Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Immortal's Wand

One of the things I am enjoying immensely about taijiquan is how much there is to learn! It is a whole new vista of interesting things. I keep finding new stuff!
I stumbled upon the taiji ruler. It is sometime's called "The Immortal's Wand." This is much more romantic, and being a bit of an old romantic I like this! The "wand" is about twelve inches long, nearly two inches diameter, with shaped ends that fit comfortably into the palms of the hand. I found a great maker of taiji ruler's on ebay. This is mine, made of cocobolo wood. Very pretty indeed. As you work with a wand it begins to retain your energy and becomes distinctly yours. I am looking forward to this as I continue to practice.

So what do you do with a twelve inch stick? Information on the Immortal's Wand is a bit scarce, compared to other stuff on taiji, but here goes.
The wand is held between the palms and taiji forms are practiced with the wand between the palms in circular movements. (Everything in taiji is circular and spiral.) According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) the pericardium meridian moves from one palm to another around the heart making a kind of energy circuit. Forms where the palms are joined by the wand are especially powerful in the movement of qi. As with most taiji forms, wand practice is very gentle, very relaxing and very energizing. Here's what I have discovered from personal practice so far:
  1. Ten-fifteen minutes practice with the wand before other taiji really helps. 
  2. Using the wand helps establish deep patterns of breathing (as with other qigong exercises before taiji).
  3. There seems to be a much greater flow of chi after wand practice than before.
  4. Having the wand between the palms greatly helps in symmetrical movement of the body

Here's a pic of the pericardium meridian to help you visualize it:

This from the web site
Great resource on TCM
Happy taiji!


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Qigong: the slow way to health and well-being

Taiji is a form of qigong. Qigong is "energy work" in Chinese. I suspect that most people come to qigong after playing taiji for a while and want to know more. I suspect also that it comes as a surprise to find that taiji is not the mother discipline, but one of many hundreds of daughters of qigong.
Qigong can be simplified (at least as a memory devise) as: meditation, medicine and martial art. The three "m"s. The three "m"s are also three gateways to qigong practice. Some arrive at qigong because meditation is important to them. Perhaps they have practiced Zen breath meditation for a while and then pursue other meditation techniques. The very basis of qigong is breathing. In qigong there are sitting, walking, moving and standing meditation techniques. From all I have read the foundation is being able to stand. There is more to simply standing than meets the eye! Taiji is a form of moving qigong.
Some arrive at qigong through the second "m" of medicine. Qigong is a wonderfully well developed system of complementary medicine that has been practiced in Chine for millenia. But, qigong is not a quick fix. Studies document  amazing health and healing results in qigong practitioners for all kinds of ailments, including the "big C." But we are talking practice that takes time. Not a quick surgery, out in a day and a week's recovery. Qigong practice takes months, years, a lifetime of daily relaxation, meditation and gentle movement. Qigong helps the body
to help itself through the movement of energy, releasing of blockages to energy and giving the body its own defenses against illness. Qigong is no guarantee that when the flu season arrives you will not get the flu. But qigong prepares the body to fight off illnesses through its own inner mechanisms. The long term benefits are wonderful for joints, muscles, organs, digestion, circulation, tension and a host of other issues.
The final "m" is martial arts and qigong is of the "internal" variety. It is about energy rather than physical strength. Having tried the "hard" martial arts some discover in the "soft" arts a different, perhaps more holistic approach.
Whatever the gateway, gigong becomes a wonderful practice. It's about lifestyle. I have included links to a couple of books I have found very helpful.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Taijiquan on a long road trip

Sunrise Lake Fayetteville, AR
I have just returned from a three week, 3,371 miles, 16 State road trip to see the family. It was a wonderful time, and we got to see a great deal of America. We stayed in a variety of motel/hotels of varying qualities and it gave me ample time to experiment with taiji on the road, to practice in motel rooms, poolsides, and in parks and gardens. I didn't quite get to practice as much as I normally do, but managed almost and hour a day (usually some morning and evening practice). I had opportunity to study on wonderful book on qigong (more in another blog to follow). Things I learned:

  • You can practice taiji anywhere
  • It's good to have a store of forms that can be completed in a small place
  • Standing qigong is wonderful after a long day in the car. It deals with all the aches and pains of driving
  • Taiji is good before getting into the car for a long day driving!
  • Cramped circumstances gave me more opportunity to focus on the individual elements of a form (what does each knee feel like? how deep is the belly breathing? how is the qi moving today? etc)

All in all, a great trip and glad to be doing taiji.