Monday, June 30, 2014

Advanced T'ai Chi (1) Train Self Defense

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You may find yourself in a more complicated, threatening situation:  There are multiple tracks, with multiple switches, and trains can come and go in all sorts of direction.  

The basic principles of what I call T'ai Chi "train" self defense applies: Use common sense, and get out of the way.  But in this situation, you clearly have to keep your senses up as long as attacks are in force, and you have to step out of harm's way more than once.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Basic T'ai Chi (3) "Train" Self Defense

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In the US, children are taught to "Stop. Look. And Listen." before crossing the street.  In the same vein, school buses are required by law to stop before crossing railroad tracks, and the driver must open the door and look left and right and listen for any oncoming train.

Remember that T'ai Chi helps us be mindful, and be aware of our surroundings.  It isn't just a cerebral thing, either.  Rather T'ai Chi helps us build our senses - sight, sound, smell, taste and touch - such as sensing another person's chi through contact such as Push Hands (Tui Shou).  

Whether I am in an urban, industrial or rural crossing, I essentially do what school children and bus drivers do: I follow signs and signals, stop if necessary, and look around and listen carefully.  

This, too, is T'ai Chi self defense.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Basic T'ai Chi (2) "Train" Self Defense

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Better yet, T'ai Chi self defense principles tell us to stay out of harm's way, to begin with.

Metra in Chicago has a good warning system.  For example, a public announcer cautions commuters that a train is coming in five minutes, then comes back on to say that a train is arriving at the station.

T'ai Chi self defense principles à la Metra encourage us to use common, practical sense:  Stand behind the yellow line, until the train has come to a full stop.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Basic T'ai Chi (1) "Train" Self Defense

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Suppose, for a moment, that you're standing in the middle of railroad tracks and a Metra train, such as this one in the Chicago suburbs, is coming right at you: What do you do to protect yourself from a horrible death?  It's very simple but crucial.

Get out of the way.  

In its most fundamental sense, this is T'ai Chi self defense.  You are rooted, but stay light and agile on your feet, and simply slide out of an oncoming attack.  You don't have to make a big leap, as the distance you need to move may literally just be inches and you are quickly out of harm's way.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tao of Kindliness and Confidence

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6. They don’t judge people. 
Highly confident people have no tolerance for unnecessary, self-inflicted drama. They don’t feel the need to insult friends behind their backs, participate in gossip about fellow co-workers or lash out at folks with different opinions. They are so comfortable in who they are that they feel no need to look down on other people.
The highest good is like water.
Water give life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.
It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.
In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep in the heart.
In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
In speech, be true.
In ruling, be just.
In daily life, be competent.
In action, be aware of the time and the season.
From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 8, by Lao Tzu.

The article on confidence resonates with this chapter by Lao Tzu, and is among the most resonating for me overall.  It guides me not only in my day-to-day practice, but also in my day-to-day life.  I am far from perfect at it, but T'ai Chi study, practice and meditation are my Tao (way).

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Embrace It is the Way of Taoism and Zen

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For example, if you are feeling worthless and try to suppress those feelings, you will never be able to do what it takes to improve. If, on the other hand, you come to terms with your negative self-views and accept the fact that you are not as good as you would like to be and, especially, that you are unhappy with yourself, you will be able to focus on what you need to do to improve. 
Dissatisfaction is the mother of change, and only change can drive improvement. 
The choice between the two options is a no-brainer. Deliberate attempts to increase your confidence are bound to result in failure and demoralize you, whereas attempts to improve your performance can result in not just competence gains but also a genuine boost to your confidence. The answer to the question, "What should I do about my low confidence?" can hardly be simpler: 
Embrace it.

The idea of embracing something dissatisfying or disconcerting is a novelty to Western culture, which is about categorically and deliberately ridding yourself of anything negative.  Instead, it's more Eastern mindset, arising from Taoism (i.e., go the way Nature has somehow guided you to go) and from zen (be in the moment, be where you are now).  That is T'ai Chi.  You don't have to be anywhere beforehand, with any prerequisite skill, fitness or motivation:  You start from wherever you are, and accept wherever you are, as troublesome as it may be.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Stand Up Straight, Build T'ai Chi Confidence

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Regardless of your confidence level, slouching communicates you lack faith in yourself. 
Try posting a note on the edge of your computer display with a reminder such as an up arrow in thick red marker or the words "SIT UP STRAIGHT". To correct yourself, roll your shoulders back and imagine someone just pulled a string from the top of your head, elongating your spine and raising your chin so it's in a neutral, forward-facing position.

Standing up or sitting up straight, the body perfectly aligned from head to toe, is a T'ai Chi principle.  The joints are not locked, and the posture is not rigid.  It's a relaxed straightness.  In fact, chi is stored in the natural curves of our body, which are seeking straightness during the movement.  Specifically it's about imagining a string attached to the topmost of your head (ba hui), pulling your head, and the rest of your body, up gently.  At the same time, you root yourself, and tuck your buttocks in gently.  So you feel a stretch downward as well.  Your awareness, and mindfulness, and clarity all go up, and that is confidence-building.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Strengthen Your Mind via Application

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While you may think of T'ai Chi application in a purely self defense manner, it isn't just that.  Essential principles like rooting, centering and relaxing aren't merely the purview of practice, but ought to be what you bring to your day to day life.  Mindfulness, clarity and steadiness are also essentials in a calm, strong and healthy mind.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Strengthen Your Mind via Practice

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Practicing T'ai Chi everyday may need to be a conscious, determined effort on your part, but this is another way that this martial art strengthens your mind.  The old masters practice twice daily, but for your day to day life, that may not be realistic.  So once a day is fine, even if you do so only a handful of minutes at a time.

The Classics say that the mind (i or yi) is the commander, and it leads the chi, which in turn circulates throughout the body to move it along through the form.  By telling yourself to practice, even when you may not feel like practicing at all, and actually doing so, disciplines your mind.  Whether in class, at home, or at the park, do so everyday.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Strengthen Your Mind via Study

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T'ai Chi strengthens your mind through study.  It's easy enough to browse Amazon for books, and no doubt pleasant enough to visit a bookstore, that your study ought to be no problem.  The T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classics, comprising of the treatises below, is important for grasping this martial art more deeply.  Lee N. Scheele has so kindly compiled it online.
  1. T'ai Chi Ch'uan Ching, by Chang San-feng
  2. The Treatise on T'ai Chi Ch'uan, by Wang Tsung-yueh
  3. Expositions of Insights into the Practice of the 13 Postures, by Wu Yu-hsiang
  4. Song of the 13 Postures 
  5. Songs of the 8 Postures, by T'an Meng-hsien
  6. Song of Push Hands
  7. Five Character Secret, by Li I-yu
  8. Essentials of the Practice of the Form and Push Hands, by Li I-yu
  9. Yang's 10 Important Points, by Yang Cheng-fu