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Tai and Mighty

Bill Douglas helps save the world, one tai chi move at a time.

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Tai chi could save the world if we would just let it. At least that's what Bill Douglas thinks. "Hundreds of millions of people around the planet suffer needlessly," he says. "You turn on the TV, and what do you see? Take a drug for this; take a drug for that."

Tai chi originated in twelfth-century China. It takes many different forms and styles, but all of them center on a series of relaxed, martial-arts-like movements that promote balance and good circulation, strengthen muscles and calm the mind. It's a subtle, deceptive art: Gliding in and out of moves gets a person's heart pumping, though almost imperceptibly. Like the best things in life, it's a paradox.

Five years ago, Douglas, an Overland Park tai chi teacher, gathered 200 people to do tai chi on the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins museum. CNN aired a report, and instructors from around the country and abroad began contacting him. It was the beginning of World Tai Chi and Qiqong Day.

This Saturday, Douglas and several hundred others return to the museum to mark the day, which has been formally recognized by the states of Missouri and Kansas. But that's not all: The first celebrants will be a crowd of about a thousand people at the Sydney Opera House in Australia; then the gentle movements will unfold throughout fifty countries. Before the day winds down in Hawaii, more than 500 worldwide events will be held in places such as Sofia, Bulgaria; New York's Central Park; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Douglas holds a free workshop at 9:30 a.m., so those who have never tried tai chi can learn a few moves and join the fun.

For Douglas, tai chi is nothing less than a weapon against the frantic pace of modern society. "We're attacked by stress every day," he says. "Tai chi teaches us to how to breathe through changes, which allows us to handle change."

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