Happy New Year. What is it that you are hoping to try, to improve, to study, or to let go of in 2014? While many internal arts practitioners don’t wait for a mark in the calendar to impact their journey, you can’t help but notice from a cultural perspective many of us chose the dawning of a new calendar year to take stock of where we are and what else we want to accomplish. Maybe this is the year that you begin to incorporate more advanced breathing techniques into the form/postures/style that you have been training in. Or you will have a breakthrough moment with one o the postures that you had struggled with previously? Or perhaps get closer to finding your “center” with an eye towards realizing the impact of the tailbone on your other fitness activities as well as internal arts. A knot or closed-off area that you are finally able to relax into. Are you the one who will share a new book, video, article, blog or newsletter with your classmates? Or learn something from a new travel experience? Our United Tai Chi year-in-review newsletter http://bit.ly/1kMoyXM discussed workshops, events, classes and experiences we tried in 2013 and we look forward to sharing these and other new moments with you in 2014. One that starts this week for example, we will begin learning Part 3 of the Yang 108 long form, at the Thursday night classes held at the Lionville Natural Pharmacy Holistic Health Center. If you know of avenues to help us get more attendance/awareness locally for our World Tai Chi Day celebration in April let us know. Likewise if there is another heading or bullet point topic you want to see occasionally in our weekly digest please share that with us. And as always, if you have questions for our instructor Christian, bring them up during classes or via email and Facebook (links below at the bottom of the digest each week). 2013 was an important building or discovering year for me here at United Tai Chi for unearthing a little more about myself and our students, and I hope that spark of inspiration burns brightly in 2014. Continue to share your “living the art” stories of where you find Tai Chi principles in the world around you. I you don’t like food, films, gardening, pets, humor, camping/hiking, music, physics, the beach, speed skating, math, astronomy, dancing, motor mechanics…well then we shall find something for you to connect with eventually.
Wrap-up of recent classes: Ten breaths, review of stances such as scissor, cat, 60/40 and front stance. Sealing the foot. Cloud hands practice, neck exercises, disappearing the front of your spine, and care to not go outside of your harmonies. Palm and kidney connection –this helps your opposite hand with strength (e.g., for weight curls) if you keep your other palm on its corresponding kidney. Hip and elbow connections in Play the Pan-Pan. White crane review. Reaching things better not by a forced stretch, but by relaxing into it. And on the last class of 2013, in-depth look at Ward Off, Parry Re-direct, and Brush Knee (and the body openings therein). Benefits of slowness, and the principle of never stop moving.
Student News & Events: “Sifu” Master Wei Lun Huang will be at a weekend seminar at the Boston Healing Tao in Somerville MA from February 28 through March 2, see details here http://bit.ly/19toA23 We’ll start work on Part III of Yang 108 form in the night pharmacy class this week. Our local YMCA blood drive on 12/20 was a success (and thank you Pat for being a frequent donor). Esther K says hello and has been following along with our activities via the newsletter and hopes to be back to classes in the new year. January 31 marks the Chinese New Year and we are entering a year of the Horse (this is a Friday night, anyone up for a night out for Chinese food?) In the “living the art” department (finding Tai Chi principles everywhere) –I caught two phrases repeated more than once in the new buzzworthy film “American Hustle” recently: (1) From the Feet Up, and (2) The Power of Intention. Likewise over the Christmas break I found that Matthew McConaughey’s character in “The Wolf of Wall Street” seemed very much like an internal arts master—teaching DiCaprio’s young broker the importance of being grounded in the lower tan tien. Welcome a reader from Bermuda to our WordPress newsletter late last month. Welcome a new Twitter follower @CraneMedicine in Ontario.
Although you would not know it to look outside in our region, it is not until this Saturday the 21st that we will officially usher in the season of winter. In Chinese medicine, winter is associated with the element of water, the colors of blue and black and purple (watch those bruises from falls on the ice!), salty foods or outward spreading vegetables like seaweed, and the feng shui considerations of glass and undulating liquid surfaces. The two organs associated with Winter/Water are the kidneys (yin) and bladder (yang). As Tai Chi students we are learning the importance of our kidneys for our internal connecting paths, and about the role kidneys play in our overall health . According to Wood Becomes Water: Chinese Medicine in Everyday Life [Gail Reichstein] the winter element of water in deficiency can manifest as insomnia, back or knee pain, night sweats, infertility or prematurely gray hair. However the water element in excess can manifest as the emotional condition of manic depression (also commonly known as bipolar disorder), where there is an excess of both organ yin and yang in alternating cycles. Anecdotally and scientifically, winter is often linked with Seasonal Affective Disorder –when the shorter hours of daylight or ‘cabin fever’ this time of year have folks feeling blue. But alas there is good news. Not only has consistent Tai Chi practice been deemed effective at reducing the risk of falls (ice ice baby), but also regular practice of both Tai Chi and Qigong will help reduce the incidence of depression or the winter blues. Just one of a number of articles on Tai Chi versus depression can be found here http://bit.ly/1bS8qQD . So when the “sky is a hazy shade of winter”, fear not –try a seaweed wrap, smile into your kidneys, and try the healing powers of internal arts. Have a wonderful holiday season everyone, the digest is on a Christmas Eve hiatus next week.
New class alert: Starting January 6th, six session Monday night Tai Chi class at East Bradford Elementary School in West Chester, 7.30pm. $62 pre-pay, and you order course #14WFH710 from http://www.chestercountynightschool.org. Please read their snow-closure policy for classes held inside a school building. Former Radley Run Country Club students, the makeup class will be held at a church in West Chester, details TBD soon, since Tues 12/10 was postponed for inclement weather.
Wrap-up of recent classes: Small snow-day attendances early last week. Paired posture drills. Growing like a tree Qigong, white crane and dragon tongue kick. Practicing our bone-muscle-tendon-skin path through Part I of Yang 108. Which way do you feel your breath when your postures are rising or sinking? Hard or soft (yang or yin) –the wind is hard as it can displace a (soft) tree branch that maintains its structure. More work on some of our Eight Powers—including shoulder and elbow (like conducting an orchestra with your elbow). Thirteen postures. Monday a bit of Qigong healing work with Eight Pieces of Brocade, body breath, rising and sinking, expanding/contracting, hot tub/cold tub cell changes, opening up channels. Also some one-handed Yang 108 tai chi practice.
Student News & Events: Thanks Claudia and Ray for the great commentary on our Year-in-Review newsletter last week. Our YMCA closes at noon on Tuesday the 24th, hence no afternoon class that day. Local note: Downingtown winter farmers market on Thursday the 19th (4-6pm at Williamson Masonic Hall, 210 Manor Ave). Welcome several new Twitter followers in the past couple of weeks, including @EamonnCampbell in Ireland, @kollin in Japan and @OpenBlackBelt in Dallas.
First snowfall of the season in our area and after your turkey and tree decorating, many articles abound with end-of-year reflections and review of how we spent our time these past 12 months. Things we learned, saw, tried, enjoyed, felt, ate, wrote, dreamed, heard, wanted, built, or changed. Herein is my reflection on 2013, the year that was, for United Tai Chi.
Winter, quarter one. Our first foray as an organization into social media with the launch of our Facebook and Twitter pages. Classroom learning included silk reeling or coiling, first looks at the Thirteen Postures (8 powers and 5 directions), comparing the three different Single Whip postures in Parts I & II of Yang 108, spinal corrective stretches, standing meditations, rooting, folding, eyeballs in the palms, the challenge of trying salsa music as an accompaniment, and navigating the transitions between postures. Events included Christian’s travel for personal study with Master Wei Lun Huang in Miami, and the continuation of our night class at Lionville Natural Pharmacy Holistic Health Center. In student news, welcome Roger; Ray and Jose try out a morning class, many students were impacted by colds, Steven’s snowboarding excursion, John C completed his Reiki atunement, and Judith’s travel to Egypt. Interesting E-digest moment –my St Patrick’s Day mention of the ancient Celts whose calendar and alphabet were based on tree names, honoring knowledge and learning as gifts from the tree spirits.
Spring, quarter two. Hitting our stride with an event-filled quarter and new growth in the classroom(s) and parks. Our first video testimonial from student Ray C. Our path to learning and sharing included trying some more Qi Gong (Eight Pieces of Brocade, Golden Lotus, Growing Like a Tree, Five Colored Clouds Around the Mountain), sinking and raising the kidney, palm connections to the foot, exploring all locations of the three tan tiens –not just of the torso but of the foot, hand, fingers, arms and legs; the kwah (of the groin and of the armpits), more on White Crane, Play the Pan Pan and Ward Off; Intention, the many chapters of Brush Knee, breathing paths and orbits, and our bubbling well of the foot. In essays, my newfound obsession with the balance between work and rest and getting over the Western guilt of not having enough work or learning to appreciate “rest”. Events included our annual participation in World Tai Chi & Qi Gong Day at Kerr Park, our first round of United Tai Chi t-shirts, Christian’s first foray into Chester County Night School as a sub, a new outdoor night class at Boot Road park, and a local weekend seminar at Dragon Gym from visiting Tai Chi master Wei Lun Huang that several from UTC attended. We welcomed several new students this quarter including Becky. John C and I participated in Team Trivia Night at the Y fundraiser. Paul’s trip to Ireland, Jose in Barcelona, Claudia off to Italy, and Christine H learns where to find her spleen. Janet’s commentary inspired my good natured Info-graphic of a hair-off between Chuck Norris and our instructor Christian. And by late June I had moved our newsletters to an online portal at WordPress.com.
Summer, quarter three. High noon and the heat of the day. Stretches and body openings, alignments, transitions, the world in your tailbone, health of the ‘three rivers’ and saliva notes, elongation, body bites, parry re-direct, slant fly and repulse monkey, ten breaths, finding your center, using the notion of the circular path to find your next move when you get lost in the postures, the pelvic curve or full body hugging the tree, re-adjusting the inner ear bones, snake eyes, the fountain of youth and your navel, posture drills done to each side, balancing, heaven’s bridge and the unbroken circle, stories of the Phoenix, more review of the Eight Powers. Events included the first two of our outdoor weekend Qi Gong workshops, Boot Road Park outdoor and Chester County Night school tai chi classes, the growth or reach of our Twitter followers and influencers. In student news, the sad news of the passing of family members for not only Doris, but Ron and Joy as well. Summer student travels included Linda’s camping, Ray’s Paris trip, Christian’s Grand Canyon excursion, Jaclyn at the National Qi Gong Association weekend in King of Prussia, Jane, Janet, Martina and Christine H also traveling, Jaclyn’s trip to China, and my weekend trip back home to New Hampshire–which yielded one of my favorite WordPress newsletter weeks (“On The Waterfront” 8/7). Growth of our WordPress readership to other parts of the globe. Landing a Facebook follower in Sifu Carl Romain who shows “Dr. Oz” viewers the health benefits of Tai Chi. And the surprise of a large and positive reaction, in readership and commentary for our “Spirituality in Internal Arts” newsletter topic. And a fun, quirky, yet little read “De La Mancha” newsletter, relating the different styles and voices of “To Dream the Impossible Dream” to likewise finding a variety of styles in internal arts and Tai Chi.
Fall, quarter four. Changes in the leaves and the crispness of the air. Continuing our classroom study with the Chinese element of Metal for respiratory health this time of year, drills on grasp the sparrows tail, more on the Eight Powers, attempts towards the ambidextrous, leg traps, practicing the form at different speeds to gauge the different sensations you notice, relaxing into an uncomfortable posture rather than muscling in, shaking your ‘jar of rocks’, silent run through to “let you discover your own gifts”, bagua animal stepping, self-correction, cold room warm-up calisthenics, eyeballs in your fingers to ‘see’ your spinal health, more on ‘folding’ vs. ‘bending’, addressing questions about relaxation of the back and the disappearing of the front of the spine, finding the ‘flavor’ of a posture again once you’ve tasted it, and the importance of spending time in your center “where you can process things and heal”. Another event-filled quarter saw several UTC students (and teacher) off to study Golden Lotus and Bagua Animal Qi Gong for a week with Master Wei Lun Huang at his Wakulla Springs Florida workshop, a DVD night for us to study videos of other students, our sponsorship of holiday gifts for a youth in the Delaware Valley Children’s Charity “Angel Tree” program, another new night class venue at Radley Run Country Club, a final outdoor Qi Gong in the park workshop of the season, a UTC booth at the West Chester Grower’s Market, viewing party (and pizza) for the Keanu Reeves film “Main of Tai Chi”, and finally our annual holiday appreciation breakfast for Christian at Penn’s Table last week (thank you everyone who participated, great turn out this year!). In student news, hip surgery for Liz G, travel for Christine H, welcome new student Beth, Jose’s Ikebana workshop at Jenkins Arboretum, Christian invited to lead another Chester County Night School session in January, welcome back Ron, Joy and Marilyn, our Twitter network is growing to reach more countries, and, most recently reaching 1,000 Facebook likes to end the year on (see Christian’s thank you video on.fb.me/18igT00). Well received or well read WordPress titles for us included my post-Wakulla opus “Epicenter”, breath discussion in “Waiting to Exhale” and “Gut Feeling” about second-brain.
I will have one more regular newsletter next week, and then a Christmas Eve break. And for 2014 of course hoping to build upon our stamina and good will, with the help of our enthusiastic and supportive students who share their interest in the health benefits of Tai Chi each week.
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In the world of internal arts, the term “Crush” corresponds to the wood element in Chinese medicine and is part of the 5 element Hsing-Yi practice and energy matrix of the universe in Taoist cosmology. It aims to mimic a fist growing out of the body, or an arrow darting. In 2013, in my journey back to amateur writing, blogging, journaling, columns or essays, that energy matrix has yielded personal influencers of a crush-worthy nature. Artisans who have begun to show me that who I am on paper (or screen) is meaningful, worthwhile and still relates to internal arts and Tai Chi. That I see vindication of my style or approach in some of their writing is further encouragement that I have been on the right path. I used to wonder if throwing the occasional pop-culture or non-internal arts reference and humor into one of my newsletters was off-putting or un-relatable. That is until I discovered the books and podcasts of Paul Read (“The Beancurd Boxer”) who’s work has shown me, that for a relative beginner who has come to this art late in life (not a Karate Kid was I), it is a little easier to grasp something when crafted in my own language (see his crazy funny One Last Thing: The History of the Martial Arts Philosophy). I also want to thank Mark Saltveit (The Tao of Chip Kelly), Tim Larkin (Survive The Unthinkable), Mark Salzman (Iron and Silk), Sifu Anthony K (Flowing Zen blogs and articles), Peter Wayne (The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi), Deng Ming-Dao (The Wandering Taoist) Gail Reichstein (Wood Becomes Water) Dan Kleiman (Qi Gong Radio podcasts) and Bruce Frantzis (energyarts.com) whose words or voices I have been fortunate to have encountered or were recommended to me. Outside of Tai Chi, though still journalists I geek out over, I want to also mention music writers Peter Cooper, Brian Mansfield and Robert K. Oermann. Lastly, a special honorable mention of Owen Gleiberman who I have followed now and again over the years and whose amazing recent article for Entertainment Weekly about Robert Redford’s career inspired me to change my digest topic this weekend http://insidemovies.ew.com/2013/11/30/robert-redford-is-an-underrated-actor/Just like Tai Chi, writing is an art and a discipline, inspired from the heart, requiring practice and patience. And I want to thank students and teachers of United Tai Chi and all of our readers for sharing both with me this year. I was fortunate to have also found, in our instructor Christian, a ‘voice’ who’s teaching style resonates with the type of learner/listener/reader/writer that I am.
New class alert: Starting January 6th, six session Monday night tai chi class at East Bradford Elementary School in West Chester, 7.30pm. $62 pre-pay, and you order course #14WFH710 from http://www.chestercountynightschool.org. Please read their snow/closure policy for classes held inside a school building.
Wrap-up of recent classes: ‘Serve the fruit’ warm-ups, right side Tai Chi and Left side Tai chi, thirteen postures. Inhale and exhale stories. Cleansing breath, gathering breath, calming breath. Neck exercises as part of the standing 10. Finger and palm connections in “press” and “shoulder strike”. Eight pieces of brocade. Parts I and II of Yang 108. Thanksgiving take-away: seeing my 3 year old grandnephew demonstrate a great rendition of “folding”.
Student News & Events: Annual holiday breakfast thank you for Christian, Friday December 6 at 8:45am (following the morning class) at Penn’s Table, 268 Eagleview Blvd in Exton. Truck loading day for our Angel Tree youth sponsor gifts you guys helped contribute for is Thursday morning December 5 at the Lionville Y. An early Christmas present—reached 1,000 Facebook followers! Red Cross blood drive Friday December 20 also at the Lionville Y, join our life saving mission with a donor appointment at http://www.redcrossblood.org and use our sponsor code of lionville (or sign up at the Y). Welcome back Carl to the morning classes. Welcome a reader in Croatia to our WordPress newsletter. Welcome @aharkins1 from Florida and @LoveLightandQi from the UK to our Twittersphere. Rest in peace to a fallen outdoorsman, marine biology fan, humanitarian/activist, film actor and Brazillian ju-jitsu student, Paul Walker this past weekend.