures to form a whole set of movements. Furthermore, he added the essence of Tai Chi and the techniques from tennis and badminton to the movements to invent a new kind of Tai Chi style ball game: Taiji Roliball.
The playing technique of Taiji Roliball is not complicated. It uses the flexibility of the wrist to make sure the ball sticks to the racket. It borrows the strength from the waist to push and catch the ball. Unlike the hard hitting way in tennis, badminton or some other ball games, Taiji Roliball is characterised by making arc shaped movements to lead the ball. It reflects the broad and profound ‘Tai Chi’ culture of the Chinese nation and the strategic philosophies, such as overcoming hardness with softness, retreating for the sake of advancing and seeking for peace and completeness. It can guide and inspire people to restrain their emotions and maintain peace of mind in contemporary societies.
Taiji Roliball emerges in a new historical period where people are commonly admiring leisure and pursuing fitness. It is a whole body movement to make the neck, shoulders, waist and legs develop in a balanced way. It also has a good effect on training the central nervous system function and the development of multi- thinking because of the complex changes and random varieties of the circular movements.
Taiji Roliball has a low-level request for its playing field. It can maximally meet the needs of practitioners who are in different levels and have different demands. It can be practiced in many different ways, such as solo play, double play, multi-play or net separated competition to achieve the purposes of fitness, entertainment, performance and competition. Thus, it has rapidly become a fashionable sport in Jinzhong city after its invention. The movement was further popularised nationwide afterwards. The integration of traditional Tai Chi philosophy and modern fashion elements has led other countries to develop strong interests in Taiji Roliball.
After promoting and popularising it for more than 20 years, there are now more than 20 million people participating in this sport. Taiji Roliball practitioners can be found in 27 provinces and cities in China, and in more than 20 countries and regions all over the world, such as Korea, Japan, Singapore, Australia, the United States, Germany and the Netherlands. The number of participants is increasing at the rate of a million people per year.* Taiji Roliball is also one of former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao’s (温家宝) favourite sports. During German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to China in 2006, Premier Wen introduced Taiji Roliball to her, and personally demonstrated how to play the ball.
Taiji Roliball has become one of the outstanding physical exercises that is suitable for all ages. With its unique charm and elegant style, Taiji Roliball is about to be a new fashion of Chinese sports. Now it is stepping into the world to show its eastern beauty.
All data mentioned in this article is from Jinzhong Roliball Association (晋中市柔力球协会)
By Hao Cui (郝翠)