Dr Joan Listernick has been a student of taijiquan for over 20 years. She has been certified to teach taijiquan through the teacher-training program of the Tree of Life School run by Dr Peter Wayne. She has also taught French at Boston College and Boston University. Her doctorate in Romance Languages and Literatures is from Boston College, and her undergraduate degree magna cum laude in the same field is from Harvard University. She has completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Divinity School.
This paper intervenes in the debate about the effectiveness of ‘tai chi’ (henceforth taiji) forms tailored for specific illnesses by looking at the example of their use in the treatment of depression. In the efforts to bring taiji to the West, one movement has been toward simplification. Another is the development of tailored forms. This paper analyzes two new forms of taiji for depression, created by contemporary American teachers Drs Aihan Kuhn and Albert Yeung. I argue that studies are needed to compare the medical effectiveness of tailored forms with more traditional forms. Questions to be explored in such studies would range from the clinical to the sociological. Do tailored forms of taiji provide improved outcomes for the conditions targeted? What about the usefulness of such forms for patients with co-morbidities? Do tailored forms ‘treat’ one illness, but have less effectiveness in preventing the onset of other illnesses? And finally, would tailored forms better fit into a Western perspective on treating illness and therefore be more readily assimilated into the Western health care system? The analysis of the creation and dissemination of tailored forms is significant for understanding the history and development of taijiquan in a global context.