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Tai Chi Challenge week 11.
While we’re certainly some time away from a new normal, things are starting to open up, slowly…
Many of us has had a great opportunity over the last couple of months, we’ve all had to hit the pause button on many of the facets of our lives, and in so doing, have found much dead wood clinging to our tree. Under the pressures of the recent months much of this dead wood has fallen away.
Interestingly this creates space, space for new shoots to grow, quite possibly in new and interesting directions.
So, we’ve been through a tough time, some dead wood has fallen, space has been created, a space that we can grow into purposefully. We have an opportunity to choose to grow in a direction we wish to, not one we’re forced to.
Chances like this don’t come along every day. I’ve always believed that we can’t make opportunities come our way, but we can do our best to be ready to be able to capitalize on that opportunity when it does.
Right now, we have an opportunity to choose a direction.
We’ve had time to practice and to experiment with different ways of practicing. What’s worked? What hasn’t?
Soon time will be short once more, take the time now to reflect on the learnings of the recent months. Decide which practices to bring forwards. Make a plan that you can stick with, start it this week, refine it to ensure its achievable and maintainable.
Rinse and repeat…
Happy training. ... See MoreSee Less
Tai Chi Challenge week 10.
We’re ten weeks into our challenges and while it’s possible we might have some small outdoor sessions beginning soon, we’re still a way away from regular classes. The road is a little longer yet… we have to be careful. It’s when we’ve been putting in much hard work but are yet to realize hoped for benefits, that we’re at risk of putting down the baton.
Now’s the time when we need to ensure we’re keeping up our practice, as well as we can. We look for the small joys in our activities while allowing the bigger benefits to arrive in their own time.
Below are some comments from current Tai Chi practitioners, with experience ranging from relative novice to instructor level, that they would give to their younger selves:
- Be patient and endure any hardships but most importantly enjoy the moment
- Don’t rush or panic, ask questions, practice at home whenever you remember
- Give it a chance, be patient
- Set your own goals/intents/focus
- Don’t worry about forgetting the moves, tai chi is a journey that never ends, there’s always something to forget
- When you feel it’s a long way to go, keep going, don’t give up
- Keep practicing, if I can do it then you can
- No prior experience is required, anyone can learn the movements, but practice is needed to refine them
- Do it now
- Pay attention to details and try as hard as you can
- Persist with training
- Get a cushy job so that you can train properly
- Take it slowly and build each posture before moving on in spite of the desire to complete the form as it is easier to build on correct postures than to revise and unlearn if you rush it.
There’s a theme coming through there…
There are times when keeping on going, regardless of how we feel, is the challenge. In fact, if we learn only one thing, and that’s how to get up and keep going after we fall, that alone is worth the effort.
Challenge Week 10:
Read through that list again.
Endure. ... See MoreSee Less
Tai Chi Challenge Week 9:
Anyone spending any appreciable time with Master Ding will undoubtably have heard the answer for all questions: More Chi Kung. It’s the first of the three pillars of our practice, it builds the base upon which our Tai Chi grows. It’s no coincidence that Chi Kung was the very first of our Tai Chi Challenges all those weeks ago.
But what does More Chi Kung mean? Does it mean I should be practicing for longer each day? Should I be practicing deeper/more intensely? Should I be practicing multiple times per day? Or is more simply, keep doing what I’m doing, today, tomorrow and further into the future?
Hands up who thinks they know the answer…
Of course, there’s no ‘one best’ answer. As always, our answer is dictated by context. How long have I been practicing? Have I had hands on correction from a qualified Instructor? What is my body telling me?
The answers to all these questions help us understand what More Chi Kung means, at this moment in time.
And you can guarantee that as time moves on, this will change, if it didn’t, we would be static, stuck, our progression stalled.
A question for you: What does More Chi Kung mean to you? Where are you now? Where is your practice now? Has it become easy, a thing to do each day? Or does it hold challenges still to be resolved?
Is your practice pushing you forwards? Or is it time to move on, to do ‘More’. ... See MoreSee Less
And of course 'More Chi Kung' goes hand-in-hand with Sifu's other maxim...'Less is More'.....figure that one out !!!!! =)
Tai Chi Challenge Week 8:
Having the time to look through past copies of the Tai Chi and Alternative Health magazine, (back in the days when it was a physical magazine), have yielded many insights. Lessons delivered many years ago, the details lost to memory. Revisiting those lessons, rereading and recalling articles yields a curious familiarity, but from a distance.
As with all lessons in Tai Chi, the question isn’t a binary, ‘Do I understand? Y/N’, but a much more nuanced ‘What does this lesson mean to me today?’
Time invested in training, a little bit every day, week in week out, month after month, year upon year, results in a natural settling within our body and mind. This settling can lead to new understandings, or, new perspectives within which new understandings can begin to take root.
Our practice must be simultaneously focused on improvement, rooting out weaknesses, and yet carefree, smooth, light and in the present moment. All too often our mind is busy with observing our practice and silently berating any perceived errors within.
In fact, while errors can be difficult to correct, at least we can bring our focus to bear on them, often the most difficult thing to do is nothing.
We’re not talking sitting on the couch eating crisps, were talking about doing what we’re doing, as well as we can, without getting in our own way. To be kind to ourselves, let it be as good as it can be without recrimination for errors, or celebration for success.
Challenge Week 8:
Get out of your own way. Let the body and mind move as one.
Enjoy! ... See MoreSee Less
Tai Chi Challenge Week 7
The challenge of Tai Chi is not simply getting movement right, it’s about embodying the Tai Chi principles within our practice. Often, if we’re short on time we can find ourselves in a, ‘get it done’ mindset. Get our chi kung done, get our form work done, all within a narrow window of time. This can lead us to simply going through the motions of our practice instead of simply being present and practicing as well as we can in an unhurried way.
At the end of the day it’s the quality of our practice that will bring reward, not just the quantity.
Further to that, the nature of the form, a long sequence of movements with each different to the last, can draw us into a, ‘done that, now this, then that’, approach. The movement we’re going to do next takes our attention away from the present.
That’s one reason that Chi Kung is so powerful, we’re just there, there’s no next movement, we’re just there, in that place, in that moment.
What we want is a bridge that can help us maintain that state while we transition from stationary Chi Kung into the continuously moving, ever different Form.
If only we had an exercise that was at the same time regular and unchanging and yet, continuously moving…
Well, we do, we have 12 of them in fact, the 12 Taoist Core Exercises that we practice at the beginning of every class.
These are generally seen as exercises undertaken to prepare the body and mind for the business end of training. They loosen and relax the body while circulating the energy and unifying body and mind. But we must be careful not to fall back into the ‘get it done’ mindset.
It’s said in Tai Chi, ‘everything is in everything’. This is simply that ‘everything’, all the principles and concepts are present in ‘everything’ all practices, postures and movements. Eventually permeating everything I do. So, all those principles we discuss should be present in every one of the 12 core exercises.
The benefit of the exercises is that they’re repetitive, relatively simple movements, usually focused on a particular part of the body. An opportunity for us to move and yet not move away from familiarity. And through that an opportunity to find a deeper level of understanding of a particular concept.
Don’t just practice the Chi Kung and the Form. Do the exercises too!
Choose one of Yang Chang Fu’s 10 essential points and focus on it with the exercises, possibly with one exercise in particular. See how it feels.
Do it again tomorrow. See how far you can take it in the week.
If you’re new to classes and can’t recall the exercises clearly, you can find them within the ‘15 Minute Tai Chi’ or ‘Yang Training Part 1’ packages on the Master Ding Academy Streaming site.
www.masterdingtaichionline.com ... See MoreSee Less
Tai Chi Challenge week 6
It’s been said that the second-best teacher you’ll ever have, is a mirror.
We’ve been to classes and seen our teacher demonstrate postures and movements. We’ve done our best to imitate these. If we’re lucky we’ve had a training partner that’s watched what we’re doing and helped us through suggestions for improvement.
Often the mental picture we have of our movements isn’t the same as our body’s actual movement in space. We know what looks right, but we can’t see ourselves from without. Unless we use a mirror.
If we’re able to observe our own practice, we’ll quickly pick up on any number of corrections that we could apply quite simply. Of course, it’s not easy. For anyone who’s listened to a recording of their own voice, you know it’s certainly an odd sensation. Watching ourselves on a screen can just feel wrong.
However, if we can get over that and get out of our own way, seeing ourselves practice is a very powerful tool for progress, especially when we don’t have access to our teacher on a regular basis.
Record yourself doing the foundation form.
Take a deep breath, now watch it back. Watch it right through without pause, possibly two or three times. Now watch through critically.
Pick the one or two aspects that present most strongly.
There’s your work for the week.
Enjoy! ... See MoreSee Less
Firstly, we're sorry to hear of the passing of two of our Tai Chi colleagues. This has been and continues to be a difficult time.
We can honour those we've lost by continuing the journey we undertook together. ... See MoreSee Less
Tai Chi Challenge: Week 5
The third generation Yang Family member, Yang Cheng Fu, is widely recognised as consolidating his family Tai Chi into the form we see today.
Part of this process was the writing of his ’10 Essential Principles’
- Empty the thoughts and raise the spirit
- Hollow the chest to raise the back
- Loosen the waist
- Distinguish between substantial and insubstantial
- Sink the shoulder and weight down the elbow
- Use intention and not physical strength
- Coordinate both upper and lower body
- Internal and External together
- Continuity without breakage
- Seek stillness in movement
Source: Tai Chi Chuan Revelations. Ip Tai Tak.
This week’s challenge is twofold:
Firstly, take one of these Principles and focus on it within all your practices, Chi Kung and Form. Stay with the same principle for the whole week, giving your body time to settle into it. Be careful not to push or reach too actively, be mindful as you practice and let it settle in naturally.
Secondly, take that same principle and experiment with it in one everyday activity. It could be while going for a walk, or during a normal activity at home ie mowing the lawn, peeling potatoes, gardening…
The choice is yours.
Again, don’t force it, just let it settle in. The embodiment of the principles is a process that happens gradually over time. Think of it as less hammering in a nail and more soaking in a bath…
Enjoy! ... See MoreSee Less
Good read thank you.
Excellent. I enjoy soaking in a bath!
Tai Chi Challenge: Week 4
Last week we asked the question, ‘why do we train?’ This week we’re going to look at how we train, and a little challenge off the back of that.
Tai Chi has terms like movement in stillness and effortless power. Such terms suggest minimal activity outwardly but much within. Seemingly little effort producing a bafflingly large result. Amongst other things, these effects speak of efficiency, maximising the efficiency of our actions, of our efforts.
Master Ding has often described learning tai chi as building a bucket. A bucket is a tool used to take water from the well to the trough. However, if my bucket is full of holes, much water is lost. Many trips are taken to produce a useful result. But, if I invest my time in fixing the holes, I will spend much less time and effort in carrying water today, and tomorrow, and for as long as I keep the bucket maintained. A small refocusing of effort at the beginning results in a higher level of efficiency every day.
Our tai chi training is the same. Our form is the bucket, it’s a tool we’ve built to perform a task. The question is, how efficient is our use of that tool? How much benefit do I reap each time I use it?
If I can maximise the efficiency of the tool, I need much less effort to achieve the same result, or, more interestingly, I can put in the same effort, and reap much more result! Now that sounds worthy of pursuit.
So we must split our efforts, time must be put into fixing the tool, making it work better. And time must be put into using the tool to reap the benefit.
This weeks challenge:
Practice your form, or as much as you know, in it’s entirety, as well as you can. While practicing, take mental note of one aspect that causes issue. It might be balance during kicks or smoothness while stepping. Whatever the point is. Remember it.
Once the form is completed, take that one movement and practice it, as well as you can, at least ten times in a row. Pay particular attention to the issue at hand. Try small adjustments to your movements/postures/balance to see what effect it has on the problem. Now is the time to take the movement apart, scrutinise it and see if you can improve it. Once completed, reassemble and reinsert into the form.
Lastly, go through the form once more, letting go of any expectation of improvement. Just let it be as good as it can be. Any improvements will apply across the entirety of our practice. Like seasoning food, a little bit, well mixed, changes everything in the dish.
Practicing in these two ways allows us to reap the reward of our practice, while simultaneously pushing its quality ever forwards. Increasing its efficiency and effectiveness.
Go! ... See MoreSee Less
“The purpose of training is to tighten up the slack, toughen the body, and polish the spirit.” ― Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace
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