I've owned a set of Baoding "Chinese Exercise Balls" for fifteen years, and have periodically picked them up and twirled them around a few times, thinking that someday I would devote some time to practicing this "healthy" exercise.
When visitors would ask about them, I would explain that when you twirled them about, they massaged the acupuncture points of the hand, and would give them a short demonstration. I made sure to tell them that a set was given to President Nixon upon his arrival to China in 1974, so obviously the Chinese considered them a prized gift.
The balls were always available, sitting on top of the desk, table, or counter... waiting for me to pick them up.
Whenever I saw a set for sale, I would ask about the origin and history of the balls. The typical answer is that they came from ancient China, and they were good for your health. When I asked in China during one of my visits, they left out "came from ancient China" and just said that they were good for your health. Did no one know about the balls?
Then, in Daoist fashion, a man showed up to help me unravel the mysteries of the Baoding Exercise Balls. I want to relate my experiences to you, so you too can discover the mysteries of the Baoding iron ball.
It was no bearded sage that sat me down and told me the secrets, but a young man that picked up a set of balls and effortlessly twirled them around in a manner I had never seen. Actually, he didn't seem to know much about the history of the balls, but he demonstrated twirling two, then three, then four balls in one hand, and explained more in our brief two-minute meeting than I had heard in fifteen years.
Armed with a little information, and a fresh visual image of how the balls seemed to rotate by themselves in his hand, I practiced relentlessly for a week.
Although I practice Taijiquan daily, my week-long escapade with the balls taught me much. It taught me about the philosophy of Yin-Yang, internal strength, coordination, stamina, and perhaps is making me healthier as well.
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