Jim Hostetter leads a class in tai chi and qigong on Wednesday evenings at Christ the King Church in Nashville. Photo by Andy Telli
Christ the King parishioner Jim Hofstetter would like to help you feel stronger, live longer, be relaxed, more limber and pain-free. He is not a miracle worker, but he does offer free classes in tai chi and qigong at Christ the King.
“I am very interested in maintaining good health,” said Hofstetter. “To me, these are the best exercises you can do for your health.”
For more than 20 years, Hofstetter has studied these two ancient Chinese systems that rely on particular positions, movement and proper breathing; for the last 16 he’s instructed other people how to do them.
Hofstetter first encountered these disciplines when his wife gave him a subscription to Inside Kung Fu magazine, and an article on qigong curing those with cancer piqued his interest. That initial spark led to a lot more research. “The more I learned about it, the more I was convinced that it was a terrific set of exercises for your overall health,” said Hofstetter.
This was definitely not a passing fancy. About 10 years ago, Hofstetter began attending seminars taught by Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, who has written 30 books about traditional Chinese arts and culture and is considered to be one of the 10 people in the world who has had the greatest influence on the martial arts. Hofstetter has been to all of Dr. Yang’s different workshops, sometimes more than once.
“His philosophy is that the way you get better at it is to go out and teach,” said Hofstetter. “He said, ‘I don’t expect you to be the best in the world, but you can put people on the right path.’”
In January of 2000 that opportunity presented itself. A new deacon at Christ the King, Bob True, had a family member who was experiencing some health issues. “He came over and I showed him a thing or two,” Hofstetter recalled. “Then Bob suggested starting a class at Christ the King. I really didn’t think he was serious, but I said, ‘Sure, I’d be happy to see what we could do.’”
Hofstetter has been doing it ever since.
“Jim is extremely knowledgeable and experienced, very patient and encouraging, a wise teacher with a gentle way of correcting,” said Alice Eadler, one of Hofstetter’s loyal students. “He provides a great opportunity to improve your mind and body. I feel fortunate to be able to participate and learn from the master.”
Eadler started attending last May after reading an announcement in the church bulletin. “It sounded interesting and I was hoping the exercise would benefit my aging body,” said Eadler. “I definitely think my balance and overall strength has improved since beginning the classes. I figure an hour and a half of physical activity has to be beneficial, not to mention the small, friendly group of participants.”
Although Hofstetter can teach both, he focuses on the qigong – pronounced “chee gong” – exercises, which he prefers and most people find simpler. However, he also offers 30-minute tai chi instruction before the other classes for anyone interested in taking the training to a higher level.
One of those who attempted the more challenging method was Eadler. “I decided to give it a try, so the next week I showed up 30 minutes early for a one-on-one lesson, followed by the hour long qigong class. Later, as we were leaving, I told Jim I wasn’t too crazy about tai chi and thought I’d just stick with qigong. I left feeling very relieved that I never had to do that again!”
But after some gentle encouragement from Hofstetter, who thought his new student showed a lot of promise, Eadler decided to give it another shot. Before long she was hooked.
“I’ll admit it took a while before I actually started looking forward to class,” Eadler said. “Now I purposely avoid conflicts that might cause me to miss.”
Hofstetter stresses that these exercises are not a “quick fix,” but that over time they can contribute to a sustained healthy lifestyle. In fact, the “gong” part of the name refers to any training that requires determination, perseverance and patience to learn. “Consequently, the practice of qigong is similar to the practice of the faith, because it needs to be done on a regular basis to achieve the desired effect,” wrote Hofstetter in an article in Christ the King’s newsletter, The Cloister.
There is no fee for the classes, and they are open to anyone inside or outside the parish. For the uninitiated, Hofstetter recommends not attempting the tai chi pre-class at first. Those interested in doing the qigong portion can join the group at any time.
Classes begin at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. During daylight savings time they are held outside in the parish’s Grotto area between the church and the school. During standard time, classes take place in the Council Room of the Parish Center. For more information, contact Hofstetter at 615-269-7005 or