Roseville teen leads seniors in tai chi

Martial art improves balance, coordination
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Roseville teenager Rishab Kotak has standing plans every Saturday.

Those plans involve helping senior citizens. He teaches tai chi at Eskaton Lodge Granite Bay, which he has done for the past two months. The senior at Oakmont High School wants to share his love of the martial art, and encourage others to see its health and fitness benefits.

Several months ago, Rishab, 17, read an article in the New England Journal of Medicine about the positive impacts of tai chi on seniors, including how the slow, precise movements improve balance and reduces falls. He'd been practicing for the past year and wanted to spread his knowledge of the mind-body workout.

"I thought, 'This is something I can do,'" Rishab said.

Eskaton Activities Director Tammie Medlin said residents have enjoyed Rishab's weekly classes, which typically host between 10 and 30 students.

"The residents were very excited about the opportunity," Medlin said. "Our residents are always willing to try new things. We started with an introduction class. Rishab did a presentation and demonstration and it has just taken off from there."

Medlin said tai chi improves seniors' balance, strength and coordination. A recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease also found that Chinese seniors who engaged in tai chi three times a week showed increased brain volumes and scores on memory and thinking tests.

"The movements are low impact and very fluid," Medlin said. "The residents enjoy the calmness of the sessions and the feeling of relaxation that follows."

Rishab runs the class with assistance from his father Dinesh Kotak, an oncology doctor at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center. The father and son practice tai chi at Extreme Martial Arts Centers in Citrus Heights, studying under a sifu - or master - by the name of Ron Dillman.

The older Kotak had seen a flier for tai chi and knew his son had always wanted to try martial arts, so they signed up.

"I have a busy schedule," Rishab said. "I take a lot of advanced classes. It's the one part of the day I get to relax, and I feel really good afterward. It gets my blood flowing and I feel centered."

He believes tai chi is having a similar affect on the seniors he teaches. That's his goal - to help others, as he also does in other groups such as Oakmont High School's Interact Club.

"I'm proud of him every single day," said his mother Shanu Kotak, who is also a doctor. "He does a lot of community service, like with Interact Club, and he's always doing stuff on the side and staying later (to help)."

As for Rishab, he has no plans to stop practicing tai chi.

"If I can, I'd like to do it my whole life," he said.

Sena Christian can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.