Tai Chi movement

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.

Some simple training tips I have found useful:

  1. Pick a part of your body to focus on – legs, arms, hips, shoulders or whatever then do your exercises and form while focusing on them trying to keep that part 50% relaxed. Then do the same while working with your lower abdomen – tantien.
  2. Read a good book on Tai Chi eg Master Chen Xiaowang’s “Five Levels of Tai Chi” or his coffee table “Chen Family Taijiquan” perhaps the “Tai Chi classics” which I think can be found for free online. Pick a part which seems to resonate with you and then focus your practice on understanding that particular part by recognising what they are saying from the feelings in your body. Repeat as necessary.
  3. Watch videos by good practitioners in an attentive manner – seek to understand what they are doing

Good luck

Enforced practice!

26/03/2020

Well with all this working from home I find that the urge to go outside in our garden occurs a few times a day – often to sit with a coffee, but increasingly to do a Tai Chi form maybe 2 or three times a day – which means about one to one and a half hours a day of practice. We are lucky to have quite a large area of lawn but I am really only using a patch about 20 feet by 10 – which is getting very trampled – so not so much grass to cut then!

Working on my own I can go at whatever speed I like – and that is getting slower and slower – and co-incidentally lower and lower.

So my practice has taken on a sort of “do it when I feel like it” routine and I am enjoying it that way – and finding more and easier movement in some unexpected places.

Good luck with your own “enforced” practice and I hope you are all well – I look forward to seeing you when we come out the other side.

Residential program

01/09/2019

Our residential program this year will take as it’s theme ” Don’t just do the exercise – feel and think about the movement in your body.”

The program has the following points for students to consider:

History and fore runners

Shaolin, Bodidhama, Buddhism, Yoga, Chi Kung, Chin na, traditional Chinese medicine, theories of 5 elements, theory of Chi and meridians, Taoism, Power vs Yielding,

Sensing the feeling of movement

The place of weapons

Identifying: Relax, Move from the centre, All moves at once,

Mapping the space – partner work

Links to other approaches – Chi kung, Yoga, Pilates, Karate, various Kung Fu eg Shaolin, meditation, Taoism, Yiquan,

Very slow practice, fast and loose practice, standing, creating your own exercises,

Large movement, small movement,

Making and feeling connection

The place of meditation

Integration

Theory of martial arts – what are we seeking to achieve?

Structure, balance, fluidity,

The place of fighting, studying conflict, balancing forces, Tai chi in daily life, the path of martial arts – combative, healing, wisdom/understanding.

To those who are coming – I look forward to seeing you there – if you are not joining us then maybe the notes will give you something useful to think about.

All the best in your practice.

When change happens………..

26 October 2018

Over the years I have from time to time noticed changes in the way my body moves – recently I have noticed some small changes. Interestingly these changes have begun with very small perturbations in existing patterns – so small I could not properly describe them until a while later after more relaxed practice when […]

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Healthy Movement From Tai Chi & Alexander Technique

30 January 2017

The following article was recently published by Kindred Spirit magazine: Over my many years of studying and teaching Tai Chi I have recognised that much of individual movement stems from habit – we learn to walk at around 1 year old and then pay it little attention to it until some 60 or so years later when, […]

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Develop your journey with Tai Chi

21 December 2016

As a martial artist (since starting Karate in the early 70’s) and as someone interested in my own personal development, I have experienced many styles around the world and many approaches to personal growth. Now in my 60’s I try to share what I have learned in those areas and seek to facilitate others in finding their own path. […]

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Residential weekend – retreat/workshop

17 November 2016

On 12-14 May 2017 at the Belsey Bridge Conference Centre, Suffolk we will be holding our first  Alternative Health Exercises Residential Weekend – of gentle movement and body awareness exercises in a environment of light humour and relaxation. The weekend program will be based on our popular seminar series of exercises  developed  from Tai Chi &  Alexander Technique with  elements of dance incorporated  into two days of mindfulness exercises  and meditation ‐ developing a practical  way of being. Widely experienced Alexander teacher  Judy Hammond and long‐term Tai Chi  instructor Ian Deavin have created […]

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Why Tai Chi works for the over 50’s

16 November 2016

Well there are many factors and to begin, as I understand it, during aging cellular replication slows down around 50 or so, that is the number of stem cells in our body start to run down. The 115 year old woman who died a while ago was found to have only two types of stem cell […]

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Tai Chi & Alexander Technique Seminar 17th July 2016

15 June 2016

Covering exercises, spiralling movement, Qigong, mindfulness, meditation, Tai Chi principles and Alexander principles. The seminar will be run by Ian Deavin and Judy Hammond and participants will be engaged in a fascinating mix of meditation and movement, creating inner body awareness and developing a practical and spiritual mind/body link of considerable strength. Qigong is a basic […]

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