Tai Chi Swimming

Years ago a swimming coach was interested to learn Tai Chi as he wanted to incorporate Tai Chi principles into his lessons. He tried one lesson. However, he was too impatient to learn Tai Chi properly, thinking it can be learned quickly and in a hurry.

Cut to the present. Now I have a student who is a swimming coach and he has tried to incorporate what he learned in Tai Chi into the way he swims and teaches swimming.

I’m not much of a swimmer so I can’t say for sure that Tai Chi can be incorporated successfully in swimming. However, my student said that the principles are similar.

He then showed me what he was looking into doing. It was how the arm would move during a swimming move known as the crawl. Here’s what it looks like – the part my student is looking into is at 1:30

Here’s a video that goes into more detail :-


After looking through the videos I can see where he is going by wanting to apply Tai Chi principles to swimming. After looking at what he did I can only say that if that was a Tai Chi movement then what he tried to do may look powerful but its not really.

So I offered myself as a weight for him to work against and he had problem moving me by using the swimming stroke. I explained to him why it was not powerful. Once he got the hang of it he could use the stroke to pull me off balance very strongly.

Tonight I thought I would look a bit further into this topic. I dug through my books and found the following in a book on biomechanics I bought back in the mid 80s :-


So my student was mostly correct but not entirely correct. The way I would do the pull (this is what the stroke is called) is powerful because the proper positioning and alignment of our body allows us to anchor ourselves strongly against the ground enabling us to tap the ground force strongly.

However, in swimming we cannot really use the ground because there is none to speak of. We can only act against liquid and as you can read above there are different considerations.

On the surface it looks like a motion being a motion should be similar but the objectives being different would probably require a different tactic for each application. Below is what the crawl stroke looks like :-

File 5-4-17, 19 24 58

Looking through the book I found that there already exists different ways to do the crawl stroke. So yes, the wheel has been invented. Several wheels in fact. The different approaches would merit investigation before trying to reinvent the wheel. For example there is presentation here on it. Or a video on use of the crawl :-


I found a chapter on swimming here from a book on applied biomechanics – worth taking a look. I like the picture below from the book because it reminds me of something else that I was teaching my students this week in relation to not using too much strength.


Quite nice what knowledge could be picked up by taking a peek into swimming.


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