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

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The Soul Always Knows

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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

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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

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She is the Hero of this Story

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Take Small Steps, Build Confidence Gradually

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Take small steps, show that you can do something. Confidence gradually builds up from these.

From Self-Confidence, to Great Undertakings

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What it Means to be Confident

Being confident can mean different things for people.  So you might consider what I write about, and how I implicitly define it, but I encourage you to reflect on confidence and arrive at your own meaning.

Yours truly
My main sport is road cycling.  I love the rush of the wind against my face, and I love the camaraderie and competitiveness of riding with friends.  When I lived in Dubai, it was a great community that rode early Friday mornings, for 80 - 120 kilometers, and returned for breakfast together.  

For a long while, I'd  have terrific training sessions during the week, but inevitably hit the wall during those Friday morning rides.  I'd straggle back with a couple of other riders who were dropped, too.  I studied my body, and altered several things in my training and preparations. 

To make a long story short, I was now consistently riding with the lead group and occasionally mixing it up with the guys on sprints.   

I also made mental adjustments, one of which was this:  I imagined that I was the best rider in the lot and believed that I could smoke anyone of the others with my cycling strength and speed.  In reality, of course, I was not the best, because there were very fast riders among us.  

But what I imagined and believed were hallmarks of the confidence I built.  For a long time, I was very frustrated with hitting the wall and getting dropped, but I proved that I could figure things out and make effective changes.  I was already pretty strong and fast, but my improved performance was proof positive that I could be stronger and faster.

This confidence was a positive vicious cycle, as it actually helped me to ride even better.  The better I rode, the more confident I became.  

I knew I could do better, and I did.  Confidence was in my mind (belief), my spirit (purpose), and my body (muscles).          

Where does T'ai Chi come into the picture?  

I have been studying and practicing it since 1978.  I am energetic by nature and therefore engage in many activities, and T'ai Chi is the underpinning to everything I do.  For example, it teaches me how to be aware of what is going on outside of me and inside of me.

It encourages me to follow the Tao, the way of nature. In this regard, I realized I was pushing my training way too much. T'ai Chi helped me to ease up, reflect more, and make adjustments.  Practically speaking, the way of nature meant I had a strong body that also had limits. T'ai Chi prompted me to train, prepare and ride within that strength and those limits, and I realized there was quite a reservoir inside me.

Finally, sitting in meditation alone wasn't going to keep me fit.  T'ai Chi was a perfect activity for me as it kept me calm and rooted, while building up my body, too.  Over time I could do more things physically, and the more I could do, the more confident I became that I could keep doing those things.  And more.   

Friday, September 13, 2013

One World, One Breath

In 1999 a global event was born that has now expanded to hundreds of cities in over 70 nations, a global family of personal and global healing health education events held every year... 
World T'ai Chi & Qigong Day... coordinates a global health education effort to expand the use of T'ai Chi and Qigong into society on many levels: healthcare, corporate wellness, prison and drug rehabilitation, public education, senior care, and much more. 
The free Medical Research Library at provides evidence of how these mind-body tools can save global society trillions of dollars annually in future health costs. 
You'll find a global T'ai Chi and Qigong teacher directory... [with] local contact information. 
You'll also find free online lessons, learning and teaching tips, and much more. 
The motto of the global event is "One World ... One Breath." 
Qigong means "breathing exercise in Chinese.
Qigong - or Chi Kung - basically means the cultivation, development or study of our life energy.  Some practitioners focus on this.  T'ai Chi is the broader, more elaborate practice, which also includes Qigong.  Qigong may very well look like T'ai Chi, because it relies on proper movement, posture and breathing.  For the most part, they're the same.  But I believe it's good to know how they are different and related.

Moreover, chi is sometimes spoken of as breath, which it is, as part of our broader life energy.

That said, I cannot say enough about how good this annual, worldwide event is.

Richard Jesaitis on World T'ai Chi and Qigong Day

Richard Jesaitis speaks on World T'ai Chi and Qigong Day, an annual worldwide event held on the last Saturday in April at 10 AM local time, which was April 27th this year.  He conveys a good knowledge and spirit about this ancient Chinese exercise, especially when he points that T'ai Chi brings the body, mind and spirit together.  It is both holistic and wholistic.  

Moreover, it's good to emphasize another point:  That it is the mind - i - that commands the energy - chi.  The chi then directs the body.  That floating sensation or appearance that Jesaitis refers to is real, and the diligent practitioner comes to know the effortless power of T'ai Chi.  
"It was the first thing I did in my life just because I loved to do it. So every day going out, is still a journey to try and reach a higher level, because you can never attain the ultimate but you know it's there. So you struggle to attain a little bit more everyday. And it beats jogging."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

World T'ai Chi and Qigong Day

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I found this article on Google News - World T'ai Chi and Qigong Day - and I was moved.  
[Bill Douglas and Angela Oi Yue Wong Douglas] initially created this global event to educate the world about the profound health benefits of tai chi and qigong and to thank Chinese culture for this gift to the world. However, over time the event also became an opportunity to bring people together all across the world, to connect for the purpose of personal and global health & healing, adopting the motto “One World … One Breath.”
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Warm kudos to the Douglas couple for engendering a viral phenomenon on this ancient Chinese exercise.

Harvard Medical School Guide to T'ai Chi

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Conventional medical science on the Chinese art of Tai Chi now shows what Tai Chi masters have known for centuries: regular practice leads to more vigor and flexibility, better balance and mobility, and a sense of well-being. Cutting-edge research from Harvard Medical School also supports the long-standing claims that Tai Chi also has a beneficial impact on the health of the heart, bones, nerves and muscles, immune system, and the mind. This research provides fascinating insight into the underlying physiological mechanisms that explain how Tai Chi actually works.
Reference:  The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind (Harvard Health Publications).

Monday, September 9, 2013

Nothing Happens Next

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Empty your Mind, Be Like Water

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T'ai Chi Mind, Empty Mind

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In Western culture, our minds are rarely, if ever, empty.  We pride ourselves on ideas and insights, while at times worry, distraction and obsession overcome our minds.  Even if we can reconcile these things, the very notion of emptiness is associated psychologically with depression and philosophically with nothingness or death.

To wit, Blaise Pascal:
Man finds nothing so intolerable as to be in a state of complete rest, without passions, without occupation, without diversion, without effort. Then he feels his nullity, loneliness, inadequacy, dependence, helplessness, emptiness.
It will take time, then, for those who dread an empty mind to feel comfortable with, and adopt, Chi meditation and practice.  Nastasha Dern offers some guidance and promise in Why do we Fear an Empty Mind? (emphasis, added):  
When you believe this mind, you seek this "I" outside yourself. All one has to do is to remain quiet, calm the mind and experience this space between the thoughts. In this state, only the "I" exists. When you let this "I" in your mind be, without resisting, you enter the realm of emptiness -- pure consciousness or the creative void. Whatever comes up, do not take it personally. Just observe. Allowing your mind to "go blank" for a little while won't kill you, and will actually help you discover your potential, unlimited.
When self is absent and thoughts negated, we are open to the unknown. Not only does the mind become utterly blank, but it loses the all encompassing idea of a personal ego. We are oblivious to all lower sensations and are instead awake to the rich, conscious and sublime nothingness. Since the capacity to remain in this state for more than a few minutes can impose a strain, the intellect or imagination rush in with ideas or images, thus ending the tension. With time and practice we can endure the weight of this indescribable and incomprehensible experience.

Friday, September 6, 2013

T'ai Chi Empower - The Energy Sequence

I tried to portray the flow of chi - life energy - in this video. My camera is simple, my editing tool is basic. But I felt I could do so, and let light, color and motion somehow 'paint' chi.

Studying and Practicing Make Perfect

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As you see, simply by glancing at the Empower Sections on the right hand column, there are many aspects to T'ai Chi.  So be curious, learn what you can about its philosophy and practice.  You can do so with little or no cost, too.
  • Head over to your nearest library, and relax over a handful of books.
  • Browse sections in the bookstore, and read a page or two about T'ai Chi.
  • Look for a class at your park district, local schools, or community center.
  • Search for videos of interest on YouTube or TED.
  • Google T'ai Chi, and look over the links on the first page.
  • Join relevant groups on Facebook and Google+, and post, comment and discuss.
  • Follow those on Twitter who mirror your interests, and scope through their tweets.   
  • Make new T'ai Chi friends, practice together, and talk over tea.

Health Requires Patience and Discipline

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Many people have heard great things about tai chi. They expect wondrous benefits from showing up for class. They are accustomed to the ideas of Western medicine where a doctor gives you a pill and you are better in a few days or weeks at most. When the benefits of tai chi don't miraculously appear after their first class or two, they want to give up.
Reference:  Truths About T'ai Chi for Health.

Among the meta-lessons I learned from T'ai Chi classes early on was patience.  We practiced one new movement a week, and showed we had learned it, before going on to the next one.  It was the unspoken lesson about how we learn T'ai Chi.

So it is with health.  It is not a matter of popping a pill and feeling some instant relief.  Rather, it is a matter of pinpointing the cause of the malady, and making lifestyle or behavioral changes for the better over the long run.    

Thursday, September 5, 2013

T'ai Chi Awareness Helps with Health

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I injured my back three times 20 - 25 years ago.

One time was actually during T'ai Chi practice.  It was the 2nd Part of the Yang Long Form, and the movement was Old Man Finds Needle at the Bottom of the Sea (that's a mouthful).  I bent forward at the waist, and apparently I bent too far for whatever looseness my body felt at the time.

I was practicing T'ai Chi regularly, but I was also under the stress of graduate school.  I was quite flexible and strong, as it were, so hurting my back was a surprise.  But what I learned after self-reflection was that the stress reduced the awareness I had for my body. It was relatively early in the morning, when my body was naturally still a bit stiff from sleeping and I was preparing to head to campus downtown.

That was a pivotal lesson learned for me.  There are other bending and twisting movements in T'ai Chi, but with better awareness of my body, especially under stress, and with more patience in doing such movements, I have never again hurt myself from T'ai Chi.    

The second and third times I injured my back came from the same activity:  doing seated leg presses on the weight machine.  I have very strong legs, and I had upped the poundage very high.  But even as I braced myself well against the seat back, and used proper form in the exercise, I hurt myself.

You see, this was my lesson learned, well after the injuries.  In fact, I was baffled as to how I hurt myself.  I was not doing anything strenuous or even bending at all.  I may not have been doing anything physical, really.  The pain came on suddenly, but well delayed following the seated leg presses.  For about two weeks it was tough sitting and standing and also getting in and out of bed.  Thankfully it didn't impede my graduate studies in the least, and I recovered soon enough.

It was a handful of months later, I hurt my back again.  The same injury, the same circumstance:  That is, I wasn't doing anything strenuous, when the pain shot through my back.

I simply kept aware of my activities, including weight training, when I recovered from it.  What I remember was, As I positioned myself on the seated leg press, I could feel the pressure of the padded back on my lower back.  It was exactly where I injured myself.  Then, I figured out that I was way overloading the weights for this exercise.

The body is a well-connected thing, as athletes know.  Doing this exercise clearly wasn't just for the legs.  My back had quite a play into my lifting very heavy weights.  My back was strong, but it simply wasn't up to that heavy-duty lifting that my legs were.

Mentally, too, I obviously had the discipline and toughness to push my body forward.  But I needed to be smart about it, as a back injury isn't anything to take lightly.  Rather, I needed to be more aware of how my body was doing.

I am thankful  to God that I have had no back, or any other, injury since.

T'ai Chi has kept me healthy via its discipline around awareness

T'ai Chi Empower - 13 Postures

The `13 Postures are the foundation movements of T'ai Chi. The style and complexity may vary - from one school, family or individual, to another - but the entire form revolves around these core movements.

These `13 Postures are from the 1st Part of the Yang Long Form. I do an Overview, Closer Look, and Review, so you can follow along and learn it, if you like :)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

T'ai Chi Empower - Form and Flow

T'ai Chi Empower - Form and Flow

I do the entire 1st Part of the Yang Long Form, and film it from the front and the back. This way, you can follow it better, and learn it, if you like :)

Principles of Standing Posture

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T'ai Chi has standing postures, although they may different according to style, school or individual.  The lady in the image is Embracing the Tree.  What I learned was Holding the Ball.  Regardless, the principles of posture are similar.

Points to keep in mind:
  • Hold your head up, as if it were hung by a string from the top of your head (Bai Hui) up to the ceiling or sky.  This is one way of raising your spirit (shen).  It is also effective at easing or eliminating common headaches.
  • Tuck your hips gently.  So with the lifting from above, and this tucking of your hips, you feel a nice stretching (lengthening) of your lower back.    
  • Keep this posture for a reasonable length of time, for example, three to four minutes.  Because it's important to maintain proper posture, it quietly builds strength in your legs, back and shoulders.  
Holding the Ball for 10 minutes, or longer, was a challenge to my classmates and me.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Keep your Gaze Relaxed

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What is your gaze like, whenever you practice T'ai Chi or whatever you may be doing?  A relaxed gaze helps you be aware more broadly of your surroundings.  

T'ai Chi Empower - The Road, Taken {1}

I choose selected movements from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Parts of the Yang Long Form. Done slowly, these three parts take up to two hours. In this short video, I hope I've given you a good sense for the beauty, energy and complexity of the form.

`The Road, Taken alludes to the poem by Robert Frost - "The Road Not Taken":
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
There are many exercise options at our disposal, as far as health, self defense and spirituality are concerned. T'ai Chi was the road I took.

Monday, September 2, 2013

T'ai Chi Empowers You, by Paul Lam

Paul Lam tells a story of a time in China, when he wasn't allowed to go to school.  Two years, no school.  But he was so keen to learn that he'd find crumpled paper in a garbage heap, smooth it out, and read whatever he could.

T'ai Chi gave him that quiet sense of determination.

Give someone fish, and he or she has food for a day.  But teach someone how to fish, and he or she has food for a lifetime.

This is an age-old lesson of empowerment, that I never tire of hearing and it's a good reminder for all of us.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Studying the T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classics

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Besides being a diligent practitioner, I am also a curious student of T'ai Chi.  I learned from repeatedly coming back to lessons and insights by the likes of TT Liang, Marshall Ho'o, Martin Inn, and Jwing-Ming Yang.  I don't know when the internet started was, but since 1978 my T'ai Chi studies were mostly from books and magazines and from instruction and conversation.  Over the past decade, however, so much more is at our fingertips.      

Enter, Lee N. Scheele.   

I really appreciate the research that Scheele did on the T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classics.  These are the hallmarks texts from masters of the art, and one doesn't learn them simply by taking a course or reading a book.  Instead, one learns them over a lifetime of study, reflection and practice.

Here are key points:
All movements are motivated by I [mind-intention],
not external form.
~Chang San-feng
Make the ch'i sink calmly;
then the ch'i gathers and permeates the bones.
~Wu Yu-hsiang
Maintain your central equilibrium
and your opponent cannot gain an advantage.
~T'an Meng-hsien
Carefully study, the Classics say.