Impermanence

Last week was a long week. A sudden visit from the Grim Reaper led to days of mourning and tears for those who suffered the loss. My takeaway from this is that never take your health for granted, never overwork yourself and do what you want to do NOW.

You can seem to have it all. Until the day the blue crab comes crawling into a nook in your body and digs its claws in. If you make the wrong decision you will pay for it down the road. By then it is no use lamenting the wrong decision.

If in doubt, seek a second opinion. Certain illness can be cured or contained for a long time. If you fail to check around for more information you can end up making the wrong decision, one that leads to your early demise. Don’t believe everything people tell you even if they are close to you and appear to have your interests at heart. Check for yourself and decide.

Life is impermanent. We all have to go some time. But if you have a choice wouldn’t you want to be able to enjoy life a little longer? Do what you like, achieve whatever goals you set for yourself before you lay to rest or nowadays be sent into the incinerator to be turned into ashes.

I know what I am setting out to do. Do you? Don’t wait till your time runs out before you do it.

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Flick of the Switch

Flick of the switch. Flick of the switch. This phrase kept playing over and over as I was waiting for my flight and on my flight.

Yes, flick of the switch. That’s what life is like sometimes. One day God decides to flick your switch to Off and it’s lights out forever for you. We don’t know when it’s time for our switch to be flicked so do what you want to do today, as if there’s no tomorrow.

Sitting at Steven’s wake I saw two banners. One was from the Buk Sing Choy Li Fut association where he learned Tai Chi, the same association that my Grandmaster Nip Chee Fei founded. The other was from a Master Chow of the Hakka Southern Mantis style. I heard that Master Chow had reached out to Steven and invited him to learn even though Steven was not Hakka and it is their tradition to teach only to their own dialect group. Alas, Steven’s learning had to end prematurely so unexpectedly. Sad.

Life can take surprising and unanticipated twists and turns. Don’t put off what you can do or want to do today.

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Power Cultivation

A benefit of learning how to use the pole is that it can enhance your power within a short time frame of practicing it.

A simple exercise to develop power is the Cut and Thrust shown on page 23.

A more detailed explanation on how to perform the movements is shown by Pictures 2 to 4 from pages 31 – 32.

To understand how to issue power using the pole refer to :-

a) Power Generation 1 – this is how power is generated using the Cut movement

b) Power Generation 2 – explains how to generate power using the Thrust movement

To put the Cut and Thrust into practice do the partner practice for Drill 1 from pages 116 to 119. Just remember to take care to hit the pole rather than your partner’s leading hand when doing the Cut movement.

Application 1 from pages 70 to 72 shows how to use the Cut and Thrust.

The Cut and Thrust is one of the bread and butter techniques in using the pole so you should study it well.

To read the TaijiKinesis Official Handbook Vol 4 – Learning Pole eBook order your access by reading the information here.

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Listen to Doctor

This post is inspired based on information from a conversation I had today.

You go to class to learn Tai Chi.

You learn the form. You practice it. You love it.

Then one posture gives you a problem.

The first sign – pain in the knee.

You inform the instructor. He says no problem, carry on.

You believe him. You carry on.

The pain persists.

In the end the pain is so bad that you have to consult a doctor. The verdict – knee strain.

The doctor’s advice – pain means you are hurt and should stop.

In the past I have had feedback from other people that they tend to believe their teacher and continued on in spite of the pain.

I tend to agree with what the doctor said. Pain means something is wrong. Stop. Find out what it is. Take corrective measures. Check. If no pain then continue. If still got pain, have your teacher check your posture again.

If your teacher is unwilling to check your posture or tell you to eat bitter then you have to decide whether the teacher is right and the pain will go away eventually or if the teacher is wrong and you risk injury if you carry on. Remember, if anything goes wrong you are the one to suffer. So decide wisely.

It is my opinion that many teachers do not really understand either the role that pain plays or the principles of the Tai Chi Classics. If they do they will stop you the moment you tell them there is pain. They will check your posture and tell you how to do it such that the pain is eliminated.

If you have pain when doing a certain movement first check your body structure. Then check the movement process. Sometimes the body structure is OK but when you move that is when the problem comes in. This is one reason why we practice Tai Chi slowly so that we can monitor and check our posture and movement continually.

When we practice Tai Chi for combat as it was originally designed it acts as a secondary check on our practice. Without this aspect you may think you are relaxed when doing the form when you are really still tensed. This will come to the fore when you practice push hands for combat. You will be surprised how even a slight move on your part can be exploited by someone who is really relaxed to open up your space to launch attacks. Thus, the practice of push hands can help us to refine our mastery of the principles further.

Remember to listen to the doctor’s advice when it comes to the practice of Tai Chi. If there is pain stop. Do not continue until you have fixed the problem. Otherwise, you risk injuring yourself. That many practitioners keep mum about pain do not mean there is no pain. Neither will ignoring the pain make it go away. Deal with it today. Then you can continue to practice Tai Chi for a long time.

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Use Heart

In Tai Chi training we admonish the student to 用心 (use heart / intention) when learning and practicing. When we say this it is not uncommon to point to our chest  or pat the chest where the heart is to put our point across.

In this sense we seem to be literally telling the student to use his heart which is kinda silly, right? This is because we know that to say 用心 we are actually telling the student to learn and practice with attention and awareness rather than use the actual heart.

Enter the HeartMath Institute. In the video below they claim that the heat is much more than what we thought it is :-

After watching the video I hopped over to the HeartMath Institute’s website. The following are excerpts which caught my eye :-

The heart has been considered the source of emotion, courage and wisdom for centuries. For more than 25 years, the HeartMath Institute Research Center has explored the physiological mechanisms by which the heart and brain communicate and how the activity of the heart influences our perceptions, emotions, intuition and health.

We now have a much deeper scientific understanding of many of our original questions that explains how and why heart activity affects mental clarity, creativity, emotional balance, intuition and personal effectiveness. Our and others’ research indicates the heart is far more than a simple pump. The heart is, in fact, a highly complex information-processing center with its own functional brain, commonly called the heart brain, that communicates with and influences the cranial brain via the nervous system, hormonal system and other pathways. These influences affect brain function and most of the body’s major organs and play an important role in mental and emotional experience and the quality of our lives.

The heart communicates with the brain and body in four ways:

Neurological communication (nervous system)
Biochemical communication (hormones)
Biophysical communication (pulse wave)
Energetic communication (electromagnetic fields)

You can read more about what they wrote beginning here.

In the last excerpt I put in blue the sentence Biophysical communication (pulse wave). What has this got to do with Tai Chi?

Let’s see……. first a screen capture from the HeartMath video, then one drawing and one picture from Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s book side by side :-

Heart

 

Most readers would not be familiar with the principles of the Yang style from GM Wei so I’ll try to put things into perspective here. The use of Qi Posture is an important element of GM Wei’s Yang style.

One of the keys to creating the Qi Posture is to open the chest at the position where the abstract rather than actual heart is. It is interesting to note that in the HeartMath video they also show the aura as emanating from the abstract heart rather than the actual heart. You can watch the opening chest sequence at 0:38 in the video demonstration by GM Wei below :-

After the intention has moved through the requisite steps to open up the body then the mind mentally creates the 3 Qi-Rings. Now, if you look at the picture of GM Wei above you can see the 3 Qi-Rings shown as solid rings. However, if you look at 1:23 in the video above you can see that the Qi-Rings actually emanate outwards in the form of a pulse in a manner that is reminiscent of the HeartMath video as shown in the screen capture above.

Does the findings of the HeartMath Institute validate the 3 Qi-Rings approach of our Yang style Tai Chi? Is the pulse wave referred to on HeartMath website here similar or have some connection to our 3 Qi-Rings? I have no idea but it would be interesting to look further into the findings of the HeartMath Institute. Who knows – it may be another avenue to help us to Master Tai Chi Today or at least understand it better.

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Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Tai Chi Yang Style (TaijiKinesis) lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today

Tai Chi Health Benefits

The practice of Tai Chi Chuan is said to have health benefits. While I am not into teaching Tai Chi solely as a health art, nevertheless, it can address the following observations I have made of older folks :-

a) Diminished sense of balance

A diminished sense of balance brings with it an increase in the risk of falling. Among old folks a fall can result in hip or arm fractures.

b) Weakened leg strength

Weakened leg strength makes walking difficult particularly climbing stairs. In Singapore sometimes the only way to safely cross a road is by using an overhead bridge or walking further to a pedestrian crossing.

If the pedestrian crossing is too far and the choice is between jay walking and climbing an overhead bridge most old folks would go for the former and risk getting hit by vehicles. But you can’t blame them if climbing an overhead bridge takes too much effort for weaker legs.

c) Slouched posture

I noticed that old folks who are active in sports still have good, straight posture. A slight slouch is typical among old folks and in some the spine is weakened to the point where they have to bend forward.

 

When you are older you owe it to yourself to take care of your body. Take up an exercise that helps you to maintain a healthy body into old age. For me this would be Tai Chi because not only do I get to exercise my body but also my mind.

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Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Tai Chi Yang Style (TaijiKinesis) lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today

Where’s Your Mind?

Recently I received an enquiry to learn Tai Chi not so much for combat but as an aid to learning meditation.

I can understand that the learning of Tai Chi can be helpful to the learning of meditation and vice versa. However, this would be applicable only to those forms of Tai Chi which lack the training of intention.

In our method of Tai Chi I feel that the training of intention is superior to the training offered by meditation. In fact, form training can replace meditation altogether because the training of form is meditation in motion.

In addition, the training of push hands can help the practitioner check and test his state of mind. Its one thing to sit solo in meditation and achieve enlightenment and another to achieve enlightenment through a combination of solo form practice and push hands practice.

The difference is that you may think that your mind is trained after meditating for a period of time but will your mind be able to remain detached in the face of pressure. This is the million dollar question.

The training of solo form is to help us to reach a state of emptiness. If you have really achieved this state you should be able to be detached and hold your ego in check when doing push hands. If not, you will keep on, nay, insist on resisting on the slightest pressure from the training partner.

Perhaps for those who do not have any inclination to train in a martial art meditation will be a good substitute. But I feel that if you can Master Tai Chi Today you can literally kill two birds with one stone.

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Want to learn Tai Chi in Singapore? At Singapore Yang Style Combat Tai Chi lessons covering forms, weaponry, push hands, fajing and applications are offered. Lessons are conducted in English. Send enquiry today at the link here.