Thoughts on PD

I typically avoid writing about health because I am not a doctor. However, my wife’s friend is suffering from Parkinson with one hand having tremors and body is experiencing balance difficulties.

I have a vague idea of what Parkinson disease is so I googled to find out more. PD is listed as due to loss of nerve cells but what causes it is not known.

PD also has no cure though lately exercise has shown to help. One such program is Pedaling for Parkinsons. This could be an area to look into.

I read that Tai Chi also helps with postural stability and leg strength. I don’t know about normal Tai Chi training but the Chest front, ten character (胸前十字) principle in Grandmaster Wei’s Tai Chi mentioned here is a simple but effective method for training balance.

Stooping is also mentioned as one problem faced by PD patients. The principle of Three passes, of conveyed usage (三關的运用) mentioned here is a way to train to have an upright posture.

For strength training to reduce hand tremor perhaps weight training using a dumbell or swinging a stick while doing Angle 1 striking. This can also be paired with stepping to add in a cardio component to get the heart beating as what is mentioned in the Pedaling for Parkinsons training program.

I have found that the small sphere exercise in GM Wei’s Tai Chi is very good for training the hand to be relaxed, yet firm and stable. So this might be a helpful exercise.

It would be best to consult a physiotherapist for appropriate treatment of motor symptoms because they are trained and have experience in helping different types of patients. I know consultation with a physiotherapist is not cheap, especially if it is a physiotherapist in private practice.

I know of one person who didn’t want to continue visiting a physiotherapist after operation on both knees as he was not well off. I urged him not to save on money at the expense of his well being otherwise his ability to walk properly will be affected.

A Practice A Day

There is an old saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

However, I think a Tai Chi practice a day is better. This is because Tai Chi is not just an exercise for the body but for the mind too.

We say that if there is no intent then there is no Tai Chi. If you just stand there and breath then there is nothing different between what a normal person does and what you, a Tai Chi practitioner, does.

When we stand we are not standing we are activating our mind. In our mind we formulate a connection between heaven and earth. This is not some mystical shit for the New Age groupies.

Instead, it is a method to open up the body without moving visibly. The key phrase is “WITHOUT MOVING VISIBLY”. There is movement but its subtle, like a gentle ripple on the pond surface. You can’t really see it but you can feel it.

If you do it you will feel your spine lengthening as if it is reaching upwards towards the sky, hence connecting to heaven. You will also feel as if your feet is merging with the ground, developing roots that dissolve into an endless bottom, as if you are standing on quicksand.

With this connection set up then you can move into the preparatory posture with two feet apart. But you do not move without a reason. You have to use your intent to command your body to move in a specific manner so that you have an integrating between inside and outside, internal and external.

In this way when you stand in preparatory posture the way you stand is different from the way a normal person stands. You will also be standing in a manner that is not the same as the average Tai Chi practitioner.

This is only the beginning. You next have to use intent to configure the inside of your body. You don’t try to relax, you don’t try to control your breathing. This is where we approach the practice differently.

You don’t try to relax because we practice a specific method to bring about a state of minimizing the use of strength. This in turn will allow you to relax. This type of relaxation creates a state of pliant tension such that the body is like an inflated ball sans the attempts we see sometimes to be like a ball by splaying the elbows sideways.

This relaxation method is based on using the mind to tell the body to do something and this something brings about the relaxation. You don’t have to try to relax. Just doing the principle will bring about the relaxation.

We also don’t try to breathe in and out to bring about the relaxation. Doing this can cause the mind to be attached when we want to detach the mind, to allow it to quiet down, so that we can listen and feel how our body is responding to the series of commands that our mind will issue it to perform the subsequent movements.

The carrying out of the procedures to create the Ancient Bell Body will open up your body from within such that you can feel as if you are hollow inside like an actual bell.

The Bell Body will magnify the ballooning of your body like an inflated ball without having to make posture physically. This is a more natural approach. This is also why we say this is a true internal approach because you can’t see it.


We can also conceal the feeling of this internal opening of the body. When necessary we can demonstrate by letting another party feel how this opening of the body allows us to channel an external pressure into the ground without having to move the body a lot.

After the creation of the Ancient Bell Body then you can proceed to start going through the other movements of the form. You have to be careful not to lose the Ancient Bell Body. It has to be kept intact throughout the performance of the entire form.

The Ancient Bell Body is the foundation for freeing up your old habits so that you can tap and use the power that is already inherent in you.

Yes, you read correctly. We don’t have to acquire internal power, we merely have to remove the obstacles that is stopping us from being able to use what we already have all along.

Unless Newton’s Laws of Motion and Classical Mechanics do not apply to you then you already have internal power. Its just a matter of unlocking it.

Power issue aside, practicing Tai Chi daily with the Ancient Bell Body is beneficial for your health. For one it makes for good posture by opening up your joints. This is something that you will understand once you feel it.

The second point is that Tai Chi practice somehow energizes the body. This is why it is good to practice it in the morning and if possible, do it also in the evening.

Virus Time

Our neighbouring country is locking down. Over here life is as usual. Actually, not quite.

I went to a factory. Got off the van. Passed temperature check. Unloaded stuff. Back on van. Went to next destination, 3 buildings down. Failed temperature check twice. Guard asked me to go into aircon room. A blast of cold air allowed me to pass the check.

Later I went to NTUC Finest. The entire shelf for eggs…..swiped clean. Not a single tray of eggs left. Many vegetables nearly finished. Chicken……..what chicken. Not even a chicken feather left.

Came home. Work just as much. Times may be bad but the enquiries kept coming. How nice to have 2 weeks lockdown and enforced off time. Come on, what say ye Singapore government?

Its a good thing I do Tai Chi. I get my daily dose of exercise. I can do solo, I can do partner. In these unhealthy times solo practice is recommended over group practice. Less social, less chance of catching it from someone.

Take the Step 2

The second video on Beginning Posture is an example of how I teach students about the usefulness of this movement.


This is the type of teaching I typically give to students who want to learn how to use the techniques of Tai Chi.

Students who want to learn for exercise and health will get a slightly different explanation. For health we emphasize on control, balance, posture, alignment etc – basically the stuff that we also need to learn for combat but not as rigorous.

The reason is that if you want to be able to fajing you need to be a lot of precise in your movements. For health you don’t need to be so.

Basically, there’s no one size fits all explanation. I customize the explanation to what the student wants to learn.

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World Tai Chi Day

28 Apr is the last Saturday in April. This day has been chosen to be World Tai Chi and Qigong Day to promote the practice of Tai Chi and Qigong.

When I went to scout for a potential new home last week my friend, S, mentioned to me that I could start a Tai Chi class in the area since they do not have any group there. Teaching a group class is not really my cup of tea but if I were to teach a group class what would I teach?

Certainly, not Tai Chi Chuan for combat because the typical student who comes to a public class couldn’t care about fighting. Typically, such students tend to be older and in need of some exercise with a dash of socializing thrown in.

However, to have a Tai Chi class that is like a normal exercise class is self-defeating because students tend would not get the benefit of a proper Tai Chi experience even if they never practice it for combat.

We tend to think of Tai Chi for health and Tai Chi for combat as two separate entities. But why should they be?

If anything, health is the flip side of the combat coin. They should be inseparable. Why do I say this?

The reason is simple. A proper combat posture that is built on proper use of intent is conducive for health. We can think of the relationship between health and combat as follows :-

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The principle behind the above is simply this – if you do a posture without the requisite intent then you have to throw in extraneous stuff like breathing patterns and what not. A Qi Health Posture can be practice and cultivated with three key intents.

That’s right. Three key intents. Most Tai Chi learners would know what they are. But if they are not reminded to diligently practice their posture with the three key intents it is as good as if they never learned them.

The Qi Health Posture enables you to cultivate the following :-

i) Good posture

ii) Sensitive balance

iii) Internal alignment

When you put the Qi Health Posture to work by practicing it together with movement-based exercises derived from the Tai Chi form they will give you a good workout.

If you are into combat practice the Qi Health Posture will lay the foundation for essential habits that you can use when learning how to apply the art.

This is why for a group class I would make Qi Health Posture the cornerstone of learning because it is good for health cultivation and anyone who wants to go further in their practice can move over to learning combat without having to re-learn new habits, but merely to add on to what they already know.

OK, so much for dreaming. Move on to writing another post…………

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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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