Tai chi is not a scheduling thing

Lan Shou Quan powerstretching
Master Ye Xiao Long

I  know a man with a heart condition who practices tai chi to help with his health. For years, he has occasionally attended a weekly group class, sometimes regularly. Tai chi helps him, he says. I applaud and respect him for this, but I think he doesn’t practice enough. Considering his circumstances, regular consistent daily practice offers more.

Even a few minutes a day are helpful. People have a hard time getting themselves to do even minimal practice daily. It’s a scheduling thing for many. I don’t want to waste time trying to answer the question of why. All I know is that you experience magic when you practice in earnest regularly over time.

(I need to define “earnest practice” later.)

My point is that, for some, practice is as necessary as drinking water and eating. It is life-generating at a deep level of our being. We all understand this in our own ways. For some it’s a religious experience; for some a scientific approach is more effective for learning. Many stumble in blind faith that we have chosen the best path for ourselves, trusting the teacher or whatever, . . . . then you realize in your practice one day, suddenly, in a passing moment, that you were right and its riches are vaster than you imagined.

The possibilities have always been there…

You didn’t see them. Priorities are no good if they’re in the wrong order. You come to a point in practice when you see possibilities that were not obvious. Reaching this point is a matter of trust at first. You have to go on what you have seen of tai chi masters performing acts that challenge your assumptions and imagination. Or even just watching people doing form in a park. Graceful and beautiful only begins to describe it. Iceberg. Tip.

I wonder why we don’t see the obvious sooner. Not knowing why, I remind myself to focus on how to perceive more clearly what I know I must be missing. As a student and teacher of Tai Chi, or Chinese Internal Martial Arts, I must ask these questions and seek answers. Everyone of us should. This is the art and study of internal energy.

One clear possibility for daily practice, in my friend’s case, is that he will live much longer and enjoy reasonably good daily health in the time that remains. Maybe he sees that and 90 minutes of tai chi a week is gratifying enough. He does say it’s hard to schedule more practice because he is so busy. I hate to think of tai chi in competition with life’s other activities. Activities are in competition with life! Life is a competitive sport. Go figure.

Tai chi is not a scheduling thing, so stop constraining it to a schedule. Schedule death if you want. Life is now.

My friend’s life is clearly at stake, whether he accepts it or not; but the rest of us are in similar circumstances. Life is shorter than we think. Ironically, we seek life-generating activities; thus, we travel abroad to visit family and friends and exotic places. Yet, something escapes our attention and we neglect to fully honor the gift of life. This is universal and something to wonder about.

Tai chi is life-generating. My body speaks to me of its gifts however often I practice. If we neglect to honor these gifts, it’s not because we don’t recognize them, rather something holds us back from fully accepting this truth and actively incorporating it into daily life.

That “something” …what is it?

Powerstretching In Chinese Martial Arts

Lan Shou Quan powerstretching
Master Ye Xiao Long powerstretching in late 1990s in San Francisco at George Xu Summer Camp Training

Powerstretching is an often overlooked aspect of martial arts training. Many practitioners understand taiji as a tendon stretching exercise but they might not think of it as powerstretching. Tai chi is much more, of course. Energetic movement is a huge part of taiji that has informed my practice for a long time. It takes time to develop understanding of the many streams of this multi-layered practice. So getting to powerstretching often is not at the top of the list for many practitioners.

When powerstretching was introduced to me, I was training in Lan Shou Quan. My body responded well to the sets that my teachers were sharing. Powerstretching opens up channels and lets the body breathe in fresh energy. Like opening a window on a beautiful spring day and letting fresh breezes in to replace stagnant air, powerstretching moves stale qi out from the body’s nooks and crannies.

Master George Xu exposed me and other students to a little powerstretching back in 2002 through a simple set that was qigong-like in its execution. He still combines stretching with spiraling and internal qigong movement (he focuses on it in his Complete Practice video).

I first started really powerstretching at Master George’s China Camp in 2007 with Master Wu Ji, who gave us a set of stretches from the Lan Shou Quan system. And in 2009, Master Shou Guan Shun gave a group of foreign students his set from the Lan Shou System that we practiced several times a day for several days.

You can perform the postures as gently or energetically as you want, although Master Shou makes you really put yourself into it. I videotaped that set as well in different locales in Shanghai in 2009. Master Shou’s students, Wang Ming Bo and Rose Oliver show their international workshop participants the same set when they came to the US last year and recently this year.

These sets are very good to know and practice when you have sat for long periods of time or have done strenuous activity for a long time. They help open your body up and clean out the stagnant energy and replace it with fresh. You can do as little as three minutes or as much as 10 minutes. You can do one set three times in a row at a time. There really is no limit to what you can benefit from adding powerstretching to your daily practice.

Susan A. Matthews has posted a lot of powerstretching info and learning resources on her webpages at www.taichi-secrets.com or www.susanamatthews.com. You learn about the teachers I learned from there, as well. Her new powerstretching page contains educational content. Look for the Lan Shou page on her video store and scroll down to the bottom of the page and read her text about powerstretching.

The thing you do that makes you good

Tai chi practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good. So practice.

Tai Chi and Senior Health

I have been reading a lot of different stuff on the Web and came across this article on how tai chi helps seniors to be a little more independent form their healthcare providers. Thought Dragon Jouranl readers would appreciate it. LEt me know if you like geetting stuff like this.

Tai Chi and Exercise Keep Seniors Upright

Aloe and Sea Veggies for Thyroid Health

Brief vid clip of Adani in Australia talking about iodine, thyroid health and my favorite whole food supplement that is practically a whole meal in 4 ounces. Click Here to view