Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tai Chi with a Twist? Yes, if it’s your Waist!

When you feel tired, often your back or waist hurts. When you want to stretch after a long daysitting in front of a computer, you want to turn your waist to adjust. Why is your waist so important to your body?

The waist connects the lower and upper body; it coordinates both your upper and
lower body movements. It helps circulate blood from the upper to the lower body and balance the left and right side of the body. A strong waist is the key to a healthy you.

Tai Chi is all about using the waist to control the movement of your whole body. The complexity of Tai Chi movements turn, twist, flip, stretch, and press your waist in different angle and ways. Tai Chi strengthens and trains your waist to adapt to any physical situation. It also helps develop coordination. Balancing on different body parts helps better release stress from the waist. After a whole Tai Chi form, your waist really gets a great work-out!

Many beginners don’t move their waists much while doing Tai Chi. “Something is wrong if your waist is not moving,” I tell them. “Without your waist, that’s not Tai Chi at all.”

So is this Tai Chi with a twist? More like Tai Chi with a Waist!

Copyrighted Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Centrifugal Force in Tai Chi

I have been really sick last few days because of food poisoning from a restaurant; thus, this week’s article will be very short.

One of the many secrets of Tai Chi in real fighting is turning your opponent’s centripetal force to centrifugal force. Think about this when you are doing push hands...

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Right-handed or Left-handed? Try Balanced.

Photo By Tony Roberts

"Are you right-handed or left-handed?" If you ask anyone this question, he or she will most likely affirm that he or she identifies with one side or the other. It is rare to find someone who is truly ambidextrous, who will tell you that he or she uses both sides of the body equally. Such is a weakness of human beings. We rely too much on one side of our body. For example, we may always use our right hand to push open a door, carry a bag only on our right shoulder or use more force on our right leg while running. We are not totally balanced and use only part of our body. As a result, one leg or arm often becomes stronger than the other. Consequently, we often get into the habit of using one side of the body much more than the other. This makes the other side much weaker. Even the organs inside are often weaker on one side of the body. That's why it's common that under pressure, sickness and even physical injury are more likely to affect, and occur on, the weaker side of the body.

Symmetrical movement! That's what Tai Chi offers. When we move to the right, we move to the left first. When we want move up, we need to move down to balance. Upper body and lower body are coordinated; left side and right side are symmetrical. It's important not only to balance our body and mind, but to balance our life by breaking the bad habit of moving only part of our body. Doing Tai Chi will allow you, when presented with the above question, to proudly answer: "I am not right-handed or left-handed. I am balanced."

Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Give yourself a Massage! Use Tai Chi to Stimulate 300 Acupuncture Points!

We all know any form of physical activity can help improve blood circulation, but Tai Chi's unique characteristics make it one of the leading exercises recommended to treat circulatory problems.

One of the reasons why Tai Chi is such a good exercise for stimulating circulation is that it is a whole body exercise. While other forms of exercise focus on different parts of your body, Tai Chi moves your whole body as a together. For example, weightlifting exercises your arms only when you specifically target the arms in a set of arm lifts. In Tai Chi, when you move an arm, your whole body has to move together to balance this arm movement.

Furthermore, Tai Chi is an exercise for both internal and external parts of your body. When we move with Tai Chi, we are not just moving arms or legs. We are moving our internal organs along with these external moves. The long, slow breaths also coordinate with body movements to massage the internal organs. In Tai Chi, we say, "Use the Mind/Concentration to lead the Qi/Energy; Use the Qi/Energy to circulate through the whole body."

According to China's Family Medicine Magazine, the waist rotation, bending, stretching and turning found in the whole Tai Chi form can activate more than 300 of the body’s acupuncture points. The movements in Tai Chi stretch, twist and squeeze all these pressure points and, in effect, give your body a full-body massage. Learn Tai Chi and start to enjoy the benefits that it can offer to you!

Copyright Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

8 Benefits of Practicing Tai Chi in Slow Speed

Photo by Peter Batty

I often heard my uncle say, "When sickness comes, it's like a mountain falling down, fast and strong. When its time for the sickness to go, it's like pulling silk from a silkworm's cocoon; it takes time."

When we look at all the Tai Chi sets, we see that Grandmaster Ma Yue Liang has contributed a fast Wu Style form; however most Tai Chi sets still must be done slowly.

Let’s look at the benefits of performing a slow Tai Chi set rather than moving quickly through the movements.

1. You can exercise the energy as if you were pulling silk; you can really sense and feel the
energy moving around.
2. You can pay attention to every small detail.
3. It’s easier to form roundness and arcs with your body.
4. You can easily quiet your mind.
5. It’s easier to relax your body.
6. It’s easier to breathe slower and hold each breath longer, an exercise which brings more oxygen into your lungs.
7. It’s easier to coordinate your upper and lower body and balance your body.
8. It’s easier to “find the feeling” of each movement, to really internalize how each movement feels when you do it correctly.

When it comes to push hands or real fighting, Tai Chi moves do need to be very fast. So we can say practice your Tai Chi as if you were pulling silk; then apply your Tai Chi like lightning!

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

Does Simplified Tai Chi mean Simplified Benefits?

This fall as new classes began, I heard a student ask a very popular question about how long it would take to finish the whole Tai Chi form and if we are teaching the simplified form. My answer, of course, is that we are teaching the long form but simplified form. Doing Tai Chi is just like cooking Chinese stew. If you simplify the recipe and skip a few ingredients, it doesn’t taste the same as the original. If you want all of the health and martial arts benefits of Tai Chi, then you need to learn the whole form.

I have heard from some old Tai Chi masters in China that the best way to learn the forms is through private instruction. Usually it takes a week or two to learn one or two movements. Sometimes it takes longer if you don’t get your movements right. With private instruction, you don’t learn a new movement until you get the current movement right. The disadvantage of taking a group lesson is that it goes too fast. Teachers need to follow the schedule and make sure you learn a certain number of moves in a session. In a group class there may be many students who know what’s going on, but there can also be slower learners. But even if you take a private lesson from your teacher every day, it takes at least two years to master the complete Tai Chi set. Now you can assess the quality of somebody’s Tai Chi set if he says he took two years to finish it or just six months.

copyright by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

How to Understand the Tai Chi Diagram

Where does the word “Tai Chi” come from? And what does it really mean? The word “Tai Chi” means “Ultimate Superior” or “Grand Primal.” The word “Tai Chi” originates from the I-ching, or “Book of Change” an ancient divination text attributed to Zhou Wen Wang, or Wen, the Duke of Zhou, during the Zhou Dynasty (1045–256 BC).

The Book of Change tells us about the origins of Tai Chi: “...Therefore there is in the Changes, the Great Primal Beginning (Tai Chi). This generates the two primary forces (Lian I). The two primary forces generate the four images. The four images generate the eight trigrams. The eight trigrams determine good fortune and misfortune. Good fortune and misfortune create the great field of action.” (tr. Wilhelm and Baynes 1967:318-9)

As we read the words above we understand that Tai Chi only means the beginning. Lian I means two forces, otherwise known as Yin and Yang. The diagram of Tai Chi we are used to, the one we see everyday on our T-shirts, shows two forces. However, it is not really a diagram of Tai Chi, but a diagram of Lian I or rather how Tai Chi generated Lian I (Yin and Yang). Sometimes I tell my students, “you don’t necessarily have to know which chicken laid the egg for your breakfast” but in this case I have found that chicken for you!

Now that I’ve shed some light on the origin of our Tai Chi diagram, on a lighter note, I’ll share the following aside: The Duke of Zhou, who was one of the greatest rulers of China, also really believed in fortune telling. There is a section of the Tong Shu or Chinese Almanac on interpreting dreams called “Zhou Gong’s Book of Auspicious and Inauspicious Dreams.” It explains fifteen different types of dreams and how to use them to predict your future. Although we cannot be entirely certain, it is widely believed that Zhou Gong is the same Duke of Zhou who assisted significantly in the development of the Book of Changes. However, in Chinese when students joke about “dreaming about Duke Zhou” they are referring to napping during a lecture, which is, of course, certainly not allowed in my Tai Chi class!

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tai Chi, Confucius, and Dao

[ Chinese painting of Confucius meeting with Lao Tzu ]

I have had new students ask me if it’s possible to learn Tai Chi through DVDs and books. It reminds me of the story of the incident between Confucius and Lao Tzu.

After Confucius had turned 51 years old, he still didn’t understand the concept of Dao (Tao). So he traveled South to the city of Pei to see Lao Tzu.

Once there, Lao Tzu asked him, “I have heard you are a very intelligent man from the North. Have you found out about Dao?”

“I haven’t found out yet,” Confucius said. “I tried to find it through methods and numbers for 5 years, but I couldn’t find it. Later, I tried again to figure it out through the changes of Ying and Yang for 12 years, and yet I still couldn’t do it.”

Lao Tzu responded, “Yes, if Dao can be administered, then people would administer Dao to their superiors (such as their supervisor or emperor); If Dao can be offered, then people would offer it as a gift to their parents; If Dao can be explained, then people would explain it to their family; If Dao can be passed on, then people would pass on Dao to their children; Yet all of the above are impossible. If you don’t understand Dao, then you can’t have it in your mind. If you can’t prove Dao, then Dao won’t show. If you can’t hold Dao deep down in your heart and mind, then you can’t become a saint… There is no other reason why such things are impossible.... ”

The ideas of Dao are also found in Tai Chi. You can’t give Tai Chi to your boss, parents, family or children. You can introduce them to a class, a reference DVD or book, but they still won’t understand it unless they learn it in their own way and put their own effort into really understanding it. You can’t show Tai Chi to someone unless you really understand it yourself. Sometimes it’s within reach; sometimes it’s far away. As long as you begin to learn, practice and make your first step, you are closing the gap. You are one step closer to the Dao of Tai Chi.

Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

What Every Tai Chi Student Should Know About Spear

The Chinese Spear is the king of Chinese Weapons. It is considered to be the oldest military weapon in China, and is incorporated into many martial arts forms. When performing a spear set, you are moving your whole body together, coordinating both hands, and upper body and lower body. These movements sound very similar to Tai Chi. When we practice Tai Chi we also move our bodies in unison, coordinating both hands, and upper body and lower body.

Why they are so similar? The answer lies in the fact that many Tai Chi moves originated from spear movements. Many Tai Chi styles such as Chen style also include a spear set, or what is called a “long staff form.” The three basic forms of the spear set are the block, the catch and the stab. We see comparable forms in the Tai Chi set: open, close and release.

A short while ago, I met an old classmate, Ren Yuan Zhen, for lunch. He had studied Tai Chi under my father for a quite a long time. I asked him how things were going in his Tai Chi.

He told me: "I have been practicing some basics, but I have been doing spear stabs three hundred times on each side everyday." He then added: "It’s easy to break the regular spears you get from Chinatown. They are so skinny!"

I agreed: "It’s hard to find a good one with some good weight."

Ren Yuan Zhen had some advice: "I got a long pipe from Home Depot, filled it with sand and I wear gloves when I practice with it. My high blood pressure goes down significantly after practice."

Practicing spear can really help you to have a stable root. It also helps train your whole body to move together. Understanding the three basic moves of spear will also give you a better understanding of Tai Chi. You can incorporate Tai Chi into your spear set and spear moves into your Tai Chi.

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tai Chi and Swimming

Photo by: tchola

In order to try some new water activities this summer, I took a swimming class. It’s interesting that on the first day of my swim class, the first thing I learned was "relax". Relaxing helps your body float on top of the water. In the classes to follow, I learned few more things that are all very similar to what we need to do in Tai Chi. I've listed some of them below to share with you. How many Tai Chi principles you can find in these swimming fundamentals?

1. Keep your body straight. If you try to lift your head up, your body will sink down in the water.

2. It’s not how fast you kick that makes you move faster. It’s how far your arm reaches and pulls in each time. The more relaxed your elbow, the further you can reach, and the further you will swim on each stroke.

3. Don’t try to use force to lift your arm, use the turning of your body to naturally raise your arm and relax down to reach the water.

4. You need to make sure your arms reach the center in order to form a line with your body.

5. Don’t try to turn and lift your head, but turn your waist and body to bring your mouth out of the water to breathe.

6. You don’t have to turn a lot to bring your mouth out of the water; just turn enough to take a breath while minimizing your energy as much as possible.

7. You need to have good coordination of your upper body (arms) and lower body (legs kicking).

8. Keep your eyes focused while you swim so you don’t hit the pool wall!

As the summer comes to a close, keep these in mind as you transition back from the water to the Tai Chi studio.

Copyright Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

8 Secrets of Longevity from 30 Top Chinese Medicinal Doctors

Photo: The Character of Longevity in Chinese by Major Clanger

I just read an article in People’s Daily (China’s New York Times) in which 30 of the best-known doctors of Chinese medicine were interviewed and shared their Secrets of Longevity. These doctors are professors of Chinese medicine, authors of Chinese medicinal books, and heads of Chinese medicinal hospitals. And their ages range from 74 to 93 years old! Although each doctor had slightly different views and opinions about how to maximize life expectancy, they shared many similar thoughts. I’ve combined these into the 8 points below:

1. Eat Right
In order to live a long and healthy life, you must eat food which fits your body type. You should eat less meat and more vegetables. You should never overeat. Avoid frozen food, greasy food, or food with too much sauce. Drink less alcohol and don’t smoke.

2. Exercise!
Walk, swing your arms, and practice Tai Chi or Five Animal Play (an ancient moving system created by the famous Chinese Medicine practitioner, Hua Tou 110-207 A.D.) Sweating little is great but don’t overexercise. Massage yourself on your acupuncture points.

3. Don’t Depend on Vitamins
Vitamins can’t replace healthy food, exercise, and other activities. Don’t depend on Vitamins to balance your body; eat food instead. For example: Get your Vitamin A from carrots instead of from a vitamin tablet.

4. Get on Schedule
Your body has its own internal biological clock. Make sure you have the same schedule every day. Try to get up at the same time each morning and go to sleep at the same time each night. Getting off-schedule can make you tired and weak.

5. Wear Proper Clothing
Don’t try to be sexy by wearing skimpy outfits that don’t keep you warm enough! Wear enough clothing to protect yourself in the winter, but also make sure you don’t sweat by wearing too many layers in the summer.

6. Think About Age When Having Children
A child’s health may be affected at birth if the baby is conceived when the mother is over 40 years old.

7. Stay Positive!
Try to stay positive as much as you can! Don’t get angry, or if you do, find healthy ways
to release it (such as through Tai Chi or other exercise). Being depressed and angry will lower your life expectancy.

8. Get Enough Rest
If you are tired, then you need to get rest. Taking a small nap can help you during the day. Enough sleep at night is also very important.

Many of you already may have already heard some of these pieces of wisdom, but it’s nice to have them summarized again in writing. Wishing you a long and healthy life!

Copyrighted By Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Does Tai Chi really extend your life?

(Above: Drawing of Tai Chi Master, Zhang San Feng, whom is believed by some to have achieved immortality.)

Does Tai Chi really extend your life?
Let the facts below to show you the truth.

Tai Chi Master / Age

Chen Style Tai Chi Masters
Chen Chang Xin / 82
Chen Gen Yun / 79
Chen Yan Xi / 81
Chen Fa Ke / 70
Chen Zhao Kui / 53
Hong Jun Sheng / 89
Gu Liu Xin / 82
Lei Mu Ni / 85

Yang Style Tai Chi Masters
Yang Lu Chan / 73
Yang Chen Fu / 53
Yang Zhen Ji / 86
Yang Zhen Ming / 74
Fu Zhong Wen / 86
Li Ya Xuan / 82
Tong Ying Jie / 64
Cheng Man Ching / 73

Wu Style Tai Chi Masters

Wu Chien-ch'uan / 72
Wu Ying Hua / 90
Ma Yue Lian / 97
Hu Tu Nan / 105
Wu Gong Yi / 72

Sun style Masters
Sun Lu Tang / 73
Su Jian Yun / 89

Copyright Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shall we bring back Tai Chi’s Original Name?

Photo: Old Shoe Woman

When the founder of Yang Style Tai Chi, Yang Lu Chan 楊露禪(1799-1872)taught Tai Chi in his hometown of Yongnian (in China’s Hebei province, near Beijing) he called it Mian Chuan or Hua Chuan. Only after one of Yang’s students, Wu Yu-hsiang, 武禹襄(1812--1880), the founder of Wu style Tai Chi, discovered a book called “Discussion of Tai Chi Chuan” by Wang Zhong Yue, did the name Tai Chi Chuan start to become widely used.

The literal translation for Tai Chi Chuan is "Supreme Ultimate Fist.” If you are not familiar with or have never practiced Tai Chi before, the words “Supreme” and “Ultimate” are misleading and will most likely give you the wrong idea about what the art of Tai Chi really is. Tai Chi is a martial arts style that is soft and fluid and based upon principles of circular motion and the transfer and absorption of energy.

The name Mian Chuan translates to “Soft Fist.” The word “Mian” can also be translated as “cotton” or “soft like cotton.” In Chinese, if we combine two “Mian” , the result is “Mian Mian,” a word that means “continue” or “continuous.” On a similar note, name Hua Chuan translates to “Transferring Fist,” and it means that any energy attacking can be transferred and redirected.

From a marketing standpoint, it might be a good idea to use the name Tai Chi, but it’s more realistic to use the name Mian Chuan to describe the forms that we practice today. By calling it Mian Chuan, people are more likely to understand that they are learning a martial arts style that is soft and relaxed. By using the name Mian Main, people will understand that it is a martial arts style that has continuous movements.

Furthermore, the name Tai Chi Chuan can also be confused with other Chinese martial arts styles with similar names, such as Wu Chi Chuan and Ba Chi Chuan. People may think Wu Chi and Bai Chi are similar to Tai Chi, but in fact they are totally different.

And so I ask you: Shall we bring back “Mian” and re-integrate it into the name of the forms we practice today? To avoid losing Tai Chi as we know it, perhaps we could compromise and call our art Tai Chi Mian Chuan. What do you think? It might be a good idea!

Copyrighted Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Can Learning Chess Improve Tai Chi Push Hands?

There are several similarities between Tai Chi Push Hands and the game of chess. Both require similar strategies to move from beginner to expert. Here are 8 chess strategies that can be applied to Tai Chi Push Hands.

1. Be prepared - At the beginning stage of a chess game, you normally move into a pyramid shape to defend yourself. With Push Hands, say single Push Hands, you need to have one arm protecting your knee and lower body, and another arm protecting your chest and upper body. Like the stable pyramid in chess, make sure to create a nice stable form before you start Push Hands.

2. Rely on an observer – Observers watching a competitive chess game can often identify the best moves better than the players themselves simply because they are outside the game. Your teacher will be better able to tell if you and your partner are making progress in your Push Hands technique because he is an outside observer.

3. It’s all about losing – In chess, you always gain experience if you play with a person who knows more about the game than you. The same is true for Push Hands. If you push with some one who is better than you, you can always learn new things. It’s not about winning but about losing.

4. Concentration – More concentration and less talk always helps in chess. Same for Push Hands.

5. Play it Slow – You need to think before you make a move in chess, and playing it slow helps. Moving slowly when doing Push Hands will also help you to understand and feel the listening energy.

6. Linking and Protecting – In Chess, a well-known strategy is to link all the chess pieces together so they can protect each other. In Push Hands, body parts need to stay connected to defend each other.

7. Trap in – In chess, we often give up the small pieces or trap opponent’s pieces in order to put the king in check. In Push Hands, we don’t resist our opponent, but absorb and trap his/her energy in order to control it.

8. Practice makes perfect – The more you play chess, the better player you will become. Similarly, the more you practice Push Hands, the better your Tai Chi will become.

Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

9 Healthy Reasons to Adopt Chinese Food Habits

Photo: Been There

We all have to eat food every day. But do we always employ the healthiest habits and enjoy our food in the way best suited to our bodies?

I enjoy many kinds of food, and after much experimentation, I have found that the healthiest food habits often have their roots in ancient Chinese customs. The Chinese customs of preparing and eating food are among the healthiest of those of all cultures. Here are some reasons why I think they are healthier:

1. Chinese use chopsticks to pick up food. Their hands never directly touch the food (the way Americans often touch hamburgers or Indians touch nan bread), so there is no risk of bacteria transmitting from the hands to the mouth.

2. Using chopsticks allows you to filter the food a second time. If there is a piece of unhealthy food such as a pig fat, or any non-edible item mistakenly mixed in, you have a second chance to filter these out by using chopsticks. On the other hand, if you are eating a sandwich, often the fat is already mixed in to the ham and it is hard to pull apart a whole sandwich.

3. Chinese food is well-prepared which means it is often chopped into small pieces prior to presentation and consumption. Because of this advanced preparation, there is no risk of dangerous incidents such as cutting your fingers with a knife while eating because the food has already been cut and there is no need for a knife. Similarly, a big piece of meat can pose a problem if it is not well-cooked inside (risking exposure to bacteria) and/or if it is burned on the outside (potential exposure to carcinogens).

4. Most Chinese food is meant to be eaten when it’s warm or it will lose its taste. The heat also keeps the bacteria away. When food becomes cold, bacteria can thrive and grow.

5. Another benefit of eating food when it’s warm is that the Chinese believe in the importance of making sure the temperature of the food and that of your body are similar. Eating cold food can be like putting cold water in fish tank; it can harm the fish. Cold food can cause stomach pains or similar discomforts. Food eaten warm, at body temperature, is natural and healthier.

6. Chinese never eat food without either rice or noodles. A bowl of rice or noodles ensures that you fulfill one of the 6-11 recommended daily servings of starches or grains in the food pyramid.

7. Chinese add vegetables to most meat or seafood dishes to ensure that you are getting your recommended daily servings of vegetables.

8. Chinese really take time to prepare soup. They prefer to obtain their vitamins the natural way. For example, a pig-bone soup takes a long time to cook to ensure that all the calcium from the bone is passed on into the soup.

9. Many Chinese foods include Chinese herbs which can help your body. Soups such as Huang Qi Chicken soup contain the Chinese herb Huang Qi, which will help you recover faster from a cold in the winter.

Among all the different styles of Chinese food, I prefer Shang Hai cuisine. Shang Hai cuisine is lightly seasoned and requires less oil. It’s not as strongly seasoned as Cantonese style, or as spicy as Hunan and Sichuan cuisine, nor is it as sweet as Beijing cooking. Shang Hai cuisine focuses on the natural taste of the food instead of seasoning or sauce. Most seasonings and sauces are full of extra salt and sugar which we all know is not healthy. Based on the above evidence, I conclude that learning the Chinese way of preparing and eating food, along with your daily Tai Chi will make your life healthier and more peaceful.

Copyright 2010 Huan's Tai Chi

Monday, July 19, 2010

Plus and Minus Method for Tai Chi Footwork

Photo: yofx

As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once told us, “A huge tree is grown from a small bud; a nine-storey high tower started as a small pile of dirt; a journey of a thousand miles begins with the right first step.”

Lao Tzu’s wisdom is directly applicable to Tai Chi. It is hard to do Tai Chi well without the right step of your feet. In Chinese, we say, “if you want get your Tai Chi right, you must relax from your head to your toe.”

If you want have a relaxed foot, you must relax all your toes at once. When you are doing a movement such as Brush Knee or Repulse Monkey, you need to transfer your weight in the right way. You need to apply your Ying (empty energy) and Yang (solid energy) to your feet. This means shifting your body weight from one foot to the other. Because your body weight is substantial (100 - 200lbs), you need to transfer your weight slowly, but definitively. As you shift your weight, you will need to use the Plus and Minus Method.

The Plus and Minus Method means when you release (or subtract), for example, 2 pounds of weight from the right foot, then you should receive (or add) the same amount of weight to the left foot. There shouldn’t be any extra weight remaining in-between. Extra weight in-between may cause you to hurt your knee or you will be double weighted (lifting weights). Once you have transferred all your weight to one foot slowly - which means one foot has become solid - then this solid foot should feel rooted like a tree grabbing deep into the earth. When you are well-rooted, your body forms one line vertical to ground, and your head supports the sky. Now your form has a good structure and has become stable.

When we talk about Tai Chi, we always return to many of the same principles: Empty and Solid, Ying and Yang, Double Weight, Advance and Retreat, Left and Right, Balancing, Rooting, Centering. All these terms above are related to our feet. To get our Tai Chi right, we need to start from our feet and start our thousand-mile Tai Chi journey with that single, solid step.

copyright 2010 Huan's Tai Chi

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

4 Methods and 4 Skills of Tai Chi

Photo: Just Grumpy

Today I’m going to teach you the 4 methods and 4 skills of Tai Chi. You may have already be familiar with them, in which case this will be a good reminder of how to incorporate them into your own Tai Chi.

The 4 Methods are Hand, Eye, Body, and Step.

As you practice each Tai Chi movement, you must practice not only the hand form, but also make sure that your eyesight is focused and your eyes follow the movements, that your whole body is involved, and that you have both correct and stable steps. You need to put the 4 Methods into practice as you first start each movement, and then as you go through each movement, and finally as you end each movement.

The 4 Skills are Mind, Energy, Concentration and Thinking.

The 4 Skills are a bit more complicated to understand because you can’t really see them. In Chinese, we say “Originate from the mind, reach to your energy, move with concentration and remember with thinking.” “Originate from your mind” means every move starts in your mind. That’s why we need to quiet our minds when we practice Tai Chi. When we don’t have a quiet mind then we can’t concentrate well. “Reach to your energy” means you need to move your energy around. When you bring up enough energy, then your Tai Chi looks peaceful, settled but also lively. “Move with concentration” means use concentration but don’t use force. When you use concentration to lead your structure, then you can use your structure to lead energy and bring energy to the whole body. “Remember with thinking” means you need to remember every move you are doing and remind yourself of the correct technique throughout the movement. As you do your movements, think about them and pay extra attention to them. Carefully finish each movement with a mental reminder to yourself of the correct form.

In short, the 4 Methods strengthen the outer part of your Tai Chi and the 4 Skills strengthen the inner part of your Tai Chi. With the right understanding and the correct application into your Tai Chi, the 4 Methods and 4 Skills allow you to train both your outer body and inner mind.

2010 Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to taste your Tai Chi

Photo: Daveybot

Recently, I was having tea with a friend of mine at a tea shop. It is always interesting to see how different people drink tea in different ways. It reminds me of what the Chinese say about tea: “To consume one cup is to taste; to consume two cups is to drink; to consume three cups is to swill like a donkey.” It's a bit harsh to compare one who drinks three cups of tea to a donkey, but one must note the difference between swilling and sipping. When someone is really thirsty, he/she will swill, or guzzle the tea as if drinking a beer. There is no notion of taste. When one drinks to taste, one sips the tea, keeping a little bit of hot liquid in the mouth, bringing it to the tip of the tongue, letting it stay there for little bit and then making sure to taste before swallowing. One can feel the tea on the tongue and think about the taste afterward.

When we practice our Tai Chi as beginners, it may be helpful to remember this concept of taste. To taste something, you need to have patience. There is no hurry to get to the next movement. Do one little movement at a time. Let the posture stay with you for little while, and “taste” each movement before moving on to the next one. When you have patience and can taste your Tai Chi, then you won’t swill your Tai Chi like a donkey.

Copyright 2010 Huan's Tai Chi

Monday, June 21, 2010

In Tai Chi, what you see is NOT what you get

Photo: jasonr611

Many of my Tai Chi students can relate to the following:

When you try to follow your teacher’s movements, you think you are repeating what you saw. Sometimes you succeed in repeating the upper part of the body movement correctly or sometimes only the lower body movements, but you still don’t internalize everything that your teacher does. Sometimes you think you mastered both the upper and lower body movements but you just missed that small turn. Is there an end to learning Tai Chi? How do you know you have really learned something from your teacher, and that you are doing all the movements correctly?

Here is when I tell my students that there is nothing to worry about. Because in Tai Chi, what you see is NOT what you get.

You don’t have to internalize everything your teacher does; you just need to get the right end result. It is this end result that you need to be concerned about. For beginners, I use this analogy: there are a lot of trails that go to the top of Hua Mountain; you just need to find one of them. For intermediate students, you need to try more trails so you have alternate ways.

In class, you have heard me talk about “Qi” (Body Energy). Imagine Qi as being similar to electricity. Electricity is an invisible thing. When you see a light bulb light up, or a fan turn on, you only see the outward result of the electricity, just as you see the outward result of the invisible Qi. When your Qi is applied to people, it can bounce people away, redirect or absorb other’s energy. However, even more important than Qi is “Yi”(Mind Concentration). Yi controls Qi just like a light switch; it controls the direction of the electricity.

Everyone already has Qi in his/her body, but sometimes it is difficult to bring Qi out. If we go back to the electricity analogy, Tai Chi movements are like the wires for the light bulb, the wires you build for your Qi. It is nice if you have perfected every move that your teacher has taught, but it is first essential that you can turn on the light bulb. This means perfecting one movement at a time. If most wires are built right but one is built wrong then the light bulb won’t light up. Every time you learn a new movement, it is like adding a new wire.

Tai Chi is a martial art that comes with many mental health benefits. Make sure you are working your mind and applying your Yi to the Qi. Try each movement out on someone and see if it works. Then you will know if your circuit is working. Test your moves and have your teacher correct you, so you don’t waste time on a broken wire movement that goes nowhere.

Copyrigthed by Huan's Tai Chi

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ji Chang’s Way to Master any Skill

A long time ago, in the Spring and Autumn period in China (770-456 BC), there once lived a man named Ji Chang who wanted to be the greatest archer in the world. He decided to find the best possible teacher.

Gan Ying was a great master of archery. As soon as he pulled his bow, wild animals would drop to the ground, and birds would fall from the sky. Gan Ying taught his disciple, Fei Wei, who was said to be even better skilled than Gan Ying himself. Ji Chang heard that and was determined to learn archery from Fei Wei.

Fei Wei told Ji Chang: "You must learn not to blink. Only after you have mastered this task can you learn archery from me."

Ji Chang went back home. He crawled under his wife’s loom, watching as she wove. He watched the shutters move quickly up and down next to his eyelids and began training himself not to blink. One day, two days, three days passed. At last, two years later, Ji Chang mastered the skill of not blinking his eyes. Then he went to see his master, Fei Wei.

Fei Wei said: "This is not enough. You must now learn the ability to be able to see small, microscopic things as if they were very clear and large. Learn this and then you can come to me."

Ji Chang went to home and picked a tiny louse from his bed-sheets, tied up with a strand of hair and hung it in the window. He stared at it every day. Three years passed, and he was able to perceive the tiny louse as big as a car wheel. When he stared at other small things, he could also see them as if they were clear and big. Ji Chang brought a bow and arrow, and shot the louse. The arrow went through the middle of the insect, and the hairs around its body did not break. Ji Chang quickly went to find Fei Wei. This time Fei Wei said, "You have really learned the true archery skills now."

Whether this is a true story or a legend does not matter. The key is to realize that there are many times when you will do all the work toward achieving your goal all alone. A good teacher may show you the way, but it is up to you alone to do the important work. In the process of learning things, including Tai Chi, this is a valuable lesson.

Copyright Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Confucius’ Teachings on Self-improvement

Many times, when I teach a new class, I encounter the following situation: I am with a new student and am correcting a wrong move, and the student feels embarrassed and thinks he/she should know this move well already. When I ask my students, “do you have any questions to ask?” they often choose not to ask questions so they don’t feel embarrassed. The fact is that this is only their first or second class. It is expected that you can’t master a movement by only watching it and practicing it a few times.

I remember a story about Kong Qiu from the Spring and Autumn period in China (722-481 BC). He was one of the smartest men in China in that time. People respected him. You might know him as Confucius.

Once, Confucius participated in an ancestor worship ceremony. He asked many people questions about this ceremony about almost every detail. Some people laughed at him behind his back. They said he did not understand etiquette. After hearing these remarks Confucius said, "If I do not know something, I need to ask to understand. This is the real way to understanding etiquette. Be sensitive and eager to learn. Always ask questions. A diligent and intelligent person should never feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask questions of people at any level.”

If we can understand this story about Confucius and put it into practice, then we can really learn things. If we are not ashamed to ask questions, then we can really improve. If a smart person like Confucius can do that, why can’t we all do the same thing in our lives and our Tai Chi?

Copyright Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Is Chen-Style Tai Chi Real Tai Chi?

While I was learning Tai Chi from few different masters in China, one of them mentioned that Chen-Style Tai Chi is not real Tai Chi. The reasons he gave were that Chen-Style has moves like jumping that use “double-weight” and are therefore against the fundamental Tai Chi principle of single-weightiness. Chen-Style also embraces power-releasing moves that contradict another fundamental principle of Tai Chi: “don’t use force.”

As many people know, Yang Chen Fu (1883-1936) was the founder of the Yang form of Tai Chi that we are practicing now. Yang Chen Fu was the grandson of Yang Lu Chan (1799-1872) of Yongnian County, in Northern China. Yang Lu Chan came to Chen Village and learned Tai Chi from the Chen Family. In the years that followed, there was no one that did Tai Chi Chuan that had not, in some way, been helped by his influence, including his son Yang Jian Hou and grandson Yang Chen Fu. Yang Jian Hou made some changes and improvements to the original style he and his father learned from the Chen Village. When Yang Chen Fu came of age, he altered the style to more closely resemble the form we know today. He removed jumping, power-stepping and the lower stances, giving us the more open and relaxed, natural and lively, centered and round, simple but detailed movements that have become the standard Yang-Style Tai Chi form.

Today, Chen-Style Tai Chi retains many traditional movements. It is a combination of soft and hard, high and low, fast and slow, motion and stillness, power and emptiness. It has its own unique points. The long fist (1st Chen form) is combination of soft and hard. The Cannon fist (2nd Form), on power releasing, turning and jumping with a few soft movements.

Both Chen and Yang-Style Tai Chi Chuan are treasures of Internal Martial Arts. Yang-Style would not exist had Yang Lu Chan not learned from the Chen family. The real martial artist must respect and master both forms.

Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

8 Ways to Find out if You are Really Doing Tai Chi

Chinese martial arts can be divided into two different divisions, internal and external. Each one tries to arrive at the same destination, but they get there by different routes. External Kung Fu uses physical strength and speed. Internal Kung Fu (Tai Chi) uses balance, awareness, sensitivity, and an opponent's force against them.

I am going to list 8 differences between Tai Chi and external Kung Fu to help you better understand them.

1. Against Vs. Following Power:
External Kung Fu: External Kung Fu involves a lot of blocking. That’s working against power.
Tai Chi: Tai Chi follows the power and energy instead of blocking against it.

2. Whole body movement vs. Partial body movement:
External Kung Fu: In External Kung Fu, you move your arm or leg to block or attack.
Tai Chi: In Tai Chi, you move your whole body together in a fluid motion.

3. Goal of Attack: Partial damage to the body vs. Unbalance of the whole body
External Kung Fu: The goal is to attack your opponent’s body parts such as his face or ribs.
Tai Chi: The goal is to throw your opponent’s whole body off balance.

4. Separating Offence and Defense Vs. Combining Offence and Defense
External Kung Fu: In Kung Fu, a kick is an offensive move and a block is defensive. Each move has its own usage.
Tai Chi: In Tai Chi, offence and defense are mixed. Peng (outward expanding energy) and Lu (receiving energy) often work together in the same move and even reverse. Like Ying and Yang, they are often changing.

5. Straight vs. Circular
External Kung Fu: Straight line punch and kicks
Tai Chi: All energy moves in a circle.

6. Fast vs. Slow
External Kung Fu: Speed and fast moves are the key to winning
Tai Chi: Slow, direct movements are the key to control

7. Break Moves vs. Continuous Movements
External Kung Fu: There is break time between offensive and defensive moves
Tai Chi: All movements are continuous. The whole form continues in one motion.

8. Power vs. No Power
External Kung Fu: Power dominates the fighting
Tai Chi: Does not emphasize force and power. The transfer of energy dominates the fighting, such as leveraging your opponent’s energy.

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

Kong Rong Teaches us Courtesy and Respect

Last week, I bought some chocolate bars. But it was warm out and a few of them melted and hardened again. I ate the ugly ones myself and shared the good ones with friends. One of my good friends asked me why I didn’t save the good ones for myself. To explain, I told him a story about the Chinese bureaucrat, poet and war-lord Kong Rong when he was just four years old.

Kong Rong (153 – 208) lived during the late Eastern Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms era of China. He was also the 20th generation descendant of Confucius. He had six brothers, five older and one younger.

One day, when he was four years old, a friend brought his family some pears for his grandmother’s birthday. His father asked each of his seven sons to choose his own pear. First he asked the youngest brother. The youngest chose the biggest pear. Kong Rong was next. He chose the smallest.

His father was surprised and asked him why. Kong Rong said, “Just as there are taller and shorter trees, I have older and younger brothers. Respect for elders is part of humanity. I am one of the younger bothers, therefore I should take the smallest pear, and leave the big pears to the elders.”

His father then asked him, “what about your little brother?”

Kong Rong said, “I am an older brother to my younger brother. I should take care of him, and that’s why I should let him have the bigger one.”

Kong Rong went on to become a great scholar. He was always good-tempered and hospitable, and his house was always full of guests.

My father told me this story when I was little. I remember that he told me that one should never take advantage of others. I have benefited from this story my entire life. Kong Rong acted this way when he was just four years old. This is incredible. Imagine if we could all act like that. It is important to show courtesy and respect to your classmates and teacher while learning Tai Chi or other disciplines. You will learn better if you are polite and respectful to people.

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

How to Better Remember your Tai Chi Moves

I have had a few beginner students mention that they can’t always completely remember all the Tai Chi moves they have learned because each movement is often very detailed. I have 9 tips to share with you to help you better memorize each and every movement.

1. Repeat: I have heard there is a formula that calculates that if you don’t repeat what you have learned after 2 days, then you only remember 30 percent, and if you let a week go by, your retention drops to 10 percent and so on. What this tells you is that you need to repeat often and as soon after your class as possible. The few students who master the movements well are those who go home and practice what they learn right after each class.

2. Take Notes: I encourage my students take notes during class since when it comes to memory, a pen often works better then your brain. Because we offer free notes to our students, I also encourage students read these notes before each class and review them again after. In Chinese, we have a saying: Only when you have mastered what you know will you invent something new.

3. Draw Stick Figures: Don’t laugh at this idea. I did this all the time when I was learning Tai Chi and other martial arts. Stick figures are great reference charts and easy reminders of the movements, both their names and how they look. Stick figures can give us quick visual cues on how to do all the most important moves. And when you supply the correct name for each movement, this is a great way to link the pieces together. So let others laugh, just draw your stick figures. When you can out-perform your neighbor in the next class, then you will have the last laugh.

4. Organize: Many students get confused about which move has which name. Matching the names with the movements will really simplify things. Stick figures can be a very helpful way to give yourself easy reminders.

5. Ask Questions: Asking questions is a great way to review your movements. Only after you review well will you discover the right questions to ask. Asking questions will also benefit your classmates.

6. Associate each Movement with its Application: Ask your teacher to demonstrate a specific example or application of each movement as you learn it. This will really cement that movement in your brain.

7. Have Confidence that you can Learn: You can’t learn well if you don’t have confidence on yourself. If you think you are not Tai Chi material and you feel like quitting then you will never memorize the movements.

8. Partner up with a Classmate: Ask a classmate to partner with you after class or in your personal time, so you can help each other. Two brains are better than one.

9. Learn one Movement at a Time: Try to learn only few movements at a time. If you have too many things to remember, then you won’t remember them all well. It’s easier to learn just a few things at a time. Here’s what I often tell my beginner students: “We only have 85 movements in Yang Style Tai Chi. If you can master one at a time, one day at a time, you will have mastered 85 movements in 85 days.”

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Finding inspiration from Li Bai

Li Bai (李白) (701-762) also known to Westerners as Li Bo or Li Po is one of my favorite Chinese poets from the Tang Dynasty. He is as well-respected in the Chinese speaking world as Shakespeare is in the English-speaking world. However, when Li Bai was young, he was not very fond of going to school. He disliked the books of classics and history that his teacher made him read. He thought they were difficult and boring. Instead, he liked to skip school and hang around the neighborhood. He wanted to quit school and have fun and play with other kids all the time.

One day, when he was skipping school, he saw an old woman sitting down and grinding a thick iron bar on a big stone. He became very curious. He asked the old woman, “What is this for?"

The woman wiped sweat from her face and said: "I want to grind this rod into an embroidery needle."

Li Bai laughed very hard: "Are you kidding? How can you make this thick bar into an embroidery needle?"

The old woman said in confidence: "Young man, everything takes time. As long as I make enough efforts and do it every day, it can be gradually done."

Hearing this, Li Bai stopped laughing and was very moved. He immediately went back to continue his studies, and later became a very famous poet.

This story always reminds me of the importance of perseverance. Instead of simply imagining lofty goals for your life and your Tai Chi, starting small, and continuing to work slowly every day will bring you closer to your goals. Like the English writer Thomas Carlyle said, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tai Chi’s Silk Reeling Energy

Silk Reeling Energy, or Chan Si Jing, is a movement principle shared by many Chinese martial art styles, including Kung Fu and Tai Chi.The function of silk reeling energy is to unify the body by drawing energy from the Dan Tian (Red Field), or physical center of gravity, and using this energy to reinforce movements of the rest of the body. It takes its name from the idea of drawing or reeling silk from a silk worm’s cocoon. In order to draw out the silk successfully, each action must be smooth and consistent without jerking or changing direction sharply. Most people understand it as a twisting energy. To explain the concept in more detail, I will first explain the two basic energies, Horizontal Energy and Vertical Energy.

Horizontal Energy: Horizontal energy comes from the waist. It’s a twist of your body. It is generally a closed energy, meaning that the limbs remain generally close to the body to protect the central area and maintain balance. The most basic Hand-Push training routine is based on horizontal energy. Movements like Brush Knee also use horizontal energy. Horizontal energy comes from you Dan Tian, your center of gravity, located just below your naval.

Vertical energy: Vertical energy comes from your feet or the ground. It’s an energy that rises and falls. This energy originates from the sole of the foot in the Yong Quan (Bubbling Spring) Acupuncture point. We can practice vertical energy using the Vertical Hand Push move. Movements such as Lifting Hands also use this vertical energy.

When you combine both Horizontal Energy and Vertical Energy together, the result is Silk Reeling Energy, a twisting and turning energy. When you have mastered both Horizontal and Vertical Energies and can apply them well, try to work towards achieving Silk Reeling Energy. When you feel resistance while applying Horizontal or Vertical energy towards your partner during a Hand-Push exercise, try to combine both energies and link them in circles. Physically, this means linking the Dan Tian, to the waist, back and shoulder right through the arms to the hands, and down through the hips to the knees and feet. All of these movements flow together in a spiral. The spiraling of the waist creates spiraling of the shoulder, elbow and wrist as well as the hips, knees and ankles. The body should move as one unit. When one part of the body moves, the whole body moves. The result is the release of explosive energy, like a bullet shooting from a barrel. When absorbing Silk Reeling Energy, imagine a black hole in the universe sucking everything in. When you can both release and absorb using Silk Reeling Energy, your Hand-Push skills will advance to a new level.

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

6 Principles to Stepping Like a Cat

As we all know, Tai Chi is distinguished by the separation of weight. Single-weightiness is one of the fundamental principles of Tai Chi. In Tai Chi, moving in a single-weighted way is often referred to as “walking like a cat,” stepping carefully and softly so that if there were danger you would be able to take that foot back instantly. This means when you step down, your movements are slow and precise, but also quiet. The whole move should be done silently. No noise should be heard. Stepping like a cat requires understanding of the following 6 principles:

1. Don’t double your weight. You must support your entire weight on a single, full leg that is properly rooted. If both legs use energy at the same time you are double-weighted. The double-weighted posture in Tai Chi is the beginner’s most forbidden fault. Double-weight will make it hard to put down your leg as well.

2. Keep your body vertical. If your body is leaning forward or backward, it’s easy to let all of your body weight fall into your steps, causing you to stomp loudly as you walk.

3. Relax your waist and loosen your hips. Relaxing your waist and loosening your hips will make it easier to put down your foot gracefully and softly.

4. Sink first. You need to sink down low first and reach your whole leg out, either forward or back, before putting weight onto that foot. This way you don’t suddenly plunk your weight into your legs and feet. Your feet should never suddenly drop to the ground. Rather, you should reach your leg out slowly until your foot touches the ground.

5. Put your heel down first. Put the heel down first and then the whole foot to better transfer the weight little by little. Imagine you are putting your foot down on thin ice and you don’t want break the ice.
6. Step into a stable stance. If you have your foot position wrong, then you are not balanced and can’t transfer your weight smoothly. Make sure you have the right position in mind before you put down your foot.

All the 6 principles above teach you how to have control of every process of lifting, moving, and putting down your leg and foot. While applying these 6 principles, you must also pay attention to the whole body relaxation. Only when your whole body is relaxed, can you have Qi (Energy) flowing around. When you use Yi (Concentration) to control Qi in your body, then your body will not feel like a stone falling down with every step. Your body should feel like a balloon gently floating up and down. That’s the feeling we need in order to step like a cat.

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

6 Steps to Developing Your Own Secret Weapon Move in Kung Fu and Tai Chi

Many Kung Fu masters have developed unique signature moves that are known as their "secret weapons." Master Guo Yun Shen, who practiced Xing Yi Quan, the ancient, classical "internal" style of Kung Fu is famous for his Beng Quan or "Half-step Crushing Fist." He can release power in a short distance with this famous punch. Grandmaster, Cai Longyun, called "The Big Dragon with the Magic Fists" is known for his signature move, the “Golden Leg Hook." He can throw his opponent off-balance in seconds with a single leg kick. My Grandmaster, Cai Hong Xian, nicknamed “Fast Leg," has a great move called “Wind Following Palm.” He can hit his opponent's face with his palm four times in one second. He can also use his leg to joint-lock an opponent's arm.

These moves all sound so incredible, but what if it was possible to have your own secret weapon?

When you practice your Tai Chi form, do you have a move that you do best? Which move you are so familiar with that you think you don’t have to spend more time on it? Or do you have a particular movement in mind to which you want to devote more attention? If you do, maybe you can spend more time concentrating on this move. Here are some tips on how to start developing your secret weapon:

1. Practice it often! When you have identified your signature move, repeat it 300 times or more every day, so you can do it even without thinking.

2. Sharpen it up! Make your move unique by adding some of your own flavor. Think about smaller or bigger turns or a change of direction.

3. Test it out! If this move is for fighting, test it on partners. (Make sure do it slower at beginning and use good protection, so that nobody gets hurt.)

4. Get Feedback! Improve your move by getting feedback from your partners, classmates, or teacher.

5. Combine it! Combine your signature move with other movements. Do you ever repeat the same move in a fight or performance? Secret weapons often reveal themselves in fighting situations. Familiarize yourself with all the movements of your signature combination.

6. Give it a good name! When others start saying that you have a secret weapon, make sure you are ready with a good name. But remember, just as the grandmasters never called themselves Kung Fu Master or Sifu (teacher), you never announce that you have a secret weapon. The word has to come from other people’s mouths.

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Lesson from Zhang Liang

We see it everyday: people making superficial judgments of strangers they have never met.We all do it. The moment we meet someone new, we begin to judge them. We judge
politicians, celebrities, and more importantly, simple strangers that we meet in our everyday lives. When I meet a new person, I try to keep in mind a legend that my father told me when I was little. It is about Zhang Liang, (262 BC – 189 BC), a strategist and statesman of the early Han Dynasty in China.

One day when Zhang traveled to Xiapi in the province of Jiangsu. It is there
where he is said to have met an old man while walking across the Yishui bridge. The man walked towards him and threw one of his shoes off the bridge and on to
the bank below.

"Hey you, little boy, go down and fetch the shoe for me!"

Zhang was not pleased. But despite the danger of falling into the cold water, he descended down the bank and picked up the shoe. When he returned, the old man lifted his foot and ordered Zhang to put the shoe on for him. The boy controlled his temper, kneeled and carefully helped the elderly man put on his shoe. The old man said nothing, did not show any sign of gratitude. Instead he walked away in laughter. After walking a distance, the old man returned to the bridge. He praised the young Zhang.

"This child can be taught!"

He asked Zhang to meet him at the bridge again at dawn five days later. The boy was
confused but he agreed. Five days later, Zhang rushed to the bridge at the stroke of dawn. The old man was alreadywaiting for him there.

"How can you be late for a meeting with an elderly man? Come back again five days later!"

Zhang Liang tried his best to be punctual the second time but the old man still arrived earlier than he did, and once again he was told by the old man to return again five days later. The third time, Zhang Liang went to the bridge at midnight and waited until the old man appeared. This time, the old man was impressed with Zhang Liang's fortitude and humility. He then presented Zhang with a book and he said to him:

"After reading this book, you will become the tutor of a ruler. In ten years' time the world will become chaotic, and you will use your knowledge from this book to bring peace and prosperity to the empire. Meet me again in thirteen years. I will be the yellow rock at the foot of Mount Gucheng in the town of Ji Pei."

The old man was none other than the legendary wise man, Huang Shigong, whose name
means Old Man of the Yellow Rock. The book was titled The Art of War by Taigong and was believed to be the Six Secret Teachings of Jiang Ziya . Others would call it the Three Strategies of Huang Shigong. Zhang Liang returned home and studied this book very hard until he had mastered its essence.

Ten years later, he went on to assist the emperor Liu Bang who would establish the Han dynasty and unite China. In legend, when Zhang Liang returned to the indicated site thirteen years later he did see a yellow rock there. He built a shrine to worship the rock which was buried with him after his death.

What I have taken away from this story is that it is important to be humble and respectful of others. Humility is an important leadership quality. It involves learning from others, something you cannot do if you are too busy judging them.

Copyrighted by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

How Long does It Take to Learn Tai Chi?

Recently, I started teaching a new Tai Chi section. I had one student ask me a question that I have heard many times before. “How long do you think it will take me to learn the whole Tai Chi set well?” His question reminded me of an old Buddhist story.

A young man went to a sword master and asked him:
“How long will it take to learn the sword well?”
“30 years.”
“What happens if I practice very hard?”
“40 years.”
“What happens if I practice as much as possible?”
“50 years.”

In Chinese, we have a saying: “you can’t reach your goal if you are in hurry.” Anything takes time to learn well. When practicing Tai Chi, the goal is not speed, it is patience. When we practice Tai Chi we train our patience as much as we train our bodies. Only if you can quiet your mind will you have the patience to pay attention to the details and learn each exercise well. Without patience, you would only jump to the next move without completely finishing the first.

In light of message, I give the following advices to my students:
- There are 85 movements of Yang Style Tai Chi. No need to hurry. Learn one at a time.
- The key is to learn each movement in detail.
- Go over the notes before class, ask questions during class and review at home.
- Concentrate on practicing on the movements you had trouble with.
- Watch the teacher carefully from different angles, and concentrate on how the whole body moves together.
- Ask the teacher how each movement should feel if you are doing it correctly. Do it yourself to make sure you are getting that feeling.

Copyrighted By Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

6 Most Important Words for Tai Chi Beginners

The six most important words for Tai Chi Beginners are

Quiet – In Tai Chi language, We say "Step like a cat". There shouldn’t be any sound when you lift or step down your foot.

Relaxed – Don’t raise your shoulders and elbows, and release all your tension on muscles.

Centered – Your eyes should see straight; and your body should be vertical to ground.

Slowness – There is no hurry to get a movement done, please transfer weight bit by bit.

Evenness – You need to try to perform with even speed, and even coordination between upper and lower body.

Stable – Have the right stance and structure is the key. Your feet shouldn’t stay on one line. A good stance will help you to maintain a stable position .

Copyrighted Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A 7 years old saved a life

Sima Guang (司馬光) (1019-1086) was a Chinese historian, scholar, and high chancellor of the Song Dynasty. When he was seven years old, he and few other neighbor kids were playing in the backyard. There was a big round fish tank. There was a kid climbing on the tank to play along, accidentally fell into tank. The tank was very tall. Other children didn’t know what to do. They were frightened, crying, or ran outside to find adults for help. Sima Guang quickly picked up a large stone from the ground, thrown to the tank’s body. It smashed a big hole on the tank body, Water came out and the kid had drowned in the water was saved by him.

Some of us are beginners of Tai Chi. We might be only seven years old in Tai Chi years or even less. How can Sima Guang view this incident in a different angle than other kids did? Can we view our Tai Chi in a different angle, think differently, and find a unique way for ourselves? That’s a lot to think about.

Copyright Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cardinal body part to relax for Tai Chi and your life

I have mentioned the 17 body parts we need to relax in my article “Relax your body, Understand 8 Sections and 9 Joints”. Now I would like to talk about which body part is the most important part that needs to relax. It is not your shoulders or elbows, it is the waist.

In Chinese martial arts, we say,
“Energy comes from your feet, it is controlled by the waist, and moves out to the limbs”,
“The Qi is your wheel; and the waist is your axle.”
“If there is sickness (imperfection in Tai Chi), it can be found on your waist and legs”

Relaxing your waist is the key to improving your Tai Chi. Relaxing the waist can help you sink your Qi to Dan Tian (Red Field acupuncture point). Relaxing your waist makes your movements fluid and steady. By relaxing the waist you can more easily define solid and empty, the Ying and Yang. A relaxed waist truly connects your upper and lower body.

Since relaxing the waist is so important, how do we do it? There are many different ways to relax your waist. One of the most common ways is to stand like a post (Zhan Zhuang, 站桩). It will not only help you relax your waist, but it will also strengthen your legs as well as your internal energy.

I have taught many post stances in my class. The easiest one to do is the Preparing Stance. In Tai Chi, we call it Wu Chi post. It takes 30 minutes for the blood to circulate through the body, and that is why you can stand in this posture for 30 minutes every day or until your legs feel warm. You will feel some difference after 100 days if you have the right stance. That’s why we say in Chinese “100 days to build your foundation”.

Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More habits- Confucius’s Healthy Eating Wisdom

You are here. You might as well read the post 8 habits- Confucius’s Healthy Eating Wisdom. Well, Confucius has more than 8 eating habits in his life. I have found few more in his writing to share with you.

One is concerning the food used for sacrifice in addition to leftovers. After a public sacrifice, he never kept the portion of meat he received over night. The meat he used for private sacrifices at home he never kept for more than three days;

This is difficult for many of us to do because we think we’re saving money by eating our leftovers. The fact is that it could actually cost us more money to see a doctor or go to the hospital if we had food poison. As for myself, I usually cook a meal with only the portion that I will eat that day. When I have leftovers from eating out, I refrigerated it immediately, and try to eat it by the following day. I don’t eat leftovers over 2 days and I don’t eat raw leftovers such as salad.

Another habit of Confucius was to always say grace before he ate, even for the most simplest of food. A famous Chinese poem says, “Working under the heat of the sun, sweat on the ground, who knows who has contributed to the rice in your plate, each piece is contribution and hard work.” Make sure to order wisely when in a restaurant. Don’t order too much at first. You can always order more if you are still hungry or have desert later.

Confucius also remarked, “A wise and good man, in matters of food, should never seek to indulge his appetite; in lodging, he should not be too solicitous of comfort. He should be diligent in business and careful in speech. He should seek for the company of men of virtue and learning, in order to profit by their lessons and example. In this way he may become a man of real culture.” This is some presidential speech; it’s inspiring but takes effort to do. It gives us thoughts that we shouldn’t only worry about our stomach but also the lives of others.

May his wisdom be with you.

Copyright By Huan's Tai Chi

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New Level on Relaxation and a Healthier Life

Lao Tzu became older and once asked all his students come to see him. He opened his mouth and asked them.

“What you see from my mouth?”

No one knows what to answer.
Lao Tzu then said, “You can see I have no teeth left since I am older, but my tongue still remains. Why? Because my tongue is soft but teeth are hard.”

What Lao Tzu told us is that soft substance remains longer than hard ones. In order to remain a healthy and longer life, we need to soften our body.

In Tai Chi, we say. “Through relaxation, then you can archive softness. Use softness to form hardness. Softness and hardness then combines.”

In order to turn soften your body, you need to learn how to relax.
Start with

- Mind Relaxation
Empty your mind

- Basic Body Relaxation
Open your joints and acupuncture points

- Flexible Relaxation
Such as, you use stretch exercise to flex your joints. Doing warm up exercise to stretch all parts of your body before you doing Tai Chi. ( I will put couple post on this in the future)

- Relaxation with Movements

Still remain relaxed while moving or in contact with others.

Once you can move with relaxation, then you can gradually archive softness. Once you can reach the top level of softness, then you can form hardness.

This hardness doesn’t mean your movements are hard. It means when you apply as a martial arts move on people, such as hit some one with your soft movement. They could feel very hard on them. ( For Example: a strong wave hits on your face while you are surfing, it has soft move but it feels hard on you). Once your softness and hardness, Ying and Yang combined together, then you reached the next level of Tai Chi or the next stage of relaxation.

Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

5 Keys: Reveal the Chinese Longevity Mystery

Translation: "A young girl inquired Peng Zu on Dao. Peng Zu found Dao when he was very young and understood how to adjust his body to stay young. He looked like 15 years old when he was in fact 170."

Peng Zu (彭祖) lived in Wuyi Mountain. He is a legendary long-living figure in China. He has supposedly lived since Yin Dynasty( 1400 B.C.). He lived more than 170 years old.

It’s a very rare case in the past since people didn’t have the modern medicine and comfortable living condition to protect their body to live long. One thing that Peng Zu mentioned about a lot in his writing is The Five Organ Talk. Liver (肝), Heart (心), Spleen (脾), Lung (肺), and Kidney (肾) are the five major organs that Chinese people really care about. Peng Zu believed that each organ can help others and each organ can reduce strength of others. Only when you adjust them well, then your body will become healthy.

In Peng Zu’s writing, he mentioned
1. Liver helps the heart but hurts the Spleen.
2. Spleen helps the Lung but hurts the Kidney.
3. Kidney helps the Liver but hurts the Heart.
4. Heart helps the Spleen but hurts the Lung,
5. Lung helps the Kidney but hurts the Liver.

He has also mentioned about the keys to adjust them. These keys are the five tastes, sweet, salty, sour, and bitter and piquant.
These five tastes could affect the five organs dramatically; they can either help or hurt the five organs.

1. Sweet goes to Spleen.
If you eat too many sweets, it will benefit your spleen, but a very strong spleen will hurt your kidney. Weak kidney will cause sore waist, and knees, so older people are not recommend to eat too much sweets.

2. Sour goes to Liver.
Sour hurts the spleen. Too much sour in food can cause digesting problem which cause diarrhea.

3. Piquant goes to Lung.
Too much piquant hurts the liver which can cause dizziness.

4. Salty goes to Kidney.
If you have short breath or chest pain which caused by a weak heart, don’t eat salty food, because salty goes to kidney and hurts the heart.

5. Bitter goes to Heart.
If you have taken too much bitter food, it will hurt your lung, which means it will cause coughing. If you are coughing, don’t eat bitter food.

On the other hand, the five tastes can help you. For example: when a woman is pregnant, she doesn’t have enough blood in her liver. She need eat a lot of sour food to help her liver. Balance your intake of five different tastes, and then you can have a much healthier life.

P.S. I am not a Chinese doctor, but I did some research to put together this post for people who are interested. It’s for your reference only and something to put in mind to balance your daily life when eating.

Copyrighted Huan's Tai Chi 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

8 habits- Confucius’s Healthy Eating Wisdom

We all know from The Food Pyramid, that you should eat 2 servings of meat and poultry and at least 6 servings of bread or rice. Long before the US Department of Agriculture developed The Food Pyramid, Confucius (551-479 BCE) had already written that he would never allow the quantity of meat to exceed a proportion to the rice he took.

Confucius has mentioned his 8 eating habits:

1. He liked to have his food finely cleansed and cut into small pieces.

2. If the food had stored too long changing the color or flavor, he would not eat it.

3. If the food is over cooked , (burned), he would not eat it.

Hint: Burned food has CO2 which is poison.

4. If the food was not fresh, he would not eat it.

5. If the food was not cut into the right proportion, he did not eat it

Hint: Chinese cut the food into pieces before they cook them. If food is not cut properly, it might not be cooked evenly; small pieces can get burned before you finish cooking the bigger pieces.

6. He would not eat if he accidentally put too much sauce, or not enough.

Hint: Too much salt/sodium or sugar consumed is not good for your health

7. If the food was purchased from a small shop or individual, he would not eat it.

Hint: Buy from trusted food market

8. The only thing he didn’t set a limit to was wine consumption, but he did say to drink enough wine but not enough to get drunk.

You probably know many of these 8 habits already. Beside the 8 habits, he said that you should not talk while eating. Eating and talking together is multitasking and results in catching food in your throat. You should talk only while having an empty mouth. I found it’s extremely impolite to talk while you are eating. If someone cooked the dinner for you, eating it with full attention is the best appreciation.

Confucius cautioned, “Don’t fill your stomach”. Chinese often think 80% full is the best for your stomach. You won’t digest well and it will bring too much work to the digesting system if you consume too much food. I know it’s very tempting when you go to your favorite restaurant and not eat that last bit on the plate. You need to take a breath, take it home and eat for next meal. If Confucius was having dinner with you, he probably would do the same thing.

The most important thing Confucius taught is “Don’t just eat, do something meaningful with your life.” This is why I am translating his words to you, so we can all be healthy.

Happy eating!


If you like this post, you might also like

  • 5 Keys: Reveal the Chinese Longevity Mystery

  • Lao Tzu's Secret to extend your life

  • Diet Plan for Tai Chi Practitioners & Rest of Us

  • Chinese Diet continued: Shall we skip breakfest?

  • Copyright by Huan's Tai Chi 2009