Personal Development

After my last post I was asked to expand on each point – I hope these further notes are helpful.

Posture corrections – we encourage an upright posture sinking weight into the pelvis and allowing the head to float up as if supported from above. This is similar to the golden thread idea of other practices.

Easier movement – relax and move is a principle that means we can move more easily in our daily lives from washing up to shopping and gardening.

Falls prevention – we focus on balance and posture – the body awareness that we learn is coupled with relaxation which enables us to be more resilient in our movement and so reduce susceptibility to falls as was found by the World Health Organisation.

Relaxed and loose body – we practice repetitive soft movement exercises so that tension can be eased from our muscles and joints allowing greater mobility and improved posture

Tai Chi based exercises – using simple, soft and repetitive exercises using Tai Chi and Chi Kung principles we learn how to manage our internal energy so that easy movement can become our habit.

Simple Tai Chi form – using the Chen style Laojia form we learn the first part of this time-proven pattern as a means of understanding our body and developing many ways of moving

Mindfully movement – using our bodies in repetitive exercises enables us to study what is happening in our body and in our mind as we practice – we learn to observe and to notice so that we can learn how to look after ourselves

Meditation in movement – the use of patterns and regular practice leads us to develop a meditative state which is both calming and energising.

Movement for your daily life – Tai Chi is a time-proven practice of optimal body usage which carries over to normal actions in daily life, enabling easier movement and body control with improved strength and better management of long term conditions

Enhanced lifestyle – moving easier with a calm understanding can lead to improved lifestyle with more fun and less pain

Body and mind training – we work with our bodies and our minds in Tai Chi to study how we move so that we can learn how to move better all the time

Understand and develop your movement in simple English – the language of Tai Chi was originally Chinese, coming out of the Chinese culture – we are now able to understand this in simple English with the use of western models and linguistic conventions

Learn how to age gracefully – we have observed that Tai Chi practitioners retain their physical and mental capability into old age – something supported by movement science

Extend middle age mobility into old age – sport and movement science support the idea that Tai Chi practice – especially in a group environment – is a great way to stay confident and reduce vulnerability to falls in later life.

Feel safer, feel lighter, feel stronger, feel more confident – the repetitive practice of Tai Chi exercises and patterns allow our body to carry ourselves more easily, more resiliently and to exert strength more readily

Learn how to pay attention and learn by observation of your own body – by learning to study and observe our body we pay attention to what we are doing and how so that we can take care of ourselves as we age

Feel comfortable among like-minded people and learn with them – learning in a social group provides extra motivation and interaction which helps us to understand ourselves and others – it is fun and rewarding

Recover lost mobility – Tai Chi exercises have been found to help loosen movement when stress and tension have become ingrained and reduced mobility – soft, gentle repetitive exercises using Tai Chi principles encourage us to loosen and to re-align our bodies

Management of physical conditions eg Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s etc. The practice of Tai Chi and associated exercises has been found to be beneficial in learning how to physically manage many long term conditions and to provide helpful emotional support

Learn to manage your body before you become vulnerable – we encourage people to learn the skill of movement before they need it – which is why we refer to “ over 50’s” classes. This gives a good period of time to learn Tai Chi movement before vulnerability becomes a problem

Learn how to look after yourself – the study of Tai Chi involves learning what works and what does not so that one can understand how to look after oneself in all respects

Learn how to take control of yourself – understand the link between intention and movement, so that one can more easily move from one to the other.

Tai Chi as an integrated part of a healthy lifestyle – by stimulating mind and body we learn to look after ourselves and so can create a healthy lifestyle

Tai Chi tools of working with body and mind – you bring the spirit. Tai Chi has collected many useful tools for human personal and social development including meditation, repetitive soft exercise, relationship models of internal and external interactions

Learning to balance the forces in your life – age, weight, personal interactions, social pressures, new technologies. The focus of Tai Chi on a relationship model allows us to understand our lives in terms of balancing forces in a dynamic way – keeping calm when we need to do so.

Dealing with change – physically and emotionally we are surrounded by change and can learn to adapt and change ourselves to accommodate the world around us. Tai Chi addresses this.

Accessing Eastern world models of Buddhism and Taoism. Tai Chi uses the mind and body calming of Buddhist style meditation to create a beneficial internal environment, which compliments the Taoist world model of Yin and Yang.

Connecting with the latest western science models and evidence – we learn to look for western science ideas and experiences that allow us to understand Tai Chi from a western perspective

Understanding how Newton’s laws of motion can be applied to turn a straight line into a curve and how equal and opposite action and reaction can be manipulated by yielding softly – physically and psychologically we prefer to move in straight lines but that often brings us into direct conflict with the world – so it is beneficial to learn how we can gracefully navigate around these obstacles.

Learn to use visualisation and metaphor in physical exercise – we use both visualisation and metaphor in Tai Chi practice as aids to transmitting concepts as well as enabling our minds and bodies to communicate better.

This is a bit of a strange post – I can’t say that anybody else will find all of this in their own Tai Chi study – but if I can then perhaps you can too.

Posture corrections

Easier movement

Falls prevention

Relaxed and loose body

Tai Chi based exercises

Simple Tai Chi form

Mindfully movement

Meditation in movement – the use of patterns and regular practice

Movement for your daily life

Enhanced lifestyle

Body and mind training

Understand and develop your movement in simple English

Learn how to age gracefully

Extend middle age mobility into old age

Feel safer, feel lighter, feel stronger, feel more confident

Learn how to pay attention and learn by observation of your own body

Feel comfortable among like-minded people and learn with them

Recover lost mobility

Management of physical conditions eg Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s etc.

Learn to manage your body before you become vulnerable.

Learn how to look after yourself

Learn how to take control of yourself

Tai Chi as an integrated part of a healthy lifestyle

Tai Chi tools of working with body and mind – you bring the spirit

Learning to balance the forces in your life:

– age, weight, personal interactions, social pressures, new technologies,

Dealing with change

Accessing Eastern world models of Buddhism and Taoism

Connecting with the latest of western science models and evidence

Understanding how western science like Newton’s laws of motion can be applied to turn a straight line into a curve and how equal and opposite action and reaction can be manipulated by yielding softly

Learn to use visualisation and metaphor in physical exercise

Relax and move – everything follows from this:

Relax everything
Move from the centre
Everything moves together

Where there is a suitable environment such as an extended community of Tai Chi players to train with then it is certainly possible to work with the above principles and simply immerse in daily practice, self-learning and working with others. We should appreciate that in the land of its origin large groups gather every day to practice together for between two to eight hours in parks and in martial arts schools where this is both possible and convenient. Conversation about this practice is an integral part of the training, between teachers and students and among students sharing continuously so that the learning process becomes osmotic as understanding is passed around and everyone has the chance to work with many other players – use of language and close even intimate contact is fundamental to this. It is important to remember that human beings are a physical and social species.

Where you have daily access to a good teacher and/or a support group of others then of course you should take the opportunity wholeheartedly, using the experience to learn by trial and error and with the guidance of others from their own experience. However, for many of us elsewhere such an environment simply does not exist, nor does it fit the western culture or lifestyle, and so we may seek other more solitary approaches. I have sought to describe a way of augmenting training where immersive physical practice is not available or where time is limited, or perhaps where culturally what may be considered intimate contact is not acceptable. In this case then we can support our physical Tai Chi practice with frequent attention throughout the day in our normal tasks, in our walking around and in our thinking. It is important that this is closely involved with focused physical practice and not simply an intellectual exercise.  The aim should always be integration – each physical or mental exercise being seen as part of the whole – like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle building up the full picture.

Working with a teacher and on your own loosen the body, then reconnect using tai chi exercises, forms, meditation, analogies, models and visualisations such as those derived from Taoism and Buddhism eg Yin/Yang, calming the mind. Some understanding of human anatomy, physiology and psychology would be helpful. Consider inputs from all other areas as well and incorporate what is useful.

Consider and explore the meanings and especially the physical expressions of the following in any order:

Observation

Attention

Connectedness

Sequential segmented movement

Posture

Balance

Self-alignment

Structure – and the concept of Tensegrity

Flow/fluidity

Softness

Fear – the meaning and utility

Finding the centre of oneself and of others

Practice

Being in the moment

Calming mind and body

Observe differences and similarities

Force and control

Working with your internal body feelings:

– eg muscles stretching, contracting, twisting and relaxing,

Learning your way around your own body

Where do bad feeling go

Consider your body usage

Passive elasticity

Opening and closing

Weight shifting

Sensitivity

Resilience and bounce

Sinking and turning as one

Smaller and smaller circles

Turning circles into straight lines

Balancing forces

Leverage – mechanical, psychological, temporal

Gravity – one degree, one dimension

Partner/opponent – 360 degree, three dimensions

Learn your way around other bodies

Immersive physical contact

Mapping personal space

Fear and trust

What is Chi

What is Tai Chi

What is Tai Chi Chuan

Martial – more complex, more softness, more speed, more power

Finding martial applications through the movement

Using the mind – conscious and unconscious

Movement, flow and intent

Moving without force

Observation and attention

Congruence in mind, body and emotions

Communication – physical and otherwise

The concept of chi

Is there an established path

Does tai chi exist

 

Which can lead on to considerations of:

Humanity

Reality

Consider the implications that languages are simply models to describe reality – whether French or Mathematics. With Tai Chi we are in a learning transition from reliance on eastern language models to ones that fit western, English language ones. The map is not the territory and of course the object remains the same regardless of the model we use or the perspective from which we describe it.

We should understand these labels are only individual parts of mental models or maps which represent the tip of an iceberg – we need to explore behind each of these labels to find what these words really mean and feel like to us internally and as individuals, to find more and to learn how they all fit together in the real world. Tai Chi allows us to do this by using the physical experience of our bodies in real world relationships. Regular frequent practice of Tai Chi forms and patterns allows us to explore all of these questions – do your intellectual thinking on the side lines, perhaps on a quiet walk so that your actual physical practice can be undertaken with a quiet mind and body.

In a very personal sense, each of us must travel the same path as our Tai Chi predecessors in creating an original synthesis of the many inputs, shared experiences and teachings available, so as to establish our own understanding and expression. The path is the same – how we walk it is up to us.

Actually this post is more a speculation on way that things accumulate organically over long periods – the way we humans pass things down the generations as cultural knowledge. Which may help in both understanding and learning Tai Chi – especially if you find it confusing and start asking questions like “why?”.

It seems reasonable to assume from history that people and the ancestors of people have been fighting for a very long time indeed and that therefore some of them probably started to practice so as to increase their chances of survival if nothing else. One can imagine this practice as a sort of parallel activity to social or ritualistic dance – it seems pretty certain that once societies started creating armies then the idea of practice to increase effectiveness was common so perhaps was born the idea of exercises, techniques and strategy.

Fighting of course creates a lot of physical damage, but so does practice which one can easily imagine led to an interest in medicine – fighting itself doesn’t actually take long, leaving extended periods in between for study of other beneficial knowledge – such as medicine, philosophy, magic, psychology, science etc.

So in the early 1600’s in the middle of China a number of these practices and ideas came together at the Chen village in the person of Chen Wangting who created a unique synthesis of physical techniques together with many of these other areas of study including the philosophical world models of Taoism and Buddhism. This coming together of ideas and practices transitioned martial arts training from a base of individual specialist fighting techniques to a system of general training for the person to be able to deal with anything. It has stood the test of time in martial arts and  has since proven an excellent lens for wider personal development of all kinds. It is a cultural movement that continues to absorb new information from anywhere so long as it is useful.

So it is beneficial to think of Tai Chi as a practice for dealing with life, offering off shoots and byways of physical, intellectual and spiritual experience derived from the extensive traditional knowledge which has accumulated over the generations.

Welcome then to beginners – who can consider Tai Chi like any other form of specialist activity and can choose their level of involvement and direction of study dependent on their interest and needs. To compare with medicine for example one may well become a first aider, a para medic, a nurse, a doctor, a consultant? It really depends on how much you enjoy it, how rewarding you find it and so on. The training starts the same, a student only has to choose how far they wish to go.

For more on the history of Tai Chi – please see here 

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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 […]

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Training on your own

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Tai Chi – it’s one of those things that you can’t do until – you can

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This came up in conversation recently with my teacher Karel Koskuba in discussing how one progresses in Tai Chi – this constant process of practicing and noticing – paying attention to small things and following them – until suddenly there is a realisation of significant change and that something previously impossible is now relaxed, natural […]

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