Archive for Taiji

Why Practice Tai Chi? By: Sifu Herb Parran

Posted in Health, Internal Arts, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2014 by Combative Corner

Herb Parran Tai Chi 2Tai Chi is practiced by ten percent of the world’s population and is vastly becoming the most popular exercise in the world. Tai Chi is a valuable tool for improving health in a corporate setting. Companies see that Tai Chi improves productivity by helping employees to be happy, relaxed, and creative.

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese art, in the beginning it was purely used as a martial art. It was also a guarded family treasure passed down from generation to generation. Now many all over the world practice Tai Chi for health, relaxation, stress reduction and a state of well-being. There are many styles of Tai Chi, the most practiced is the Yang style. Other styles include Chen, Sun, Wu and Wu Hao, however the principles are the most important. Tai Chi is an internal art practiced slowly to gain balance, endurance and flexibility. Its form is a continuing motion from one posture to another.

Herb Parran Tai Chi 3Tai Chi differs from most arts because people of all ages can practice it. Many people with disabilities and illnesses practice Tai Chi as therapy. No one is restricted from practicing Tai Chi, and yet Tai Chi can benefit the fittest athletes, just as it benefits elderly arthritis sufferers. Tai Chi has no belt or ranking system because the benefits of Tai Chi can be felt and not seen.

By practicing Tai Chi’s relaxed movements every day, we allow the muscles to release tension on the bones. Tai Chi recognizes that the body always wants to be in most healthy posture possible.
Guidelines about fall prevention in older people from the American Geriatrics Society recommend tai chi balance puts less stress on the body throughout the day and you will find that you have more energy as Tai Chi practice improves your balance. According to a balance study conducted by Harvard and Yale University, Tai Chi practitioners fall and injure themselves only half as much as those practicing other balance training. For aging Americans, the simple act of falling can be fatal; it is the sixth largest cause of death for older Americans.

Other Benefits of Tai Chi:
• Boosts the immune system
• Slows aging process
• Lowers high blood pressure
• Increases breathing capacity
• Reduces asthmatic issues
• Alleviate stress responses & stress level
• Aids senior citizens to improve mobility
• Improves balance & coordination

Sifu Herb Parran
314-397-2560
www.TraditionalTaiji.com

10 Questions with Glenn Hairston

Posted in 10 Questions, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2012 by Combative Corner

What brought you from the “harder” styles, the security work to the softer style (i.e. Tai Chi)?

Actually it really wasn’t a conscious decision to switch to the “soft style(s)”. To make a long story short many years ago I sustained a serious injury. I was constantly in a lot of pain and had difficulty just making it through each day. The doctors suggested surgery but stated that I would most likely have limited mobility as a result. At that time I found it impossible to continue with my training in the “harder systems”. Actually it was difficult just getting out of bed on most days. By shear accident I found out about a Tai Chi class that was near me and I decided to go and watch. I never intended to participate but figured I might enjoy watching and gaining insight into something new. The teacher Master Yung-Ko Chou was a little old man who basically forced me to participate despite my attempts to decline. I discovered that because of the slow relaxed nature of the movements I could perform the Tai Chi postures on my own terms without risk of further injury. Because the moves were foreign to me they required my total concentration this proved to be a distraction from the pain I was experiencing. So, at that time I found the practice of Tai Chi to be a good method of diverting my attention from the pain that was consistently with me. As time passed, my teacher introduced me to the martial aspects of Tai Chi Chuan. This required structural changes to my postures and gave me a whole new outlook on Tai Chi altogether. Because of these changes I progressed in my training, began grow stronger and experience less pain.

I then began to understand what my teacher meant when he would say “It is not the practice of Tai Chi that promotes health, but rather it is the correct practice of Tai Chi that promotes our health” Although my pain has never gone away completely to this day it is quite manageable and as long as I am not foolish (and don’t pretend that I am twenty years old) I can do pretty much as I please. My professional History consists of such areas as Executive Protection, Witness/Dignitary Protection and Law Enforcement with the last Twenty Plus years working as an undercover Narcotics Detective. These are areas where physical encounters are inevitable and regular. I believe incorporating the principles of Tai Chi Chuan have been quite instrumental in the longevity of my career.

What is your favorite form or (exercise to practice) and why?

I can’t say that I have a favorite form or exercise. I enjoy strength, flexibility and endurance training. I also enjoy and benefit greatly from sitting meditation and various breathing and Qi Gong exercises. I believe it is important to exercise in a variety of genres. No matter which Martial Art System you subscribe to good health and fitness is paramount. You should always seek to be as fit as possible. Life is better when you are not hindered by pain and physical limitations. Regardless of your Martial Art system, if you are out of breath after one or two minutes of punching and kicking then how can you defend yourself? The streets are unpredictable. Many times there is more than one attacker. Your ability to fight is sometimes not as important as your ability to run. So even fleeing requires fitness. I personally find all forms of exercise to be enjoyable with my only complaint being a lack of time. I find that the secret to enjoying exercise is moderation. Do not over train, do not under train. You should find a level of exercise that allows for development but does not cause injury or render you unable to train the next day. Your level of exercise should allow you to maintain a positive attitude about working out each day. If you do not find enjoyment in exercise then you will most likely not remain consistent and consistency becomes even more important as you get older. I divide my training into different categories such as: Health, Fitness, Self defense, Strength and flexibility. It’s sort of like eating something from all of the food groups. Just as one food cannot not provide all the nutrients you need one type of exercise has its (nutritional) limits as well. For instance certain exercises are good for health and others for fitness. Health and Fitness are not the same thing. One can be fit (like an athlete) having strong muscles, good flexibility, superior agility other attributes but may have poor health such as problems with liver, kidneys, spleen, colon, stomach etc. This is why in order to get the most from your exercise you must understand the difference between health and fitness. Then you can train accordingly.

How do you get the most out of you training?

 Two ways:

1. Consistency. Working at it all the time and when I’m not working at it I’m thinking about training and when I’m not thinking about training I’m dreaming about it, and when I’m not dreaming about it I’m….well you get the picture…. LOL

2. Thinking outside the box. By thinking outside of the box I mean not getting stuck in repetitious viewpoints and other people’s theories. You must make room for creativity in your training. Don’t just rely on teachers, books and videos. Seek to get information first hand, Experiment. In order to really excel at Tai Chi you have to get into your training, get dirty, dig deep, experiment, experiment, experiment. You are responsible for growing your art.

Do you think there is anything under emphasized in the world of Tai Chi?

I believe that the Martial aspects of Tai Chi have been under emphasized. Martial application is an area where not only the most intricate lessons are discovered but an increase in good health is developed as a by-product. Tai Chi is taught in stages. In the beginning one is taught a series of movements or postures (the solo form) with no further explanation as this would be a distraction to learning the moves. Solo form practice helps us to understand ourselves; if we slip we can recover. If we drop something we may catch it before it hits the ground. After one has become proficient at mimicking the moves then applications are assigned to them. Martial application gives purpose to the movements and movements with purpose are no longer just movements. In this world we must relate to outside forces. Understanding Martial application is being able to adapt to outside forces that are not acting in concert with us; and in truth isn’t that all fighting really is. Do not misunderstand me I am not saying that one must be a fighter in order to study and benefit from Tai Chi. I am saying is that the movements have meaning and that by understanding the meaning you can practice correctly and benefit to the fullest. In Tai Chi our health comes from striving to bring our movements into accordance with Tai Chi principles. These Principles have theory but they also have function. In order to fully benefit we must graduate from Theory (form) to function (application).

Do you stress the importance of Qi development? Why or why not?

I do stress the importance of Qi development but no more than on the other areas of development. I feel that balance is important. Why spend all of your time developing your internal Qi and neglect the physical. I have known individuals who have spent all of their time doing internal Qi training exercises. However they couldn’t run two blocks to escape danger if they had to. That is not practical. The idea of training is to enrich your life. I have found that Balance = quality. Develop your Qi but develop your endurance, your strength, flexibility. Improve your diet and develop a good sense of humor. In my opinion this is the way to good health and longevity. If I would emphasis any single word pertaining to our practice it would be balance.

What has been the biggest obstacle for you as a teacher?

Time. Never enough time with my students and never enough time to improve myself.

What do you think is the best way to bring people into the study of Tai Chi Chuan?

To actually be “That”, which we claim Tai Chi has to offer.

Is it best to separate Tai Chi for Health and Tai Chi for Combat?

There is only one Tai Chi; to ignore the Martial is to limit the Health benefits. When you visualize applications during solo practice the body makes subtle adjustments. With the idea of encountering an opposing force the entire body alignment is changed causing everything to work harder. It’s the difference between just standing and standing with the knowledge that someone is going push you backward. Just the knowledge that you will be pushed is enough for you body to make subtle adjustments in its structure in preparation of the incoming force. The mind makes adjustments as well. These ongoing adjustments are what over time promote health by strengthening and toning the muscles, increasing blood and oxygen circulation, improving mental focus and more.

In your Law Enforcement work, how does your experience in Tai Chi help you?

In every way imaginable. Other than the obvious self defense training the increased sensitivity of being in tune with the intent of others is the greatest factor.

What is your message to people “on the fence” regarding the internal styles of martial arts.

I would first suggest that they write down the reasons for apprehension. Then they should seek out a competent Tai Chi instructor and present these reasons to him/her giving them the opportunity to address them. I realized the Internal Arts still have a lot of myths and mysticism surrounding them, but in reality when the smoke clears you’ll find strong Martial Arts with sound science behind them.

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Embodiment Of The Butterfly

Posted in Discussion Question, Internal Arts, Martial Arts, Philosophy, Taijiquan, Teaching Topic with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2011 by chencenter

Three years ago I asked a question of dozens of martial artists within my circle & social networks.  The question I asked was, “Within your martial art, what (if any) animal/spirit/creature/etc do you associate yourself with?”  The responses were numerous and surprisingly varied.  But the connection that I made, several years ago, was with the butterfly.  Here’s the original article.  Enjoy!

Before I get into the fillet of the article, I’d like to say that previously I worked with “the dragon.”  Historically, the dragon is the juggernaut of the martial world.  The dragon spews bellows of fire, claws at his prey and whips his tail unexpectedly.  The dragon is definitely the pinnacle of yang energy and leaves all the others… “how should I say… lacking.”  But it occurs to me, being so dramatically yang OR embracing the spirit of the dragon does not correspond to the natural and quintessential aspect of Taijiquan.  If one is to do the taijiquan form, the spirit must be above the form… we must be quick and evasive, yet resilient and rooted when needed.

THE BUTTERFLY

I don’t know how it came to me.  But after thinking for a moment on said question (of “What do WE/TAIJIQUAN Embody?”)… I remembered being in a butterfly farm.  This was quite a few years ago and I hardly remember the experience, but it DID make an impression.  Just like the first time I went snorkeling, the experience of having several butterflies land on my arm gave me an instant connection with nature.  Besides the new-found love for these delicate creatures, I remember the impression it left.

Funny that it never crossed my mind before… but you can’t tell when a butterfly lands on your sleeve (at least I couldn’t).  There is no weight.  When you move your arm (obviously this depends on the shyness of these butterflies, but I was at a butterfly farm for pete sake) their legs have a sufficient hold that naturally adheres, without having to grip.  The wings, which you would think would be like an umbrella in the wind, actually adjusts to your movement (as long as the disturbance isn’t a violent shake).  But as it flies.. it eludes you with such lightness, and fluttering quickness.  You need a net to catch one.  Has anyone caught a healthy, wild butterfly with their bare hand (one that didn’t want to get caught)?  I would think it would be a tremendous task.

Taijiquan has the reputation of being boringly slow.  However, the truth is that Taijiquan should be as spritely and lively as a dancing butterfly.  That is just my opinion.  There are probably some classic taiji players that would disagree with me… but I can truly relate to this “dance.”  I don’t know anyone who has seen a real-life dragon, so for me… it would be quite a stretch of the imagination to be one of those.  Plus, dragons are quite the carnivore.  And I’m desperately trying to separate myself from that.  At least as much as I can.

Coach Joyce

CombativeCorner Profile

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A Few Words : Master Chungliang Al Huang

Posted in Day's Lesson, Internal Arts, Internal Development, Peace & Wellbeing, Philosophy, Qigong, Taijiquan, Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2011 by chencenter

Master Chungliang Al Huang, is one of my favorite people on Earth.  For years I taught martial arts as a system… and it was only until I was able to relax inside my own body did my form “make shape.”  Taiji isn’t about this [boxing]*… it’s about that part of you that lets go and brings a smile to your face.  How did that happen? Was it your body? It was a feeling! A taiji feeling.  Summer is a great time for everyone to take to the outdoors and absorb the abundance of qi.  I hope you guys will take my advice.  Please watch this video (if only to smile)!

*Taiji/TaiChi and Taijiquan/Tai Chi Chuan are two different (but connected) things.  “Quan” or “Chuan” means “Fist” or “Boxing Style” and is often required if you are specifically talking about forms, systems or martial theory/principles/applications.  Taiji has a much deeper meaning, one of which is “letting go.”

Life, Is a Process, Experience it. “Ah-ha!”

Coach Joyce

Taijiquan Gems of 2010

Posted in Internal Arts, Internal Development, Martial Arts, Styles, Taijiquan with tags , , , , on January 26, 2011 by Combative Corner

Tai Ji Quan (whether you shorten/spell it as “Tai Chi” or T’ai Chi”) is an amazingly fun and therapeutic artform and martial art.  In 2010, we at the CombativeCorner were able to post some great articles and two fascinating interviews.  If you haven’t checked it out already, we highly suggest that you do!  We hope you all have gotten off to a wonderful 2011!

Interviews

Chen Huixian / Chen Zhonghua

Posts

What is Tai Chi? (by: Johnny Kuo)

Reflections on Chen Style Taijiquan (by: Michael Joyce)

The Beginner’s Mind (by: Johnny Kuo)

Roundtable Discussion 005: Books

Posted in Roundtable Discussion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2010 by Combative Corner

“What is your favorite (martial art / inspirational) book that you own, and why?”


Sensei Brandon Vaughn:  “I don’t have one particular book that I read more than others but the one I find most interesting is one I actually saw and bought out of the Century catalog last November. It’s called The Way of the Warrior by Chris Crudelli and examines various styles from around the world, briefly going into their history, country of origin and common weapons used if applicable. Not only does this book delve into commonly know, traditional styles it also covers the more exotic and unknown arts as well as the more modern styles of self defense. I love learning about the meaning and history of just about any topic, martial arts related or not and this book speaks to the geek in me.”

Coach Johnny Kuo: “My favorite inspirational book that I own is “Peace Is Every Step” by Thich Nhat Hanh. Martials arts continue to be a personal passion not so much for the martial aspects, but more for the personal development. Sure, I enjoy learning the art of using the body to attack and defend. What keeps me training though is the expansion of the mind’s awareness and inner peace achieved from the training process. Thich Nhat Hanh’s writings mirror that inner development that I seek from my own martial training.”

Sifu Freddie Lee: “Tao Te Ching.  I’ve read it many times in many different translations. I own a few copies. It was the book that ultimately awakened me. A timeless book that is written so simple but yet with profound wisdom. Another great sage, Eckhart Tolle that I have been inspired by also gives great acknowlegement to the ‘Tao Te Ching.’ It dramatically changed my life from negative to positive and from darkness to light.”

¤

Sensei Robert Lara: “My favorite martial art book is Budo: Teachings of the Founder of Aikido by O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba.  I love this book. It is a must read for any Aikido student. This is a very old book that O’Sensei wrote. Over so many years of reading it and training only now am I starting to understand some of the finer points from this text. This is a true treasure of Budo. I would love to see others from other arts read it as well. We are all one family and we need to learn from each other.”

Coach Michael Joyce:  “Al Chungliang Huang is a truly remarkable teacher.  For a young westerner trying desperately to understand the inner teachings of Taiji, this book got me to see what Dr. Yang and Master Jou Tsung Hwa could not show me.  It was not because Master Huang is a good teacher and the others are bad; nor is it because their book(s) are bad and Master Huang’s are good – this is not what I’m saying at all!  Embrace Tiger and Return To Mountain is a book that tells of a personal journey (one that I could easily relate too), a journey filled with mistakes, with questions, but always with lessons.  There still exists, a lot of confusion to what Taiji [Tai Chi] is.  This book managed to, in my opinion, give us the best ‘observation point’ for both internal & external progress in the art as far back as 1973 (when it was first published).  I’ve read it at least five times (it’s only 188 pages), because I love to remember Master Huang’s simple messages – messages that speak to the heart.”

 

What’s YOUR favorite book (that YOU own) and why?


What is Tai Chi?

Posted in Internal Arts, Martial Arts with tags , , , , , , , on June 29, 2010 by mindbodykungfu

Is it a mystical ancient art?  Is it a health panacea?  Is it a black and white circular symbol?  How about an ultimate fighting system?  What about a philosophy or conceptual framework?  Depending on who you ask, tai chi could be any one of the above mentioned possibilities.  There is a joke that goes “How many tai chi practitioners does it take to screw in a light bulb?  100.  One to screw it in, and 99 to say ‘that’s not how I was taught to do that.'”  Similarly, if you ask 100 different people what tai chi is, you’re liable to get nearly as many different answers.

To simplify the question, we need to differentiate between tai chi as a health practice, tai chi chuan (taijiquan) as martial art, and tai chi as a concept.  At the most fundamental level, tai chi is a concept; it is the state of harmony between yin and yang.  The yin-yang symbol is an illustration of this idea.  The whole is neither yin, nor yang.  Rather, tai chi encompasses both yin and yang.  It is the balance between yin and yang such that both are present and can evolve one into the other.  Tai chi chuan, in all its glorious variants, encompasses martial arts based on the principle of tai chi.  Tai chi as a health practice borrows pre-choreographed forms from tai chi chuan and removes most of the martial aspects of training.  Tai chi practiced for health instead focuses on improving health through a blend of body movement, qigong, and meditative exercises.

With the multitude of tai chi practices in the world, there are some common misconceptions.  A complete list would be impractically long, but we can explore a few examples:

Tai chi is not defined by circular movement.  Circular movement is a natural consequence of the joints of the human body.  No joint in the body allows linear motion.  Every joint works by allowing movement in arcs.  Harmonizing the yin and yang in the body makes the circular movement more obvious and links the arc across multiple joints.  Integrated and curved movement result from applying the principle of tai chi to body movement.  However, it is entirely possible to perform circular movements which do not manifest the yin-yang tai chi harmony.  Curved movement is an effect rather than a prerequisite of tai chi.

Tai chi is not just softly yielding to force.  “Four ounces deflects a thousand pounds” is a common tai chi saying.  Unfortunately, a lot of people misinterpret this as meaning that you must use no force and become limp to deal with incoming force.  Dealing with a force by just yielding and dropping back is just a yin movement.  Directly fighting back against a force is a purely yang movement.  The tai chi occurs when the force is met and dealt with using simultaneous yin and yang movements.  (note: “meeting” the force is matching the force and not fighting back against it)  If there is yielding to the force at one section, there must be an advancing force elsewhere for balance.  A common example of this is absorbing a force with one hand to project force with the other.  The concept also applies equally well to a single point of contact.  If one side of the point of contact yields, then the other side of the of the point of contacts advances–much like moving on a pivot.  When this harmony of yin and yang occurs, then the force can be deflected as a “rollback” where the opponent feels like they are touching a spinning sphere.

Tai chi is not shifting weight.  Shifting the weight is a training tool to understand movement at the hips.  Just shifting the weight translates the body weight from one leg to another.  Some people claim that making one leg empty and the other leg full is manifesting yin and yang.  That’s true in a sense, but that doesn’t make the weight shift tai chi; it makes the weight shifting either a yin or yang movement.  The tai chi occurs when the yin and yang are both present and harmonized.  It is more important to understand the coordination between flexors and extensors and between the anterior and posterior chain.  This yin-yang harmony can happen just as readily from an equal-weighted stance as from a split-weight stance.

Ultimately, tai chi as either a martial or health practice must manifest a harmonization of yin and yang.  The yin and yang in the body structure and body movements must be balanced to truly practice “tai chi.”  Tai chi practiced for health, taijiquan practiced as a martial art, or any art based on tai chi must be guided by this principle of harmonizing the yin and yang.

-Johnny Kuo

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