How to Stay Safe While Practicing at the Park

I prefer not to play Tai Chi at home. Each of the Five Directions holds an unwelcome distraction. Look left: unpaid bills. Gaze right: a pile of laundry. Whenever possible, I head to a local park instead, where the sunshine, fresh air, and vibrancy of nature provide a pleasant environment for practice.

I have practiced outside daily for years, and I would recommend it to anyone, with one caveat: you need to know how to handle your audience. Here are a few tips to keep you safe and out of trouble.

Are you practicing in public because you crave attention? Many people will make that assumption, and act accordingly. They will stand nearby and watch the performance, or engage you in friendly conversation. If you find this annoying: get over it, or go home. Their curiosity is natural and harmless, and the formal etiquette of your dojo or kwoon is irrelevant in this venue.

Of all the people you encounter, perhaps one in twenty will make a smart-ass comment. Expect to hear a lot of Bruce Lee yelps, and to receive helpful advice on snatching pebbles. The best course of action is to ignore these utterances. When their crude attempts at humor are met with cool disinterest, most wannabe comedians will move on. One recent example from my own experience:

Walker: Nice weather, isn’t it?
Me: Yup.
Walker: (immensely pleased with himself) Hey, I broke your concentration!
Me: (with unbroken concentration) Uh-huh.

Green Lake Park
Green Lake
Seattle’s most popular park

Volunteer Sifus
Unsolicited advice is always self-serving. Remember this when a fellow martial artist approaches you to provide criticism. Attempts to argue with them, or demonstrate the incorrectness of their views will lead you down a very dangerous path.

When you reject the advice of your volunteer sifu, you are preventing them from satisfying an unstated emotional need. They may escalate the situation until they find satisfaction, up to and including a no-rules brawl. Unless you are willing to draw blood just to prove your point, it would be better to give them face in the beginning.

The compassionate response is to thank your master for their input, even if you know they are wrong, and let them leave.

Homeland Security Agents
It is not in your best interest to fit the “behavioral profile” of a “domestic terrorist”. Conduct the more exotic and vigorous aspects of your training in the early morning or late at night, when nobody is around to report your suspicious activities to law-enforcement personnel.

When crowds are present, stick to harmless-looking activities, such as soft qigong or Yang style Tai Chi. Keep the weapons and explosive fa li indoors.


  1. hehe, good advices
    Once on my morning jog cop chased me for 10 meters i didnt notice him.
    Explained him the situacion, everything went well

  2. I’ve heard of DWB violations, but that sounds like a new low.

Add a Comment