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Let's talk about technology

Whilst Tai Chi is a traditional martial art, that doesn't mean we can't use technology in our training. Many sports have used technology and so why can't we in martial arts?

Do you really need technology?

The simple answer would be no. Because people in the past got on without technology and so can you. So that's the end of this blog. Well not quite, because technology has it's uses.

Technology and Tai Chi

Technology has been used in sports for a while. Professional athletes use technology to monitor their performance and this in turn is used to identify weaknesses as well as ways to improve their game. On a more modest level, consumers can now have access to smart devices. From the basic health trackers to smartwatches and devices that attaches to shoes or strap to your chest. There are also smart rings, but these are new and haven't really caught on or proven as more reliable than smartwatches. Having the device on the wrist seems to be the most popular option. To keep it simple, I'll refer to all of these devices as smartwatches. Some smartwatches are very sophisticated and can give you a good idea of your performance and your health. If you hike or run, you can actually see how hard your body is working at any particular point of that outing.

For Tai Chi, you don't need to go that far, but it is worth looking at your heart rate, calories burned, general productivity and recovery time. Over a period of time, you can definitely see a trend. I've yet to come across a smartwatch that has a profile for Tai Chi. However, you are the more physical types you could use boxing or cardio. For the more meditative types, there are profiles for yoga. The apps for these watches give you a general outline of your performance, but if you like data and spreadsheets, then you can access the stats on your laptop.

For those who think Tai Chi isn't physically demanding or burns many calories. This depends on what you do and how you do it. It's not quite like pumping iron in the gym. Tai Chi hand forms don't seem like much, but an hour can take a lot out of you. Weapon forms are also a good workout. But if you really want something more intensive, then try pushing hands or sparring. However, if you're doing any activities that involves a partner, it'll be a good idea to remove your smartwatch, in order to avoid damage or injury. That unfortunately means you can record any data.

What have I used?

I'm probably a bit late when using smartwatches. I tried a Microsoft health band years ago and it was very basic and very irritating. A few years back, I was using a Polar watch, until the sensor broke. I now use a Corus. Whilst I do monitor my training, I also like to go hiking, so I do get a fair amount of use out of them. I have found the training data useful and it has helped me under my own body and help me plan my training.

The cons of using smartwatches

Wearing devices is not everybody's cup of tea and I have never recommended using them to anybody.

Here are a few things to consider before using health monitors and smart watches.

  • The data is not always accurate and should not be considered so. Wearing devices in an incorrect position can make a difference in the readings.

  • Brands differ in their readings. The better brands have had more experience in this field and the readings should be more meaningful.

  • Smartwatches can be annoying and distracting. You should be your own boss and not let a device tell you want to do. If you slept well or you've worked out enough for the day, you would know. If you exercise regularly, have adequate rest and a good diet, you'll be fine.

  • Whilst smartwatches are suppose to encourage good habits. The opposite can happen. People have been known to develop mental health concerns after using smartwatches. From the frustration, you might end up doing rather unhealthy things. If smartwatches are causing problems, then either only wear them when exercising or don't wear them at all.

  • Don't treat smartwatches as a fashion statement or a must have. If you just need to tell the time, then there are better alternatives.

  • The green factor and e-waste. Technology improves year after year and manufacturers temp you to upgrade. You have to ask yourself if you really need to upgrade? If you own an nice Swiss watch, you wouldn't upgrade it. Although, you might buy a few more. Many electronic devices may have an active life of about 3-4 years, but after that, they become obsolete. One of the reasons why Japanese watching makers like Seiko, Citizen or Casio don't have much of a presence in this market, is that smartwatches have a short product life. As such, it isn't in their interest. If they do have a product, they are usually made by a third party or use their software. The cost of some smartwatches are far higher than a quality analogue watch.

  • What happens with your data? Ever thought of that? This is said to be sold to third parties and what buyers will use it for, I wouldn't know. Data protection in this regard is not as strong it is for say finance or personal information. You really should read the small print and be wary about where this data is stored. Apple and Google have more stringent processes in place, but they use your data to sell goods and services to you. So there's no such thing as a free meal. Whilst a lot of smartwatches are made in the Far East, the companies who are big players in this market are American or Finnish. If you're going to blame certain a communist country for stealing data, because the press told you to do so. Then that's a bit ignorant and possibly racist. Apple and Google know more about you than that certain communist country, fact. What phone or tablet are you reading this blog from?

At the end of the day, train smart and take control of your lifestyle.

Thank you for ready my blog.

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