Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Get your Zhong Ding/Stillness at the Center

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

Why This Bird Can’t Fly?

I heard this interesting story about Yang Lu Chan, the creator of Yang Style Tai Chi. A bird landed on his palm one day. This bird tried very hard and flipped it’s wing, and it couldn’t fly away even Yang’s Palm was open. Yang’s friend observed this and found it’s very surprising.

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.

Tai Chi under the Table

( 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

How to “NOT” relax in Tai Chi?

Many teachers teach students how to relax, but they forgot to give the opposite description of relax. Many people are actually not relaxed but thought they are relaxed.

- 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

Tai Chi and Balance

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

In Memory of Madam Wang Jurong

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.

Huan Zhang

Tai Chi or Socialize?

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??

Learning Tai Chi with the right attitude

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.

How to have a better quality of your Tai Chi?

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.

Will learning Tai Chi bring more stress to you?

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,

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The Kung Fu of Tea

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.

Will God or Buddha help you when you really need them?

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.

The Meaning of Life

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?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Magazine really pile up, get rid of them or read magazine in Library.
  6. 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??