personal practice

It occurs to me that the learning which takes place in a class is very different to that which we experience practicing alone – both are important but we tend to prioritise the class or one to one tutorial because we see that as a “proper learning” environment – after all if we are being taught then that means we must be learning – right?

Not necessarily – practising alone for long periods – that is the “in the wilderness” part – is vital to allow our subconscious body/mind to sort out the pieces and to develop new patterns in a kind of meditation – making sense of what we already know without the confusion of taking in new material all the time. It allows us to consolidate everything we have learned to date and understand the truth of that old saying that ” the whole is greater than the sum of  its parts”

This lockdown has enforced a period in the wilderness for all of us – and I for one have found it beneficial – so please embrace the alone time and be at ease with the wilderness.

A few thoughts for those of us doing personal practice in our gardens: –

Clear your mind and quieten your body

Relax your hips – sink slightly before you transfer weight and on the leg you transfer to

Allow your pelvis to sink under you when you move so it can stay beneath your upper body

Relax your trailing hip and leg

Relax your shoulders – allow them to move passively and softly at all times

Read good books on the subject and watch good practitioners on video.

I watched a Japanese TV program recently about slow squats as an exercise for lowering blood sugar and burning fat.

They say that a series of 10 sec squats in reps of 10 repeated 3 times per session  then done in two sessions a week for three months can reduce blood sugar levels as a treatment for diabeties and leads to weight loss.

The explanation is that slow reps change fast twitch white muscle by increasing the number of mitochondria in the muscle – the muscle turns pink and burns much more energy.

See here

It’s a bit like Chi Kung exercises – I have been doing it for a couple of weeks and my legs and knees are feeling much better, and actually it is not too hard work.

Right or wrong, correct or not correct? When we begin right at the beginning as Tai Chi first timers there is a tendency to think there is right way to do things – and to expect our teacher to know what it is. After all isn’t that the way the rest of life works?

Then we may notice that we can’t do it the same way our teacher is doing – even when we think we are doing it like the teacher we are often corrected – and notice that other students are doing it differently again but do not get corrected. We may notice that many top level teachers demonstrate differently and make different corrections, so let us instead call them adjustments. If we persist we may begin to think that we are making progress  – and you are, but possibly not in the way you think. It is difficult to let go of the idea that there is a right or correct way – while we focus on what goes where and how, it is unlikely that you have found it.

However do not be downhearted, you are simply learning about walking without understanding where you are going – but never fear you are on the right path ( there is after all only one, although with many diversions and false trails ) keep going and the path will be revealed – it is the natural path of being human in a human body and it is here that the concept of chi becomes useful.

It is probable that we each have within ourselves a model that we think is right, even if we suspect that it isn’t, but if we could just put right the faults then all would be well. That internal model is almost certainly wrong – or at least we regard it in a perspective that means it can never work properly until we change that perspective. So in private practice do not be afraid to experiment, even do things “wrong” – and observe carefully because you may find that in fact the “wrong” things are actually “right”. And of course the things you thought were right may be completely wrong.

Light and limber

8 May 2020

One of the benefits I have found from lock down has been the opportunity to do my own daily practice during which I have been reminded of the saying from the Tai Chi classics that one’s Tai Chi should be “light and limber” – especially when watching videos of master Chen Yu who has a […]

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Tai Chi Under extended lock down

3 May 2020

This has been an excellent time to explore Tai Chi on a personal basis – to spend time on individual practice looking deeper into the exercises and the form, so I am delighted that many people have been following the exercises and the form on my Alternative Health Exercises website – if you haven’t found […]

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The human body as a mechanism

22 April 2020

We all know that a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link, we probably know Archimedes idea that given a solid place to stand on and a lever long enough he could move the earth. But how do we connect these two ideas? Well let us think of the human body as a […]

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Welcome to glacial Tai Chi!

22 April 2020

No not an ancient technique taught to me by a monk in the ice and snow of Tibet – just a suggestion from my teacher Karel Koskuba that I am finding very rewarding. Simply practice the form as slowly and as smoothly as you can – it may surprise you what you notice. Perhaps the […]

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J-J-just jiggle it as Ronnie Barker said

16 April 2020

I find that shaking is an excellent way to loosen the body – quite vigorous to get the whole body loose and then soft and small shaking to relax the small muscles and gently open up the joints. When doing our form this is also a useful technique – a bit like trying to fit […]

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Never ever underestimate your own ability to not understand

15 April 2020

I have lost count of the number of times that a student has said – “but I am doing what you said” – which is actually quite rude when I can clearly see that they are not – and of course it can easily become an argument after that, so the teacher maybe tries another […]

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