In the previous blog we reminisced about the first half of 2014 for United Tai Chi. Some say the sequel is never as good as the original, but let’s give it a go.
In addition to the class locations mentioned in Part I of the newsletter, added sites in the latter half of the year included Kokikai Akido school, more Chester County Night School sessions, and the Sunday mornings at Dragon Gym with Masters Armstrong and Tolbert. Our mentor Wei Lun Huang held a weekend workshop in Broomal PA that several of our students attended. And Phil represented UTC at Master Huang’s annual Wakulla Springs tai chi retreat. Christian held an outdoor weekend QiGong seminar in August. And followed Master Huang to a learning session at Boston Healing Tao this fall. UTC was also represented at the Blue Buddha anniversary party.
Field trips or shared events included Christian, Phil and Deb joining Master Armstrong in Philadelphia for a community festival and Tai Chi demonstration. Likewise some attended an Internal Arts weekend workshop lakeside at a fellow practitioner’s cabin. Steve and Phil conducted a Harvest Moon internal arts evening to celebrate the cosmic event. John C travelled to Hawaii to cheer on his son in a prestigious triathlon. We read books such as “The Power of Tai Chi Chuan” (R. Gamble) and “The Old Man From the Hill” (S. Zimcosky).Ray welcomed a new grandson, Jaclyn travelled to Croatia, and Christian’s uncle had an art exhibit at the Rosenfled Gallery in Philadelphia. Our annual tradition continued in supporting a youth from the Delaware Valley Children’s Charity with Angel Tree gift donations at the local YMCA.
Newsletter blog essays in the ‘living the art’ theme included: the effect of utilizing sound or music versus no sound. Mood disorders or depression and the Taoist principles of meditation, fitness and access to daylight. Medication black box warnings about side effects as a story framing agent to discuss the positive “side effects” of tai chi. Letting things go via listening, receiving, flexibility, communing with nature and animals, and comporting ourselves like ‘velvet bricks’. Goal setting in our daily lives as well as our internal arts practice. The assistance of smart phones in your search for videos, class locations, tweeted articles, blogs, or connecting with practice partners. Recovery from personal traumas using an analogy of cups full of pain that spill over versus those that allow room to let the goodness in. Layers (gum, Ogres, and the Human, Earth and Sky stages of tai chi). And finally, oral history and generational influences.
New Class Alert: Christian will be teaching through the Chester County Night School program. Dates January 7th to February 11th 2015 at Henderson High School in West Chester. Fees $62 bulk rate per person for six classes. Wednesday nights at 7:30pm. Register at this link.
Shares/Finds: My recent book review “The Old Man From the Hill” for the Tai Chi website Slanted Flying. Thank you Steve Zimcosky and Guy Tomash for your faith in me.
Student News & Events: Marilyn, thanks for a nice Open House party for tai chi friends and neighbors. Good to meet folks and discover more about purple pool water, Ray’s grandson, Jiji’s humor, Chris’s Michael Keaton film recommendations, Jose’s ikebana plans, and Dick, thanks for the Elf on the Shelf comment. Affinity groups are so helpful this time of year. Internal art, open heart.
Social Media Roundup: Thank you to our new followers, sharers or readers on the following platforms: (Facebook) Charles, Andy-Janelle, Joey, Sajad and Paulo. (WordPress) First time readers from Columbia and Cambodia this month. Canada and the UK, thanks always for your growing support. And a shout-out to our one reader in Finland –original home of my late grandfather. (Pinterest) check out the boards of fans Dominic B. , Adam R. and Sara A. Thank you Sifu Anthony K of FlowingZen for your forthright revelations and investigation regarding a troubling subject.
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Last week we were revisiting the importance of the armpit gland in our tai chi practice. How we don’t want to be closed off, or pinching the gland, but rather maintain a continuous openness in that region. In some of our earlier classes, our instructor Christian has shared the mantra ‘put a tuna sandwich under each armpit’, hoping that the imagery of a messy, mayonnaise filled hoagie would keep us from touching our biceps to the side of our ribs. The opening of the armpit also stands as a place holder for the upper tan tien when we unfold the arm in successive pieces for postures such as Ward Off. Or how we need to round the spine and soften the chest in order to get just the elbows (not the armpits) together in Golden Dragon Shakes the Tail qigong. “An important requirement is keeping the space under the armpits rounded so the chi can flow easily from the body through the shoulders down through the arms”. [Violet Li, The Tai Chi Examiner, June 2011] Part of your lymphatic system is housed in the armpit, and unhealthy or swollen lymph nodes are an immune system warning of infection. The armpit suffers an image problem—the name alone with the word ‘pit’ in it does not conjure up positive connotations, it is suggestive of a deficit or a den of iniquity. American culture and Madison Avenue tells us the armpit is a malodorous place we need to treat, and a hairy place we need to deforest. It is through our internal arts practices however that we are learning to demystify and embrace the wonder and significance of the armpit. With apologies to Helen Reddy and 1972: I am Armpit hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore, and I know too much to go back and pretend. I’ve heard it all before and I’ve been down there on the floor, no one’s ever going to keep me down again. Yes I am wise, but its wisdom born of pain. Yes I’ve paid the price but look how much I’ve gained. If I have to, I can face anything –I am strong, I am invincible, I am Armpit!
Wrap-up of recent classes: More play-the-pan-pan practice and insights about the scissor step and left side uncoiling. “Let it be one” mantra for the left hand during transitions from shoulder strike, pull down and white crane. Mental pictures, mind intention and silence. Ray and the “senior students”. Armpit class Wednesday, and groin. No elbows. Creating space and removing tension. Also part I of Yang108 done to the other side. Snow removal issues near Master Armstrong postponed this month’s Dragon Gym Sunday workshop to March. Monday: heel to finger tip unity line in the Split posture, circling, un-martial jargon for those so inclined, tan tiens of the arm, Play the Pan-Pan. And the wei yin.
Student News & Events: Sincere condolences from our Tai Chi family to Marcia Z on the loss of a family member this winter. And good luck to Ellen W on her surgery soon. West Chester fans and friends, very soon Christian will be teaching Thursday morning classes at Eat Drink OM Yoga Café at 7:30am, pricing and info at http://www.eatdrinkOM.com and you can meet the owner Susan in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CEixLt_56CM please be sure and support our Tai Chi classes there! Thanks Deb O for the commentary notes under our “Power Down” blog last week https://unitedtaichi.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/power-down-united-tai-chi-digest-21214/ For those of you not on Facebook that missed Christian’s shovel tai chi video, let me know if you want to receive it via email and I’ll bcc whatever list of folks asks me for it. The spring Chester County Night School course guide is out, and once again Christian will be teaching at East Bradford Elementary starting March 17 on Monday nights (course #FH70 at http://www.chestercountynightschool.org ) Welcome @julian181994 from Brooklyn, @ldr49ny in New Hampshire, @idea_de_qi in Mexico and @agostinetti_a from Italy to our Twittersphere. In WordPress reader news, highlighting our Canadian friends this Olympic week —congrats on Charles Hamelin’s gold in short track 1500m speed skating. Facebook fans of the day, Marie F from Boston Healing Tao; Uevin –a Packers fan; and Tania G, latino international film festival fan.
Etcetera : Formula to combat a certain approach from students in internal arts, from Sifu Anthony K of http://www.flowingzen.com “Students pay too much attention to the physical aspects of qigong, tai chi and meditation. When it comes to maximizing your results, there is a simple equation that will help. The physical aspect is responsible for 10% of your results, the breathing aspect 30% and the meditation aspect is responsible for 60% of your results.”
What can you improve with structure and not force? Last fall we posted an infographic on Facebook showing a few examples http://on.fb.me/1ho49s1 of how the study and practice of Tai Chi can be used to improve swimming, hiking, and body-workers performing massage therapy. Spinal alignment, tail bone and groin relaxation, efficient breathing techniques, elbow and kidney connections, the 70 percent rule, the mind-body connection, and learning to listen to your body’s biofeedback. These Tai Chi principles can help athletes achieve personal or professional goals. “Tai Chi provides flexibility, balance and strength as well as modest conditioning. It can also help improve your focus and reflexes, enhance your range of motion and open up new neuromuscular pathways…it keeps you motivated, excited and in good shape; it also serves as a hedge against burnout and fatigue…prevents you from overtraining and allows you to recover from injuries—if you know your limits, you honor the yin, the non-doing piece of Tai Chi.” [Peter M. Wayne, The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi] The winter Olympics are next month in Sochi Russia. A current member of the US alpine ski team (and former Olympian) Ted Ligety is also a Tai Chi practitioner who studied with Master Victor Shenglong Fu. Ted won an Olympic gold medal in 2006 in Turn Italy. You can read more about Ted at http://www.tedligety.com. Ted’s US Ski teammate and fellow internal arts enthusiast Tommy Kirchhoff has written the 2008 book “The Internal Athletics”. You can read the preface online here http://www.futaichi.com/IntAth.html Even our own students have mentioned utilizing Tai Chi in their other fitness endeavors –John C has cut some time off his lap swims by remembering to tuck in his tailbone. Janet, Martina, and Judith no doubt see their own swimming benefit from Tai Chi practice. And our instructor Christian promotes the notion of the head suspended from above and a relaxed tailbone to discourage a lean forward during a mountain ascent, to put less strain on the glutes and hamstrings. What other fitness, dance, musical or job-performance related endeavors of yours have benefited from the concurrent practice of Tai Chi?
Wrap-up of recent classes: Thanks for the Thursday crew for coming out (small snow-day class), who reviewed the intricacies of Shoulder Strike and ended with some Growing Like a Tree Qigong. Floody-Monday more folks floated in for some neck and shoulder and eyeball warm-ups, plus more work on the transition from Shoulder Strike to White Crane.
Student News & Events: Welcome new students to the winter Chester Country Night School tai chi session this week. We marked our Facebook and Twitter one year anniversary on January 4. Sorry we got snowed out of the Lionville Natural Pharmacy class last Thursday. I heard from student Deb O this week who has been out with medical issues for awhile, she is home on the mend and hoping to see us in February. Thank you to Paul Read (Beancurd Boxer) http://bit.ly/1cl3sHW for the skills endorsement on LinkedIn. 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?) “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 Welcome Francesca Fasano @beawell817 in California to our Twittersphere. And new one-time WordPress reader/visitors from Iceland, Oman, the Netherlands and Singapore. And a happy side note for me, just heard my fave Keith Urban will be performing at Bethlehem Musikfest in August! Sweeeeeeet.
Retreat. One of the connotations of the phrase ‘martial arts’, for the uninitiated, suggests the concept of fighting. Yet there is a difference in the aggression of an offense, versus the acquiescence of a controlled defense. Receive. Understand. Redirect. We’ve talked here about topics like transforming conflict (Qi Gong Radio’s Dan Kleiman), humility (The Wandering Taoist), situational awareness and training yourself to discern antisocial aggression versus asocial violence (Survive the Unthinkable). Indeed our own instructor calls for us to communicate from the back of our spine not the front of our chest, and to ‘retreat until you can’t retreat anymore’. And recently Ziva’s warrior girl persona from NCIS finally coming to terms with her past and deciding to start over—telling Tony there is someone crying for everyone she killed. Our anthropological instinct –part time predators, part time hunter/gatherers, is challenged with the internal arts. Yet here we are ready to embrace the noble art of retreating, the peacefulness of Receive, Understand, Redirect. This week will you be more like Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid (“best way avoid punch, no be there”), or like Bruce Springsteen in his 1984 cut from Born To Run, “No retreat baby, no surrender”?
Wrap-up of the past week’s classes: Drills on in-line Grasp the Sparrows Tail repeaters and palm changes; and holding Single Whip hand postures. Brush knee mechanics. Eight pieces of brocade. Drills of individual postures done to both sides. Dave K’s question about leg traps. Dolores is the new Barbara. Ambidextrous: work on that. Neck stretches and Cow Gazing at the Moon. Line drills of Grasp the Sparrows Tail. Path to your center with Thirteen Postures. Yang 108. Martial applications and palm positions of Look/Gaze. Finally, practicing Part I of Yang 108 at several different speeds to gauge the different sensations or things you notice when it is sped up or sssslllloooowwwed down.
Student News and Upcoming Events: United Tai Chi will be at the West Chester Farmers Market this Saturday October 12 from 9am to 12pm. If you attend, could you snap a couple pictures for our FB page (I’ll be elsewhere working). Welcome back Irene. Safe travels to Christine H. Welcome two new students on Tuesday afternoon. Chris S thanks for the LinkedIn endorsement. Grand birthday wishes to Claudia. Best of luck next week to Liz G with her surgery. Welcome aboard all our new Facebook followers and WordPress visitors this week. And a shout out to West Chester Chiropractic (we’ll blame it on Adam’s rib). Tai Chi DVD night will be Friday October 11, 8pm at the Lionville Natural Pharmacy Holistic Health Center. Please let me know how many of you will be there and if you can bring a small snack or beverage to share (e.g., tea, water, fruit, nuts, etc). Christian will have a few videos from some of his past Wakulla Springs sessions to share, all are welcome.
Etcetera: If you missed out on the FREE Friday Amazon purchase of Paul Read’s “One Last Thing: The History of the Martial Arts Philosophy” it is now just a $3.99 Kindle download, and it is crazy funny. And Deborah it even includes Rocky!
Lionville YMCA … 100 Devon Drive Exton PA
Mon, Weds, Fri
Eagleview YMCA …699 Rice Blvd Exton PA
Lionville Natural Pharmacy 309 Gordon Dr Exton
[90 minute, small class attention, *separate fees apply]
Private paid lessons available upon request –check with instructor for scheduling
Monday nights in the fall: 7 week beginner class ordered through Chester County Night School
Follow these links to our social media presence on the web:
Back to school. This week you may have noticed the buses on your morning travel route, or kids waiting on the sidewalk set to begin another academic year, as many schools in this local area had opening day on Monday. As practitioners of internal arts know, learning doesn’t stop once the cap and gown are gone. The curious are always on a quest. I talked about collaboration last week on one of our social media feeds, and an unexpected part of my journey with Tai Chi has been a room full of teachers in one way or another, inside and outside the classroom. What is it that ball players say –the bench is deep. We all have something to teach, to share; and something to learn. Education comes in many forms, and though some of us may have different triggers that facilitate our learning, or different speeds of ascension, eventually we all end up at the same point in the circle. The same path from the heart. Don’t hang up your backpacks and your slide rule just yet, the ride’s not over.
Wrap-up of the past week’s classes: Five colored clouds surrounding the mountain. Folding. Coiling. Standing ten. Navel –umbilical cord and fountain of youth; coil your fist up through your navel for ‘serve the fruit’ exercise. Opening bow practice and filling up our bucket from our root, diagnosing internal maladies in the spaces where our shoulders pop up. Reviewing the tan tiens of our arms in the Pull Down/Ward Off transition in 13 postures. Finding your center. Thumb and spine connections. Transitions between Press, Elbow and Shoulder in 13 postures. Travelling an internal path from bone to ligament, muscle, skin and back again. Growing like a tree Qi Gong. Detailed breakdowns of opening bow, scoop the water, and ward off left. Hand and foot connections in the Slant Fly posture.
Student News and Upcoming Events: We’re holding another Qi Gong workshop on Saturday August 31 at 2pm in Kerr Park, $25, or a $5 discount if you are wearing our United Tai Chi shirt. Bring a water bottle and a mat. RSVP on our Facebook page or to firstname.lastname@example.org Welcome back Martina. Thanks @Silverwolfma in the UK for re-tweeting my 8/21 newsletter link to your bevy of followers. Safe journeys to travelers Jane, Jaclyn and Christine H. Rather large attendance at Tuesday’s class, sorry I missed it but glad to see everyone at the desk. Reminder there is no class on Monday September 2 (holiday hours at YMCA). If you missed out on our spring/summer T-shirts, fret not as fall ones are in the offing. Dot thanks for the supermarket chat. Mario good luck in Miami. Pat, the Red Cross thanks you. A huge welcome and thank you to our international readers who have found at least one or more of our newsletters on WordPress (Canada, Italy, Mexico, Australia and the UK)! G’Day, Buenos dias and Buon giorno. And no, spell-check, I am not trying to type Bon Jovi (though perhaps Richie Sambora could use some Qi Gong right about now). Sorry Canadians, I am not sure how you greet each other at the local Tim Hortons.
Etcetera: With football season approaching, those of you who read my reviews and/or discussion in June about Mark Saltveit’s book The Tao of Chip Kelly, you can follow his Twitter feed @taoish, and tell him Kathleen from United Tai Chi sent you; I know he’d appreciate it.
Lionville YMCA … 100 Devon Drive
Mon, Weds, Fri
Eagleview YMCA …699 Rice Blvd
Lionville Natural Pharmacy 309 Gordon Dr
[90 minute, small class attention, *separate fees apply]
Beginners at Boot Road Park (weather permitting)
110 W. Boot Rd $10 drop in rate.
Follow these links to our social media presence on the web: