- Associated Press - Saturday, April 28, 2018

JASPER, Ind. (AP) - Jim Birkle admits he’s “no ordinary martial arts person.”

“I diversified myself in different styles of martial arts and focused on tai chi and qi gong in my later years,” the 76-year-old Jasper man said.

He’s been practicing various forms of martial arts for more than 30 years.

“Martial arts was starting to get big and I wanted to do it for exercise,” he said, “to strengthen my body for bowling.”

He’s a certified second-degree black belt in American Kenpo and a first-degree black belt in Kodenkan, and travels to West Virginia at least once a month to learn and practice with Ernie “Lightfoot” Boggs, a world champion in the Japanese martial art jujitsu. Birkle is also co-founder, with Boggs, of Stick Fit, a fitness program that borrows techniques from ancient martial arts and modern martial science.



Birkle also traveled to Switzerland in 2013 as part of a team representing the United States and while there, he won a gold medal in a self-defense competition in which his competitors were less than half his age. He returned to the Switzerland competition this year as a guest.

Birkle, a retired insurance territory manager, credits martial arts with saving his life when he had blood clots in 2008.

“It helped me recover faster,” he said.

The health benefits are one reason why he loves martial arts and are also why he started practicing tai chi - a Chinese martial art practiced for both self-defense and health benefits - and the breathing and mediation part of tai chi, qi gong, in 2012.

“I started relaxing with tai chi moves and started seeing results,” he said. “I like that it’s a low-impact exercise for clarity, relaxation, and my balance has improved drastically. It’s the most misrepresented martial arts there is.”

Because of the impact tai chi has had on his life, Birkle loves to share it with others. He led a session April 21 at an Alpha Delta Kappa state convention at KlubHaus 61 in Jasper.

As the women in attendance followed Birkle’s tai chi movements and practiced deep breathing with the exercises, Birkle told them: “Everybody should be doing tai chi to loosen up. It’s waking up the soul and lifting up to the sky.”

He said tai chi “is for busy people” and can be done for 10 minutes a day. It helps with stress and “gets your momentum going,” Birkle said.

“It’s such a smooth and graceful exercise,” said Sandra Miller, the state convention chairman with Alpha Delta Kappa. She’s the one who asked Birkle to present.

“I was intrigued in Beijing where the Chinese elderly people were in parks doing these smooth movements,” she said.

According to the Tai Chi for Health Institute, tai chi originated in ancient China and includes integrating mind with body, controlling movements and breathing, and generating internal energy. Its purpose is to “cultivate the qi or life energy within us to flow smoothly and powerfully through the body.”

“What it can do for your health and longevity is the best I can sum it up,” Birkle said. “I’ve seen it help people with high blood pressure. I’ve seen people with diabetes go from insulin to pills.”

In his effort to get as many people as he can practicing martial arts, including tai chi, Birkle’s happy that some of his family members are following in his footsteps.

He has four adult children and one of them is active in martial arts. Of his nine grandchildren - the 10th is on the way - two are active in martial arts.

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Source: Dubois County Herald

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Information from: The Herald, http://www.dcherald.com

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