Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Zu Ti (祖逖) and Liu Kun(劉琨) were famous generals in the Eastern Jin Dynasty.
When they were young, they were roomates. They like to discuss how to help other people and their country.
One night, they heard a rooster singing at midnight. It’s considered to be bad luck in China to hear a rooster singing in the mid of night.
Zu Ti said, “This is not a bad sound to hear. Let’s get up and practice swords.” Liu Kun agreed. From that moment on, they got up every day when they heard the rooster sing in the early morning. They either practice swords together or studied. Later, they learned enough to become knowledgeable in both martial arts and politics. We call this story “Sword dance after hearing the rooster.”
When you can’t get up early enough to do your Tai Chi, think about the midnight singing rooster.
Copyright Huan's Tai Chi '09
Thursday, December 10, 2009
View of a Waterfall at Mount Lushan
By Li Bai (701-762): Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong
Sunlit is the Incense Summit, aglow in smoke and steam;
To afar, like a drape that glitters, a waterfall hangs upstream:
Flowing, flying, fluttering ~ plunging three thousand feet,
As if ‘twere the Silver River, falling from the heaven supreme.
This is one of my favorite poems by Li Bai. Although I haven’t been to the Famous Lu Shan, but I have been to many waterfalls here in new England. It’s very rewarding after a long hike, to reach the beautiful waterfall. I found it’s very pleasing and relaxing being in front of a waterfall. Negative ions and fresh airs flows around you. So quiet without any people around, yet noisy because of the sounds of water , but quieter because there are no other sounds. This is the power of nature. It relaxes you as opposed to man made things such as computer, phone and car. Only things in nature are truly beneficial to you; The real taste of food without any chemicals or spices. If you want to have a longer and more relaxing life, stay away from the computer, TV and cell phone( check your email only once or twice a day, silence your phone), stay close to nature. Visit your city park, go hiking, go canoeing, do your Tai Chi.
You can also try to bring nature to your home by having plants, or a little aquarium, and get a copy of a New Calendar I made - The Flow of Nature - Wisdom of Lao Tzu. Have a fun and relaxed Holiday and New year.
Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Points to remember:
1. Imagine there is a string hanging on top of you head
2. Eyes looking straight forward, don’t look up or down.
3. Mouth lightly open.
4. Tongue supports the roof of your mouth.
5. Chin tucked in.
6. Neck relaxed
7. Don’t raise shoulders
8. Arms naturally hanging beside your body
9. Leaving space between arm pits.
10. Palms relaxed, Space between fingers
11. Dan Tian ( Red Field, about three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the navel) shirks in.
12. Waist relaxed
13. Butt tucked in
14. Two feet parallel, as wide as your shoulders, don’t pivot them or in or out.
15. Make sure you feel your whole body relaxed
16. Check this list one more time to make sure you have everything right to the point.
After you make sure you have all your points checked twice. Try to empty your mind. Let your body stay in this form for at least 5 minutes.
Copyright Huan's Tai Chi 09
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Many people are very competitive. Everyone wants win but lose. You are not really winning here because you lost an opportunity to learn how the movements works by “wining” ( push people away).
First, you need to learn both ways. In order to get familiar with this move, you need practice on a partner. This partner has to feed the movement to you for you to test. If this partner changes the way of feeding the right move, then you are not learning your movement right. On the other hand, you need to learn how you apply this move to this person. You need to be in that person’s shoes to understand better. Putting yourself on the opponent's side will help you understand the move better.
Furthermore, the person you're pushing hands with needs to give you feedback. Ask questions such as,
“Did I touch the right spot?” If the answer is “no”, ask him/her to show you the right spot.
“Do I have the right transition?” If the answer is “no”, ask him/her to show you which part went wrong.
“ Do I have right sized circle?” If the answer is “no”, adjust your circle.
“Am I relaxed enough while doing this?” If the answer is “no”, try to relax more.
Now this might be the point of view of this particular person, so try it with another person and see what he/she says differently.
Moreover, try to summarize how you feel in addition to what you've collected from your partner and double check with your teacher to see if all the movements are correct. Practice on the right move until you feel you've done the best with it.
Finally, write all the information down on notes, so you won’t wake up and say “Oh, I spent 5 hours figuring this out, but I can’t remember anymore.” Pen and paper are always better tools than your brain. My father, Master Zhang, Lu Ping also has a Post Doctoral degree in Mathematics, but he still took notes while learning things.
Copyright Huan's Tai Chi '09
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Confucius was one of the most knowledgeable people of his century. One time, he was confused about something. He traveled all the way to see Lao Tzu. After Lao Tzu answered his question, he called Lao Tzu his teacher. Why was Lao Tzu so knowledgeable that even Confucius looking for an answer from him, because Lao Tzu was the head of the library system of China during that time. He had done so much more reading than others that no one else compared with him.
The contribution Lao Tzu gave to us is "The Tao Te Ching". There are four very important sentences for human life in the Tao De Ching:
"When man is born, he is tender and weak;
At death, he is hard and stiff.
When the things and plants are alive, they are soft
When they are dead, they are brittle and dry.
Therefore hardness and stiffness are the companions of death,
And softness and gentleness are the companions of life."
This is Lao Tzu's Secret to extend your life. Lao Tzu told people that by making yourself soft and relaxed will help you live longer. This implies the purpose of Tai Chi which will make you relaxed and soft. To find out more about Lao Tzu, you can get a copy of Tao De Ching or you can get a copy of a New Calendar I made - The Flow of Nature - Wisdom of Lao Tzu, it can be found at Cafe Press. This calendar combines beautiful waterfall pictures I have taken during my hiking trips over the last 10 years with some of my favorite quotes from Tao De Ching.
2 Resources listed above:
Tao De Ching
The Flow of Nature - Wisdom of Lao Tzu
Copyrighted By Huan's Tai Chi '09
Thursday, November 12, 2009
A student asked about whether he should do big circles or small circles during Tai Chi.
For beginners, they should start the circle big, after years of practice, they can then reduce the circle to medium, and then small.
When you try to start the circle as a beginner, you often don’t have a nice round circle. Some people also only did half of the circle which means they didn’t complete the movement and hurried to the next movement. Tai Chi can be used as martial arts. For example: During fighting: if you don’t transfer your opponent’s attack completely with a circle, you might get a hit on the face. For health purposes, you didn’t transfer your energy entirely if you didn’t complete the circle.
The benefit of the big circle is to help you relax more. It will also cover more areas for protection during push hands or for you to concentrate on more areas since the circle is big. The advantage of the medium and small circle will help you with speed during push hands. It will help you with following and adhering better on pushing hands. It will also move your energy faster. The advantage of mixed small and big circle will help you confuse opponent in push hands.
For master level Tai Chi practitioners, only a few of them can do Tai Chi without circles. They can bounce people out with just a simple Dan Tian ( Red Field acupuncture point) movement. It doesn’t mean they have never done Tai Chi without circles. They started to have Tai Chi with the big circle just like you and I did. Later, they reduced the size until they can do the circle from their Dan Tian ( Red Field). If you want do your Tai Chi well, concentrate on circles.
Copyright Huan's Tai Chi 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
What is more important to you, having a high IQ or a high EQ? I think it’s nice to have a high IQ but having a higher EQ is more important. It not only affects your life but also other people in your family, work, church and community.
People who have higher EQ’s tend to have more positive emotions and less negative emotions or they are able to control their negative emotions easily and transform them to positive emotions. Negative emotions such as anger, fear and shame can cause conflicts. Positive emotions such as joy, hope and enthusiasm can bring progress.
Tai Chi is like a Swiss knife. Practicing Tai Chi not only benefits our physical, and psychological but also emotional health.
By slowing down each movement, it will help bring calmness and reduce anxiety. By relaxing our body, it will help us empty our mind and temporally forget about fear, guilt and anger. By putting more concentration on our movements, it will reduce our concentration on negative thoughts and emotions.
The preciseness and details of Tai Chi will help us think and repeat which better prepares our movements. If we could slow down, prepare, and think before acting rather then hurrying up and getting into a fight, we would not get in to so many conflicts.
We always consider our opponent’s reaction before each Tai Chi movement during practice of push hands. If we can do that for any occasions in our life, then we can bring progress.
Because the process of not having/ eliminating/ or having less negative emotions during Tai Chi practice, Tai Chi brings positive emotions and may increase our EQ. This is my point of view. Do you have any thoughts and comments?
Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi '09
Monday, October 26, 2009
Actually, we have mainly three different stances for Yang Style Tai Chi, the high stance, medium stance and low stance. Usually we recommend that beginners concentrate on the medium stance. The higher stance will help you with relaxation. Your legs are like the root of a tree. The lower stance will help you gain energy and strength and strengthen your root. For people who don’t have a lot of flexibility and need to relax more, I recommend that he/she do the high stance form once and then do the medium high stance form next. Once you’ve become more relaxed, you can try to go on to the medium stance. Once you also feel relaxed with medium stance form, you can try to start doing the lower stance form.
It’s a mistake to go from the lower stance to the higher stance in the same form. For example: when beginners do “Repulse the Monkey”, they tend to go up and down. Staying at the same height in the same form is required. When a student had his butt come out while trying to do the lower form, I recommended that he stay in the high form to tuck the butt in and keep the body vertical to the ground. When the butt is out it’s hard to gather Qi/energy to your Dan Tian (Red Field acupuncture point).
Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi '09
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
During our last class, there was a dancing class in another room while we were having our Tai Chi Class. It was quiet noisy. A few students couldn’t concentrate very well. I told my students, “We often say in Chinese, ‘If you are calm in a quiet environment, it’s not the real calm. If you are calm in a noisy environment, that’s the real calm.’ Today is a challenge for you.”
Tai Mountain is the biggest mountain in China. Another saying of real calmness is
“Show no anxiety while Tai mountain explodes in front of you.” If you can concentrate just on Tai Chi and forgot about the environment and even yourself, then you’ve achieved a new level of calmness.
For beginners, while performing in front of people, it’s better to just imagine yourself perform the whole set alone. Your form will come out more naturally. On the other hand, it’s also helpful to imagine an opponent while doing your moves, so you can sense the resistance while doing your moves. You can also imagine applying application/usages on this invisible opponent. That will help you increase your energy level and understanding of details of the movements.
Whether or not there are people around, using the above methods will help you improve your Tai Chi performance.
Copyright Huan's Tai Chi '09
Monday, October 12, 2009
Once in a while, I will ask my students after warm ups,
“How many of you did Tai Chi at home this week?” I often see
all the hands raised up.
Sometimes, I see a few people not raising their hands.
I speak with these few people during our class break. Usually, a student complains that he/she had a super busy week at work and home and didn’t have time to do Tai Chi that week. I would tell them,
“if I missed my practice a day, my father would tell me,
‘Do your Tai Chi, and go to bed an hour later tonight or get up one hour early tomorrow and make up for your Tai Chi.’
Most times he wouldn’t give me the second choice, he didn’t like leaving something important to do for the next day.”
I really think it’s how people prioritize their to do list and how they make their choices. They might think Tai Chi is important, but not urgent. Once I asked my Yang Style teacher if it’d be ok if I missed one day of practice in a month. He told me, “If you know that doing 2 hours of Tai Chi can keep your body healthy and thus gains 1 hour of extra life for you. When not doing Tai chi for a day, you lose 1 hour of life every day, Will you not do Tai Chi for even a day? “
Cooking your dinner might be more urgent and important, but you can pay for a food delivery from a take out place to save time for you, so you have time for Tai Chi while waiting for food delivery.
On the other hand, there are things like watching a TV show or a game. These are pleasure and excitement. They are less important, but people often choose these because it might be more enjoyable. These are time wasters. You can have them when you have more time or tape it and watch later when you have time. You shouldn’t choose them when your schedule is tight.
I hope I will see all the hands raised up all the time in my class after they read this article. I trust you guys, but will you gain 1 hour of life for yourself every day?
Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi '09
Monday, October 5, 2009
Zhang Chu asked monk Zhi Chang.
“ Do Heaven and Hell exist?”
“Yes, they exist.” Monk Zhi Chang answered.
“ That’s confusing, when I was meditating with Monk Jin San, Jin San said ‘No’ to this question.” Said Zhang Chu.
“Do you have a wife and Children?” Zhi Chang Monk asked.
“ A wife and two kids.”
“ What about monk Jin San?” Zhi Chang Monk asked again.
“ Monk Jin San is a monk, he can’t get married!” Zhang Chu became angry.
“Well, just on the family situation. If you were in the same situation as Monk Jin San, then you could say ‘No’.”
Why might I give two different corrections to the same posture on two different students on Tai Chi? Why does their final posture look a bit different? Why do I give two different usages when I teach in two different Tai Chi Classes? It’s the same answer Monk Zhi Chang gives to us on Heaven and Hell.
Copyrighted By Huan's Tai Chi '09
Friday, October 2, 2009
Lie Yukou (列禦寇; 400 BCE) is considered the author of the Daoist book Lie Tzu, which uses his honorific name Lie Tzu (列子).
Lie Tzu studied archery. He shot many times, finally he got one on the target. He reported his archery situation to Guan Yi Tzu.
Guan Yi Tzu asked, “Do you know why you got that one on target?”
Lie Tzu said “Not yet.”
Lie Tzu kept practice. Three years later, he reported his archery situation to Guan Yi Tzu again.
Guan Yi Tzu asked again “Do you know why you got that one on target?”
Lie Tzu said, “I found out the cause this time”
Guan Yi Tzu said, “ Very good, you must remember the cause, managing a country and treating people have to be the same way.”
When we doing Tai Chi, we should not just mimic what the teacher does, we need to find out the cause for each movement. If you can understand that, then you can be one step further.
Monday, September 28, 2009
1. During Push Hands, When person B pushes against person A, person A also tries to push against person B. This is a good example of being Double Weighted. When person A pulls back while person B pulls back, this is also called Double Weighted. In these cases, Double Weighted causes pause of the movements.
2. You try to have a foot movement in Tai Chi. You don’t transfer weight from one leg to the another and you lift the other leg while it still has weight on it, this is also called double Weighted. In this case, Double Weighted was caused by lifting weights and the use of force.
3. When you try to unbalance someone while doing push hands, you try to use your right arm push him to the left. At the same time, you tried to use your left arm to push him to the right. You are against yourself and make your opponent balanced. In this case, making the opponent balanced caused the double weight.
When the above three situations happen to you, you’ll know you are Double Weighted. To avoid being double weighted, you need to know how to transfer from Empty to Solid and vise Versa. During push hands, you also need to understand how to listen to energy and determining if it’s a solid energy or empty one. Without Double Weighted, your Tai Chi will flow smoothly like a continuous long running river.
Copyrighted By Huan's Tai Chi '09
Monday, September 21, 2009
1. Quiet Relaxation mainly means quieting your mind. Before we start to perform the Tai Chi set in my class, I always allow myself and students to just stand on the Preparing form for while, it gives us time to quiet our minds. When your mind can quiet, then you can concentrate and not put any stress on your Tai Chi.
2. Open Relaxation means to open the joints and sections of your body ( see my blog article on 8 sections and 9 joints) When the joints are open, then the Qi (energy) can passing through your body as you wish.
3. Sink Relaxation is used in all the movements. For example, your elbows sink down/ drop down, shoulders sink down, knees sink down/bend and feet sink down to the ground allows you to relax more.
4. Flexible Relaxation extends to three areas. For Example: If your arm can stretch further, you will have more room to move your arms, or you become more flexible with your arm joints. This Arm Flexible Relaxation includes area one, flexibility between arms joints, area two, the maximum length to stretch the arm ligament, and area three, arm’s muscles’ bouncing flexibility .
Master the 4 forms of relaxation will help you totally relaxed while doing the Tai Chi form.
Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi '09
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Ouyang Xiu (歐陽修) was a Chinese statesman, historian, essayist and poet of the Song Dynasty. I have read many of his literature. When Ouyang was a little kid, his family was very poor. He couldn’t afford school supply. He used tree branch as a pen to write on the sand. I have read many his literature a long time ago but I still have memory of his work on “Regarding the Pavilion of The Old Drunkard” and “Old Oil Salesman”.
Kang Su Gong was the most famous archer in Northern Song Dynasty. He was practicing shooting in his front yard one day. Many people went watching him. There was an Old cooking oil salesman had two buckets of oil with him. He left two buckets of oil on ground, taking a rest and watching Kang Su Gong. Kang Su Gong has missed only one shot out of ten. Every one started to cheer, but the salesman only nodded his head.
Kang Su Gong saw that, not very pleased.
“ Do you know archery? How do you think my skill?”
“Not very special, just because you have done it for a while” Salesman said.
Kang Su Gong become very angry, “How can you put me down like this?”
Salesman said, “I can show you by pouring my oil.”
He placed a calabash on the ground, then placed a small Tong Qian(Traditional Chinese money with a square hole in the middle) on top of the mouth of the calabash. He took a big spoon and scooped some oil out from the buckets. He then poured the oil into the calabash. You can see the oil formed a long string and went into the calabash through the small hole of the Tong Qian. He was very steady, so you couldn’t see any oil left on the Tong Qian.
After the salesman has done this, he said, “It’s not a big deal I did this, I have done that easily just because I have practiced a lot.” Kang Su Gong smiled and politely sent him away.
We are not only learned that practice make you good from this story, but also found that being humble can prepare you better from learning new skill, because there are always some oil salesmen around whom has unique techniques to show you.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
In Tai Chi, you need your whole body to be relaxed. In order to relax, we need to understand Ba Duan Jiu Jie, translates to English as 8 Sections and 9 joints.
What are the 8 Sections of your body?
6. Upper Arms
7. Lower Arms
What are the 9 Joints of your body?
5. Waist Joint
7. Shoulder joints
9. Finger joints
We say, when you relax your shoulders, your energy goes to the elbows. When you sink your elbows, your energy goes to the hands. When you empty your hands, your energy will reach the finger tips. Only when all 8 sections and 9 joints are relaxed, then your energy can go any place you wish. When your energy is under your control, then we can say your body is totally relaxed in Tai Chi.
- To see a more detailed explanation of the 8 Sections and 9 Joints, you can find my article on Fall 2011 issue of Tai Chi Magazine, It's titled Huan Zhang: Secret of How to relax: Understanding the 8 Sections, 9 Joints
Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi '09
Friday, September 4, 2009
This article is for people want learn every thing fast with no patience or people don’t spend much time to practice and wish one day miracle can come and they become very good on some thing.
At first, I want say, there is no perfection in Tai Chi and our life, but it doesn’t mean we should not look for it. Why we still look for perfection which does not exist? The unique status of closer to the perfection is better than the rest, it differs you from other people. When we were in college, we often study for finals. We always want over prepare rather than just remember enough. When you study hard and aiming 100 for you test score, you might get a 90. When you aim to get 120, it’s possible you can get a 100. Since Tai Chi is also a martial arts set, perfection is important. When people need martial arts to protect themselves in war thousands year ago, its life and death which means you have to be better than your opponent. That’s why people have practiced so hard in the past and many famous martial arts masters appeared in the past.
When new student came to class and did three times of a move and can’t get it, they thought it’s too difficult. I mentioned to them, “When I tried to get a perfect elbow strike when I was first learning martial arts, I couldn’t get right. My father, who is also my teacher asked me to do this move 300 times. After I tried more than 200 times in different ways, I know which way is better. After I almost done 300 times, I believe I found the feeling the way that father was talking about. After I showed my father the best way I found, he said “oh, this is very good, but it’s not exactly what I taught you. You can keep it for you routine; however, I still want you to learn my way, so you can have both. This is how it works.( showing me) Now, do another 300 times on both sides ( right and left) and get it right.”
What I believe is the quality not quantity. For example, a restaurant offers 100 dishes, which all tastes very good. Another restaurant only offers 10 dishes, but they are all exceptional. Which restaurant will be more appreciated by people? My suggestion is learn only one or two movements a time and learn them again later. When you have a teacher who can give details for just one movement for just one class, you know he is exceptional! Whatever we do and learn in our life, such as making a business plan, prepare a date, paint your house, please take your time. Only carefully learning and doing everything in detail, then you can be closer to perfection. Our new beginner class will start coming thursday. I hope our new students will take this advise.
Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi '09
Monday, August 31, 2009
I got a lot of hits on the Diet article I posted weeks ago; I guess a lot of people are interested to know more about Chinese Diet. Talking about amount of food to take for each meal, the eastern culture differs from western Culture. In western culture, dinner is the most important. The best food should be served during dinner and we eat a lot of food at dinner time. Some people also skip breakfast to lose weight.
Unlike this, Chinese people think all three meals are important. Their eating habit is based on “Full breakfast, good lunch and small dinner.” Morning is a time that a person is very hungry since you don’t eat during sleep and you need a lot of energy for work for whole day. Chinese think that you need to eat a lot food to start the day (I still obey the 80% rule on mine- see last article). For lunch, Chinese think it’s the most important meal. They want have good lunch food to balance the breakfast and dinner. Chinese don’t eat a lot of food for dinner. I obey the rule of don’t eat any food/snack during 3 hours before your bedtime. We believe that eating a lot of food will adding work for your stomach, your stomach should rest at night just like the rest of your body do. Overeating on dinner will seed stomach problem for future.
Talking about choices of food, many Chinese think "Two legs are better than four legs, one leg is better than two legs ( or without legs is better than two legs)" Basically, two legs means chicken or other birds, they are white meat which is better than red meat like cow or goat( four legs). One leg means fungus such as mushroom and without legs means fish. These comments are not totally true, because every integrant has it’s helpful side. I personally think all the foods are import to your body but I do think taking more veggies, less meat and eating bit more white meat and less red meat is the way to go.
Please feel free to comment on this, offer your suggestions and share with your friends and family. I will be happy to share more with you on type, choices, and way of making healthy food if you think these tips are helpful to you.
Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi '09
Friday, August 21, 2009
While I was doing a Tai Chi Seminar, one student asked me,
“What do you eat for your daily life, what food is good for Tai Chi?”
My advice would be
“Don’t eat too much on one kind of food at once, even on some super food”.
For Example: Vitamin C is really good for your body, but if you take one bottle of Vitamin C, what will happen? Your diet should be a combination of Vegetable, grain, fruit and meat. You need to be careful about taking in different food. You should never eat too much. In Chinese, we say 80% full. Too much food will give a lot of work to your stomach and hurt your stomach in a long run.
We should not do Tai Chi with Empty stomach. If you have an empty stomach before doing Tai Chi, you should eat a little bit food, so you won’t feel dizzy or get a stomach ache while doing Tai Chi. Although it is not necessary to eat only vegetables, eating too much meat is not good for you since meat is acid and hard to digest. Don’t drink too much wine if you doing Tai Chi. Yang Chen Fu said that you shouldn’t do Tai Chi after too much wine.
Another very important reminder is that while exercise with Tai Chi, your breath will become long and deeper, which means a breath will go deeper to your chest. Strong wind and humidity can get into your body in this way. Yang Chen Fu also says to wear long sleeved clothes and not to perform in the wind. If you sweat, don’t take clothing off or take a cold shower, it will hurt your body. In the Ming Dynasty book “Talking of Cabbage Root”, it mentions that
“If you are always sick when you are old, it’s because you didn’t take care of your body when you were young.”
When you are young, you think you are ok to walk in the cold rain, you have fun under the strong wind while driving the boat, but these are actually hurting your body. It didn’t show because you are strong while you are young. These activities plant the seeds for sickness in you and they will occur in the future when you are older. When you know how to take care of your body while you are young, you will enjoy it more while you’re getting older.
Copyrighted By Huan's Tai Chi 09
Thursday, August 13, 2009
The Buddha said, “ There is no Demons in this world, Demon comes from own heart/mind”, there is a story behind it. A Chinese monk decided to detach himself from the human world and went to a temple in a mountain to practice Buddhism. Every time he sat in Zen meditation, a big black spider came to harass him. He went to talk to his Master monk, “ Every time I quiet myself during sitting meditation, this spider appears and I can’t chase him away. Master, please clear my confusion.” Master monk told him to leave a paint brush nearby during his next sitting meditation. “When the spider appears, please draw a circle on it’s stomach, it will then show it’s real face.” He did what the Master monk told him to do. After he drew the circle, the spider went away. Later on, after he done his mediation, he saw a big black circle on his own stomach. He realized the black spider was himself, this is what we call Demon comes from own heart/mind. Sometimes, you are not confident, doubt things because you can’t trust yourself.
Demon appears in many ways. For example, a new student came to my Tai Chi class and left because he believed he could not learn Tai Chi. When I critiqued his move, he felt embarrassed and thought he couldn’t do it. I could see he was over reacting to my comments. “No worries!” I told him “In Chinese, we say, you can’t eat and become fat in one night. When I was first learning martial arts, many times, it took me repeating 300 or more times in order to get one move right” After I explained to him that Tai Chi took a while to learn, he still thought that he wouldn’t be able to learn because it’s too complicated. He thought if he couldn’t learn a move in class that night, then he didn’t have what it took to learn the material. The readiness of your heart and mind is important in any situation such as accepting new things to your life. If you filled the Demon in your heart, then no new things can come through. Keeping your heart/mind clear and healthy and trusting in yourself will help you a long way in your life.
Copyrighted by Huan's TAI CHI '09
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
If you perform too fast, you cannot concentrate on details of each movement. If you move too slow as a beginner, it’s easy to have uneven speed of movements.
“ As a beginner, you may perform Tai Chi for as little as 15 minutes; however, as you progress, you will perform for 20 minutes. Eventually, you will perform as long as 40 minutes” My father mentioned in Tai Chi Magazine on “ Zhang Lu Ping on correct Use of Spine”
You might perform pretty fast when you start as a beginner. You might have problem to slow down. To help you slow down, usually I suggest you imaging yourself perform it under the water. Imagining there are a lot of water resistance to prevent you to move faster. It will help you increase your energy if you can imaging yourself perform under water because it takes effort if you do it slower. Say, you going to do a kick. If you kick fast, it’s easy. If you kick slower, it takes effort and strength.
I told a story about Tai Chi Master, Yang Lu Chan and Pa Gua Master, Dong Hai Chuan to my students. Dong learned Tai Chi from Yang Lu Chan. One day, yang went to visit him. Dong was doing a “lu”- rolls in. yang start to have cup of tea, after he finished his tea, Dong was still in middle of “lu”. That’s how slow some masters can do their Tai Chi.
Copyrighted by Huan's TAI CHI '09
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
- Opponent’s energy/power’s size
- Direction of the energy
- If that power /energy is soft or hard
- If that power/energy is full or empty
After you identify the above, then you can decide what energy you going to apply back on the opponent and control his/her energy. It has to apply to every movement of your push hands, because energy changes in every movement. You decision of responding to the opponent will have to change all the time as well.
The key of listen energy is to touch, stick, connect and follow opponent’s hands and energy. Don’t against and lose. If you lose the connection, then you can’t listen. If you against other people’s energy, then you won’t listen well.
What’s your thoughts of energy listening? Any comments?
Copyrighted by Huan's TAI CHI2009
During the Spring and Autumn Period ( between 722BC and 481 BC), they are many countries in China. There is a country called Wei. The king of Wei is called Wei Hui Wang, also called Liang Hui Wang ( Liang is the capital of Wei). Once a Chef named Ding was invited to Liang Hui Wang’s home to demonstrate how to prepare a bull. You could see him holding the bull with his hands, using his shoulder to lean on the bull, use feet step on the bull, using his knee to lock the bull, he know exactly how to control the bull. After he first inserts the knife to the bull’s body, you can hear the sound of separation from different part of the bull, in harmony and sounds like music.
Liang Hui Wang was shocked and surprised by this.
“Wow, you are superb. How can you have techniques like this?”
Chef Ding said,
“I like to discover the way of how things work rather than just try to cut the bull apart. When I first start to learn how to cut a bull, I only saw a huge bull right in front of my eyes. After 3 years of experience, I understand the structure of a bull. When I read a bull, I don’t see a whole bull any more; I see the separate parts of the bull. After I have done so many times, I can just do it without seeing it with eyes. I know where are the places to insert the knife and places you shouldn’t insert knife, how to use the spaces between the parts of the bull body and avoiding to hurt my knife’s blade. A good chef needs to switch a knife once a year. A normal chef changes once a month, cause they often hit the bones when using their knife. I have been using this knife for 9 years, killed thousands of bulls, it’s still sharp and like new. Because there are gaps between the bones and muscle, my knife can swim around the bones. Sometimes, I have difficulty since some bull structure bit differently. I need to pay extra attention, slow down my movement and don’t use too much force. After I found the right spot, I can open it with one shot. The bull will fall like mud if you do it right. After I done a good job, I like to check the job and surround area, feel satisfied with my work, carefully clean my knife and put back in the knife bag, so it will be prepared for the next use.”
This is a story from Chuan Tzu’s book, it really inspires many people. We have the common people and Chef Ding in Tai Chi as well. Some people just tries to remember the whole Tai Chi set, chef Ding tries to find the structures and connections between each part. He found the ways to differ him than the common people. He try to use the minimum effort to get his Tai Chi done. chef Ding learned how to relax and slow down and pay extra attention to the difficult parts. Chef Ding checks his Tai Chi after done and reviews it before he feels satisfied. He also prepares for the next Tai Chi class. Learn the thoughts from chef Ding, you will do well in Tai Chi and life.
Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Let me explain these four letters again and backwards. Jin means energy. Ding means top of your head and also can mean support in Chinese. Ding Jin means your head should feel lifted. You can image a string pulling your head or top of your head is supporting a bowl of water. In Chinese, that feeling called“ “Hanging the Top of the Head”, or “Bai Hui facing the Sky”. Bai hui is the highest acupuncture point of your body. It lines with your ears atop/at center of your head. Following this principle will keep your whole body centered, vertical to the ground, and relaxed.
Now Ling means lively or flexibility. Many people mistaken this word with Chinese word Lin which means guide but it’s not the same word as Ling. Maybe half of the American people doing Tai Chi think Ling means guide, but that need to be corrected. Xu means Emptiness. It means your neck should not be stiff and you shouldn’t feel you use force to support that bowl of water. You should keep the flexibility and feel the emptiness. Feel the emptiness means you need to pay attention to the head support but you should also empty your mind by not especially to gathering all your attention to this.
If you want me to explaining further, I can explain in more plain words. While have the ding jin, your head should not lean forward and backward. You should not see the ground or see the ceiling. You should not lean left or right either. To keep the head hanging, you should tuck your chin in a bit to help. If you force to support your head then your neck will appear stiff and your blood will not circulate well. Grand Master Fu’s teacher Yang Chen Fu( grandson of the Creator of Yang Style Tai Chi) said, ”if ( you do) not have “Xu Ling Ding Jin”, then you can’t bring the energy out.”
If you want your energy flow while you doing Tai Chi whether this is for health or martial arts benefits, Xu ling Ding Jin is the first of the 8 basic Tai Chi methods you have to follow.
Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Let’s discuss about the top three internal Chinese Martial Arts style. Xing Yi, Pa Gua and Tai Chi, all related to Yin and Yang. Once, a student asked me the difference among the three. I told him,
“ If there is a Yin Yang Circle, doing Pa Gua can be circling around the Yin Yang Circle. You can consider Xing Yi crossing the circle and Tai Chi maintain the stillness at the Center/Zhong Ding.”
Zhong Ding is the last element of the thirteen elements/forms of Tai Chi. The other elements are mentioned so much, such as Peng/Ward off and Lu/Rolls in but Zhong Ding is the most important. Without Zhong Ding, you have no balance.
Zhong in Chinese means Center Point, point of control. It keeps upper and lower body in coordination. It transfers and control your Yin and Yang, Full and Emptiness. For beginners, keep your body vertical to ground can keep you centered and aligned. For intermediate student, control and balance your inner energy and Qi can centralize yourself.
Ding means Stillness, or keeping stillness (on the center point). For a beginner, when you move from one movement to another, keep stillness can be little challenge. For intermediate student, keep stillness can be a little challenge when doing push hands.
Zhong and Ding are together and supporting each other. Without Zhong, there is no Ding. Without Ding, you can’t keep the Zhong. Zhong Ding is the base of Tai Chi, without Zhong Ding, there is no empty and full, there is no open and close, there is no upper and lower body coordination, there is no relaxation, there is no rest of the twelve elements among the thirteen elements.
How you lost your Zhong Ding? Your knee is over your toe, that tells you that you have too much weight lean towards the front. If your knee is behind your heel, you have too much weight leaning backwards. You can be easily pushed away. In Chinese, we call it “ Shi Zhong Ding” means lost balance.
Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Later, he found out that because Yang’s palm was really soft like cotton, it’s totally relaxed. When a bird try to fly away, it use it’s legs to push Yang’s palm in order to get Yang’s resistance force to push the bird away. Since Yang is so good at Tai Chi,
he soften it’s palm and follows the bird’s energy. The bird can’t get any resistance force to help it launch.
This story tells us how soft is so important in Tai Chi. Relaxation leads to softness.
When we talk about Tai Chi Push hands, we often mention the four important words, They are “ Relaxation, Flexibility, Bounce and Shake”. Relaxation is mentioned first but it’s so hard to archive. Many people practice so many years but still can’t relax. The most important reason is that they haven’t experienced what is the real relaxation, so they don’t know how it can’t be done.
A good teacher play an important role on getting this goal done. He/she can guide you to that but he/she can’t do it for you. In Chinese, we say “ Sifu bring you into the door, practice is up to yourself.” It’s up to you to get really relaxed and soft in Tai Chi.
( Picture on right: Wu Tu Nan doing Push hands)
Famous Wu and Yang Style Tai Chi Master Wu Tu Nan is a Mongolian Chinese. He had a lot of sickness and had to take medication every day while he was a child. Wu Tu Nan passed away 1989 and was 105 years old. Tai Chi really helped him to stay healthy and live longer.
Even though there is a debating that if he really learned from the Yang family, he is truly a Tai Chi Master. According to the book he wrote on his life on Tai Chi, he was sent to Quan Yu’s Tai Chi school (creator of Wu Style Tai Chi) to learn Tai Chi when he was 9 years old. Quan Yu asked his son Wu Jian Chuan to teach him. After 8 years learning from Wu Jian Chuan. He then learned from Yang Shao Hou ( Yang Chen Fu’s brother). Yang Shao Hou trained him really hard. When Yang taught him martial arts application, Yang bounced him to the chair. Chair’s back fell off. Without a back, the chair became a stool. Later, he fell on the stool again because Yang taught him more applications, and the stool just broken completely.
Another thing that Yang trained him is to have Wu practice Tai Chi under the oil table. Oil table is a higher kitchen table that Chinese chef use which you don’t have to bend you back to cut the meat and veggies. Still, it’s much lower than regular stance. It’s really hard for the legs. Yang use this to train Wu’s “Seven Inch Lean” which is a technique you use your shoulder to lean on opponent’s lower leg’s seven inch point. You can see how low it is.
Now, some students asked me how low they can practice Tai Chi. I told them that they can see the limit from Wu Tu Nan.
Copyright 2009 Huan's Tai Chi
Monday, July 27, 2009
- Only relaxed on part of your body
When we talk about relaxed in your shoulder, on your waist, on your elbow, your legs, we are not totally relaxed. Only relaxed on every parts of your body, even as small as your finger tip, that’s called totally relaxed. Mainly, you want concentrate relaxation on shoulder, waist, legs, elbow and arms .
- You have an uneven speed
You know you are not relaxed if your Single Whip is faster than your White Crane movement.
Even speed of your performance helps you relax.
- You stopped in one move
Stopping is a sign showing that your body is tight.
- Feel Unbalanced
You will often try to use force to balance your self if you feel unbalanced, so every time you feel unbalanced, you are not totally relaxed.
- Lot of thinking in your mind
As The Tai Chi theory say” Use concentration but use force”. Only quiet your mind first, then you can relax your physical body. Too much thinking will tight your body up , without thinking too much will relax you. Pay attention to your moves but think other things when you do Tai Chi.
- Move too fast
Move too fast for a beginner can really make them body tight. Slow and even motion will help you more relaxed
- Exercise too much
Usually I often think my students don’t practice enough, but some times exercise too much will tight up your body, don’t overload yourself with too much practice.
Copyright 2009 Huan's Tai Chi
Recently, I have given an introductory Tai Chi lecture in University of Massachusetts in Boston. People are very interested to know more about Tai Chi. They have all kind of questions. Such as, Will Tai Chi prevent me from falling? Can Tai Chi take care of my balancing problem?
Tai Chi is not a magic pill, it will not cure any disease. It will help you improve your body condition to fight over some disease or unbalanced body condition. Movements such as Repulse monkey, Golden roster stand with one leg, cloud hands helps you on balance on walk backwards, sideways and with one leg. The main requirement of keep your spine vertical to the ground also helps people to keep their body straight and balanced. The weight transition theory will give you a better understanding of relaxed and balanced movements without using any force. Movements such as Knee brush helps you understand how to balance while turning body. The requirement of keep your eyes sight parallel to the ground also helps balancing your body.
As I told my students during Push Hands class, “Tai Chi is also martial arts. To judge the success of you Tai Chi. We have to see if you can balance yourself. If you are not balanced, you would fall before the enemy knocks you off. If you can keep yourself balanced and unbalance your enemy. That’s some successful Tai Chi.
Copyright 2009 Huan's Tai Chi
I was organizing some of my father’s Kung fu notes and doing some cleaning the other day. I saw this Chinese traditional looking blue booklet. I remembered this is a booklet the Wang family published in memory of Grandmaster Wang Ziping, whom was considered to be one of the most famous martial arts heroes in China. During the time my father, Zhang Lu Ping, Phd. was in Shanghai, he studied under one of the most famous master there, grandmaster Cai Hong Xiang. Cai was honored as one of the "Ten most famous Chinese marital arts master". Many famous masters sent their students to grandmaster Cai to get critiqued. After my father learned Martial Arts From Cai, Cai sent him to Grandmaster Wang Ziping to get critiqued. That’s how my father got to know Madam Wang Jurong.
Madam Wang Jurong is the daughter of Grandmaster Wang Ziping. I have never met her in person, but I heard a lot about her from my father. Once my father want promote Kung Fu in his hometown, Pinghu, a small city outside Shanghai. He believed that people can practice kung fu to become healthier. He wanted give free classes to help the community. He asked for Madam Wang’s help. Madam Wang traveled by boat with group of her students included her daughters. The boat took many, many hours to reach Pinghu. They came to give demonstrations to the people in Pinghu. The whole city was so excited by this demonstration. It’s a big honor that Madam Wang came to the city. After that, many people started martial arts and people started to have a more healthy routine for their life. Many older people in the city can still remember the visit of Madam Wang. Madam Wang’s husband, Dr Wu is excellent on Chinese Medicine. My father once injured his wrist by practice sword. Dr Wu gave him little bottle of medicinal wine to apply on his wrist, and he healed quickly. After many years, my father hurt his wrist again. He found that little bottle. The wine has almost dried out. He putted some warm water there, shake the bottle and waited for few minutes. He applied it to the wrist, and after few days, he felt much better. It’s amazing it still worked. Madam Wang’s father, grandmaster Wang Ziping contributed a lot to the Chinese Martial arts society. Madam Wang not only contributed the martial arts to China, but also to the world. She and Her husband moved to the US and began to teach in Houston. Many people benefited from their teaching. It’s a tremendous loss for both Chinese and US martial arts society that Madam Wang had passed away December 25, 2005. Fortunately, madam Wang’s three daughters, Master Wu Xiang Ping, Grace Wu and Helen Wu are still teaching martial arts in Houston, Canada and Kansas.
Last week’s class was pretty tough since my assistant teacher left early for the class because of personal things, but I want every one get enough attention. There are two type of students, one type will practice even you are not there, and the other type will stand, watch and only do the movements when you lead them. It’s the second type cause this situation. I have half and half. I kept telling the second half, if you can only do Tai Chi when your teacher is leading, when will you catch your own fish? Try yourself and then ask your teacher to correct is the good way to perfect your Tai Chi. You had enough talking with your friends at home and other places. We don’t need to hear here in Tai Chi class. We want hear questions related to Tai Chi. The situation is getting better but still we have few people here and there. I guess for people who want socialize, we can have a self practice class, that they can help each other and socialize with each other. How’s that sound??
It’s easy to see that people who improving their Tai Chi usually have the right attitude. People believe that they have a lot to learn, open minded and willing to share would always improve their Tai Chi. When my father learned Tai Chi in China from one famous teacher, he didn’t think he is the generation or learned every thing, he found four more good Tai Chi teachers and learned the arts again from them. When I thought about this, I always remind myself being humble and respectful to others. In Chinese, we say, “ There is a higher wave after this ocean wave.” Which means there is always some one who might know some thing better than you. I like to thank people who visit/care about the Gather Tai Chi group. Happy Holidays! Being humble and you will do better in Tai Chi and your life.
I have finished teaching the whole 85 Yang Style Set to the intermediate class a few weeks ago. I was planning to give some Push Hands class or Tai Chi weapon forms to them after. Last week, these students requested not to do that but to go over the first few forms again. This is a really good gesture, because now the students really understand quality is detail. They know they have the structures but there must be a lot of small details missing.
A lot of people try to learn Tai Chi from the DVD, but they are only getting the basics. The real Tai Chi is 3 dimensional. You can’t learn Tai Chi just from seeing the front and back view of a teacher. You are not doing exactly the same things the teacher is doing. Seeing in more detail and correcting by the teacher is the most important thing you can get from a real class. Repeating the correct movement is another key to perfect your Tai Chi. It’s essential that a good teacher will also tell you how you should feel in your body when you doing the right move.
A lot of students want me to publish a DVD in addtion to my book, I am still struggling if I should do one. No wrong ideas should be given if I publish one. Of course; people should not expect to learn the whole Tai Chi from this DVD but for students to have it as a good reference.
As we all know, Tai Chi can reduce stress for you, but some people found learning Tai Chi can bring more stress to them. People are frustrated of not getting the correct movements, and start to quit after few classes. There might be few reasons,
- The levels of difficulty the teacher want teach the Tai Chi to you. If the teacher want give you more detailed Tai Chi movements. You will take time and lot of practices to get it. It might become stressful for you to learn it at beginning if you can easily get stressed. If you think the Tai Chi you learned is very easy, maybe you are not learning from the right teacher.
- It’s easy to get stressed on people’s negative comments or repeat same movement. Tai Chi is all about repeating and getting corrections from the teacher. If the teacher is always given you positive feedback, then he is not doing his work right. He should try to encourage you with positive feedback but point out your mistakes. By repeating the same movement again and again, you can try to perfect the movement.
- Learning the Tai Chi set is not try to force you to memories the whole set in short term, it takes a while to learn. Even the my Tai Chi teacher say, “Learning better Tai Chi is my life long goal.” Don’t stress your self out of thinking why can't I remember 5 movements in one week. Good teacher only teach you one or two movements a week.
Learning Tai Chi can be stress free too. It all depends how to treat your leaning experience. Good luck if you are going to learn some Tai Chi soon.
I will teach a Kung Fu lecture tonight in Cambridge. Kung fu doesn't mean martial arts in Chinese, it means time. When some thing takes time to archive, we say it takes Kung Fu.
I am a tea drinker.(I have a brife introduction of how to making Chinese tea, can write few more pages if gets into detail) I have it almost every day. Have your tea made in right way takes kung fu. Most people here make tea out of a tea bag and took tea bag out once the water turn dark, but Chinese drinker don't take tea out of it's cup, since they know perfectly how much tea they want put into the cup. As a Chinese tea drinker, I first boil the water. After I have the boiled water poured into my tea cup with tea leaves there( not tea bag), then I put the cup cover on my tea cup, it will keep the leaves expend faster. The tea leaves will swim to the top and then gradually expend. After it expended, the leaves will started to sink down to the bottom. Wait few minute after all the tea leaves completely sink down to the bottom of the cup. Now, it's the time to open it's cover. Put your nose close to the tea cup once you open the cup cover. It smells so good! Now, you can quickly have your first sip. That’s the best sip of the whole cup. Be careful, because it's hot. Sip just little tea from the side of the cup so it won't burn your tongue.Have the cover on when you not drink it and open the cover when drink. That's how you really enjoy your tea in Chinese way.
Many people are very dependent on others. You can find these people every where. Co-workers, friends, relatives, they need your help on many things. The first type is they don't know that they can also do some things; they are not confident on them selves. They believe they can't do it, so they don't even want to try. The second type is they think you are doing much better job than they do, because you are superior, you got to help them. The third type is they are just lazy, they believe you are their God and Buddha, you can help them whenever they needed.
Will the real God or Buddha help you when you need them? I believe the answer is no.
That's why they give you your hands, and brain, so you can be independent and you will be able to help yourself. That's why when co-workers ask me for help, I would show them the detailed steps first time, or maybe two more times. If they asked the fourth time, they have to take care it by themselves. When I teach Tai Chi to my students, I mentioned to them, will you able to do the basic movement in home without me. If you are, then you are really learning.
My Tai Chi/Kung Fu classmate Jim sent me an email today. I remembered when we last emailed, he was sick from food poison. Jim is a good Martial Artist and always pretty healthy, but you never know what will happen in your life. Life is short and I never feel I had enough time to finish things. It doesn't matter how busy I am, I always spend my time to water my garden and do my Tai Chi. It's the enjoyment of my life. They keep you relaxed and bring you energy.
Everyone want to have a meaning of your life. Most time, you are trying to prove yourself or impress others. You are getting a Ph.D. or working hard or trying to prove your worth in this human society. That's wonderful. Helping the society is a great thing to do. On the other hand, I am little selfish. I spend time on gardening and Tai Chi for my own enjoyment. I felt once you can enjoy your little moment, your life has a real meaning. If you have read some articles on Buddha, you know he see through the meaning of life of everybody in their life. Holding a flower in the garden with a smile, that's how Buddha Shows the Meaning of Life.
How can you have a simple life? Once lived in China, the American life is much complicated compare to old Chinese life.
Now China is catching America to have a more complicated life. In old time China, we can go to hospital without making appointment with doctor or go have a hair cut without making appointment with your hairstylist. In China, most people don't have checks; we pay out fees once a year at electronic company or cable company. We don't have to mail all the bills.
Here in US, all these bills stack up and it's a mess sometimes. People can't find things and have to make to their appointment on time. In order to make your life easier, it's best to get organized and get rid things you don't need any more. You life will become much simple and easier and pleasing once every thing is organized.
Few suggestions, to have a simple life:
- If you haven't used some thing for 3 years, you probably won't use it all. It's good to sell it, give to your friends who need it, donate it or trash it.
- Put similar item together, you can find them easily. For example: leave all the bill letter in one drawer, or you can put them in a 3 ring binder.
- Choose a day in a month to pay the bill, so you don't have to pay 4 different bills at 4 different days and go to post office 4 times.
- Limit credit card, if you only have one credit card, you only have to pay one bill and you build your credit faster on one.
- Magazine really pile up, get rid of them or read magazine in Library.
- TV really sucks up your time, if you watch TV 2 hrs a day, 2* 365= 730hrs
You almost wasted one month of your life on TV. Do Tai Chi or gardening instead of watching TV. They are good for your body and soul.
Any other suggestions for a simple life??