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BY KEVIN POIRIER

Ron Pfeiffer, of Pleasant Prairie, has been practicing martial arts since he was 18. For the last five years, he’s been introducing the community to tai chi. He teaches at his studio in Burlington, at the RecPlex, and will lead a mini course starting Oct. 1 at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

Q. How did you get involved in tai chi?

A. I came about it because I hurt my knee, and I was wondering if I would have to give up martial arts. (A student) told me to start looking into tai chi, but I resisted because I knew tai chi was a slow, meditative form of martial arts, and I wasn’t interested in slow at that time.

I went on reading and found a really good tai chi program with Paul Lam out of Australia. My first training was in Peoria, Ill., with one of his master trainers.

Q. How did the training go?

A. I had received the study materials about a month before the seminar, so of course I studied it very thoroughly. I was ready when I went down there.

The second day, the lady, asked me: “So Ron, how many years have you been doing tai chi?” And I told her: “Two weeks!”

The martial arts training I had been doing since I was 18 carried over into tai chi. It was not a difficult transition for me. Once I got around some people that really knew what they were doing, it was not hard to pick up.

Q, How are tai chi and martial arts related?

A. The masters of long ago realized that to do the hard punches and hard kicks they were doing for many, many years, they would injure themselves. They had to slow things down in order to continue practicing what they loved doing. That’s how tai chi came about. It is a combination of different fighting styles with movements slowed down.

For me, it became the yin of my training. The yang is hard, the yin is soft. The yang is my karate training, dragon kenpo. And the yin is my tai chi.

It was a perfect combination.

Q. Have you found that tai chi has improved your karate?

A. I had problems with my knee, and my other knee was bothering me. But now I don’t have any problems with my legs. That was a big thing.

At first, it was to get myself healthier, but now it has turned into helping other people realize their potential —realize the fact that they don’t have to settle for an electric wheelchair when they get older. They don’t have to always have that extra surgery and do these other things. They can start doing a program that creates maintenance for them.

Q. What are the benefits of tai chi?

A. The benefits are numerous. A few of them:

— Improved lung function, because we focus a lot on the breathing.

— Improved leg strength, because we ask them to bend their knees to a comfortable level.

— Improved strength in the back.

— And I think No. 1 for a lot of the students is the balance improvement. It’s because they don’t challenge their balance. They find that balance challenge right at the point when they are about to hit the floor. So we need to challenge our balance on a regular basis, and tai chi does this for us.

Q. Who is tai chi for?

A. I wouldn’t say it is for everybody. A person that knows that they need to start doing something, but they don’t want to over-strain themselves, that’s an ideal candidate for tai chi practice.

It changed my life. If I hadn’t started doing tai chi I probably would not be talking to you right now. My martial arts career would have been over.

For more information, visit Ron’s site: http://dragonkenpo.org/

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