I like getting questions in class

“Every time we ask a question, we’re generating a possible version of a life.” – David Epston

Questions in tai chi group practice give me something tangible to relate to. They challenge me to delve into knowledge immersed just below the surface, waiting to emerge and bring light to a topic of interest. They bring teacher and student closer in shared experience and understanding. They bridge one story with another, thus creating a single story out of many.

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10 tips for stimulating your tai chi practice

Whether you’re sure you want to do tai chi or not, here are things you can consider to help find out if it’s the right thing for you. But DO NOT take someone else’s word for it one way or the other. Which means, technically speaking, don’t take my word for whatever you’re about to read.

1
Find out what tai chi is. How? Be curious, and ultimately, just do tai chi.

2
Learn something and experience it. Draw a picture of it in your mind that is not based on second-hand hearsay or ideas you heard somewhere.

3
Find someone to do tai chi with. Don’t know anyone? They will appear. More and more people are taking it up.

4
Once you learn a little, practice what you know. You can’t practice what you don’t know, right? However, do try even if you’re not sure. Forget about telling yourself that you won’t do it “right,” and then not try. That would suck. Even wrong is right in this case. Later, test with me or someone to see how close you got.

5
Wear cool clothes. Naw, … just kidding. Tai chi is more fun in the buff, anyway. Not sure you would feel comfortable doing that? Then wear light, low-volume shoes, and loose-fitting shirts and pants that don’t constrict blood flow or range of motion. In fact, don’t let any constricting thoughts enter into the picture of your efforts.

6
Know your reason to do tai chi. Let your reason talk to you. Forget reasons not to, even legitimate ones. Question the tendency to think you should do tai chi because others say you should. I think we possess a subconscious tendency to resist such things as “should.” In that case, don’t listen to me—I think you should do tai chi. However, it’s okay to at least try tai chi because someone you admire does. It’s worth considering.

7
Take time to practice. Actually, don’t “take” time. Maybe you could “give” it time, but it’s more productive not to think of tai chi in relation to time at all. Think of it in terms of effort. For example, learn one thing (PS, I can show it to you) and practice it for one minute, then conclude one thing about that one thing, then one thing you learn from doing it. Notice the emphasis on the “one” idea. How much effort does that take? See what I’m getting at? Time is not the issue.

8
Prioritize. No, I don’t mean putting tai chi before all those other important demands in life. Okay, so you reached out to a tai chi teacher, you’re (sort of) motivated. You’ve reached out to the universe saying you think it may be important for you to look into learning tai chi, or at least looking into what all the buzz is about it. You’re acknowledging something important. Maybe you’re aging and feeling it. Who knows? In that case, I’m sure you can put off watching your favorite TV show for an hour of tai chi without suffering any major repercussions.

9
Find a place to do tai chi; like where you feel most comfortable and content. Oh, you mean, that’s on a beach in Bali? In that case, why not just feel being there? Call up the memory and move with it. To a great extent, tai chi is an act of visualizing possibilities. Like time, place is not a constraint, really. Sometimes, I visualize myself standing barefoot on the wet sand of a California beach moving slowly in time with the sound and feeling of the Pacific surf crashing and receding, then crashing and receding …. Of course, just remembering the feeling of doing tai chi itself is enough to make anywhere a good place.

10
Just do it. Simple, huh? Sometimes tai chi is easier to do with a group of people with similar intent. Sometimes, you feel awkward doing it alone, even when no one is around to see you. When I suggest “just doing” tai chi, I mean to see yourself doing it. To stand in the first position and begin to move. To feel the move. To teach yourself. Don’t wait for some one or some thing to determine for you whether or not to do tai chi. Just do.

Looking for more ideas about stimulating your tai chi practice. Read this related post.

Durango Tai Chi’s mission is to make tai chi available and affordable to everyone everywhere. Plain and simple. If you want to learn tai chi, we’ll find a way. Contact Teacher Tim for a free consultation by phone or in person. He’ll go anywhere on Earth where it’s possible to teach.  He donates his time and energy (at least until his savings run out). It’s like a non-profit without the tax-exempt status. Tuition goes to paying expenses for room rent, transportation, advertising, internet fees and printing. Teacher Tim’s private lessons help him with personal income, which he must rely on since he is not employed full-time at another job. Please share this post with friends you care about.

 

Tai chi silk reeling and martial applications

Xu-Richard testing technique

About a year ago, my teacher, George Xu, came out with a name to his system of Chinese martial art as Ling Kong Shen Shi Men. This year he updated the name to Xin Tian Ling Kong Shen Shi Men. The system is the practical application of his so-called “predator theory,” through which he explains how the system works. His latest instructional video, which I produced, expands on the past couple of videos for the most complete understanding of his system yet.

Master Xu translates Xin Tian Ling Kong Shen Shi Men as “Organic Light Traveling Through Space Invisible, Indirect Space Power.” The title is a long one, but I think it says a lot. It lays out the components of the system, which Master Xu says is complex.

Get the latest video info here.

“It looks simple, but not so easy. Yeah, once you get it, it’s easy, but not until then,” he says.

Xin Tian translates as “pre-birth.” It’s means literally heart and heaven, relating to a state of newness and naturalness. It’s a term the Chinese use to refer to a newborn baby, whose skin and muscles don’t yet have the memory of living and responding to the pressures of its new world. It also refers to the word “organic,” and Master Xu uses the term in his explanations.

During the past year, Master Xu has traveled to Italy, Oregon, Colorado … developing a clearer description of his system. Many of his students are beginning to see the connection between his theory and his system.

I think he’s continually building on the theory for his own understanding, but the components of his system and the accompanying explanation for doing them is not only more understandable, but also more achievable.

In a big way, the system as he explains it in lecture and demonstration is simpler to understand intellectually, but while still being more of a challenge to implement in practice. I can see how much more possible it is to apply now with the current series of educational videos available.

Master Xu talks and demos such concepts as dead arm, body art, zhong ze ding (or vertical force, not just zhong ding), melting, using space and centrifugal force “scientifically.” How the muscles can be incorporated in the move, even be essential to certain kinds of movement.

Check out my youtube.com channel for a clip to get a little taste. You can read more about it here.

Refining Tai Chi: Bring in Life

When you practice, you’re not just moving the body, you’re bringing life into it. By circling the eyes, for example, you’re freeing them up from stagnation and decay (atrophy), and allowing them to serve as “gates” (men) through which energy may enter the body. Think of tai chi this way.

Article: The positive lexicography project

This is about emotion words for which no English equivalent exists.

I like this quote from Dr. Lomas who has been researching these cool words and has built a “dictionary” of 1,000 words from all around the world and from diverse cultures. …especcially the final sentence, which reminds me of tai chi learning.

“In our stream of consciousness – that wash of different sensations feelings and emotions – there’s so much to process that a lot passes us by,” Lomas says. “The feelings we have learned to recognise and label are the ones we notice – but there’s a lot more that we may not be aware of. And so I think if we are given these new words, they can help us articulate whole areas of experience we’ve only dimly noticed.”

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170126-the-untranslatable-emotions-you-never-knew-you-had

Dr. Lomas’s website
https://www.drtimlomas.com/lexicography

Filling gaps in learning tai chi

tai-chi-shoulder-roll

I’ve noticed that, while I received basics in beginning tai chi, much was skipped over. I entered mise-en-scene. I jumped into the middle of the stream. There was no actual “beginning.” As a result, I’ve felt a gap in my learning progress. I think it was partly from a lack of organization in the presentation of information. The learning continuity had holes that I would have to fill in years later.I would have to practice regularly for long enough to discover and fill them. I did it by evolving my perspectives on the basics.

Now, I try to help new learners avoid some of this if I can by showing them little practices that they can easily work on in the beginning of their learning journey.

I’m not faulting my teachers, because tai chi in the U.S. has been in a process of evolving since it started becoming better known a few decades ago. We’re working simply to figure out what works for us in terms of pedagogy and content. It’s really a life-long effort, but we’re trying to start up on a fast track. That can cause us to skip ahead a little bit.

Speaking of “skipping ahead,” we also skip ahead in doing individual movements. For example, I might say connect the qi to the back and move incrementally from tailbone to top of the head while performing a qigong move. You then jump from the tailbone to the top of the head, skipping over the rest of the spine. We anticipate where it’s going and in the process jump ahead, missing out on some real therapeutic results.

This is a case of our concentration faltering as the focus on a specific point oscillates. It’s like forgetting something and not realizing we have until a moment comes after time has passed. We then wake up to the fact that we weren’t paying attention, or that we had forgotten to concentrate on the task at hand. This is very common in training for internal movement.

Movement awareness is an effort to begin at points in the body that we typically don’t pay much attention to. I like to direct my attention to a point in the body and move from, around, or through that spot as an exercise in concentration. I want to incorporate a number of principles one at a time, then simultaneously. Being connected, weighted in gravity, whole body moves a single unit, spiraling, agile and changeable are a few. This is the basis for calling tai chi a “moving meditation” or simply “meditative.” This is my particular view.

What we skip is to focus on rather subtle movements and learning how to do them. With beginners, I often start asking them to focus on the soles of the feet—just about where the apex of the arch is located. Many know that this is called the “bubbling well” or “spring.” The idea is to stand and simply be attentive to the feeling of the soles. Sense the ground and your weight, for example. The toes, heels, arch, inner edge and outer edge, and the bubbling well.

This basic, preliminary movement practice is fairly simple to try at home. It’s probably easier to doing with a group so you can get and give feedback as you work with others learning the same stuff.

Practice Suggestion: Focus on bubbling well…

Feel the weight of the body funneling through and down the soles of the feet into Earth. Draw attention to your calves. How do they feel? Strained, relaxed? Try to focus on the skeletal structure and loosen the muscles. Tai chi requires a lot of visualization, which in turn requires concentration.

Stand with one foot forward—a forward stance. Place more weight on the front foot. Hold the weighted feeling as you shift you position in a small circle pattern around the bubbling well. Feel the muscles of the soles of the feet shift as you circle around the bubbling well.

If you get proficient at this, the force of the downward action will reverse and travel up the leg in a spiral pattern and the muscles, tendons, and ligaments will spiral around the bones. This takes a while to see. At first, just focusing steadily on shifting weight in a circle takes most of your concentration. See if you can do this at home.

Starting tai chi with trust

When I started tai chi I didn’t know what to expect, but I was rather desperate. I had been ill for a long time and I was willing to try anything. It just so happened that a colleague at work invited me to join him in his tai chi class. So I did, and that was the beginning of my journey into discovering what tai chi is and what it would mean to me.

Essentially, tai chi is a journey of discovery for whoever endeavors to learn what tai chi can do for them. It’s a journey of accomplishment. The “excitement of discovery and satisfaction of achievement” is my fancy, wordy way of describing it.

One thing that I’ve always been pretty good at is doing things without questioning why I’m doing them, or questioning what teachers, preachers, parents, doctors, dentists, and friends tell me to do. I trust things that way. It hasn’t always served me well, but it has worked in the case of tai chi. I think most children are naturally that way–to trust without knowing where it’s going.

And that’s how I felt about tai chi when I began 17 years ago. I’m still practicing, and it is a major part of my activities. In the beginning, I took to it slowly—one 90-minute class a week. I had difficulty lasting the whole class, and several times I walked out before class ended. But at some point I was feeling better. I got really excited about how it, so I started training more intensively.

After a while, as most long-term practitioners are aware, I met a “wall of resistance.” By this, I mean that at some point in a practice you become challenged to go beyond yourself, and to seriously shift to a new level of skill. You’re not sure how to, though. You’ve never been there before.

In order to rise above the block, you have to make clear choices about wanting to continue. One thing I’ve learned after practicing and teaching for this long is that every beginner that comes along has to do the same thing. However long you practice, for a month or many years, you have to make a conscious choice every day practically to practice.

The truth is you’re always at a starting point at which you’re at a new learning edge. It’s a chance to learn something you didn’t know before. Sometimes that’s uncomfortable. But if there’s anything that we human beings are good at, it’s overcoming the obstacle of not knowing something and learning anyway. You just have to trust.