Monday, December 20, 2010


I have included on the school page my instructor's certificate and a sample certificate given to Way of Peace Taijiquan students for the various levels of progress. If you are interested in learning taiji and registering for grading levels contact me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wordle for this blog

Here'a wordle made from the blog:

Following the Breath

In zazen meditation we learn to follow the breath. It is a simple yet prfound exercise that anyone can do. It is easy natural breathing with attention paid to the breath itself. It's a simple awareness of breathing and is deeply relaxing. When you become aware of thoughts, return to the breath.
In taiji, breath is closely associated with qi, energy. Where the breath goes, the energy goes. To follow the breath is to follow the qi. This close association of breath and energy or spirit is found in most of the world's great traditions.  It is a near universal insight.
Breathing is the natural cycle of inhaling and exhaling. It is very circular with a slight natural pause before the in-breath. Sit for a while and observe your breathing. You will notice that the transition from the end of the in-breath to the beginning of the out-breath is very smooth. There is no pause at all. Now notice that at the end of the out-breath there is the briefest of pauses. The briefest of pauses is followed in taiji as the moment of change. I demonstrate it on two short video clips using the Immortal's Wand. I have mentioned this very useful tool in another blog. There are no set forms for the wand, rather a number of gigong meditation exercises. I have found "wand work" as I call it to be supremely relaxing.
In the first clip I am "sinking qi." The wand is moved in slow circles following the breath. The wand is brought toward the body with the in-breath. With the out-breath the wand moves down and qi is sunk to the dantien (roughly just below the belly button and slightly back). At the end of the out-breath is the briefest of pauses. The wand follows this too. Look closely and you will see it.

The second clip is roughly the reverse and is a "pushing qi" exercise as the breath and qi move away from the body. This time qi is drawn on the in-breath as the wand moves upward and then away from the body on the out-breath. The end of the out-breath coincides with the wand at the furthest point from the body. Then a brief pause as the in-breath begins and the wand is drawn down and toward the body in circular motion.
To notice: with sinking qi the pause is when the wand is at its lowest point, close to the body. With pushing qi the pause is when the wand is at the furthest point away from the body. The is a subtle but very clear different feeling to these two exercises.

A couple of other things to notice. Taiji is whole body work. When one part moves all parts move. When one part is still all parts are still. You will notice that knees bend in wand work, not merely arms.
How many cycles of breath a minute? You will notice on these clips roughly six breaths a minute. This is my normal breathing during qigong/taiji. Great masters breath maybe four times a minute. During a recent meeting where I was a little bored, I occupied myself with counting the breaths of those present. The average was around 15-19 breaths a minute. Taiji slows you down. That's a good thing!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Standing like a tree ... Zhan Zhuang

Recently, I have returned to standing qigong at the beginning of daily practice—Zhan Zhuang (pronounced something like "jam jong".) I have found that this really roots me before I begin taiji form. It helps me center, slows me down and gives the form a greater depth after "standing like a tree." It is a very simple process. You simply stand in the wuji stance for up to twenty minutes, breathing deeply, becoming aware of the body. Whilst I keep my legs in the open stance (shoulder width apart, knees bent slightly, shoulders and elbows relaxed, head as if suspended by a golden chord) I vary hand positions. Twenty cycles of breath in wuji, twenty "holding the belly," twenty holding the ball at chest height, twenty arms extended to the side, twenty hands opened outward, twenty "the great circle" and a few others. Seems quite simple! But you certainly feel it. Expect to experience a few trembles in different parts of the body, a little "burning," a few tingles. Simply be aware of the sensations. Focus on the dan tien and allow energy to circulate. It's quite surprising how you feel after twenty minutes meditating like a tree!
A very helpful book on all this is Master Lam Kam Chuen's Chi Kung: Way of Power. The book is well written, with amy beautiful pictures, Chinese calligraphy, and helpful illustrations. There is a complete long term system for developing Zhan Zhuang. Master Lam translates the calligraphy of Grand Master Wang Xiang Zhai to demonstrate poetically the essense of Zhan Zhuang.
Inwardly alert, open, calm.
Outwardly upright, extended, filled with spirit.
This is the foundation of stillness.
Add the hard and the soft. the powerful and the relaxed,
Motion and stillness, contraction and extension:
In the instant these converge, there is power.