Taiji Ball

My experience over the years with sitting meditation, taijiquan, qigong and shiatsu has got me thinking if it would be possible to take up basketball again. However, rather than training the way I trained as a youngster could I adapt the techniques of taiji and qigong to the art of “getting buckets?”  Is there a taji of basketball? Could the secret of becoming Uncle Drew lie in such an approach?  Would this keep old fogies like me free of injury and able to enjoy the game indefinitely?

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“Gentle” exercises like hatha yoga are frequently touted as perfect exercise for the aged, whereas basketball seems to have more of a reputation as a joint killer and being at best only for the young.  That’s fine and good if you’re actually interested in yoga or taiji but what if the legends that shaped you where named Julius Erving rather than Yang Luchan?  I’ve trained taiji and qigong on and off for 13 years, sometimes very intensely, but it has never taken root in my soul in the way that it has for some of my colleagues in the complementary therapy game.  I’m not one hundred percent certain why that is but I think it has to do with the lack of masters representing unbroken lineages here in Europe and the expense of learning from them of you happen to meet one.

The mainstreaming of yoga and qigong in the West is one answer to this dilemma but why not use our own arts and our own traditions where passable? Eliminating myth, fantasy and claims of god realms or supernatural powers from those traditions may make them more palatable for Westerners but I think that something is also being stripped away that is regrettable.  I’d definitely rather be able to crossover to a scissor step and go behind my back going left for an easy layout at the age of 60 than still be fumbling to issue cold Jin with no authentic master to teach it to me in sight.

Here’s a very interesting video about approaching exercise for aging and the technique he speaks of is a very good starting point for re-building the basketball body.

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Awakening the Drew in You

I’m in a rather unique position.  As an African American in central Europe I was raised with a saxophone and basketball aesthetic but now live in an accordion and soccer world.  Mostly this wouldn’t matter but with a son reaching the age of sporting life passion, I’m missing out ‘cause I don’t know a thing about Füssball. Sport was a big part of my youth and remains a big part of my culture.  Although I had abandoned basketball by the age of 19 it has deeply influenced me. I’d like to be able to share some of this with my 9 year old.

I stopped paying attention to both amateur and professional basketball in the mid 1980’s so I missed most of Magic’s career and practically all of Michael Jordan’s not to mention the 1990’s and 2000’s.  Even Lebron James had reached the back end of his career before I re-awakened my interest in the sport. So this makes looking at this new, small ball-pull-up-and- shoot-a-three, game so interesting.

Basketball is not a big deal over here. Hardly anyone plays on the few outside courts that exist. And to play inside you have to join a club because there are no school teams. But for someone like me who’s been away so long that represents a wonderful opportunity to rediscover basketball from the ground up. Rather than playing all winter you have to train for the summer black top game. Working on your handles outside all winter though possible is not a going to be a task for the faint at heart.

Starting at zero for a 55 year old is a beautiful, worthy challenge.  Personally I’m more inclined to focus on developing the strength and skill to play again rather than the actual competition itself.  Such a project aligns quite well with what many of my clients have to do in relation to their own mental and physical fitness.  They have to set goals and develop a reasonable plan for attaining them and above all they have to avoid injury if they want to progress gracefully into their old age.

How do you approach the game of basketball as an aid to longevity?  How do you awaken the Drew with? I personally will start with strengthening my core and legs in particular. Winter days inside are particularly suited to crunches and squats, since a gym is not available. Why not join me as I lay a base for the more basketball specific stuff later on.  And I’ll enjoy following my first NBA season in 30 years.

Becoming Uncle Drew

Some of you are probably familiar with Kyrie Irving’s alter ego uncle Drew, a 60ish basketballer on a mad search to “get buckets” or perhaps Cristiano Ronaldo’s antics in disguise looking to further the cognitive dissonance created by either an old man or bearded muscleman who can dribble a soccer ball with the best.  There are even videos on YouTube of parkour athletes trying to run a game on spectators with facemasks to make them look old.

These are pro athletes in their prime poking fun at the aging process.  We all hope that we might be that ONE to cheat aging and be able to die with the physical prowess of a 25 five year old.  Doubtless there ARE Uncle Drew’s out there but what does uncle Drew really look like?  Hopefully he will look like us.  How can we train to maintain that exquisite poetry in motion into our waning years and keep on “getting buckets?”

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There is no way of knowing for sure but there are interesting theories.  In most of the molecular biological theories the metabolic pathways that maximize strength, speed and explosive athletic ability seem antithetical to longevity. But Prof. Michael R, Rose, an evolutionary biologist, has a different take altogether which I spoke about in my last post.

Perhaps we can look here how we can maybe advance in the quest of becoming uncle Drew in light of evolutionary biology’s idea that “aging stops.”