How tai chi changes habitual movement

Sunday, June 9, 2019

How we move says so much about us. We identify so closely with how we move. Whether or not we are aware of it, our manner of moving is very often a matter of self-image. Posture and gait even develop from attitudes—how we see ourselves and how we wish others to see us.

It’s a personality thing. We would not be the person we know if we moved differently. We’re not going to saunter like John Wayne, because we are not him. Our walk is us; our posture is us.

The famous actor’s walk was made up, of course. Normally, we are not conscious of how we walk and stand. We learned without direct attention to how we were doing it. The goal was to stand and walk, maybe just to please mommy and daddy, and to be like one of the big folk.

Over time, we engaged in activities that gave us the postures and ways of walking that matured as we aged in life. More likely than not, those activities were performed under some kind of physical (and mental) stress, whether mild or intense.

So it follows that how we move often correlates to aches and pains that develop over time—from regular usage, but also from over use, misuse and abuse. Some usages result in chronic pain. Chronic pain is an ache that seems to have no source, seems never to go away, and if it does, it’s temporary.

We find ourselves saying, “Why does my knee hurt all the time? I don’t remember injuring it.” Or, “It must have been that time I slipped on ice. But that was years ago! Why won’t it go away?”

Because we return to moving in the old ways. The angle of attack we use to manage the issue often causes even more discomfort. We wish it would go away. We feel unable to change the situation. It just has to run its course.

Sometimes, you reach a point where you think you need to redirect and look for ways to fix it. If you had a new way to move that could alleviate the problem, you might try it.

What if just moving differently could control the problem? We are all familiar with how we walk differently because of a sprained ankle or a bruised leg. We move “contrarily” to alleviate the pressure and the pain.

We can’t stop just for that little problem. Keep moving. It will go away. This thinking usually works, at least until the initial injury heals. Makes sense.

Our tendency to keep going despite a painful condition is normal. Chronic pain presents a unique challenge, though. The old ways of shifting weight or hobbling don’t work anymore. Your body could be suggesting you might need a new direction.

When plugging away at the same old-same old doesn’t work, the question may come up of how ready you are to change your move patterns. You don’t know if anything you try might actually work and it may not be worth the required effort.

I often see people who try tai chi to fix a movement problem by moving in the same old ways. But in tai chi, fixing it correlates directly with shifting your perception of how you move.

You have to look at it in a different way and that’s what the practice of tai chi helps you to do. Tai chi may not be for everybody, but then again, something like tai chi can help to resolve some issues. It’s all about breaking that familiar fixation of habituated movement.

I like tai chi because it can align the mind and body in harmonious motion that produces calming effects.

The challenge at the body level is ongoing and you have to deal with it on the long term; but it’s less of a difficulty for the body as it is for the mindset. Tai Chi movement helps to focus the mind and body on specific tasks beneficial to both. You see more clearly and move more smoothly.

It affects how you feel, too. I get the most excited over this aspect of tai chi, because that relates to what the old Chinese called “Qi” (chee), or life force; or simply, energy.

Life force relates to determination—the will to live, in other words. It’s kind of like the question of which comes first: the chicken or the egg. Movement or life force? Do you start moving differently first, or do you get a will to move differently first? It doesn’t matter, really. You have to start somewhere. It doesn’t matter where, just that you do.

 

Adapt to change with tai chi

Tai chi is a tool for adapting to changing conditions. Change prevails wherever you look. The weather changes. The wind blows, doesn’t blow, blows hard, then is a breeze. The temperature is hot, cool, cold. It’s raining or it’s dry. Grass is green and moist, or brown and maybe tinder dry. A tree never stops growing. It’s always at some point of changing from a sprout to a tree. Even a desert plant that seems never to grow is active in its own way. Water flows in a stream or river. It is never the same river, they say. People change. We flow, or stumble, through emotions all day and even through our dreams at night. Change prevails. Tai chi is a method of adapting to change by focusing on the act of change itself.

It seems human beings are the only ones who want things to stay the same. Sometimes we call it the “status quo,” sometimes simply inertia. Not that it’s a bad thing—it’s serves its purpose. But some things we hold onto no longer have purchase in a ever-shifting world. They are not serving other than to hold us back from evolving. Staying the same will not always protect us from the onslaught of the constant flux that surrounds us. The whole universe is in constant flux. Time itself seems constant, yet it is nothing if not constantly changing, moving ever out of the moment into another. The present is not the same now as before.

We can change what and how we think and we do it all the time. Rather than thinking you want things to stay the same, you can want them to find equilibrium—balance. That balance is what taijiquan attends to.

Tai chi still requires adapting and shifting with the tides, but it gives you a way to do that.

Many beginners who give up before reaching a threshold of practice view tai chi as too much to learn. You tell yourself that you’ll never be able to learn all that. As a teacher, I have had many difficult moments trying not to blame myself for that thinking. I want to make tai chi available to as many people as I possibly can, but they quit before they learn enough to see what it offers them. I know now that tai chi hasn’t failed them, nor have I, rather they have failed to see the potential for themselves, electing to go the same route that has led them away from a personal evolution.

I don’t blame them, even though change is easier than they think. The key is to approach it with a mind of taking small steps and learning a little at a time and building a bunch of little pieces of knowledge and ability upon previous learning. One day you’ll look back and see a massive body of knowledge buoying you up.

It’s not a matter of overcoming inertia as much as acting in spite of it. Inertia seems much more overwhelming than possible to overcome. Too great of a mass of resistance. And yet, often the simple act of standing in Wuji, the first posture of tai chi, is enough to set you off on a new path of awakening.

 

Learn more at DurangoTaiChi.com

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.

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.

“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.