Wednesday, January 31, 2007
They promote a simultaneous development of our various faculties.
They generally require mentors, rather than a single guru.
They require a strong and developing autonomy.
They are facilitated by personal traits that promote creativity in general.
Though they encourage individual autonomy, they require surrender at times to transformative agencies beyond ordinary functioning.
They require patience and the love of practice for its own sake.
They utilize inherited all-at-once responses, or psychosomatic compliance for high-level change.
They utilize the manifold changes catalyzed by images and altered states.
They enlist more that one mediation to achieve particular outcomes.
They surpass limits by negotiation rather than force.
They depend upon improvisation.
They utilized images of unity.
They require and facilitate conscious transitions between different states of consciousness.
They depend on a developing awareness that transcends psychological and somatic functioning.
They orient all our capacities and somatic processes toward the extraordinary live arising in us."
- Michael Murphy, "The Future of the Body: Explorations Into the Further Evolution of Human Nature," 1992, pp. 579-586.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
It is because of what is not there that the cart is useful.
Clay is formed into a vessel.
It is because of its emptiness that the vessel is useful.
Cut doors and windows to make a room.
It is because of its emptiness that the room is useful.
Therefore, what is present is used for profit.
But it is in absence that there is usefulness."
- Tao Te Ching, #11
Translated by Charles Muller
Monday, January 29, 2007
1. Consistent Exercise
Energize through safe, results-oriented exercise.
2. Body Alignment
Promote proper posture, spinal strength with flexibility, and body awareness.
3. Natural Nutrition
Implement sound eating practices for life.
4. Sound Mind
Embrace life obstacles with self-awareness, reflection, imagination and creativity.
5. Relaxation and Centering
Cultivate and calm the bodymind connection everyday.
6. Community and Environment
Surround yourself with trusted friends and family. Be kind to the Earth.
7. Individual Action
Time is precious. Let change begin now, with you.
8. Heart of the Human Spirit
Transform life through your heart, where true strength resides.
I'm always looking for ideas and information about models that use
eight components. Take a look at my collection of information about
the Chinese Trigrams model.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
I recommend that you take a look at Nick Waller's blog, Dynamic Balancing Tai Chi. I think he provides many brief insightful observations, suggestions, and good advice.
"Plan your walk such that you have plenty of time to wander, to drift, to explore. Find avenues that are away from the bustle and the noise. Places of quiet and calm. Relish the solitude, the integrity of being alone yet united with all things. Feel your place in the world. Enjoy the easy rhythm of your stride. Let your body loosen as you walk. Feel the ground. Be whole."
"There are many aspects of the tai chi practice that cannot be conveyed on-line, via DVD/video or a book. We have no intention of illustrating form on-line, teaching gravity strikes or attempting to explain neigong in detail. If you want to understand these things, you will need to take lessons. This is not a commercial decision. It is a functional one. Tai chi requires direct transmission."
- Nick Waller
I disagree somewhat with Nick, because I think books, webpages and DVD/videos are an excellent resource for learning about Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong forms, concepts, history, and practices. There are some aspects for these mind-body arts that require "direct transmission" from a qualified teacher, push hands and two person sparring forms require group work, and the synergy of group practice is invaluable. However, there are articulate contemporary masters who have written extensively about these subjects and produced high quality instructional media, and I believe you can learn a great deal from them. Many people do not have a Tai Chi Chuan or Qigong teacher who teaches in their town. They should start their practice today by using instructional media and books. Use all means available to learn and enhance your practice.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
In push-hands the hands are not needed.
The whole body is a hand
and the hand is not a hand."
- Cheng Man Ching
"The body is like the surfaces of the sea.
In push-hands the hands are needed,
The whole body is needed,
The hands are waves at the shoreline of the sea.
When the hand is not a hand, what can it be?
When the body is like a floating cloud, rising from the sea,
Its hands are gone, its feet are freed,
With nothing to touch, to push, to pull, to flee.
Clouds can become a screaming hurricane,
The Sea a roaring tsunami.
A single finger on the Buddha's hand
Can inspire millions to clap, hands free."
- Mike Garofalo
What the heck am I talking about? Why are our observations or suggestions so flacky, imprecise, New Agey, enigmatic, unclear, quasi-poetic, meaningless, paradoxical ... ? The tendency for Tai Chi and Qigong players to utter these paradoxical remarks reflects the thoughts of many of the Zen (Buddhist-Taoist) believers and students who practiced these mind-body arts. Both Yang Jwing-Ming and Wong Kiew-Kit have a number of books that discuss this topic.
The "themes" here include: the small is significant, the small is part of the larger whole, think in terms of the complex factors, interdependence and interrelationships.
Friday, January 26, 2007
- Huang Po, circa 830, translated by Stephen Mitchell
"Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul."
- Max Ehrmann
Thursday, January 25, 2007
- Yang Chengfu (1883-1936), "The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan" translated by Louis Swaim
Yang Tai Chi Chuan Long 108 Hand Form
Bibliography, Links, Quotations, Resources, Notes, Instructions
Lists of Movements in 3 Parts in .htm an .pdf formats
Researched by Mike Garofalo
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Budo is the path of the warrior. Combined with the spirit of heaven and earth in your heart, you can fulfill your life's destiny with unconditional love for everything.
Aiki seeks to skillfully strike down the ego and inherent insincerity in battling an enemy. Aiki is the path of forgiveness and enlightenment.
The goal… is not perfection of a step or skill, but rather improving one's character according to the rules of nature.”
- Aikikai Foundation
Taijiquan: Bibliography, Links, Quotes, Lessons, Notes
Research by Mike Garofalo
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
- M. J. Slim Hooey
For optimal health, we need body and spirit, exercise (ming) and meditation, awareness of the inner world and the outer. In other words, health requires balance and moderation. The goal of qigong may be summarized as xing ming shuang xiu, "spirit and body equally refined and cultivated." Cultivate your whole being, as you would cultivate a garden - with attention, care, and even love."
- Ken Cohen, Essential Qigong, 2005, p. 2
The Spirit of Gardening Website
"This is Cindy from Garden Site Awards. You probably didn't know, but one of your website visitors nominated your website for our "Best Garden Website Award" last week. We get over 150 nominations each week but only a couple websites are given our award. After reviewing your site, The Spirit of Gardening, we've decided you deserve this month's Best Garden Website Award. Congratulations!! Keep up the great work on your website! You have some excellent content already on it and I'm sure it will only get better."
- Cindy Meadows, 12/6/06
Other reviews and awards for the Spirit of Gardening Website.
Since the Spirit of Gardening website went online on January 1, 1999, it has served up over 10,000,000 webpages (excluding graphics) to readers around the world.
Quotes for Gardeners - Index
Word Press has a module, ShortStat, which provides daily usage information. Currently, the Green Way Blog is requested, on the average, by 600 persons each day. Since the Green Way Blog started in August, 2005, there have been 223,000 requests to read this blog.
Green Way Blog by Mike Garofalo
Monday, January 22, 2007
If fighting interests you then the first step is to engage in a rigorous and daily physical training program that will improve your fitness and conditioning. I would recommend that Tai Chi Chuan players use conventional strength training techniques (weightlifting) to get stronger, conventional cardio-vascular training techniques (walking, running, cycling, rope skipping, fast martial forms, stepping, etc.)to increase endurance and speed, and a variety of techniques for increasing flexibility (yoga, mat exercises, stretching, pilates, etc.). They need to eat properly, get adequate rest, and keep a positive mental attitude. Real fighters must be tough, and be able to fight on when in pain or injured and when they are very tired. Real fighters must have considerable aggressiveness, some meanness, and a willingness to hurt their opponent. Fighters need quickness, fast reflexes, speed, and enough aerobic capacity to move quickly even when tired. Finally, fighters need to learn techniques of fighting - both offensive and defensive techniques, by sparring with other martial artists. If you train hard to fight, you will be in great condition and highly fit, even if you never fight.
I don't think that Tai Chi as practiced by most people would be useful or effective in real fighting situations. However, our real opponent nowadays, an actual opponent that hurts, maims, and kills millions of people, is unrelenting stress. "Fighting" stress requires learning new skills. Tai Chi, even without the Chuan, combined with other types of exercise, can help some of us "fight" stress. Real fighting or extremely complex and long forms, however, might increase stress for many people; and, therefore, they probably should be avoided by people "fighting" stress. Choose your battles wisely.
As for regular full speed fighting and getting hurt ... for me, at 61, this is not high on my agenda. However, practicing Tai Chi as a fighting art, and thinking of having a fighting opponent while practicing, and pushing hands and sparring a bit every once in a while, does greatly enhance the value of my practice. I also think hitting bags is great fun and useful for developing some fighting skills. I add a kick boxing class once a week to pump up the jam.
On the whole, I agree many of the points of Johanna Zorya.
Put up your dukes, Johanna, let's mix it up! Yeah!! ;-)
Johanna's background includes in Chen Tai Chi Chuan and the practice of silk reeling.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Reminders and Ideas for Qigong Practice
By Mike Garofalo
Use the power of intention, mental concentration, and visualization to move the five elemental energies. Qigong theory says that "Yi Leads Qi", or the mind/intent directs the vital energies.
If you look at the Chinese character for Qigong, it consists of three components (characters, radicals, signs). As shown above, the blue colored character stands for air, steam, rising vapors. The brown colored character stands for a pot of cooking rice or grain. The green character stands for skills or techniques or knowledge acquired through long term effort, disciplined work, determined practice, e.g., being a skilled and creative chef.
The rice represents earth, the cooking pot is made of metal, the heat to cook the rice is fire, the rice is cooked in water, and the steam is hot rising air. The five elements are represented: earth, metal, fire, water, and air. For us to live we must use the energies of the five elements in order to survive, prosper, and work. These energies or elements are the foundation for life. This vital energy, Qi or Chi (the blue and brown characters above), is sometimes taken to be only Air (breathing), and in many other cases, as all five energies in some combination. We often think with analogies and metaphors (e.g., imagine the implications of rice cooking), and a delightful vagueness gives us opportunities for creative thinking.
So, in our Qigong practice, we are circulating, storing, building, releasing, and utilizing Qi. The fire or heat of our determined efforts, the regular and controlled breathing and exchange of air, the sweat that pours from our skin from our practice and the blood that flows in our veins in our inner water world, and the deliberate stretching and moving of the muscles and joints of our bodies (earth and metal) are all contributors to Yi Leading Qi, mental efforts to understand and use energies, determined work (Gong) resulting in energy (Qi) management.
The understanding of energy and energy systems is a core concept of modern science. We have used our minds to enable us to theorize, experiment, and artfully apply (technology) this knowledge to improve our lives. Qigong is also a mind-body technology: use it wisely, apply it diligently, understand it better.
Decide and Act to Power Up with Qigong!
So, get out and cook some rice .... yummy!
Saturday, January 20, 2007
A callused palm and dirty fingernails precede a Green Thumb.
Springtime flows in our veins.
Making a living is different from making a life.
A poverty of vision is not the only limitation.
Better to lend a helping hand than just to point a finger.
To garden is to open your heart to the sky.
Gardening provides a mutually beneficial nurturing of both garden and gardener.
Minding the mind, massaging the muscles, grokking the garden.
It is already together because we can't think any other way.
Complexity is closer to the truth.
Absolutes squirm beneath realities."
- Mike Garofalo, Pulling Onions
Green Way Wisdom - Pulling Onions
Over 585 gardening aphorisms, quips, sayings, and punchlines by yours truly.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Essential Spirituality: The 7 Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind. By Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D. New York, John Wiley and Sons, 1999. Index, bibliography, source notes, 306 pages. ISBN: 0471392162. "Exercises from the world's religions to cultivate kindness, love, joy, peace, vision, wisdom and generosity." Clearly written, full of insight, and overflowing with heart felt encouragement.
Daoism and Chinese Culture. By Livia Kohn. Magdalena, NM, Three Pines Press, 2001. Index, chronology, notes, 228 pages. ISBN: 1931483000. "Livia Kohn is a world-renowned scholar of Daoism and professor of Religion and East Asian Studies at Boston University." This book provides a balanced and through introduction to Daoism and its literary, communal, and self-cultivation dimensions, both past and present.
I'm now reading "Daoist Body Cultivation." edited by Livia Kohn.
"It is not merely enthusiasm that erodes when practice declines. Your body and mind can go out of tune. You are no longer a vessel of insight. The cardinal can sing; the wind can move the ironwood trees delicately; a child can ask a wise question -- and where is your center? How can you respond? It is time to put yourself back in tune, to be ready for experiences that make life fulfilling. Take up the advice for beginners. Put your zazen pad somewhere between your bathroom and your kitchen. Sit down there in the morning after you use the bathroom and before you cook breakfast. You are sitting with everyone in the world. If you sit only briefly, you will have at least settled your day."
- Robert Aitken, Encouraging Words
Quotations about Willpower
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Wild Goose (Dayan) Qigong
Bibliography, Links, Quotes, Resources, Notes, List of Movements
By Mike Garofalo
A good resource is:
Wild Goose Qigong. Instructional videotapes by Dr. Hu, Bing-Kun.
Three Geese Productions.
Workshops by Dr. Hu in California
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
- Alan Watts
"Do (Tao in Chinese), the Way, is the method, the teaching that enables you to understand perfectly the nature of your own mind and self. It is the way … that leads you to discover your own original nature, to awaken from the numbness of the sleeping ego (the little self, the limited "me") and accede to higher, fuller personhood.”
- Taisen Deshimaru
"The secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life, and in elevating them to art."
- William Morris
"Each of us literally chooses, by his way of attending to things, what sort of a universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit."
- William James
Valley Spirit Journal - January 2007
Monday, January 15, 2007
"The Supreme Medicine has three distinctions:
Ching [essence], Qi [vitality]. and Shen [spirit],
Which are elusive and obscure.
Keep to nonbeing, yet hold on to being.
And perfection is yours in an instant.
When the distant winds blend together,
In one hundred days of spiritual work
And morning recitation to the Shang Ti,
Then in one year you will soar as an immortal.
The sages awaken through self-cultivation;
Deep, profound, their practices require great effort.
Fulfilling vows illumines the Heavens.
Breathing nourishes youthfulness.
Departing from the Mysterious, entering the Female,
It appears to have perished, yet appears to exist.
Unmovable, its origin is mysterious.
Each person has Ching.
The Shen unites with the Ching,
The Shen unites with the Qi,
The breath then unites with the true nature.
Before you have attained this true nature,
These terms appear to be fanciful exaggerations.
The Shen is capable of entering stone;
The Shen is capable of physical flight.
Entering water it is not drowned;
Entering fire it is not burned.
The Shen depends on life form;
The Ching depends on sufficient Qi.
If these are neither depleted nor injured
The result will be youthfulness and longevity.
These three distinctions have one principle,
Yet so subtle it cannot be heard.
Their meeting results in existence,
Their parting results in nonexistence.
The seven apertures interpenetrate
And each emits wisdom light.
The sacred sun and sacred moon
Illuminate the Golden Court.
One attainment is eternal attainment.
The body will naturally become weightless.
When the supreme harmony is replete,
The bone fragments become like winter jade.
Acquiring the Elixir results in immortality;
Not acquiring it results in extinction.
The Elixir is within yourself,
It is not white and not green.
Recite and hold ten thousand times.
These are the subtle principles of self-illumination."
The Jade Emperor's Mind Seal Classic. The Taoist Guide to Health, Longevity, and Immortality.
Translated with commentary by Stuart Alve Olson. Rochester, Vermont, Inner Traditions, 2003. Index, bibliography, 216 pages. ISBN: 0892811358. Revised Edition, 2003. Includes translations of "The Immortals" by Ko Hung, and "The Three Treasures of Immortality" by T'ien Hsin Chien. The Jade Emperor's Mind Seal was added to the Taoist Canon between 912 and 1116 CE. Reference: pp. 114-115. This book by Mr. Olson provides excellent, informed commentary on these Taoist works and the Taoist concept of immortality.
Taoist Classics in Taijiquan and Qigong
Sunday, January 14, 2007
- John Du Cane, Power Qigong
The Five Animal Frolics Qigong: Bibliography, Links, Quotes, Resources, Lessons. By Mike Garofalo, 145Kb, 1/14/07. This is a 1,800 year old Chinese exercise system for fitness, good health, and longevity developed by the Chinese physician Hua Tuo (110-207 CE). In the Wu Qin Xi the five animals are the bear, tiger, monkey, deer, and crane.
Making beneficial exercises interesting and enjoyable has always been a challenge to creative people. Hua Tuois one of the famous physicians of the Han Dynasty. In The History of the Later Han, Hua Tuo wrote:
"Man's body must have exercise, but it should never be done to the point of exhaustion. By moving about briskly, digestion is improved, the blood vessels are opened, and illnesses are prevented. It is like a used doorstep which never rots. As far as Tao Yin (bending and stretching exercises) is concerned, we have the bear's neck, the crane's twist, and swaying the waist and moving the joints to promote long life. Now I have created the art called the Frolics of the Five Animals: the Tiger, the Deer, the Bear, the Monkey, and the Crane. It eliminates sickness, benefits the legs, and is also a form of Tao Yin. If you feel out of sorts, just practice one of my Frolics. A gentle sweat will exude, the complexion will become rosy; the body will feel light and you will want to eat."
- From: Drawing Silk: A Training Manual for T'ai Chi, p. 6.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Eight Trigrams Boxing
Bibliography, Links, Quotations, Resources, Notes
By Mike Garofalo. 116Kb. 1/13/07
Jessie Cole, Portland
Combat Techniques of Taiji, Xing Yi, and Bagua: Principles and Practices of Internal Martial Arts. By Lu Shengli. Translated and Edited by Zhang Yun and Susan Darley. Berkeley, California, Blue Snake Books, 2006. 369 pages. ISBN:9583941452. General history and principles of 3 internal arts, basic movements, basic gongfu training techniques, and a detailed description with photographs of the Sixteen-Posture form (pp. 231-356).
Bibliography, Links, Quotations, Resources, Notes
By Mike Garofalo. 178Kb. 1/13/07
Rhythm Vision: A Guide to Visual Awareness, By Dennis Roth, 1990. Rhythm Walking!
Friday, January 12, 2007
"The second aspect is to feel the effect of what we are doing. Not only at the point of the action itself, but throughout the whole structure of the body and the quality of the mind. We must feel its impact on the functioning of the body, breath and mind. We use this feedback to go deeper into the poses by making adjustments according to the four secondary techniques of asana, vinyasa, bandha and pranayama. Then through the dynamic created between our intention and our actions, a meditative awareness emerges."
- Godfrey Devereux, Dynamic Yoga, 1998, p. 24
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Instructions, Bibliography, Links, Quotations, History
By Mike Garofalo
324Kb, 85 pages, January 10, 2006
This webpage provides information about the history and purpose of this popular Chi Kung practice. Detailed descriptions are provided for each of the eight movements; including information on movement variations, health benefits, qigong meaning, and cautions. The document includes the most extensive bibliography, link guide, and comments on Ba Duan Jin Qigong resources available anywhere. Some animated graphics are provided in linked files. This document is updated as new information is discovered. This qigong set is the most popular set practiced around the world, and is also known as: Baduanjin, Pa Tuan Jin, Eight Silken Treasures, Ba Duan Jin, Pal Dan Gum, Ba Duan Gin, Pa Tin Kam, Otto Pezzi di Tesoro, Acht Delen Brokaat, Les Huit Exercices del la Soie, Eight Silken Treasures, Brocade Qigong, Wudang Brocade Qigong, Brocade soft qigong (Rou Gong), Eight Treasures inner qigong (Nei Gong), Silk Treasures Qigong, and the first eight Buddha Lohan Hands.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
The Six Perfections (Paramitas) in Mahayana Buddhism:
1. Generosity: charity, kind-hearted giving, altruism, unattached generosity, boundless openness, unconditional love (Dana).
2. Virtue: ethics, morality, self-discipline, not harming, proper conduct, impeccability (Sila).
3. Patience: tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance (Kshanti).
4. Energy: diligence, courage, enthusiasm, vigor, effort (Virya).
5. Meditation: absorption, concentration, presence of mind, contemplation (Dhyana).
6. Wisdom: transcendental wisdom, mystical insight, enlightenment (Prajna).
- Dzogchen Buddhism, Dharma Talk: Six Principles of Enlightened Living
and Six Perfections (c 50 CE)
Lifestyle Advice for Wise Persons
Monday, January 08, 2007
Time Magazine has recognized bloggers, UTubers, MySpacers, webloggers, webmasters and all other Web-Sharers as "Person of the Year in 2006" for their valuable work in founding and framing a new digital democracy around the world.
Lev Grossman writes, "For seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, Time's Person of the Year for 2006 is you."
Kudos, bravo, keep up the great work!! Congratulations to all Web-Sharers!
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Maybe you can help or advise me on a matter that concerns me about what will happen to our future having no Masters !
For my own curiosity, I have seen the title of master for years in the martial arts. Can you answer my question, what is a "Master." What do you have to do to obtain this title and who appoints you to the position of Master? This is very unclear to me how this process takes place. Can you please help me understand how a Tai Chi person becomes a Master?
I have a lineage in the Wu Tai Chi Style that came from Master Wu Jian Quan to Mr. Wei Xiao Tang to Mr. Tzeng Yu (Tom) Huang. These people are now all dead and there are no masters. How do you appoint a master, do we have that right to appoint a master? Please direct me to someone that might know.
My teacher Mr. Tzeng Yu (Tom) Huang learned Wu Tai Chi in Tiepei Taiwan from Mr. Wei Xiao Tang who in turn learned from Master Wu Jian Quan while in Singapore. Tom said never call him master, he felt there was still too much to learn and he referred to his teacher as Mr. Wei. I know Mr. Wei Xiao Tang was a master in the 8 Step Mantis system, I don't know if Master Wu Jian Quan ever gave Mr. Wei a title.
What are the requirements and areas that must be achieved for the title of Master, where can we go to make this happen? Is there a committee or organization that we need to approach?
Who would be the next "Living Lineage Holder"? Does it go by seniority or the person who perfected the system even if they have less seniority, or would there be a living lineage holder at all? How is the next lineage holder selected?
What is now happening is older student is teaching younger student, older student is teaching younger student, older student is teaching younger student, etc. What is to become of us?
Dear Mr. Rosul,
The word "Master" varies in meaning as it is used in different cultures and languages. In the Taoist/Zen traditions, a "Master" is one who is enlightened, highly respected, venerated, a great contributor to the tradition, especially wise and insightful, and possibly possessing special and extraordinary powers of mind, body or spirit. If you had a relationship with such a "Master" it would often be one of a Guru and disciple, a Father and son, an Authority and learner, or a Superior and inferior ranks relationship. At some point, after many years of study and practice, such a "Master" would make a decision, based upon your abilities and performance and your face to face relationship with the "Master", to grant you authority to teach, or certify your enlightenment, or otherwise acknowledge your advancement into the ranks of a new "Master." One aspect of the philosophical Taoist tradition also tends to downplay the importance of titles, honors, degrees, and rank; and, instead, tries to bring more of a focus on natural living, simple living, committed ongoing inner practice, and having the heart-mind realize the Tao as more important than social status. Some of these Taoist/Zen practices are part of the Tai Chi Chuan teaching style.
As a general rule, Tai Chi Chuan internal martial arts schools do not award degrees, levels, ranks, or belts as do other martial arts systems. Many excellent and experienced (10 years +) Tai Chi Chuan teachers are also very modest, and prefer not to be called "Master." They may ask to call them "Sifu" or "Teacher," or simply refer to them as "Mr. Surname."
Many Tai Chi Chuan schools are also autocratic and non-democratic in their organization, do not have a formal and written curriculum, and are not coordinated with activities in other Tai Chi Chuan schools. These Tai Chi Chuan schools are a business, operated by individuals, do not provide for leadership changes; and, as such, are not interested in cooperation or sharing with competitors.
As for my personal preference, I favor a standardized Tai Chi Chuan curriculum, written, and coordinated with other schools teaching the same style of internal martial arts. I would prefer a clear, written, and standardized system of testing and grading by ranks, levels, or degrees of proven expertise as is found other external martial arts (e.g., Aikido, Karate, Kenpo, Judo, Tae Kwon Do, etc.). I'd like to see Tai Chi Chuan practitioners wear belts, specialized clothing, sash markers or other symbols to show their proven rank based on passing standardized tests. I prefer to see the curriculum of Tai Chi Chuan structured and orderly, written and published, leveled, and accredited by an outside administrative authority. Yes, I'm more of a Confucian or Legalist rather than Taoist on this subject.
I see the situation starting to change somewhat. For example, in the United States, the Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Association now has a clear curriculum and ranking system. In China, the physical education curriculum at universities and colleges provides for a "wushu" (martial arts) curriculum and awards degrees accordingly, and does include Tai Chi Chuan in the curriculum. A number of Tai Chi Chuan schools around the world are now developing a specific written curriculum and rank testing. Traditional Chinese medicine, medical qigong, and acupuncture now have accredited programs, standardized curriculum, publications and textbooks, and ranking systems in the United States. I applaud these efforts.
If you can earn a "Master of Arts or Science Degree" in five years by taking classes and tests at an accredited university, and a Doctorate in 9 years, then you should be able to do the same in Tai Chi Chuan and be called, at some point of proven accomplishment, a "Master."
Tai Chi Chuan standardization of curriculum, and testing by accredited agencies, would give the prospective students, the consumers, a fair way to judge the qualifications of a potential instructor or "Master." Students would probably want a to employ and study with a formally qualified, intellectually and physically qualified instructor, not just a good fighter who asks you to call him "Master." This is not to say that there are not a few outstanding Tai Chi Chuan or Qigong Masters, great contributors to the art, who do not have any formal credentials or degrees, and who it would be an honor to study with; however, such people are rare and inaccessible to the millions of us who want to learn and practice internal martial arts.
If there existed a clear, standardized, and formal ranking system, there would be no question as to who were the most highly qualified teachers. Then, a committee of the most qualified teachers, could meet and elect a leader (i.e., top representative, president, chairman, spokesperson, lineage holder, etc.) of the Tai Chi Chuan organization. The leadership post is largely ceremonial, provides a focal point for acknowledging proven and respected authority, and helps with social organization. Leaders would probably be chosen for a variety of reasons including teaching skills, communications and writing skills, charisma, fighting skills, business organization skills, generosity of personality, commitment to the cause, etc..
As for the circumstances of your own Tai Chi Chuan situation and practice, it lacks all the elements I mention above for answering your questions. Your Tai Chi Chuan tradition seems to lack organization, standardization, ranking, testing, formal curriculum, or an orderly method for determining authority and leadership. Therefore, I don't have a good answer to your predicament.
I'm an older Tai Chi Chuan instructor teaching primarily older Tai Chi Chuan students. We don't concern ourselves much with titles and ranks, and instead try our best to enjoy ourselves, maintain our health and vitality, perfect our practice, and share. However, I would heartily welcome being able to learn more from a young Tai Chi Chuan Master, formally trained and degreed in Tai Chi Chuan, trained to teach, who could teach this old dog some new tricks.
Best wishes in your Tai Chi Chuan practice!
Reply from Sifu Chris Bouguyon on 1/8/06:
If you do not mind, I would like to comment on this question. I agree with what you have said regarding a lack of standardized curriculum in traditional Tai Chi circles, and I also agree that as we get older, ranks and titles matter much less. I did once hear a respected Grandmaster explain the titles this way - In order to be recommended for Sifu you must have at least 12 years of training experience in your style and show a proficiency at teaching the material. Once you have 25 years of training and teaching experience you can be considered for the title of Master. This by no means entitles you to the title, it just means you can now be considered. Grandmaster status takes no less than 40 years to attain and you typically need to have a minimum number of long term students to show your continued commitment to the art you train and teach.
In the western mind, this is almost an insurmountable concept for anyone less than the most passionate among us. Unfortunately, I have seen many teachers claim the title master or even grandmaster with little to no real background for their claim. This serves to water down the traditional ways and does little for our art's integrity in the public eye. It took me 12 years and a difficult Master and Grandmaster review board to even be considered for the title of Sifu. This was years after my Master Instructor gave me permission to teach the basics to new students in the first place.
Bottom line: If you feel comfortable with your instructor's knowledge base, enjoy his classes and grow personally from this training, then do titles really matter.
Best of luck on your chosen path.
Sifu Chris Bouguyon
Senior Instructor / Owner
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Try your best to find your center. Sit or stand up straight. Keep the body aligned along a center line: head in line with the spine, bodyweight over the hips. Find one's stable center and stay balanced when moving the arms overhead, forward or backward. Feel rooted in the earth with your body sunk and centered, and both of your feet solidly in place on the earth. Strive to be relaxed, soft, and supple as you align and center your whole body. In yourself, in your Qigong practice, in your body, make Heaven and Earth one, connected, aligned.
Many focus on bringing the feeling of being centered into the area in the center of the body, a couple of inches behind and below the navel. In Chinese Qigong this energetic reservoir and center is called the Dan Tien, Field of Elixir; and, in Japan it is called the Hara. In Chinese Qigong and Tai Chi Chuan, this concept of equilibrium at the center is called Zhong Ding.
Line up the entire body, from the top of the head to the feet in a straight line, as if you were standing with your head, back, and hips along a wall. Imagine the head, chest, Dan Tien, hips and feet all in one plane: aligned, poised, centered, resilient, one. Aim for a stable, balanced, comfortable, and centered feeling in your Qigong postures. Even when you bend or reach or squat or turn in Qigong, standing or sitting, strive to feel the bodily sensations of balance, uprightness, unified alignment, and whole body centeredness.
If a friend gently pushed on your shoulders while doing Qigong, would you remain stable, balanced, firm, rooted, upright, and in full control? Don't wobble, and don't become unbalanced. Draw your vital energies (Qi, Prana, Ki) towards that point of balance, that Still Point.
Let the mind settle down, cast off unbalanced thoughts, finds its spiritual Zhong Ding, be still with the One. Draw your vital energies (Qi, Prana, Ki) towards that point of balance, that Still Point.
Qigong Practice: Lessons, Tips and Suggestions from Mike Garofalo
Friday, January 05, 2007
1. Transform your motivation: reduce craving and find your soul's desire.
2. Cultivate emotional wisdom: heal your heart and learn to love.
3. Live ethically: feel good by doing good.
4. Concentrate and calm your mind.
5. Awaken your spiritual vision: see clearly and recognize the sacred in all things.
6. Cultivate spiritual intelligence: develop wisdom and understand life.
7. Express spirit in action: embrace generosity and the joy of service.
Essential Spirituality: The 7 Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind.
By Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D.
New York, John Wiley and Sons, 1999. Index, bibliography,
source notes, 306 pages. ISBN: 0471392162.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
All the Qigong documents in the Cloud Hands Website will remain for awhile, but in 2007 all changes and additions to these revised documents will be served by the Valley Spirit Center Qigong Website.
The Cloud Hands Website will focus on T'ai Chi Ch'uan.
I will be studying Qigong in 2007-2008 with Sifu Michael Rinaldini, Taoist Priest in the Dragon Gate tradition, Qigong teacher and healer. I will share with others as I learn, so I wanted to get all my Qigong research and studies in one website location.
Aikido offers a program of study in the jo staff. The Way of the Jo Staff is called "Aikijo."
Can anyone recommend a good book on the subject of Aikijo?
Can anyone recommend a good book with clear descriptions and photographs/illustrations of the Aikido 13 Jo Kata and 31 Jo Kata?
Can anyone recommend a good instructional DVD on the Aikido 31 Jo Kata and/or the 13 Jo Kata?
Thanks for your help!
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
1. Preparation: Stairway to the Soul
2. Discover Your Worth: Opening to Life
3. Reclaim You Will: The Power to Change
4. Energize Your Body: A Foundation for Life
5. Manage Your Money: Sufficiency and Spiritual Practice
6. Tame Your Mind: Inner Peace and Simple Reality
7. Trust Your Intuition: Accessing Inner Guidance
8. Accept Your Emotions: The Center of the Cyclone
9. Face Your Fears: Living as Peaceful Warriors
10. Illuminate Your Shadow: Cultivating Compassion and Authenticity
11. Embrace Your Sexuality: Celebrating Life
12. Awaken Your Heart: The Healing Power of Love
13. Serve Your World: Completing the Circle of Life
By Dan Millman, "Everyday Enlightenment: The Twelve Gateways to Personal Growth."
New York, Time Warner, 1999. 350 pages. ISBN: 0446674974.
Dan Millman was the author of "Way of the Peaceful Warrior."
Monday, January 01, 2007
May 2007 bring more peace in the world, and good harvests in the fields.
May many blessings come to you and your family this year.
May each of us do something practical to help the Earth Heal.
"The Art of Peace begins with you. Work on yourself and your appointed task in the Art of Peace.
Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow.
You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your innate enlightenment.
Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter.
One does not need buildings, money, power, or status to practice the Art of Peace.
Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train.
To truly implement the Art of Peace, yu must be able to sport freely
in the manifest, hidden, and divine realms."
- Morihei Ueshiba, 1883-1969, The Art of Peace
Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, O'Sensei, watering his garden.
May each of you accomplish all of your New Year's Resolutions.
I usually do make a few "New Year's Resolutions." This year I called them:
11 Things Mike Garofalo Will Accomplish in 1,001 Days
I played a bit with developing another list called:
101 Things to Do in 1,001 Days
If you are curious, you can read some of the lists of "101 Things to Do in 1,001 Days" created by other people.