Initially, we had thought to embed sensors in a Pi Sha as those garments are colorful, traditional and elegant. They also usually indicate that the wearer has some sort of advanced standing with the Taoist discipline he or she is following. BUT Pi Shas can move independently of the limbs that they cover due to an outdoor breeze, indoor air movements such as forced-air heating or air conditioning, or even just another student passing by. So we reluctantly switched to sports sleeves which closely follow the limb, do not have static electricity build-ups, and do not lose contact during movement.
Then a new student’s Individual Education Plan mentioned weighted clothing. The use of weighted clothing can be a form of resistance training: the wearer needs more effort to move at all; additional effort to overcome the inertia of a heavier mass (very often in Chen Family style Tai Chi Chuan practice there is a pause before a punch); and additional effort to stop at the end of the movement to avoid injury or over-extension. Fans of the book/movie Iron and Silk will recall Mark Salzman training with weights on his ankles and a sack of bricks on his back. In some cases heavier weighted clothing can also be used to slow or modulate movements so the wearer can reduce flailing limbs, rapid spasms, losing his or her balance and so on.
- Neck “collars” and vests – these come in two types: those intended to simply drape and those secured along the lower edge so the wearer can twist or bend over. We have some concerns about such garments slightly limiting deep breathing. Presumably, were such garments encountered we could measure oxygen usage.
- For some, weighted vests increase the exertion needed for walking, distance running or speed, agility and quickness (SAQ) drills. We would likely want to keep a close eye on heart rate, temperature and blood pressure. There are claims that such vests build leg strength and stimulate the metabolizing of fat.
- A variation on vests would be a back pack – these are used by firefighters, military and police to increase resistance during push-ups and to train for carrying an injured person. Offhand, we do not see much application for Tai Chi Chuan.
- weights strapped to upper arms, lower arms, upper legs or ankles
A bit of engineering that we will have to deal with is can the weighted garment be worn over the sports sleeve without interfering with the sensors. The biosensors for heart rate, temperature and blood pressure depend on close access to skin.
Sensory integration therapy uses weighted vests, weighted belts and weighted blankets, hypothesizing that the weight provides proprioceptive feedback. We have not found much scientific research on this treatment:
“The Use of Weighted Vests with Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Disabilities,” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Jan. 2009, vol. 39, pp. 105-114