Wayne delivering Tai Chi lesson at Rhiwbina Hub.

‘Tai chi saved my life’: Ex-rugby player tried sport to help injury but it transformed his life completely

The martial art helped Wayne Abbruzzese unlock his grief after losing his wife 20 years ago

WAYNE Abbruzzese first took a tai chi class to help him recover from a rugby injury but he had no idea how significant an effect it would have on his emotions.

Wayne, 65 and from Llanrumney, lost his wife to a terminal illness 20 years ago and the medictation aspect of tai chi had a very surprising effect on him.

“I remember during my first session I cried and cried,” he said.

“I even went to bed crying, it was uncontrollable. I remember thinking I had to stop because, you know, I was taught that men don’t cry.

“The instructor gave me a hug and explained to me that everything bad I was keeping inside was being washed away. I guess I was processing the grief in a healthy way for the first time.

“Today, I have no stress, no pain, and no negativity. I also used to be an asthmatic and I have not had an attack in years. I put it all down to Tai Chi, it saved my life.”

Before practicing Tai Chi, Wayne did not believe in an afterlife but after 20 years practicing the meditative martial art, he has had a change of heart.

“There is no doubt in my mind that one day I will see my wife again. Death is not the end of things – our energy is eternal,” he said.

Wayne Abbruzzese after hosting his class on Monday
Yvonne Bishop and Wayne Abbruzzese during the class.

He said the mindfulness practiced in lessons has also improved the relationship between him and his two daughters.

“My daughters have said I am a different dad because I am not snappy, and I deal with emotions in a much healthier way. I am honestly the happiest I have ever been.”

Wayne volunteers as an instructor at three of the Cardiff Hubs – Ely, Fairwater and Rhiwbina – by delivering 13 classes per week to locals, most commonly aged 65-80. Classes are open to all age groups and abilities.

Tai chi is supported by Age Cymru as gentle exercise designed to help to improve mental health and physical wellbeing.

As part of Cardiff Council’s wellbeing service, tai chi lessons are free, and they occur weekly in hubs across the city.

Wayne and participants mid-movement.

Community Inclusion Officer, Yvonne Bishop, says the tai chi movements “help prevent arthritis, reduce the risk of falling through improving balance and keeps things working how they should.

“Lots of the movements can even be done in bed if you feel like staying there.”

It is also a great way to socialise. Sue, a participant at one of Wayne’s classes, said: “I enjoy getting out of the house twice a week for some exercise and you also get to meet your neighbours at the same time.

“I have been doing Tai Chi since September and noticed such a difference in my mobility,” she said.

  • Wayne visits Rhiwbina Hub every Monday at 1.30pm. See all upcoming classes here