I would recommend Qi Gong…. IF you can find a decent instructor!
Soft Style —
Qigong (pronounced “chee-gung”) is an ancient Chinese exercise system combining meditation and slow, gentle movements to promote health and relaxation. The qigong student learns to visualize an invisible energy field known as qi (“life force”) and move it through the body to balance and heal dysfunction.
Not the same as Tai Chi —
Tai Chi is a martial art and its full name is Tai Chi Chuan, which means, “supreme ultimate boxing”. There’s often confusion with the Chi word in Tai Chi, because—despite sounding similar—the Chi word in Tai Chi isn’t the same as the Qi word in Qigong.
However, Tai Chi martial artists—who punch, kick, block, and take down—appreciated many of the methods taught in Qigong, which means, “working with your Life Energy.” The “Qi” here signifies Life Energy, breath, or Life Force. “Gong” means “dedicated practice.”
So Qigong’s a very generic concept, as generic as yoga, which means, “union,” usually union with the human and the Divine, or union of body and spirit.
Qigong is generally considered to have been around for 5000 years, but if you think about it…every culture is going to have some form of Qigong, when you define it generically as “working with your Life Energy”.
Hard Style —
Though it’s harder to find in the U.S. — there is a ‘hard style’ for of Qigong that is the ‘use for martial arts’ — including using weapons. Even in this hard style, it involves using the life force to direct blows, increase striking power, keeping centered and energized.
(1) Check out what is available. Pick a teacher that feels right. Don’t take ‘whatever is out there’… many are out to make quick bucks; not to actually help you evolve as a student or person.
(2) Practice, practice, practice.
Did I mention practice? Knowing is not enough. You have to realize it… make it an part of ‘who you are’. Story —
A student was determined to defeat his Master at push hands. He practised six hours a day for a long time. He met his teacher and engaged in a push hands’ contest. The student was easily defeated and complained, “I practiced six hours a day!” His Master responded, “I practice 24 hours a day.”
The Master’s comment illustrates the principle of his art in performing his daily tasks. He interacts with people in a way which produced as little tension as possible.
So, one can ‘learn’ techniques and use the philosophy/moves in non-martial ways to interact with ‘everyday life’ too. (No.. no backflips and split kicks in the break room!!!)
As stated above, find what suits you.
REALLY GOOD TEACHERS will work with you — even in cases where you must work around some form of physical conditions.
I started Tae Kwon Do classes waaaaaaaaaay back in 1973. ONLY because Bruce Lee had died only months before and his studio in Seattle was closed — since it was uncertain if they would keep it running or not. Back then, one might be a white belt for a year or more before being tested for the next step. Working to a black belt took years. The Teacher expected all to stretch, warm up – be prepared to ‘be taught’ as soon as he walked on the mat.
My daughter is a first degree black belt in TKD. Her choice (she got tired of dance). She was at it for three and a half years… in small classes of less than 20 people… and went 3-5 times a week depending on her school schedule. Times and methods had changed after 30 years. More time doing warm ups and stretching and such as part of the class. Teacher was also a cop by day.. so after tourneyments — as a ‘week of relaxing’ — they would learn grips, holds, chokes, pressure points instead of their kata forms and moves.
Some places have that ‘small group’ ability to be flexible and keep it exciting. Some cycle people in and out like cattle. Shopping around really helps.