Tai chi class goes online

May 10, 2020

For more than 30 years, Joe Rebelo, a martial arts expert and owner of New Bedford's Rebelo's Kenpo Karate, has taught weekly tai chi classes at the COA after then-Director Norma Vaz saw one of his classes at the YWCA’s old headquarters building in New Bedford.

Normally, Rebelo has upward of 36 students attend his tai chi classes at the COA. But because of current restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, those classes, along with other COA offerings, had to stop. 

That was until Rebelo was approached by the COA and Dartmouth Community TV to do a stand alone lesson that could be used until students were able to return to the Dartmouth location.

“I just felt this was a great opportunity to give back to the community,” Rebelo said. “And that’s what the tai chi program was started as in the first place.”

The lesson, which can be found on DCTV’s YouTube page, is around 50 minutes long and goes over an entire tai chi form. In it, Rebelo explains each of the exercises and how they can help seniors with a host of issues typical of aging, both physical and mental.

Rebelo said this particular lesson could either be used as an introduction to tai chi, or just as a way for students to further practice their material.

“Obviously, it’s not a replacement for the physical tai chi classes,” he said. “Video can’t correct form.”

Rebelo is no stranger to long distance instruction. For almost as long as he’s taught at the COA, the martial arts expert has hosted various local television programs, much of which can be found on his own YouTube channel, which has more than 150 videos ranging from martial arts discussions to nunchaku drills.

Rebelo also regularly uses the internet to teach people who are unable to attend because they live in different states or countries.

While he does enjoy the ability to have his students continue their practicing, he does miss the little things of in-person classes, such as workshopping jokes.

“I do miss that interaction immensely,” he said. “But if I can make a person while doing tai chi, then I’ve done my job.”

Rebelo hopes to return to teaching at the COA soon, saying “Dartmouth has always been my mainstay.”