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Healing a community with Tai Chi


Meet Malik Cadwell, a remarkable individual hailing from Camden, New Jersey, who possesses extraordinary talents and a strong determination to make a difference. Despite growing up in an underprivileged neighborhood, Malik has managed to overcome various challenges and is dedicated to uplifting and supporting individuals from diverse backgrounds through his expertise in counseling, martial arts, and Qigong.


At a tender age of 12, Malik's skills in Aikido were already exceptional, leading him to excel as a junior instructor in this martial art. By the time he turned 14, his outstanding intellect had secured him a college scholarship, a testament to his remarkable abilities. Malik's journey into the world of martial arts began at the age of 8 when his father, a Military Police officer, took him to see a Bruce Lee movie. The experience left a profound impression on young Malik, igniting his passion for martial arts. He embarked on his training in Goju Ryu Karate, a martial art style mixing soft and hard techniques, and continued his martial arts education.


Recently, I had a delightful opportunity to interview Mr. Cadwell about his amazing life story and you can watch the recording below:



At the age of 10, Malik witnessed a captivating Aikido performance, characterized by its fluid circular movements. Inspired by what he saw, his father sought out Robert Danza, the first African American black belted by the Aikido founder, who happened to be teaching at a nearby military base to teach Malik. Under Danza's tutelage, Malik honed his skills in Aikido, a martial art that draws influence from Chinese Tai Chi chuan and focuses on promoting Qi energy and utilizing it during combating maneuvers.


During the 80s and 90s, Camden faced significant challenges such as poverty, crime, substance abuse, and gang-related activities, leaving its residents in despair. The average lifespan was significantly lower than the national average. It was shocking that Malik’s grandfather, father, step-father, uncle and another Aikido teacher Rabon Jones all had cancer. Young people were especially vulnerable to negative influences. However, the discipline gained through martial arts training allowed Malik to stay focused on his studies both within the dojo and at school. He achieved academic milestones at an accelerated pace, completing 6th and 7th grade education at the age of 11 and entering high school at the remarkable age of 12, all while serving as a junior Aikido instructor.


Malik's dedication and commitment to personal growth did not stop there. He went on to earn a scholarship to the prestigious Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington, MA, where he continued his pursuit of knowledge in the liberal arts. Later, he obtained a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Northwest University in Evanston, IL, which equipped him with the necessary skills to become a counselor, furthering his ability to positively impact the lives of others.


After completing his education at Northwestern University, Malik Cadwell returned home to serve his community by providing counseling and teaching martial arts. Then in one occasion, he discovered Sifu Chik Qadir Mason, a Tai Chi and Baguazhang instructor based in Philadelphia. Instantly recognizing that his martial arts journey was leading him towards Tai Chi and Qigong, Malik began immersing himself in these practices. Alongside Tai Chi and Qigong, he also delved into Bagua, an internal style Chinese martial art, and Push Hands. When his teacher Rabon got cancer, he asked Malik to teach him Tai Chi. Later, Malik started to teach Tai Chi at Rabon’s school.


Word of Malik's exceptional martial art skills spread, and soon he was sought after by various institutions and organizations, including Rutgers University in Camden, Temple University, community after-school programs, churches, libraries, non-profit organizations, Confucius Institute, and even the renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). His clientele spanned diverse demographic groups, and he utilized his expertise in counseling and martial arts to create unique blends of forms and techniques tailored to different individuals.


Through his teachings, Malik empowered school children to resist peer pressure and avoid drugs or gang involvement by equipping them with tools derived from martial arts. He trained nurses in self-defense techniques to safely manage violent patients. Seniors and veterans benefited from his instruction by utilizing principles and methods to strengthen their bodies, relax their minds, and maintain physical balance. College students found solace in practicing Tai Chi and Qigong to cope with anxiety and depression. It was truly remarkable how Malik could apply the same principles of Tai Chi and Qigong to help such diverse groups of people.



Malik deeply understood the stress faced by caretakers, particularly parents of pediatric cancer patients. In an effort to engage a non-participating young patient during a therapy session, he initiated an exercise where he taught stretching and simple Tai Chi movements to the parents and a sibling of the kid. Gradually, without any coaxing, the child joined in the exercises, breaking through his initial resistance. This example highlighted Malik's ability to make a positive impact on individuals and families, using Tai Chi and Qigong as powerful tools for healing and well-being.


As practitioners progress in their martial arts journey, they initially learn a prescribed routine or sequence of movements. However, once they truly internalize the principles of the art, the specific forms become less important. Malik Cadwell, in particular, has reached a level of fluency where he seamlessly transitions from one martial art to another. When practicing alone, he effortlessly flows from Tai Chi to Qigong and then to Bagua, or vice versa. His movements are fluid, reminiscent of the graceful nature of water.


Malik's approach to martial arts exemplifies a remarkable fluidity, and his career path mirrors this organic flow. A master of Tai Chi, he combines his expertise with adept counseling skills, unyielding self-discipline, and a reputation that spreads through word of mouth, leading to a cascade of opportunities. An example of this occurred last year when he received an invitation to perform Tai Chi at a virtual torch relay event for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games in Philadelphia.



During this momentous event, Malik's mesmerizing performance captivated the attention of a crew from a prominent Chinese TV station. Impressed by his skill and grace, they recorded his demonstration. With Malik's consent, the TV station broadcasted his awe-inspiring performance during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, effectively bringing the beauty of Tai Chi back to its birthplace in China.


This sequence of events perfectly illustrates how Malik's journey unfolds naturally, gracefully intertwining his passion for martial arts with career-defining moments that elevate his art and spread its allure to new heights.


Mr. Cadwell has received a prestigious invitation to be a presenter at the "Science of Tai Chi & Qigong as a Whole-person Health Conference," which is jointly hosted by Harvard Medical School and the Osher Center of Integrative Medicine. This notable event will take place Sept. 18-19, 2023 in Boston, MA.


During the conference, Mr. Cadwell will have the opportunity to share inspiring stories of how he has been positively impacting the diverse community through the profound practices of Tai Chi and Qigong. His valuable insights and experiences promise to be enlightening for all attendees.

For those interested in delving deeper into Mr. Cadwell's journey and learning from other exceptional speakers, registration for the Conference is available now on the event's official website. Don't miss this chance to gain valuable knowledge and perspectives on the transformative power of Tai Chi and Qigong in promoting holistic well-being.


You can participate in this important conference by registering now.


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