Friday, December 20, 2013

Gentle Comes from Strong

(image credit)

T'ai Chi Builds Your Inner Superhero

(image credit)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cheng Man-ch'ing Anticipates Attack

This is older footage of Chen Manching with commentary from Robert W. Smith.
original source: Martial Arts: The Real Story produced by DISCOVERY NETWORKS, filmed by PACIFIC STREET FILMS.
Cheng Man-ch'ing was the softest of the soft.  Absolute softness, complete relaxation.  These were lessons we learned, over and over, class in and class out.  He hated fighting, yet he had an uncanny ability to anticipate an attack.  He did so by relaxing and shifting your energy into his body and into his rooted leg.

These are abilities that are years in the making.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cheng Man-ch'ing Senses Energy

Cheng Man Ching, push hands class
1960s at the New York School.from some old 8mm film given to me by Stan.
There is no sound to this video, but it is still quite previous footage of a T'ai Chi master I had come to revere in the early years of my study and practice.

Push Hands (i.e., Tui Shou) is about sensing energy.  We build our ability to sense the other person's energy by circulating and extending our own chi.  Then it is about adhering and following energy, as Tui Shou works at the granular levels of self defense.  Finally it is about expressive, even explosive energy (fa jin), where we release chi to uproot, upend or topple the other person.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cheng Man-ch'ing Uproots Weakness

Cheng Man Ching, New York Push hands class with Stan Israel, Lou Klinesmith and Mort Raphael, Mid 60s.
This video is precious.  We revered Cheng Man-ch'ing, especially in the early years of my T'ai Chi studies and practice - late 1970s and early 1980s.  But we didn't have easy access to videos back then.

In this brief segment, Cheng Man-ch'ing teaches an integral principle of T'ai Chi and Taoism as a whole: Do not push against your opponent's strength.  Once you sense his energy and center, you might have to Roll Back, that is, away from his strength, to uproot him.

Friday, December 6, 2013

5 Tibetan Rites (5) Tone the Body

This rite is an overall body toning and strengthening exercise. This posture stretches the shoulders, legs, spine and whole body; It builds strength throughout the body, particularly the arms, legs, and feet. It also relieves fatigue and rejuvenates the body while improving the immune system, digestion and blood flow to the sinuses. It calms the mind and lifts the spirits.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

5 Tibetan Rites (4) Bring Clarity

The fourth rite works on the Swadisthana or Sacral Chakra associated with our re productive organs. It activates our lower abdominal and pelvic area, thereby awakening our sexual energy, and general state of pleasure. It also strengthens the lower back. When this Chakra is harmonized it brings clarity and development of a strong personality. This rite also helps weed out our negative base qualities that hinder our development.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

5 Tibetan Rites (3) Feel Joyfulness

This rite energizes the Vishuddhi or throat Chakra which activates the pituitary & thyroid glands. Harmonization of these two major glands regulates the metabolism rate, controls water balance in the body via the control of re absorption of water by the kidneys & optimizes the functioning of our sexual organs. On an emotional level it fills one with a feeling of unlimited happiness and freedom that allows our abilities and skills to blossom. It also alleviates anxiety and suppressed fears.  This rite also strengthens the spinal column and makes one more flexible.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

5 Tibetan Rites (2) Improve Vitality

The second rite works mainly on the Manipura or Solar plexus Chakra, situated in the abdominal region. This Chakra is the centre of Vitality and Vigour. It also regulates the functioning of the pancreas and digestive organs. As a result it's curative in curing digestive disorders, diabetes and fluctuations in blood pressure. This rite also strengthens the abdominal muscles and acts as a powerhouse by constantly supplying vitality and bestowing balance and strength.

Monday, December 2, 2013

5 Tibetan Rites (1) Slow Aging

The Speed of the Chakra spin is a key to vibrant health. The first rite works on all 7 Chakras by coordinating their spin so they are in complete harmony. It distributes pure Prana energy to the endocrine system, and in turn to all organs and processes in the body which is one of the major requirements for vibrant health, rejuvenation and youthfulness. It is the key rite to reset one's body to optimum functioning.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Chakras and Benefits of 5 Tibetan Rites

The body has seven key Chakras or Vortexes, like magnetic centres. They revolve at great speed in the healthy body, but when slowed down -- is just another name for old age, ill health and senility. The quickest way to regain health, youth, and vitality is to start these magnetic centres spinning again. 
The primary function of the 5 Rites is to optimize the functioning of our Chakras by speeding up the rate at which they spin. The 7 main Chakras govern the functioning of the Endocrine system which in turn is responsible for the body's overall functioning and aging process. By stimulating the Endocrine system and the circulation of vital life energy or Prana throughout the body, the 5 Rites energize and bring about a complete harmony within our physical, mental and emotional states.
The 5 Tibetan Rites routine is done in a specific sequence that stimulates the whole glandular system boosting your metabolism, among many other remarkable health benefits such as: 
Increased physical strength and flexibility
Toning up flabby stomach, arms and double chin
Release from joints & back pains
Stress relief and a sense of calm
Uninterrupted, restful sleep
Better memory, mental focus and creativity
Improved eyesight
Hair re-growth, restoring full colour to grey hair
Enhanced energy and youthfulness
Rejuvenation of all organs
Relief of menopause symptoms
Renewed sexuality
These 5 Rites are quite different from T'ai Chi or Qigong, but I practice them with proper T'ai Chi and Qigong spirit, mind and body: that is, relaxed and centered, slow and continuous.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Daily Workout Includes 5 Tibetan Rites

5 simple techniques, 20 minutes a day is all it takes for a youthful, energetic you. Practice the 5 Tibetan Rites alongside Raageshwari [Loomba] in this exclusive video and feel the difference.
Lesser known amidst the disciplines of Yoga are a very potent set of practices which were formulated by the Tibetan monks over 2500 years ago. They were simply called 'The 5 Rites' and are the secrets behind the monks incredibly long and healthy lives. They were revealed to the world by a retired British army officer who went high into the Himalayas to live and learn from them. Subsequently, a book called the 'Ancient secret of the fountain of youth' was published by Peter Kelder. The book was aptly titled, since the rites in essence slow down the ageing process and fill one with a dynamic youthful energy. As a result one can accomplish a lot more, and one looks and feels young despite the passing years.
I do three repetitions of each Rite, and make them part of my daily workout.  My next two articles detail these 5 Tibetan Rites, includes Chakras and benefits.

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Daily Workout Includes 5 Animal Qigong

the wudang five animal qigong is an ancient system for developing strength, flexibility, and internal awareness for the purpose of furthering one's health and longevity. each animal specifically works on an organ system by stimulating both the physical organ itself and the related energetic meridian pathway as well.
Wei Zi Rong performs the Five Animal Qigong with remarkable flexibility and precision:
  1. Dragon
  2. Tiger
  3. Leopard
  4. Snake
  5. Crane

Friday, November 15, 2013

My Daily Workout Includes Qigong

Years ago our T'ai Chi instructor and classmates traveled to Aspen Academy of Martial Arts in Snowmass, Colorado. There, Marshall Ho'o taught us an exercise that resembles what Jesse Tsao does in this video.

That exercise involved opening up the arms, taking in the the positive energy of the universe, then gathering up the negative energy within us and dispelling it onto the universe to turn into positive.

I practice this Qigong exercise from Jesse Tsao everyday, as part of my overall T'ai Chi workout.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Light and Agile Body, by Chang San-Feng

"In motion the whole body should be light and agile"

Link all parts of the body, as if they were threaded together

My Daily Workout Includes Shaolin Brocade (6-8)

In an important respect, T'ai Chi is an essence. Beyond the study and practice of this martial art, it is a set of principles and philosophy that guide how we stand, how we sit, and how we move. Practically speaking, we can apply T'ai Chi to any of our day to day activities.

I like these Shaolin exercises - the eight pieces of Brocade - because they're meditative and Qigong (i.e., develops and circulates chi). These are the final three sections.

I practice them daily, and I do so, as I would any T'ai Chi form.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Daily Workout Includes Shaolin Brocade (4-5)

In an important respect, T'ai Chi is an essence.  Beyond the study and practice of this martial art, it is a set of principles and philosophy that guide how we stand, how we sit, and how we move.  Practically speaking, we can apply T'ai Chi to any of our day to day activities.  

I like these Shaolin exercises - the eight pieces of Brocade - because they're meditative and Qigong (i.e., develops and circulates chi).  These are the fourth and fifth sections, so please look to my next post for the remaining three.    

I practice them daily, and I do so, as I would any T'ai Chi form.

Friday, November 8, 2013

My Daily Workout Includes Shaolin Brocade (1-3)

In an important respect, T'ai Chi is an essence.  Beyond the study and practice of this martial art, it is a set of principles and philosophy that guide how we stand, how we sit, and how we move.  Practically speaking, we can apply T'ai Chi to any of our day to day activities.  

I like these Shaolin exercises - the eight pieces of Brocade - because they're meditative and Qigong (i.e., develops and circulates chi).  These are the first three, so please look to my subsequent posts for the remaining five.  

I practice them daily, and I do so, as I would any T'ai Chi form.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

T'ai Chi for Older Adult Strength

(image credit)
Muscle strength. In a 2006 study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Stanford University researchers reported benefits of T'ai Chi in 39 women and men, average age 66, with below-average fitness and at least one cardiovascular risk factor. After taking 36 T'ai Chi classes in 12 weeks, they showed improvement in both lower-body strength (measured by the number of times they could rise from a chair in 30 seconds) and upper-body strength (measured by their ability to do arm curls). 
In a Japanese study using the same strength measures, 113 older adults were assigned to different 12-week exercise programs, including T'ai Chi, brisk walking, and resistance training. People who did T'ai Chi improved more than 30% in lower-body strength and 25% in arm strength — almost as much as those who participated in resistance training, and more than those assigned to brisk walking. 
"Although you aren't working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in T'ai Chi strengthens your upper body," says internist Dr. Gloria Yeh, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. "T'ai Chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen."
Reference: No pain, big gains.

T'ai Chi is a simple and gentle physical exercise.  We work at keeping weight underside, that is, relaxing the body, stretching it, while letting gravity pull us down naturally.

Sometimes we are so tense that our shoulders rise up, for example.  In T'ai Chi practice, we release that tension consciously so that our body settles down, and we see our shoulders lower as a result.

Moving in the form, or even standing in a posture, with weight underside in our body is akin to lifting dumbbells or barbells, and such natural resistance in T'ai Chi is what builds muscle strength that the above studies found among older adults.

Powerful as Mountain Peak

(image credit)
(image credit)

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Beauty and Power of T'ai Chi

Revel in the beauty of T'ai Chi.  Feel its power as your practice it.

Use adhering energy (touch) when you do Tui Shou (Push Hands).  Use sensing energy to pick up on, and uproot, the other person's center.

Still Waters of Spiritual Mind

(image credit)
(image credit)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Spirited Calligraphy, by Chungliang Al Huang

Chungliang Al Huang is spirited and engaging, and here he speaks about the simplicity of calligraphy.  When you find yourself losing it, you can turn to it.  Notice how he expresses the calligraphy as T'ai Chi postures and he suggests centering the chi (life energy) in our tan tien (lower abdomen).  It is one of the five excellences that Cheng Man-ch'ing possessed.

(image credit)
Professor Cheng Man-Ch’ing regarded a set of five disciplines—the "five excellences"—to be the mark of a well-rounded person: calligraphy, painting, poetry, t’ai chi, and medicine. Although he is best known for his teachings on the martial arts (in particular, his highly influential adaptation of t’ai chi), versatility was central to Cheng’s philosophy of life, and he encouraged his students to combine artistry with scholarship. This inspiring book is a commentary on and working compendium of Cheng’s literary and pictorial interpretations of these subjects. Of interest to aficionados of Chinese art, culture, and history, Master of Five Excellences also offers internal techniques for practitioners of the martial arts, as Hennessy provides an insight into the rarely-glimpsed creative side of Cheng Man-Ch’ing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

T'ai Chi to Bach, by Chungliang Al Huang

Michael Fitzpatrick performs Bach on the cello, while Chungliang Al Huang performs T'ai Chi to the music.  How wonderful!  There is a reason, for sure, that T'ai Chi is called a martial art.  

I imagine Al Huang simply aligns his movement and spirit to that music, and is not following a particular sequence.  See how well he adapts the posture for the marble steps leading up to the altar.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Savage Chickens on Self Awareness

Be mindful only of your good qualities, if you'd like 
Poke fun at yourself and others in a good-natured way

Yang Long Form 103, by Conny Landskröner

Hello, I am Conny from Germany and I practice the Yangfamily Style. I will look around this group to partizipate. Here you can see me some Years ago (I just learned the Longform 103 in this time) Best Reagrds an I hope you'll enjoy ;-)
Conny Landskröner is in the early years of her study and practice, and does T'ai Chi really well - with good precision in movement and yin-yang separation in her posture.  Press and Push express the release of chi, and the energy expressed in the movement ought to extend to infinity.  So I suggest more extension, that is, outward flow of chi, in her Press, Push and the like.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mike Critelli Builds Strength and Mobility

A personal story on how the practice of the Taoist Tai Chi™ internal arts have helped with recovery from illness, losing weight, building up strength, regaining mobility, better breathing and just feeling better.
Mike Critelli must have had serious health concerns at 700 pounds.  I imagine he had a full health program at his disposal and had to work diligently at recovering from his illness.  But T'ai Chi is an integral part of such a program, as it emphasizes simple but sustained effort to build strength and improve mobility.

Even raising your arms with full concentration and weight underside may be akin to lifting dumbbells to build your muscles.  Even squatting down, even slightly at first if that is all you can do, uses the weight of the body to increase strength in those legs.  

Self Defense Applications, by Yang Jwing-Ming

Taijiquan, or 'Grand Ultimate Fist', is a highly effective form of combat specializing in short and middle-range fighting. 
This program offers practical martial applications for each of the 37-postures of traditional Taiji, based on the forms passed down by Yang, Ban-Hou. Once the viewer has a basic understanding of these universal principles, you may use them to devise further applications for every movement no matter which style of Taiji you practice.
We must first learn the concepts, plus postures and movements, of T'ai Chi before we delve into its martial arts application.  It's a matter of building the right foundation, and instilling in our mindset how T'ai Chi may in fact be different than the martial arts from the external school.

For one, there is more direct application of the yin-yang a circle within a circle, that is, via turns and twists, coils and spirals of movement, as Yang Jwing-Ming demonstrates.  For another, there is greater reliance on chi, both to repel an opponent's attack (emptying energy) and to press or push him down (releasing energy).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Interpreting Tao Te Ching, by Stephen Mitchell

Scott London, interviewing Stephen Mitchell
To understand T'ai Chi and to practice T'ai Chi properly, we must study Tao Te Ching.  The Tao Te Ching is at once the philosophical underpinning and the everyday application of T'ai Chi.    

Health Benefits of T'ai Chi and Qigong

(image credit)
By all accounts, I live a fortunate, privileged life. But I work a lot, I do a lot of things. For example, when I was traveling a lot across continents years ago, I'd clock a 60 - 90 hour work week. Daily T'ai Chi was my saving grace.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Music for T'ai Chi Meditation and Practice

I love music, and occasionally meditate and practice T'ai Chi to it.  If you haven't done so, give it a try.  I suggest this piece by Gulan.  But it can be any music you enjoy, as long as it's conducive to T'ai Chi - that is, meditative, calming, rooting.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Confidence Is Something We Work At

(image credit)
Perfection of T'ai Chi movement may never happen, as we're only human after all.  But if we work at it daily, we most definitely can be on track toward it.  Confidence is like that.  There is no such thing as feeling perfectly confident, but drawing on it and building it up regularly and confidence does get stronger.

From Confidence Comes Beauty

(image credit)
Those experiences may have been rough. Some things may not have gone well.  Just as some T'ai Chi lessons can be confusing or difficult.  But it works out, at the end of the day.  You learn those lessons, and you prove to yourself that you can do.  You gain confidence about doing something, precisely because you've done it before.

Centering and Rooting Underpin Confidence

(image credit)
In T'ai Chi practice, we work at centering and rooting ourselves.  We keep our center of mass low at all times, so we are as stable as possible.  We imagine planting our feet into the ground, so we cannot easily be toppled over.  In time, we can ask those tough questions and we can speak up when necessary.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mindfulness is Paying Attention on Purpose

Attending is what many people have to learn. 

Mindfulness is:
  • paying attention
  • on purpose
  • in the present
  • without judgment
Check your watch, and what time is it?  The time is now.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

T'ai Chi Movement Like Reeling Silk

Move gently like reeling silk
Move continuously like reeling silk
Move gently and continuously like pulling toilet paper
You see, one instructor had a sense of humor, and had knack for applying T'ai Chi principles in everyday life.

Self Defense Applications, by Ken Gullette

The Yang 24 Form is the most popular Tai Chi Chuan form in the world. Millions practice it daily for health and meditation. But Tai Chi was designed as a martial art. This video includes one minute of clips that show some of the 108 self defense techniques that Sifu Ken Gullette demonstrates in his new Kindle ebook -- Yang Tai Chi 24 Form Self-Defense. 
The essence of T'ai Chi is one of peace and kindness and also of calm and strength.  It is very much a martial art, and thus belongs in fighting annals.  There are stories of masters being challenged to fight and proving their T'ai Chi prowess as a self defense system.

It takes a long time, and much study and practice, to learn T'ai Chi as a martial art.  So it's unlike martial arts from the external school, where self defense techniques are taught from day one and are built upon forthrightfully over time.  Still, because some T'ai Chi students are keen to learn sooner than later, it makes sense, if done cautiously and properly, for instructors to teach the self defense applications of T'ai Chi.

Ken Gullette does a fine job in a one-minute video.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Here is Life

T'ai Chi Builds Strength from Within

(image credit)

Building Strength Through Qigong

Qigong is also spelled Chi Kung. It is an ancient form of meditation that is easy to learn and helps you calm the mind and body, relieve stress, and because stress is a killer, when you ease stress your body functions and heals more efficiently. In this video, Sifu Ken Gullette gives you a brief introduction into Qigong and leads you through a 5-minute exercise.
Ken Gullette does fine instruction and demonstration in this video.

Qigong is about chi study and development, and it does so by holding postures and repeating movements.  It builds your body in ways that may correlate with isometric and isotonic exercises, and it also build your mind by instilling focus and discipline in your workout.

A Wonderfully Performed and Filmed T'ai Chi

A few moments inside the eye of the storm.
With Michael Acton and Faisal Ahmed Mian to the music "Wandering Saint" by L. Subramaniam.
A wonderfully performed and filmed T'ai Chi.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Brush Knee, Twist Step in Self Defense

At the 5:05 mark of my video T'ai Chi Empower - Form and Flow, I begin a series of Brush Knee, Twist Step movements.  

Now watch Rick Marantz demonstrate the martial arts application of this movement:

Sometimes you don't have to do much to defend yourself.  Moreover, what you do to defend yourself may be as natural as circling your arm up then down and stepping forward with a hand.

Integrative Medicine at The Osher Clinical Center

If you have an ailment, you may choose a strictly Western treatment.  You may choose a strictly Eastern treatment.  You may choose some balance of both.  

It stands to reason that if you're chronically tense in one part of your body, over time that tension emanates through other parts of your body.  Arthur Anton related just that, as held the car steering wheel so tightly he felt pain in his neck.  

T'ai Chi builds awareness of your whole body, so you can better identify where they might tension that you were not aware of previously.  Moreover, because shoong (relaxation) is such a vital part of T'ai Chi, you can gradually release such tension. 

I also appreciate hearing Bonnie O'Connor acknowledge how the hands are diagnostic and therapeutic.  Educational, too.  

Many of us first feel the chi as heat or tingling in our hands.  That chi can be a sensory and healing touch for yourself or for someone else.  

I appreciate The Osher Clinical Center's efforts to understand and integrate Western and Eastern medicine.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mystery of Chi, by Bill Moyers

"The Mystery of Chi" is part of "Healing and the Mind" series by Bill Moyers.  You may or may not be familiar with chi, but I ask that you simply note your thoughts and reactions as you watch this documentary.  Please share them with me.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Life with Awareness, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Meditation means living your life, as if it really mattered.  That means you have to be here for it.  With awareness and a certain degree of kindness.
 Jon Kabat-Zinn talks about living a life that embodies clarity, wisdom, kindness and well-being.  It's not some Mount Everest we have to travel to and climb, but it's right here closer than close.  There is no one right way to meditate.  But finding it, we can turn to meditation to live more meaningfully.

Mindfulness Meditation, by David Nichtern

David Nichtern offers a good, practical lesson on mindfulness meditation:
  • It doesn't matter how you sit or where you sit.  As long as your back is straight, but not rigid, and you feel comfortable, you're in fine position to meditate.  
  • You neither invite thoughts in, or push thoughts out, of your mind.  You simply observe them openly but neutrally, and keep quiet and still.  In time your mind will settle.    
  • Breathe naturally, and be aware of your breathing.  Keep it relaxed.  You can use your breathing as a way to anchor your concentration and promote your awareness.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Chuang Tzu and the Butterfly, Dreaming

Chuang Tzu
Once Zhuangzi [Chuang Tzu] dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.
Reference:  Zhuangzi.

Chuang Tzu's Taoist Philosophy

Chuang Tzu
Chuang Tzu - or Zhuangzi - was a Taoist, whose philosophy differed notably from that of Lao Tzu.  Mostly in the early years of studying and practicing T'ai Chi, I read his writings in the so-called "Inner Chapters."
Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling along the dam of the Hao Waterfall when Zhuangzi said, "See how the minnows come out and dart around where they please! That's what fish really enjoy!" 
Huizi said, "You're not a fish — how do you know what fish enjoy?" 
Zhuangzi said, "You're not me, so how do you know I don't know what fish enjoy?" 
Huizi said, "I'm not you, so I certainly don't know what you know. On the other hand, you're certainly not a fish — so that still proves you don't know what fish enjoy!" 
Zhuangzi said, "Let's go back to your original question, please. You asked me how I know what fish enjoy — so you already knew I knew it when you asked the question. I know it by standing here beside the Hao."
Those early years were partly my university years as well, and I remember others' philosophy that resembled this sort of logical argument.  In recent years, as I've worked on my Theory of Algorithms and The Core Algorithm, I progressed my thinking on such philosophy:
  • Huizi makes a mistake in presupposing that the only way we can know what people or animals enjoy is by being like them.
  • Even if we are like them, for example, myself as a man vis-a-vis other men, this point is not a de facto conclusion that I can know what they enjoy.  
  • Because we cannot ever be anyone except ourselves, we will always fall short of a complete knowledge of others.  What I've come to call The Inevitable Gap.  
  • However, we are endowed with a brain that senses others and with empathy, in particular, which offers us a conduit for indeed knowing what others enjoy.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bruce Frantzis Uproots an Opponent

Bruce Frantzis uproots an opponent
It may seem too philosophical or esoteric to say via T'ai Chi that the weak overcomes the strong.  That the fist is iron wrapped in cotton.  That an ounce can deflect a thousand pounds.  

But it is all true.

A well-timed and well-rooted fa jin - a sudden, powerful release of chi, as Bruce Frantzis demonstrates - will make an opponent think twice, before attacking you again.

Shed your Skin like the Snake

(image credit)

The Soul Always Knows

(image credit)

Grappling Techniques by Chen Zhonghua

This was shot on Da Qing Shan, May 2013. Master Chen Zhonghua was observing some of his students practicing competitive Tui Shou (Push Hands). He then stepped in to 'show them how it's done'. What he is demonstrating is how to apply traditional techniques from the Yilu form directly in grappling scenarios against a resisting opponent.
Chen Zhongdua is very strong with his T'ai Chi practice and application.  So be sure to take care when studying and doing what he demonstrates.  It's mainly for advanced students.  Please feel free to contact me, if you have any queries.

That said, self defense in T'ai Chi is neither elaborate nor athletic.  You see that movements are straightforward and economical.  That is, Master Chen kicks, and push, and altogether moves just enough to defend himself.

Practical Self Defense by Chen Zhonghua

This is a training method from the Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method system. Here master Chen Zhonghua and Gord Muir demonstrates a drill that will allow two people to train to match the opponent's power and strategy.
Chen Zhonghua teaches students to sink lower, just enough to match an opponent's push, and redirect the oncoming energy into your legs and to your root on the floor.

He also knows that if an opponent matches your push in one direction, and therefore neutralizes your energy, you can still sense his weakness and topple him in another direction.  He showed with the first student, who was firmly rooted in his self defense posture, that pushing him toward his back easily uprooted him.  

Finally, T'ai Chi is known as circles within circles.  So the arm rotation he demonstrates with another student is an effective way for him to neutralize her push.  Circles, curves and arcs are practical metaphors in self defense.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Practice T'ai Chi on Different Surfaces

Carpeting at home is comfortable
Doing T'ai Chi on your patio lets you get fresh air
Be careful not to step on the man!
The beach will really massage your feet!
Practice T'ai Chi with comfortable shoes.
Practice T'ai Chi without shoes

Self Defense Lessons #3, by Robert Agar-Hutton

The hard martial arts, from the so-called External School, may build finger and hand strength by having students repeatedly strike a container of gravel or sand and a wooden post or tree trunk.  

T'ai Chi offers an alternative point of view, as Robert Agar-Hutton demonstrates.

Soft tissues, such as the nostrils and eyes, and the area above the collar bones, do not require raw strength in the fingers or hands.  Instead, it requires the extending energy of T'ai Chi that comes from the utterly simple opening movement:  raising and lowering the arms.   

So, heaven forbid, you are in a threatening, dangerous situation, you can push your fingers into the attacker's nostrils and eyes, and he or she is bound to recoil back immediately   

Agar-Hutton also talks about yi, that is, mind intent.  If you are hesitant and afraid, and believe you cannot defend yourself in an attack, then you are not likely to exert much of any power.  On the other hand, if you work at building your confidence, through diligent, daily study and practice of T'ai Chi, then you believe in your abilities to defend yourself properly and are therefore more likely to keep yourself safe.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Japanese Circle for Absolute Enlightenment

(image credit)
Ensō (円相) is a Japanese word meaning "circle" and a concept strongly associated with Zen. Ensō is one of the most common subjects of Japanese calligraphy even though it is a symbol and not a character. It symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and the void.
Reference:  Ensō.

T'ai Chi for Health

There is a growing body of evidence in Western medicine that T'ai Chi is beneficial for health - from improving balance (thus preventing falls), to increasing exercise capacity, to stretching muscles and connective tissues. In a way, however, Western medicine lags in its understanding, as Eastern practice over centuries has known the many benefits of T'ai Chi.

Be that as it may, you decide how to bring T'ai Chi, if at all, into your health practice.

For me, it is the centerpiece of my daily activities, but is not the only piece: I also do core exercises, resistance training, and aerobic workouts. Perhaps this is not surprising, as I was born in the East (Philippines) and grew up in the West (US). So I choose to integrate a range of health practices that work best for me.
You may certainly choose to do the same thing I do.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pray to be Stronger Men

(image credit)

She is the Hero of this Story

(image credit)

What it Means to be Strong

My daughter was studying for a Physics test, and I was helping her prepare for it.  One concept was equilibrium.  She demonstrated by pushing her hand down on the kitchen table and explaining that the force of the table pushing up against her hand equaled the force she was exerting.  So the net force was zero.

In effect, the table was strong enough to withstand her force.

It wasn't part of her study, but I explained that Albert Einstein assumed an inertial frame of reference in his Theory of Special Relativity.  That is, objects moved at constant speed, meaning that no force was acting on them to alter that speed or change their direction.

In one essential respect, the Theory of Special Relativity is an abstraction.  I argued that in reality there are actually a myriad of forces acting on any object and even with each other.  Our world, in other words, is a non-inertial frame of reference.  Isaac Newton posited this as one physical law:  An object in motion will go on to infinity, in a perfectly straight line, if no force acts on it.  Again, that's not our reality, as no such object can do that.

So what does it mean to be strong, and how does T'ai Chi come into the picture?

(image credit)
Simply being strong means having enough force to withstand and overcome any sort of force we face, which we have to withstand and overcome.  It also means that if we don't have sufficient force in our reservoir, we work at getting more, building it, or engaging others' reservoir.

We may tap a universal source of energy, which isn't as esoteric as it may sound to some of us.  Recall the last time you were out on a sunny or windy day.  Depending on the temperature, that sunshine lifts our spirit, energizes our body, and prompts us to play a game, walk the dog, or simply just cavort in ways that children do.  That wind rushing on our face, too, can be such a refreshing thing that we can skip the coffee to wake us up or boost our alertness during a lunch break and launch us into a productive afternoon.

T'ai Chi is a (w)holistic exercise:  It's a complete workout for the body, the mind, and the spirit.

Physical strength

As all practitioners know, T'ai Chi is harder than it looks.  Yes, we must be wholly relaxed, and move gently and slowly.  But it requires, and therefore builds, strength in the legs - hips, knees, ankles and feet - in order to execute movements.

I remember a good friend from a long time ago.  He was a skilled Aikidoist, and he was very muscular and agile.  I had been practicing T'ai Chi for just a year, when he led us through a Qigong exercise.  His legs were shaking so much from the exertion, before the end of it, that he had to pause for a moment and loosen the tension out.  I remember being surprised to see someone so obviously strong to have physical difficulty with a form that seemed so easy to me.

That was an early lesson in how T'ai Chi can be deceptively easy and simple to do and at the same time be so powerful at building our body.

(image credit)
Psychological strength

I was very shy and reserved through my childhood and adolescent years.  I was playful and friendly, but in the classroom and in social situations I was pretty hesitant to raise my hand and speak up.  In the year or two before I discovered T'ai Chi, I worked at improving myself via self-help books and tapes.  But it was T'ai Chi mainly that gave me strength of mind.

In Dubai, for example, there is a wealth of expatriots working at various companies.  One colleague had a great sense of humor, and he was fun and friendly in casual conversation.  But in business meetings, he can be quite outspoken, emotional and even offensive.  He sometimes came across as bullying or condescending, for example.  I don't argue for the sake of arguing, but one time I needed to confront him.  (Actually it was a number of times.)

You see, he's a British senior-manager, and a number of our colleagues were too polite or afraid to respond to him firmly.  But when he deserved to be confronted, I was not hesitant to step in.  He and I have had heated exchanges, for instance, in a meeting with the CEO, who clearly took it all in stride.

That's T'ai Chi having built up my mind over years of study and practice.

(image credit)
Spiritual strength

My classmates and I grasped the Universal early on as a reservoir of infinite energy and strength.  We studied the Tao Te Ching, the well-known philosophical treatise by Lao Tzu, and learned about the way of nature and the way of virtue.  We practiced T'ai Chi to be on the Tao.

We came to appreciate that there were spiritual forces, not just physical, at play in the world and that we needed to build up a different sort of strength to withstand or overcome any noxious forces.  Call it fortitude, or moxie, or belief.  We learned and developed it in T'ai Chi.     

In T'ai Chi, we work at having whatever force we needed - physical, psychological and spiritual - to withstand and overcome negative forces.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Listen to the Wisdom in your Body

(image credit)

The Skill of Self-Confidence, by Ivan Joseph

This is really an awesome talk by Ivan Joseph, Athletic Director and varsity soccer coach at Ryerson University.  He's full of spirit, humor and wisdom around building self-confidence.  The fact that he views it as a skill, as opposed to attitude or belief, makes it something that we can all acquire and develop.

Joseph doesn't talk about T'ai Chi, but how does T'ai Chi play into what he talks about?

  • Repetition, repetition, repetition.  T'ai Chi is not school, which has a beginning and then you graduate.  It goes on.  In this respect, study and practice, when done daily in small, manageable sessions over years, allow you to feel confidence that you can learn it, grasp it, and perform it.
  • Patience and persistence.  The slow movements of T'ai Chi require us to take things in a more relaxed, reflective fashion.  It teaches us not to hurry, and simply to keep going.  It is a genuinely pleasant exercise, so it can be fairly easy to keep doing and thus persist in.
  • Positive reframe.  In T'ai Chi, we are gentle, we are kind, and we are encouraging.  We look at people and things in a positive vein.  Joseph takes a humorous turn, when he chooses to interpret rejections from a lady he's courting (who would eventually become his wife) as positive feedback.