World Tai Chi Day Celebration

We had 18 in total practicing together

We had 18 in total practicing together

The last Saturday in April is World Tai Chi Day. We celebrated in Lilburn’s Mountain Park Park with two teachers and their students sharing their formsets, and finishing with a tai chi sword demonstration by yours truly. We all had fun, and shared some good qi with each other! Many thanks to all who participated, Bernie Stittleburg and Diana Dice for the photography.

Finger Dexterity

Most of the hand movements in Tai Chi involve the whole hands, not individual finger motion. But that’s no reason to neglect your digits. Here’s a really cool video on finger exercises, designed in particular for musicians, but it can help us all.

Take your time, don’t try to do all the exercises fast and with lots of tension. Remember your Tai Chi training, breathe slowly and deeply, move gently at your own pace, and start with just a few if your hands are tight. Come back to this video every day for a week or two to do the whole set. Make a qigong set out of this, focusing on your energy flowing to your hands and through your fingers.

Don’t feel surprised if your fingers just don’t want to do some of the exercises. Just play with them, stay calm and enjoy a laugh at your incoordination. This too will get better in time. Be patient and just have some fun. Then when you get really good, like this guy, you can impress your friends and relatives!

Out of This World Tai Chi

Tai Chi performed in space by Chinese astronaut:
Liu Yang

Six Harmonies of Tai Chi

A teacher of Tai Chi, Huang Sheng Shyan, came up with this list of the six harmonies:

Three internal harmonies
• The heart harmonizes with the intention
• the intention harmonizes with the Chi
• the Chi harmonizes with the movement.
Three external harmonies
• The hips harmonize with the shoulders
• the elbows harmonize with the knees
• the hands harmonize with the feet.

What does this mean? Starting with the external harmonies, we are to keep our hips in line with the shoulders. This means we turn from the center of the body, so that the shoulders move with the hips and not on their own. The elbows stay in alignment with the knee; as the knee bends the elbow sinks, as the knee extends the elbow opens. You can see this very clearly in the high kicks to the corner in the Yang 24 form.

The hands harmonize with the feet, also referred to as the wrist and the ankles. This one is more in-depth, as we consider the opposing statements that “If the feet follow the hands, you will never be defeated” and “there is a connection that occurs throughout the body that starts punch from the sole of the foot to the squeeze of the palm of the hand resulting in the punch itself.” When we move we start with rooting one foot to the floor, the energy sinks from the dan tien down to the floor, and returns up that leg through the body to the extended hand. The other foot moves, with the movement of foot and hand stopping at the same time. According to a post on LinkedIn by Gene Golden, “Both the sole of the foot and the palm have the unique element of many more nerve endings than occur almost anywhere throughout the epidermis. I believe it is part of an integrated communications network that inform the body of the critical element of timing. Pressure to the earth through the sole of the foot alerts the body that it is doing something, squeeze of the fist tells the rest of the body that it is where it is going to culminate. Next the energy flows through the 6 harmonies in a synchronized flow of expanding energy and finally you have punch. How well you integrate these principles and the shorter amount of time it takes place in, determines the amount of power you will have in your punch.”

As to the internal harmonies, it can also be said that the mind leads the breath, the breath leads the blood, the blood leads the power. So we start first with our mind, our intention of how and where we want to move. Our breath, and our qi, follows the mind movement which then leads the power of the muscles to move as our mind has directed. Just a note here, the Chinese do not separate the heart and brain as we do in the West, their concept is more of a heart/brain unity which leads the intention, yi.

As we combine the harmonies of each movement into a fluid form, we realize more about our body, it’s relationship with the world around us, our mind settles down into a focused state, and our energy flows more naturally throughout our bodies, giving us more physical power and greater health.

Benefits of Tai Chi forms

Recently a friend forwarded this description of the benefits of Tai Chi forms written by Great Grand Master Kellen Chia. Grand Master Kellen Chia created the Tai Chi Society to introduce Tai Chi to Australia where he’s been teaching for 20 years. I’ve edited his list to the 24 forms that I teach, and a few qigong moves.

Tai Chi practitioners all over the world have been asking for centuries about the healing benefits that each Tai Chi posture has on the body. They want a complete list of how each Tai Chi posture treats the organs of the body. Generally, people know that Tai Chi improves one’s health, but they don’t know the full details. I now release the result of my work on how the movements of Tai Chi affect the organs of the body. Each Tai Chi posture treats a different part of the body, thus a certain organ or organs of the body. Tai Chi heals the body by improving the flow of vital energy ( Chi ) through the acupuncture meridians, eliminating the imbalances or unblocking the blockages. I have chosen to release to the general public my knowledge of these Tai Chi movements because it is these movements (forms) that are commonly practised. The list below details which organs are treated by each posture.

Grasp sparrow’s tail
Pull back
Squeeze forward
Sit back ready
Press forward
These postures benefit the large intestine; they also treat constipation.

Single whip benefits the liver and digestive tract.

Snake climbs a tree benefits the large intestine, digestive tract, stomach disorders and the full length of the vertebrae.

Lift hands benefits the liver.

Shoulder press benefits the central nervous system.

Stork spreads wings benefits the central nervous system and the full length of the vertebrae.

Brush knee and twist step benefits the heart, lower digestive tract and stomach disorders.

Sage points the way benefits the small and large intestines.

Apparent close up benefits gastric problems. (closing move in 24 form – js)

Embrace tiger return to mountain benefits gastric-intestinal functions.

Press to the northwest benefits the central nervous system.

Fist under elbow benefits the large intestine and pancreas.

Step back and repulse monkey benefits the small and large intestines, gallbladder, kidneys and spinal cord.

Stroking horse’s mane benefits the small and large intestines, gallbladder, stomach and lungs.

Strum a lute benefits digestive disorders.

Golden needle at sea bottom benefits the small intestine.

Fan through back benefits the pancreas and stomach.

Turn around and chop with fist benefits the small and large intestines, pancreas, stomach and liver.

Upper cut, step forward, parry and punch benefits the small and large intestines, pancreas, kidneys and digestive disorders.

Wave hands like cloud benefits the large intestine, pancreas, spleen and stomach.

Lifting up the heavens benefits the liver.

High pat on horse benefits the liver.

Drawing the bow right benefits the liver and stomach. (qi gong move – js)

Separation of right leg benefits the kidneys, stomach and liver.

Spin around and kick with heel benefits the kidneys and stomach.

Right heel kick benefits the kidneys and stomach.

Double wind goes through ears benefits the liver.

Step up parry and punch benefits the stomach.

Slant flying benefits the small and large intestines, pancreas, lungs and spleen.

Fair lady works at shuttles benefits the small intestine.

Snake creeps down benefits the large intestine and kidneys.

Golden cock stands on one leg benefits the stomach.

Inspection of horse’s mouth benefits the pancreas and stomach.

Step forward to seven stars benefits the small intestine.

Spin around and lotus kick benefits the kidneys and spleen.

Shoot tiger benefits the lungs. (qi gong move – js)

Just What IS Tai Chi?

Tai Chi, for me, is a mix of exercise and meditation. It is mindfulness of motion and breath, purpose of motion and stillness. All we do is based on energy flowing through the body, allowing the muscles, tendons and ligaments space to move as they should.

Class practicing a Tai Chi form

Class practicing a Tai Chi form


Based on hard martial arts applications, our movements can be defensive or offensive in nature. But done slowly, we build strength, tone the body, gain balance and understanding of what our body is doing at a particular point in time.

During many of our daily activities we move arms and legs without thought, we gesture with our hands as we speak, but we’re not totally conscious of the movements. We walk, without thought of where our weight and balance is, we’re on auto-pilot. Tai Chi helps us to be more aware of ourselves. And that helps us to be more aware of those around us also, of our surroundings, of life itself.

Here’s a video I found recently that gives another view of what is Tai Chi.

Awareness

A couple of thoughts on alignment and tension come from a post by Christoph Eberhard that I found on LinkedIn. He says, “… tension hides our misalignements, our blockages, our unbalances. It is only by relaxing that we can get aware of our postural problems.” So awareness of our body, the tensions within, leads to correcting our alignments, posture and energy flow. He also states, “General awareness leads to the awareness of details.” We start by becoming aware of the overall, then we can notice the details. Are we noticing all the details around us?

When you do a form, where is your mind? Does it wander like a loose monkey, checking out objects in the room, or thinking of things to be done later? Or are you focused on the flow of energy thru the movements of the body, the balanced stepping, the harmony of arms and legs in motion? Start with the outside, then move in. Notice where the hands and feet end up. Notice the curve or straightness of joints. Notice the suppleness of movement. Notice the easy, smooth breath. Notice the calming of the mind. And see where this leads you. What are you aware of?

Tai Chi class at Austin Drive Senior Center

Showing the form "Golden Rooster stands on one leg"

Showing the form “Golden Rooster stands on one leg”

At an open house for senior citizens at the Austin Drive Community Center, I had the opportunity to present with my class some of what we do in our Tai Chi class there on Tuesday mornings. Some of the ladies in my class have been doing Tai Chi for over 20 years. The age ranges up to 88 years young! They show up every Tuesday, practice the forms with me, get their energy flowing, and go out with a smile.

Even those who can't stand can get into Tai Chi

Even those who can’t stand can get into Tai Chi


The lady who is seated is recovering from a stroke. She credits her son, who also teaches Tai Chi, with her recovery. She started doing Tai Chi in the nursing home during rehab, it helped her with both arm and leg movements, and building strength and stamina. I applaud her for her courage and determination!

Showing the Brush Knee form

Showing the Brush Knee form


After the class demo, the audience got a chance to stand up and get moving, doing some of the warm-up and qigong exercises we also include in the class.
Getting the audience participating

Getting the audience participating

Tai Chi Sword

Wudong Tai Chi Master Chen was in Atlanta this past weekend, teaching Qigong forms and the second half of the Wudang 64 form Tai Chi sword set. He had  taught the first part last March. This is a very cool martial art form, with many thrusts to the throat, between the eyes, and cuts and slices in most painful spots. Fortunately, we don’t practice to kill, but knowing the application is part of the form. And our swords are not sharp!

Master Chen is on the far right in the front, to his right is Michael Issa, who teaches class at Kaikudo in Dunwoody. Most of the class practice with Michael, and are looking forward to perfecting the second half of the form in the next few months.

Tai Chi sword class

I’m there, in the back, on the right, with the red tassel from Master Chen’s sword covering my face.

Meditation by Master Chen

Meditation
by Yun Xiang Tseng (Chen)

Meditation to many around the world consists of quieting the mind, sitting still, regulating the breathe and visualizing a happy thought, all in the effort to find peace and tranquility to entertain the spirit. Although meditation can bring a sense of peace, the true value of this practice is rarely understood. Meditation has the ability to not only regulate and harmonize the body, mind and spirit but it can also prevent and cure disease to achieve healthy longevity and, at its highest level, direct one into the portal of immortality.

Meditation has many benefits, but in particular three stand out:
As discussed above, meditation harmonizes the body, mind and spirit allowing for a feeling of joy and peace. This is a wonderful benefit, however, at this level of meditation it will not get you healthy.
Meditation prevents disease. Through meditation, the body self regulates qi (life force) and blood which improves health naturally without medicine. This is the reason why a good meditator will have a good immune system and suffer no disease.
Meditation activates and develops the hidden potential of the human mind and body to achieve healthy longevity which upgrades human ability from ordinary to extraordinary, allowing one to potentially find a portal to immortality.
Theory of meditation

The ancient Daoist definition of meditation is to internally observe and naturally allow qi to produce mystical phenomenon (physical, internal, and spiritual phenomena). A commonly used phrase regarding meditation- Jing Zuo Nei Guang Tu Na Tiao Xi Zuo Wan means to sit still, regulate breathe, forget about time, space, detach from: emotion, sickness, ambition, desire. Through regulating breathe one moves qi, then begins to accumulate qi, then transforms qi to allow qi to produce phenomenal results.

The basic theory of meditation can be explained with the phrase “Tian Ren He Yi Dao Fa Zi Ran”. All together it means man united with heaven as one. Man can unite with nature and unite with primordial qi around us and spirit. To achieve this unity, man must have no concept of time, space, or anything during meditation- just observe the phenomena of nature in body.

Stillness is the root of the Dao, so the body must sit still during meditation. Void is the body of the Dao. Once you become the void then the physical body and original spirit become one and detach from reality. Reality and mysticism unite, one finds unity with their ancestral and spiritual lineages, as well as harmony with eight metaphors and five elements around us. Truly one merges into the Dao. At this level, energy from nature and the universe charges you up and upgrades the quality of your being. One is able to discharge all negativity and energetic blockages and find their body completely upgraded from physical to mental to spiritual level.

Dao Fa Zi Ran: Translates to “Dao follows its nature” and should be interpreted practically, not only philosophically. It means Dao lives in the moment and in simplicity- which is living your true nature. Mediation is in the moment- sit still to regulate your breathe, body and mind.

Breathe
Below are a few techniques to regulate your breathe during meditation:
Beginner level technique: breathe naturally, deep, slow, even, and gentle.
Reverse breathing technique: when inhaling, contract your anus and abdomen. When exhaling, release your abdomen.
Hair pore breathing technique: visualize your skin and hair pores breathing in. Each hair pore is a portal and every portal of the body can breathe and intake energy to quickly charge up quantity of qi in your Dan tian.
Embryonic breathing technique (Pre-heaven breathing method): During your prenatal existence, you do not use your nose, mouth, lungs, nor hair pores to breathe as you do post- natal. Breathing prenatally is connected with mystical nature with qi rising between heart and kidneys. This is advanced level meditation.
Posture

There are many types of postures in meditation. For example: standing, sitting, laying and walking postures. Specific meditations have different posture requirements. In sitting meditation, full lotus position with left leg on top for men and vice versa for women is the best form.

The principle of posture is to learn to relax and be natural. If you have no ability to get into lotus then don’t try it because you must be relaxed. You must have good physical conditioning for meditation, just as you would need if you were running a marathon. To achieve good conditioning, practice Dao Yin daily to stretch and prepare your tendons, ligaments and joints to be flexible.

Mind

The mind is the greatest challenge for every meditator. Daoism has simple guidelines: return all senses inward, observe, bring spirit within. Eye looks at nose, nose looks at the heart, heart starts to vanish- there is nothing when you look out. There is no heart when you look inward, therefore one obtains emptiness. Emptiness within emptiness, one enters the void. These are the ancient Daoist guidelines for meditation. Ch 3 Dao de Jing translates to weaken ambition, empty your heart, fill your belly, and strengthen your bones. When you weaken ambition, empty your heart and release emotion then you are capable of gathering qi into your Dan Tien and improve your quality of qi to achieve microcosmic orbit, and eventually macrocosmic orbit. A great metaphor for meditation is to visualize yourself sitting on the bottom of the ocean floor becoming one with your surroundings. The mind is so still that it creates no ripples in the water and even a little shrimp or fish is not scared to swim by- this is meditation.

Unexpected phenomena during meditation

It just it- let things take its own course. One might experience their “6th sense”, see, hear, smell, taste or experience touch sensation. Be a good companion for this natural phenomena and don’t let curiosity carry you away, instead detach. By detaching, one enters the state of void and mystical level. To practice Dao you must practice ‘de’. De is to follow the principle. Only when you practice virtue does one allow to maintain stillness to be able to meditate.

Ultra ego cannot get into stillness. If your life is careless, self-centered, take advantage of others, unconscious not kind, not willing to forgive, self-pity, victim attitude, egoistic, hateful, deeply judgmental then you will “scare the little fish away” during mediation. When you cannot detach from desire then you cannot meditate.

To achieve lower quality meditation is easy. To achieve higher quality meditation takes entire life.

Meditation requires changing attitude. Regulate the mind requires you to change attitude. Attitude comes from regulating food and water to become alkaline (vs acidic) because acidic blood and qi cause acidic mind and attitude.