Archive for the Peace & Wellbeing Category

10 Questions with Chungliang Al Huang

Posted in 10 Questions, Internal Arts, Peace & Wellbeing, Philosophy, Spirituality, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2015 by Combative Corner

Chungliang Al Huang

Chungliang, Al Huang was one of my earliest experiences in Taijiquan with his book, Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain.  I read it again when I decided I was going to teach the art form.  His philosophy and playfulness in what is often an “atmosphere of seriousness,” a breath of fresh air.  Allowing music, nature, and dance to enhance and revitalize the spirit and influence the direction of your practice – these are just a few things that I took from his example.  But here are some of the questions that both myself, my students and our CombativeCorner readers had to ask Master Chungliang….

How did you come to first play taijiquan?

As a child in Chinese villages hiding from the war, observing nature’s flowing movement, and inspired by EveryMen and Women of China, believing in waking up the bodies first thing in the morning, in the “Watercourse Way” of organic Tai Ji moves, cultivating the Body-Mind-Spirit entity. I embodied my Tai Ji playful-ness through osmosis naturally.

What did your friendship with the philosopher Alan Watts entail, and did he have any influence on your teachings of the Tao, Taijiquan, etc?

We met by destiny, Chinese call it Yuan 緣。Mutually appreciating the opposites in each other for personal inner growth and outer balance. As he wrote in the Foreword of my first book, “Embrace Tiger, Return To Mountain”, “For us, the East and West have truly met.” He was my mentor, colleague, and kindred spirit; he helped instilling self-awareness, confidence in myself of my unique potential and integrity, to become a lifelong student and teacher of TAO. He put me at ease to be an intellect, the scholar/philosopher, and I helped him to trust his spontaneous dancing self. His words made my dance more sublime; my dance helped his words to soar. We were blessed to be partners when we taught together—but sadly for such a short few years before he passed on. Now, more than ever, his writings, words continue to grow in me and in my teaching. His legacy lives in me and will perpetuate on and on for everyone who reads him and still can hear his voices on recordings he made. I feel blessed to have known him and learned from him, and shared our explorations of “TAO: The Watercourse Way” together.

As taijiquan players we seek for balance and rhythm in our lives. How does music shape (and/or enhance) your taijiquan practice?

Tai Ji resonates with the Music of the Spheres, especially the rhythm and the organic patterns, Li 理 in nature. When we dance Tai Ji, we reverberate the “Silent Sound of CHI/QI”. We also have such vast repertoire of great Music from all around the world and all ages, to play with and find inspirations in. Music is a great guiding force to dance to and flow with, allowing structured sound and natural rhythms to fine tune us in our movement practice. But the best and the most inspiring music is in the Sound of Nature, such as the roars of Ocean waves, the soft quietude of changing tides in the River, the bird songs and its ethereal silence in the forests and woods… on and on… Music is everywhere, shaping and forming our Tai Ji dances of Living.

Most masters of taijiquan that I’ve come across are very self-controlled, unmoved in a sense. Especially those teachers who teach taijiquan with an emphasis on form, application and pushing-hands, tend to have a unemotional response to their artform. If you agree with this, could you answer why might this be? If you disagree with this statement, could you answer why? (Part 1)

Studying forms is a necessary discipline, nothing wrong with this emphasis, but it can also be very dry, even robotic in fixing our practice too rigidly. We must not forget we are human beings made of flesh and blood, filled with raw emotions and feelings. We cannot ignore this multi-dimensional consciousness of being a Whole Human Person when we focus on the discipline of forms and structures. Both form and genuine expression of human emotions are important. They are inseparable as Yin/Yang can never be separately regarded as only Yin or Yang with the “and” in-between the two integral, embracing halves. Simply meditate on this marvelous “YinYang Tai Ji” sign and you will be instantly transported, to embody this never-ending, ever-changing transformative Polar Dance, to realize the ultimate ONENESS in yourself, to be Fully Human.

(Part 2) Being such a well-connected teacher (bridging music, dance, philosophy and taijiquan), have you encountered a lot of resistance within the taijiquan community (and even other taijiquan teachers) as to your approach to teaching and your emphasis on more “free”, dance-like movements and creating emotion and a sense of “oneness?”

In the early years, perhaps my approach to the creative freedom of Tai Ji practice and teaching might have raised a few eyebrows from the traditional Tai Ji teaching community. In fact, a few even criticized me for using music, improvising the motifs, and just being too joyful—smiling too much! Their critical but gracious comments came with this, “Oh, he doesn’t do Real Tai Ji. He only Dances Tai Ji! “, which was the perfect description of what I was hoping to do in my philosophy of practice and teaching. I bowed to them with this compliment. Now, nearly half a century later, I think I have proved myself to have been actually Doing the Real Tai Ji after ALL. Time always tells the truth and reconfirms the real “Tao” Way in the end.
Why hasn’t taijiquan been able to bring a younger crowd, like other exercise forms like dance and yoga?

In our hyper-active youth oriented Western society, perhaps it was the superficial prejudice on the slow moving Tai ji which was thought to be only suited for seniors who couldn’t manage to pump their muscles anymore. Also, the subtlety of the practice and benefit can only be appreciated by thoughtful observations patiently. It grows on the person who is also maturing. It takes deeper understanding to find the practice gratifying in the long run. The youths who seek immediate results and instant gratifications, can be disappointed with the slow progress in Tai Ji. Since I often refer to my Tai Ji the Creative Dancing Moves, even “Tai Ji Boogie”, I haven’t had much trouble attracting younger people in my seminars. I trust the subtle learning will grow with these young people as they mature in themselves, gradually, in due time. As we say in China, “When the students are ready, the teaching appears!”
What is your primary teaching message?

Learn about The DANCE of LIFE and DANCE in the TAO with its perpetual FLOW in Time of Now and Space of Here. Stay open-minded, open-hearted and Be a perpetual Beginner in Lifelong learning, always have the ability to Be Amazed with the mystery of Life, and in what we are constantly discovering day by day. Become a TAI JI DANCER of LIVING!
You’ve written some amazing books, and taught a lot of people over the years. What are a few things that you hope people will remember? (either about you, or your teachings)

As I still keep on learning and exploring, I can hardly think in that way for a fixed legacy to be remembered. I have always empathized the fact that I have continued to transform and grow, therefore never the need for my students to copy me as if it is the ultimate. When my students blame me for changing my forms after a period of their absence, I would chide back to say to them, “Are you still doing the same Tai Ji I taught you so long ago. But in the meantime, I have transformed and improved. Are you still doing the same old Tai Ji from way back then, getting fixed and stuck?” It is the same about my teaching which will continue to grow and transform and become more in the Here and Now, as I grow and mature and, hopefully become wiser and purer– in the Tao sense of “returning to being a child again; to return being the ‘uncarved block 樸 and unbleached silk 素’ “. Don’t forget that the author of the classic, “Tao Te Ching”, called himself Lao Zi, the “Wise Old Child”.
Is there a myth in Taijiquan, in Taiji/Tao, that you’d like de-mystified?

Yes, do not fix on any ideas of how Tai Ji Quan was first invented in some legendary fantasies. Never put them into a box or on the altar to worship and imitate. The “original tai ji” is for all people, and for all times, needs to be re-invented every day, anew. Tao must not be “ismed” and be put into a box, the same way we cannot quantify and sectionalize the Watercourse Way which is always flowing and changing. There is also no such a fixed person as a Taoist. Take the “ist” away and simply live as a human person, following the Tao in daily living. “Living our Tao” is not the same as Being stuck within TaoISM, and trapped by being a TaoIST.

Do not concretize metaphors literally. Learn to read and understand metaphoric symbols such as “Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain” and not literally naming the “tiger” as the wild beast, such as the “Dragon” needed to be slain by heroes in the West; or measure mountains with quantitative heights to climb. We embrace the symbol Tiger, our “Crisis” as both our “Danger and Opportunities” in our lives. What one must embrace is “My Life So Far” with courage, equanimity, honesty, completely and fearlessly; and Return to Where We ARE, Here and Now, as our current grounding, our personal Mountain Top. We shall endeavor to rise and elevate accordingly, timely, not to strive mindlessly for more height or attempt to fly higher. We need to learn how to land safely and properly before we take flight and soar, and wisely prepare for our soft “Happy Landings” every time in our “Heroic Journeys” by “Following our Bliss”. For this important awareness, as I get older, continue to gain a little wisdom, my gratitude goes to two of my mentors/colleagues, Alan Watts and Joseph Campbell. And, of course to the sage-teacher Confucius, who happily claimed in his final years to be able to finally, “follow my heart’s desire, without going astray!”

What do you hope to accomplish in the upcoming 5-10 years?

Keep on doing what i am inspired to do, keeping up with my joyful creativity and my Dance of Living. Life is much too ephemeral and brief. 5-10 years can slip by in an instant, or become suspended in the “Stillness in Motion” of the DANCE, in “The Eternal NOW”, depending on how we live the years still given to us. Be grateful to being Truly Alive each day. It is not the goal in the end that counts; it is always what and how we experience the journey we are taking in everyday living. Each moment well lived with joy and gratitude is the ultimate accomplishment.

Interviewed by: Michael Joyce

ChenCenter.Com

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Sifu Lee on Children & the Martial Arts

Posted in Day's Lesson, Martial Arts, Miscellaneous, Peace & Wellbeing, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , on August 8, 2013 by Sifu Freddie Lee

Children Kids Class Education KindergartenI cannot force my children to practice Martial Arts.

That is against the Tao. 

If it comes natural, let it be, if it does not, let it be.  My children will have to exercise, practice good hygiene, eat healthy, and sleep well.  Those are necessities that they have no choice in fulfilling.  We live the healthy way, so my children have no other choice but to follow.  The fridge is only filled with healthy foods, there is nothing else to eat.  It is either eat healthy or starve.

They are forced to brush their teeth and take showers even when they don’t want to, it is a necessity of health and wellness.  The lights go out at a certain time so they have no other choice but to sleep when it is time.  They exercise because there simply is nothing else to do.  We have no cable TV to watch.  We have movies, but movies get old.  They play online games, but eventually they have to stop and move around.  They want to go to the park to play, when they go to the park, that is the beginning of their physical training.  Even at home they are very active running and playfully wrestling.

Activeness is extremely important.  The must be active.  But as far as formal exercise training, like in the beginning stages of Martial Art training, I do not force but I encourage.  They know they will make us happy when they participate, knowing this encourages them to get involved.  I also notice that when other children are around taking the training serious, they tend to get more involved.

Freddie Lee pinterestBrandon loves playing XBox 360.  We have an agreement that if he practices Kung Fu for 1 hour, he can play Xbox, and this agreement is working wonders.  It really motivates him to get involved with the training.  Angelina naturally loves to train and does not need video games as a motivation.  Brandon and Angelina enjoy spending time with me and that is what makes them want to participate.

The kwoon is also separated from our home.  Taking them to the kwoon creates a separate environment that also motivates them.  Staying at home all day makes a child want to get out and be somewhere new.  The kwoon becomes a quick getaway to do something exciting and different, this helps a great deal.  Keo does get involved as well, but he is not as motivated as Brandon and Angelina because he is still a bit young and does not have as much energy as Brandon and Angelina.  Jet is the only one that is unable to participate in anyway because of his extreme lack of focus and attention span.

I see that it is very important not to force the children to learn Martial Arts; they will learn when they are ready.  If they experience great struggle in life, it may encourage them to learn when they wonder why they are having such a difficult time overcoming these struggles.  Sometimes it will take a child getting bullied or beat up in school in order for him to realize that he needs to take action and get started in something like Martial Arts to defend himself when necessary.

It is of absolute necessity that children learn to be healthy and nonviolent.  If they are able to live a peaceful life, they may never find a need to learn Martial Arts at all.  But if they are surrounded by struggle and conflict, Martial Art training may very well end up becoming a necessity.  It depends on each child’s circumstances.  It is not right for a parent to force a child to practice an Art that he/she does not enjoy.

If he would rather play the drums or read, let him do so.  But no matter what he chooses, he must find time to exercise.  Exercise is something that I will always enforce, because him refusing to do so is no other reason than just pure laziness.  When a child is being lazy, you must teach him the way to combat this laziness and become active.  When a child is continuously active, Martial Art training will come on its own natural way that is unforced.

Sincerely,

Sifu Freddie Lee

Freddie’s Modern Kungfu. Chicago, IL.

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Meditation Can Reshape Your Brain

Posted in Health, Internal Development, Miscellaneous, News, Peace & Wellbeing, Qigong, Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2012 by Combative Corner

Neuroscientist Sara Lazar’s amazing brain scans show meditation can actually change the size of key regions of our brain, improving our memory and making us more empathetic, compassionate, and resilient under stress.

What Is Taijiquan Like? | Feng Zhiqiang

Posted in Miscellaneous, Peace & Wellbeing, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , on February 14, 2012 by Combative Corner

Practicing Taiji is like enjoying a peaceful rest.

Practicing Taiji is like experiencing the sensation of Qi flowing smoothly & without obstruction through all the meridians.

Practicing Taiji is like the balancing of Yin and Yang.

Practicing Taiji feels like swimming in air.

Practicing Taiji is like a moving form of “Standing” skill.

Practicing Taiji is like using the body to draw beautiful Taiji diagrams.

Practicing Taiji is like drawing in the new (fresh Qi) & expelling the old (stale Qi).

Practicing Taiji is like the total relaxation of the body and mind.

Practicing Taiji is like repairing & healing the mind, body and spirit.

Practicing Taiji is like nourishing the body with the vast, upright Qi of the Universe.

Practicing Taiji is achieving the ultimate unification of Heaven, Earth & Man.

– Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang

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Feng Zhiqiang (1925- ) is a grandmaster of the 18th generation of Chen Style Taijiquan and is considered the top student of 17th generation masters, Chen Fa-ke (Taijiquan) and Xinyi Grandmaster Hu Yuezhen.  To learn more about GM Feng, read this interesting interview (2000) from his disciple, Yang Yang, PhD’s website (here) or click the picture on the left for a detailed biography.

Living 100 Years: Re-Learning to Breathe

Posted in Health, Internal Arts, Internal Development, Peace & Wellbeing, Qigong, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2012 by chencenter

The famous comedian George Burns was once asked, “What’s the secret of Life?” … of which he replied,

“Keep breathing.”

Wise words from a guy that reached the ripe ol’ age of 100 (and two months).

The word is Qi (pronounced “chee“).  We’ve heard it plenty… some of us have read up on it… but every one of us has experienced it [just most of us haven’t been aware of it]!

When I speak to youngsters about qi, I often allude to the Star Wars films in which George Lucas replaced “Qi” with “the Force.”  Qi is a term that means energy, or breath.  It is the prime-mover of our existence and permeates throughout the universe.

There are different types of “Qi Training” (called Qigong) such as: Buddhist Qigong, Taoist Qigong, Wushu Qigong and Medical Qigong.  Within these, the practitioner learns to harness and cultivate this energy for the purposes of: emitting, absorbing, cleansing, conditioning and healing. [Author’s note: Wushu Qigong should not be attempted without a qualified teacher. Practitioners should also have a basic understanding of qi and qigong training before wushu qigong is attempted].  And yes, there are even methods: Natural, Differential, Reversed, Dantian, Embryonic and “method of no-method.”  All have their benefits but it is the first, Natural Breathing Qigong, that we will focus on for purposes of “beginning at the root”, health and in developing a habit of “correct method.”

Breathing and its link to good health makes plenty of sense …for it’s the air we breathe, the oxygen that’s delivered to our cells and all the “energetics” at work that nurtures Life.  But it’s our awareness of our breath through both moving or non-moving activities that bolsters results.

  • Awareness: Concentrating on the “breath in” and the “breath out” focuses our mind internally and removes us from outside thoughts and common distractions.  Thoughts will always enter-in (it is our nature as humans to think).  But just as ripples appear on a pond… let the mind return to calm and think back to the breath as it is drawn into the body and finds its rest in the lower abdomen.

A MYTH:  Healthy breathing does NOT mean expanding the chest and letting as much oxygen in as possible.  By doing so, oxygen restricts the hemoglobin molecules and less is released to the cells.

THINK QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. 

  • Quality:  Soft. Quiet. Relaxed. Smooth… all of these should be words to describe how you are breathing.  As you breathe into your nostrils (at a relaxed, steady pace), imagine the breath going all the way down to your abdomen (aka. dantian).  By bringing your breath to your dantian, even smallest blood vessels will relax and open and will enrich your body with a greater flow of blood, oxygen and qi.
  • Natural or Diaphragmatic breathing: Breathe through the nose at a soft and steady rate and bring the breathe to the abdomen.  Allow the abdomen to expand (by way of the breath, and not by your abdominal muscles pushing outwards).  As you breathe out, do so by breathing out through the nose and allow the abdomen to contract/go inward.
  • Relax: This cannot be repeated enough.  The better you are at relaxing, the greater the benefits you will attain from your practice.  Bring your thoughts away from school, work or any other outside distractions.  If your thoughts drift… return back.  Over time, over practice… the “return” will be easier and easier.
  • Posture:  There are many qigong postures and all of them will have to be adjusted slightly since we all are built differently.  I have 3 basic postures that I use and they are: standing, sitting and laying.  I use each of these postures throughout the day (as I am often in one of the 3 postures naturally).  For instructional purposes, a standing posture should be made with a straight spine, head erect, knees slightly bent, arms by your side and the tip of the tongue resting softly behind the roof of the mouth (behind the first two teeth).  For more on standing qigong, please check out Eli Montaigue’s Combative Corner contribution entitled, Three Circle Qigong.

Illustrations of qigong movements are helpful, however the mother of movement will always be stillness.  There are many great books that may help you to better understand qigong such as: Qigong Empowerment, by Master Shou-Yu Liang & Wen-Ching Wu and The Way of Qigong, by Kenneth Cohen… but the act of qigong is a relatively simple way to improves your health and longevity.  Time, patience, willpower and correct intention are the only requisites.

Michael Joyce

Original article posted, April 2008 at ChenCenter.Com

Us at the Combative Corner welcome your insights as well.  Here are just a few of the questions we’d like to know.  Please post your response in the comment section below.

  • HAS QIGONG WORKED FOR YOU ?
  • WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCES ?
  • MIGHT YOU HAVE ANY WISDOM YOU’D LIKE TO IMPART ON US ?
  • MIGHT YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS FOR US OR OUR READING PUBLIC ?

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Sifu Lee on Life’s Purpose

Posted in Peace & Wellbeing, Philosophy, Spirituality, Teaching Topic with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2011 by Sifu Freddie Lee

Thinking about your life and it’s purpose is one of first major steps in your spiritual development. It is a very important question to ponder and it shows your maturity, this spiritual aspect of yourself is a very important aspect to gain in order to complete your development to become a Martial Artist, without it, you can be nothing greater than a Fighter.

Your basic question is “what is the point of working so hard if you die and lose it all in the end?” That is the basic question that Buddha had such a hard time figuring out. Realize that he was a prince, and he could not stop thinking about this question. He had to search for the truth and in the process he decided to renounce his status as Prince & all the attachments that came along with it. He went searching for the truth but in the end he discovered that the truth was within himself the whole time. He figured out the answer to this question and he shared his discovery with the world. His teachings are the foundation to the Martial Arts and to Eastern Philosophy. In order to achieve a high level in the Martial Arts, you must deeply understand his teachings.

My feedback is this, you shall live in the current moment, in this moment only, not thinking of the future, nothing thinking of the past. You should not be working hard, you should be playing. Playing is when you enjoy. You should simply enjoy your life, enjoy the moment for what it is. Do not think about the next world, simply enjoy this world.

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Sifu Freddie Lee

Thoughts via FMK’s Facebook

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Standing Three Circle Qigong | Eli Montaigue

Posted in Day's Lesson, Internal Arts, Peace & Wellbeing, Qigong, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2011 by chencenter

To me, standing Qigong is possibly the most important thing to start your journey in the internal martial arts.  And yet it the part most people spend the least time training in, because it’s too hard, and boring.  Whether you’re more interested in the healing or the martial side of the arts, standing Qigong is the place to start.

Everything else in your training, Tai Chi form, push hands, fighting form etc. will all be only external movements in the beginning.
You can not get internal Qi activation in these things until you have taking them to a high level, which takes many years for most.
Through that time, you’re working on perfecting the physical movements, gaining fitness flexibility and strength etc.

THE BEGINNING

Your Qigong however will start working on your Qi right from the start, as it’s just a stance, as long as you have someone put you in it right, then you’ll get Qi activation from it. Where is in forms etc it takes years to get right, and only then will you start to get some Qi flow.  Qi will also flow better the less active your mind is, so if you’re stressed out and thinking about loads of things, you won’t get the Qi flowing.
So again, with forms, if you’ve not perfected the movements, then you’ll be thinking about how to do them.  But with Qigong all you have to do is stand there, and so is much easier to get into a no mind state.
Your mind uses more Qi than just about anything else, so to switch it off means that all that Qi can be used to circulate through the body, cleansing and healing.

HOW IT WORKS (view picture below)

Standing Qigong works by having the knees bent, to create heat under the Dan Tien. This stimulates the Qi to rise up from the Dan Tien and flow through the body. The structure then held by the body and arms helps to open up the meridian Channels through out the body.  Qi is always flowing through your body, by doing Qigong we’re only opening up the channels and enhancing that flow.

The three main things standing Qigong will do for you, is to build, balance and unblock your Qi.  Most people will have some form of Yin or Yang imbalance. The Qigong stance is a physically perfect balance of left and right, and Yin and Yang.  So by holding it, your Qi will follow what you’re doing, and so it will re-balance to a normal level.  You may notice while standing, one hand might drop lower than the other, this is a left and right imbalance, so correct the physical, and your Qigong will follow.

Creating a higher than normal Qi flow, through bringing up Qi from your Dan Tien, and also from the earth, will one, fill your body with more Qi, so you will feel full of energy. And two, by doing this you will unblock your meridians.
Think of a blocked up hose, if it’s full of gunk, and you just let a bit of water trickle through it, the gunk will never clear.  But blast a high current of water through and all the gunk will be cleared.
So when you put a high current of Qi through your body, the same thing happens, you clear out the channels.  So in everyday life, you will have a smooth and clear flow of Qi through out your body.

This is why you shake when doing Qigong as a beginner – it is the Qi trying to break through the blocked areas.

HOW LONG AND WHEN TO PERFORM QIGONG

You should do your Qigong for at least 20 minutes morning and night for the first 5 years of your training.  When I got serious about my training at age 14, I would with out fail stand for at least 20 to 30 minutes morning and night till I was about 19.  From then I felt very balanced and strong, and my other training had come to a level where I was able to build Qi from it – But I still did my Qigong quite regularly.

Now, age 25, my form has become very internal, small frame, and I can get out of my form what I use to only get from my Qigong, and even more so, as moving Qigong such as the Tai Chi form is a higher level of Qigong.
But I still do my standing, as I feel it is such a great strength and Qi building method.

If you’re serious about your Internal energy development for what ever reason, get into standing three circle Qigong!

 WRITTEN BY: ELI MONTAIGUE.  (HEAD OF WTBA)

{visit the WTBA website by clicking pic below}

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FOR ANY QUESTIONS ON QIGONG, TAIJIQUAN OR FOR ELI MONTAIGUE

Contact Us at : CombativeCorner@Gmail.Com

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