More than 150 tai chi practitioners will be in Parksville this weekend.

More than 150 tai chi practitioners will be in Parksville this weekend.

National tai chi workshop coming to Parksville this weekend

Parksville society also celebrating its 20th anniversary

More than 150 tai chi practitioners are expected to descend on Parksville this weekend as the local branch of the Fung Loy Kok Taoist Tai Chi Society hosts a national tai chi workshop Friday through Sunday.

The weekend will be highlighted by a special luncheon at noon Saturday, marking the 20th anniversary of the Parksville branch.

“People will come from all over the province,” said Richard Botham, spokesperson for the local club. “In addition to the Island, we get participants from all over the Lower Mainland, the Okanagan, and occasionally from further afield. We’ve had people from Alberta, Alaska and once or twice from Oregon.”

The national workshop, one of several held throughout Canada each year, was last held in Parksville two years ago. It will be jointly hosted by the Parksville and Nanaimo branches.

“It’s being held in Parksville because we have such a good location,” said Botham. “We have a very good building in the community centre.”

The workshop will be headed by visiting instructor Susan Lundy of Ontario. She will guide attendees through tai chi “sets,” each set a series of 108 moves and exercises, in a Friday evening practice and daylong sessions Saturday and Sunday.

Tai chi, originally developed as a Chinese martial art, has been adopted in a slower form as a low-impact fitness workout in recent decades. A 1999 article in the British medical journal Lancet noted its benefit in helping reduce high blood pressure in the elderly. It has proven especially popular among seniors who practise its languid movements for their mental, spiritual and physical benefits.

“We have 300 members in our club, but probably 500 who take part here at some point during the year,” said Botham. “There are eight to nine thousand participants across B.C.”

And while helping their own mental and physical well-being, participants may well provide a bit of a mid-winter economic boost to the community.

“Of course, they’ll spend the weekend here, and some will spend time in our hotels and spend time looking around the area,” said Botham. “Of course, we support the area all the time, but this is a bonus for us as a branch. We feel it’s good for Parksville and Qualicum Beach.”

The Parksville Fung Loy Kok branch encompasses members from the greater Parksville-Qualicum Beach region, as well as Courtenay-Comox, Powell River and Port Alberni.

It is a non-profit association which each year donates to various local service groups. Past beneficiaries have included the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association, the Heart and Stroke Society, SOS and the Salvation Army, and representatives from some of those organizations are expected to be joined by local civic leaders as dignitaries at Saturday’s lunch, Botham said.

To learn more about the group, including upcoming beginning tai chi sessions, call 250-240-3387 or visit www.taoist.org/parksville.