Saturday, February 22, 2020

Ancient Humans walked with weight back on Savanna

Video link to safe walking

Look at the picture of the Savanna. My teacher Master Stephen Hwa has said early humans had to walk very carefully with their weight back, not letting gravity pull the body forward in order to cope with such unstable ground in the night as well as day. If you are walking with weight back you are not pushing so much with the back foot as you are pulling with the front. With such pulling, the core will engage by default.  This is not entirely correct and it is easy to hurt the legs this way. In Classical Tai Che we use the core to engage the legs. In this Youtube video link above, Master Stephen Hwa teaches you how to Tai Chi walk and use Tai Chi walk for everyday walking, how to engage the core, keep weight back, etc.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Your practice is "a drop in the bucket"

1st student, slouching in a chair: "I've been practicing 3 days a week and my balance has not improved". 2nd student leaning against the wall: "So have I, and I am frustrated by the teacher's corrections in class". The teacher overhears and says: "Did you ever see Master Stephen Hwa's Facebook picture of the Dad who is doing terrible things to his knees while he shows his child something"? "You both know the idiom "drop in the bucket",?  Your 3 x a week practice is just that. Let me clarify in the spirit of the idiom that the big problem is not with how many "days" but with how many hours because you have to practice all day". 1st student: " I can't practice all day, I have to go to work". Teacher: "I'm not talking "formal practice", I'm talking about what my own teacher Master Stephen Hwa calls "offline practice", which is not just doing "internal work", or "Form" but more importantly becoming AWARE 24/7 of what your body is DOING/NOT DOING. It's rather futile and absurd to ask for "benefits of Tai Chi" and still insist the only time you are AWARE is doing the Tai Chi Form or internal exercises"

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Fajin's pragmatic philosophy of not getting knocked backward

Video link to Fajin effects

Note Master Hwa's perpendicular stance to Tom's leaning. Without superb ability to "tense and instant relax" how else do you think Master Hwa does not get knocked back because of Newton's 3rd law? A student made a very insightful comment about the true pragmatic nature of "tension and relaxation" saying: "Most excellent explanation! Thank you! And too, if we could only apply this principle to everything we do in our life - to every movement to every thought to every emotion, life would flow much easier." and Master Hwa replied: Excellent!! You have grasped the philosophy in this practice"

Thursday, February 6, 2020

First sharpen your tools ("Yi") to do Taijiquan

Video of Isaac Stern in China

"Yi when doing Tai Chi is purely mental, or one might say the intention to project"  Stephen Hwa. 
Jim R. said: You must do Tai Chi as naturally as you breathe. Or, as Isaac Stern told a young violinist:  "You must play as naturally as you sing".  I used Google Translate  for Lao Tzu's quote "..he that would perfect his work must first sharpen its tools.." This points out the import of "YI" (martial intent) and "Jing" (Force or as Master Hwa says "non-ordinary" force as found in his treatise on Fajin part 1 on Youtube).

Stephen Hwa:  "Most people are now learning Tai Chi probably for reasons other than for serious martial art applications. So the question is how much should we emphasize the martial art aspects of Tai Chi? Certainly, Tai Chi Form movements make more sense and are easier to remember if they are corroborated with the martial art origin of the movements - why there are these sequences of movements, and what the positioning of the body and timing of the movements mean. Besides this aspect, there is a more subtle but powerful reason why the martial art aspect of Tai Chi is important. I shall discuss that below: Tai Chi Form should be practiced with “Yi” (martial art intention). “Yi” is not something complex and elaborate. It is single-minded and somewhat intuitive with the desire to deliver the internal power externally through hands, arm, and foot, whatever the movement is. If the hand is moving forward, then the Yi goes to the palm and fingers; if the hand is moving laterally in a blocking movement, then the Yi goes to the leading edge on the side of the hand; etc. Once the practitioner masters the “Yi”, it is no longer a conscious effort anymore. It becomes subconscious and comes naturally whenever the practitioner makes a move. At this stage, when you play the Form, you have both the internal energy and Qi (nerve signal - a simple-minded definition) circulating in the torso of your body. With the “Yi” as a catalyst, the Qi is able to flow to your hands and fingers while the internal energy continues to circulate in your torso until you need it for an application. Then the internal energy will follow the Qi to the arms, hands, and fingers for delivery. External martial arts such as Karate also practice a solo form called Kata. Kata allows the practitioner to study movements at full power and speed and allows the student to move with the enemy in mind. So, both the Tai Chi form and Kata are practiced with “Yi”. But, Kata is practiced with a tensed up arm moving with power and speed: while Tai Chi is practiced with a relaxed arm and moving at a slow speed. The “Yi” in Tai Chi is therefore purely mental.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Tai Chi walking training

Jim R. said: What Master Hwa does here with students touching a post in this video link has proven itself to be indispensable in my classes. Also indispensable to ice and snow walking in beautiful Buffalo, NY. While we do not have a post we do use the walls on the 3rd floor Rockwell at the College. I do adjust a couple of ways by having students lightly touch one finger, keeping good structure. The body does not remember the finger but it certainly remembers good or bad structure Doing this also allows us to move down the hall as well as standing still Tai Chi walking training. There is nothing like his "static" stationary idea to also train the following characteristic: "The second characteristic mentioned in "Uncovering the Treasure", the great book by Stephen Hwa on Amazon, p.65

"The characteristic of keeping the body's center of gravity under control, not allowing it to fall forward as in the common walking motion, includes a key provision that when one steps out with one foot, the bodyweight stays back without moving until the front foot is flat on the ground, then one pulls the body forward until all the bodyweight is on the front foot. While in the common walking motion the body weight shifts with the foot stepping forward so part of the bodyweight lands on the heels of the front foot. Landing the body weight on the heel of the front foot combined with the back foot pushing forward on its toe is a primary reason that people slip and fall on icy or slippery surfaces."

Monday, January 20, 2020

My teacher has "beginner's mind", my student has "expert's mind"

My teacher has "beginner's mind", my student has "expert's mind"

When learning Classical Tai Chi "Form", essentially (there are certainly more things to learn) one needs to learn 4 things and in the following order: 1. Direction, 2. Hand position, 3. Timing, 4. Internal Discipline.  The concern with hand position and even hand "direction" can be put on the back burner. There can be a million and one arbitrary hand movements positions, and hand directions but if the feet move in the wrong direction any concerns with hand "direction"  is moot. In his DVD series, my teacher teaches "direction" and includes "hand direction" along with "foot diretion" at the same time. But this is, after all, a DVD with limited space and time. My student Jason B., for instance, learned the whole 108 Square Form, just using his feet, no hands "directions" ...then added "hands".  Anyway, I was teaching "foot direction" recently, had pointed out the "order" of learning but a student said:  "You need to stand over there so students can see your hands!"  

For a teacher, this is an ideal opportunity to point out the difference between "expert's mind" and "beginner's mind" to all students.   It was the Japanese Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki who said: "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few." 

Here is the difference and an example:

My own teacher who is an "expert" taught me that Tai Chi is "mindfulness meditation", to see and be aware of many "possibilities". A student who is a beginner taught me to see and be aware of a few "possibilities".  My teacher's mind is open, relaxed, what more can one say. My student's mind needs to be open to more possibilities, one needs to say something. 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Why so hard to develop Neigong (internal discipline)?

Jim R said: Pathological reasons aside I ask myself as a teacher why it is so hard for students to develop internal discipline? I have suspected for some time that people, in general, think of themselves as looking out from inside their heads and simply riding around inside their bodies. I think this is where the essence of Classical Tai Chi as "mindfulness meditation" comes to fruition. The head in this scenario reigns supreme but really is a purveyor of the illusion. . I'm not talking about eyesight per se here but the neuroscientist Sam Harris has pointed out research that shows people always think of objects as closer to their head than say their knees, back, etc.

In his book, Uncovering the Treasure, Master Stephen Hwa talks about the Mental state of a beginner and elucidates on how we think of the torso: "We think about the dexterity of hands or feet but think
of the torso as a dull part of the body, not knowing that the torso can be developed to have just as much
dexterity. As a result, almost everyone who starts on Classical Tai Chi is awkward in their torso. Precise
command and control of the neuromuscular system in the torso area are nonexistent.Yet, it is crucial in the development of Internal Discipline. During early Form training, students have to look intensely inward trying to establish communication with the torso, not just for command and control but also to develop sensitivity to the sensation of the body's feedback. Knowing the correct sensation of a movement is one of the best tools to achieve self-improvement."

Monday, January 13, 2020

Why do the 關節 Guānjié form and not etc., etc.

The link to be "square"

Why do the 關節 Guānjié form and not etc., etc?

I practice and teach a Compact Square, also called "Joint" or 關節 Guānjié Form in addition to Compact Round Form. Specifically, this is directed to interested readers who may or may not practice the Square Form of Classical Tai Chi.  Generally, one must assume that not many people are familiar with the Square ("Fang") Form.  To my knowledge, it came to fruition during the 20th century. It arose as inception and development by the Wu Family Tai Chi and its representatives. In its various incarnations and variations, it has been introduced and taught by the disciples and family of Wu Chien Chuan. What is not agreed upon even among the family and representatives is which version is correct. To explain this I can only offer that there is a very obvious difference between large frame square form and compact frame square form...a size difference.  

All of the commentaries that have been offered about Classical Tai Chi-square form leads me to think that even the very obvious difference of size is not apparent to practitioners of large frame.  To be fair, there also appears to be a majority of practitioners in large frame practice who have never heard of the Compact frame.  In addition, the most current commentary  from the mass media and the uninitiated (including Tai Chi practitioners and even some who practice another version of large frame square form)   is that the Compact square form looks "robotic", hence the following article:

In regard to the "Robot" portrayal: I have for some time now not concurred with any representation, narrative or designation that fails to accurately explain the rationale of any Tai Chi movements to students. It would be injudicious to assume a priori that a robot's Tai Chi could be any more or less correct than a human's. Particularly because IMHO the majority of Tai Chi that is taught nowadays is not correct, to begin with. The reason for this is simply because it demonstrates time and again that it deviates from its origins and roots.

I have also seen it time and again over 40 years that Tai Chi forms become watered down if not passed on intact from one generation to the next. The Square form ensures that there is no deviation in this process, no moves are added, no moves are subtracted. For that reason, I am happy for this opportunity to reiterate that the performance of Square Form should look Robotic. In fact, the more robotic the portrayal, the better the performance.

Anyway, in the final analysis, the delineation of yin and yang is the eventual goal. That is to teach students what parts of the body to keep still and what parts to move. The part that is still is Yin and the part that moves is Yang.

The majority of people who start Tai Chi, however, cannot keep much still when it calls for it. Additionally, that rule to delineate yin and yang is the most important lesson Wu Chien Chuan passed on to Young Wabu.

What most often happens is that students by habit move from the individual joints, eg; shoulder. It is difficult to teach students to keep a shoulder still, elbow still, a hip still. The movement at these joints "muddies" the overall quality of movement and in many respects drains off the power that could have been generated had it remained still. Correct Tai Chi thus becomes difficult to teach because the nerve impulses that govern movement from the joints have been cultivated over a lifetime. It is no wonder then that students struggle with learning, thinking all the wrong reasons for their difficulties. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Many times in Tai Chi students cannot find correct neuromuscular control. One can stretch the students arm so they feel the connection of arm to back and also to a lesser degree the abdomen. Eventually one can use back and abdominal to power arm movement.Doing the Lions share of repairing the hole where logical reasoning disappeared, "righting the ship" and saving Tai Chi.

"Helen A." who is a student on Master Hwa's Classical Tai Chi Teachable course: Helen said: "When I try to move my arms from my back muscles, as you recommend, I feel the movement of the muscle in my stomach area (core muscle?). Does this mean that I am doing the movement correctly?" Master Hwa said: "You got it!! It is the purpose of this exercise to connect arm movement to the back and the abdomen muscles so that eventually you can use the energy of these muscles to power the arm movement."

Friday, December 20, 2019

A review meant as FAQ

This is dedicated to my teacher and to all my students past, present and especially those (all of us) who find things "difficult", read on please:  Review of "Uncovering the Treasure: Classical Tai Chi's Path to Internal Energy & Health by Stephen Hwa

Reviewed in the United States on June 2, 2010
Verified Purchase
Format: Paperback

Stephen Hwa has written a book called "Uncovering the Treasure", Classical Tai Chi's Path to Internal Energy & Health. This review concerns that book and largely I try to be in accord with Amazon's recommendations that reviews should be succinct, yet detailed and specific. As a rule Amazon suggests that the review informs readers whether or not the book measures up to: "What I wanted to know before I purchased the book"? For this, I hope the reader will bear with me because I have to play the role of both beginner and practicing student. This is equally difficult because I am a teacher of this art and often find myself lacking the "mind of a beginner" or novice, which as it is said is open to many possibilities, that of the expert being few.
Over and above all of this is my abiding appreciation for what I have learned all these years from Stephen Hwa, Ph.D., whose academic qualifications alone provide ample ability to provide us with such a rational and scientific treatise. This is in addition to the 30+ years he has spent studying and teaching the art. Equally little known is the fact that he was the single student of Yang Wabu (Young Wabu) who was a personal student and disciple of Wu Chien Chuan. I say "single" because Stephen Hwa started in Yang's class with many other students, all dropped out leaving Stephen as the lone student for the next 30 years. One teacher, one student for 30 years.
Yes, it is easy to see I am a "ringer" but the book may really be for those who have wandered the Tai Chi path many years and felt unfulfilled. For those who feel like they have been taken down too many one-way streets and wrong routes regarding the "internal" of this "internal martial art". You will understand my appreciation once you read the book. There is no "flowery", "ethereal" or "new age" language to be found in the book, there is however lots to puzzle over and to practice. The routes to solving the puzzle are clearly delineated however, all the student needs is a small place to practice, a desire to enjoy what they do rather than straining to achieve something and some time and gumption. Here in brevity is what I might have wanted to know (as a beginner or practitioner) before I purchased the book.
* What is meant by "internal energy" and what is the way to get it?
* How do all those types of "forms", (large, compact, square, etc.) fit into a learning program?
* What pieces am I missing in order to learn Tai Chi?
* How does the way I align myself contribute to gaining internal energy?
* Why are there seemingly so many rules to follow when learning this?
* Why does it seem so complex and difficult many times?
* If Tai Chi originated from martial artists, why is it what I see many times looks like dance?
* What in the world can I gain from doing Tai Chi?
* Are there any dangers in doing this, what should I cultivate, what should I avoid?
* Why does it take so long to learn?
* This art has no "belts" what distinguishes beginners from advanced?

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