Thursday, March 29, 2007

It Meant Something to Me

“A little group of thatched cottages in the middle of the village had an
orchard attached; and I remember well the peculiar purity of the blue
sky seen through the white clusters of apple blossom in spring. I
remember being moonstruck looking at it one morning early on my
way to school. It meant something for me; what, I couldn’t say. It
gave me such an unease at heart, some reaching out towards
perfection such as impels men into religion, some sense of the
transcendence of things, of the fragility of our hold on life.”
- A. L. Rowse

The apple tree near our pepper garden is in full blossom now. The tiny green peppers nearby enjoy their company.

I will be on retreat for a few days. Time for taking long walks at daybreak, practicing Sun Taijiquan and staff, gardening, reading, reflection and meditation.

For some Green Way Wisdom, please visit The Spirit of Gardening.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Getting Balanced and Strong

"The natural course of things is always followed. This prevents one from harming their post-heaven strength. Focus is on beneficial cultivation of one's natural life force as the core of training.
All people - men, women, the old, and the young - may practice in order to replace temerity with bravery; and stiffness with pliability. Those of you who are weak, who suffer from fatigue and injury or illness, or who have weakened your qi from the practice of other martial arts to the point that you no longer have the strength to train, all of you may practice Tai Ji Quan. With practice, the qi will quickly return to a balanced state and will become strong, while the spirit naturally returns to a state of wholeness. Disease will be eliminated and the length of life increased."
- Sun Lu-Tang, A Study of Taijiquan, 1924. Translated by Tim Cartmell, p. 60.
Sun Style Tai Ji Quan

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ladders to Heaven

"Nuturing energy, forget words and guard it.
Conquer the mind, do nondoing.
In activity and quietude, know the source progenitor.
There is no thing; whom else do you seek?
Real constancy should respond to people;
In responding to people, it is essential not to get confused.
When you don't get confused, your nature is naturally stable;
When your nature is stable, energy naturally returns.
When energy returns, Elixir spontaneously crystallizes,
In the pot pairing water and fire.
Yin and yang arise, alternating over and over again,
Everywhere producing the sound of thunder.
White clouds assemble on the summit,
Sweet dew bathes the polar mountain.
Having drunk the wine of longevity,
You wander free; who can know you?
You sit and listen to the stringless tune,
You clearly understand the mechanism of creation.
The whole of these twenty verses
is a ladder straight to heaven."
- Master Chang San-Feng, 100 Character Tablet, Translated by Thomas Cleary

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Staff Weapons

Mike Garofalo holding Staff Weapons.

I practice with two staff weapons:

White Oak Staff, 50" long x 1.25" in diameter, from wle

Red Oak Staff, 72" long x 1.25" in diameter, from wle


A stout stick, along with the bow and arrow and spear, are three of the earliest weapons and hunting tools of mankind. Talk about returning to the "primitive" via staff weapons practice and play ....

Staff Weapons: Bibliography, Links, Resources, Quotes and Notes Research by Mike Garofalo. March 2007, 118 Kb.

Lately, I have been learning the Chen Long Pole 18 Movement Form. I don't have a 10 foot long wax wood pole like Chen Qingzhou uses, but I get by with my stout red oak staff. You can't do the vibration and shaking action with a red oak staff like you can with the longer wax wood poles, or slam your red oak staff on the ground with the same gusto, but you can do everything else.

Taijiquan and Relaxation (Sung)

Relaxation in Taijiquan: Bibliography, Links, Resources, Quotations, and Notes. By Mike Garofalo. 127Kb.

Song or Sung: Loose, Relaxed, Open, Yielding, Free, Responsive. A Defining Characteristic of Taijiquan.

"First, last, and always the student must relax. Various calisthenics aid him in achieving this. All rigidity and strength must be emptied from the upper torso and must sink to the very soles of the feet, one of which is always firmly rooted to the ground. Without proper relaxation the student can never hope to achieve the trueness of the T'ai-chi postures. The student relaxes completely and breathes as a child - naturally through the nose, the diaphragm being aided by the abdominal rather than the intercostal muscles. Man's intrinsic energy, the ch'i, should be stored just below the navel. The mind directs this energy throughout the body according to need. But the ch'i cannot circulated in an unrelaxed body."
- Robert W. Smith, Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods, 1974, p. 26.



"Human beings are
soft and supple when alive,
stiff and straight when dead.

The myriad creatures, the grasses and trees are
soft and fragile when alive
dry and withered when dead.

Therefore, it is said:
The rigid person is a disciple of death;
The soft, supple, and delicate are lovers of life.

An army that is inflexible will not conquer;
A tree that is inflexible will snap.

The unyielding and mighty shall be brought low;
The soft, supple, and delicate will be set above."
- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Section 41 (76)
Translated by Victor H. Mair, 1990


Relaxation (Sung) in Taijiquan Practice To be "Sung" is to be open, without any unnecessary tension, alert, free flowing, able to act quickly and powerfully as needed, aware of one's surroundings, flexible. "Sung" is not not sleepy, weak, tensionless, noodle like, withdrawn, powerless.

Sun Style Taijiquan

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Taijiquan Standard 24 Form, Yang Style

T'ai Chi Ch'uan, 24 Form, Yang Style
Standard Simplified Taijiquan Form
24 Movement Form
In the Yang Style
Developed in 1956
Bibliography, Links, Lists, Resources, Notes
By Mike Garofalo

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sun Style Taijiquan

More students have been attending my Sun Taijiquan classes:

Wednesday 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. Tehama Family Fitness Center, Red Bluff, California

Sunday 7:00 - 8:30 a.m. Valley Spirit Center, Red Bluff, California

Therefore, I will be spending some extra time updating my Sun Taijiquan webpages in the next year.

Sun Lu Tang (1861-1933)
Sun Style of T'ai Chi Ch'uan
Bibliography, Resources, Links, Quotes, Instructions, Notes
Description of the Sun Style Taijiquan Standard International 73 Movement Competition Form
Research by Mike Garofalo
3/23/07, 123Kb

Biographical Timeline for Grandmaster Sun Lu Tang (1861-1933)

Bagua Zhang by Sun Lu Tang

Hsing Yi Quan by Sun Lu Tang

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Building Gong

"The training exercises of Taiji, like those from all the internal martial arts traditions of China, are designed to build gong. What does it mean to built gong? Physically, the accumulation of gong refers to constant improvements in balance, coordination, agility, flexibility, sensitivity, and strength or power. Mentally and spiritually, the accumulation of gong refers to improved awareness and confidence, and constant advancements toward realizing tranquility of heart and mind. These physical, mental and spiritual improvements are the benefits and purpose of practice. The priority of accumulating gong (as opposed to martial technique or trickery) is repeatedly emphasized in many of the most famous sayings from the oral tradition of the Chinese internal martial arts."
- Yang Yang, Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power, 2005, p. 5.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Chen Zhaokui's Sixteen Requirements

Chen Family Style of Taijiquan
Requirements for Body/Mind Coordination During Taijiquan Movements/Postures

Chen Zhaokui's Sixteen Requirements:

"Chen Zhaokui (1928-1981) lists sixteen requirements that must be present throughout each posture:

Eye movement (the direction of the eyes)

The shape of the hands, and how the hand changes as the movement is being performed

Footwork (how to execute changes when stepping)

Shun-chan and ni-chan of the legs

Open and closing of the chest and back

Rising and falling of the buttocks

Dantian rotation (waist and lower abdomen)

Shifting weight (the relationship of substantial and insubstantial)

Beginning and end points, as well as the transition movements of the upper and lower limbs

How much strength to us, and where the strength should be concentrated (i.e., where is the attack point)

Position and direction of posture

The rise and fall of spiral movement (top and bottom coordination)

The change in tempo (alternating slow and fast)

Breathing (coordination of breathing and movement)

Listening"

Chen Style Taijiquan: The Source of Taiji Boxing. By Davidine Siaw-Voon Sim and David Gaffney. Berkeley, CA, North Atlantic Books, 2002. Index, charts, 224 pages. ISBN: 1556433778. pp. 116-117.

Chen Style of Taijiquan

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Just Walk on the Earth

"Walking meditation means to enjoy walking without any intention to arrive. We don't need to arrive anywhere. We just walk. We enjoy walking. That means walking is already stopping, and that needs some training. Usually in our daily life we walk because we want to go somewhere. Walking is only a means to an end, and that is why we do not enjoy every step we take. Walking meditation is different. Walking is only for walking. You enjoy every step you take. So this is a kind of revolution in walking. You allow yourself to enjoy every step you take.

The Zen master Ling Chi said that "the miracle is not to walk on burning charcoal or in the thin air or on the water; the miracle is just to walk on earth." You breathe in. You become aware of the fact that you are alive. You are still alive and you are walking on this beautiful planet. That is already performing a miracle. The greatest of all miracles is to be alive. We have to awaken ourselves to the truth that we are here, alive. We are here making steps on this beautiful planet. This is already performing a miracle. But we have to be here in order for the miracle to be possible. We have to bring ourselves back to the here and the now."
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Resting in the River

Monday, March 19, 2007

Standing Like A Strong Tree

"The most basic method of training is zhan zhuang. Zhan zhuang is an exercise common to many Chinese martial arts, including Taijiquan. Usually, the practitioner stands with the arms held as if holding a large ball. However, the zhan zhuang exercise can be practiced using any of the end postures of the Taiji form. During "standing" practice a static posture is maintained for a period of time while using just enough strength to maintain the posture. ... Benefits of zhan zhuang include deep relaxation, strengthening of the legs, and increased internal qi. The first requirement is to have a calm mind. This can be achieved in a number of ways - for instance, concentrating on the Dantian, paying attention to one's breath, or silently counting. Through standing practice, emphasis is place upon developing awareness of maintaining the most efficient and relaxed structural alignment necessary to hold the position. Prolonged practice, along with enhancing postural awareness and tranquility of mind, greatly develops the strength of the legs. When the legs are strong and can bear weight firmly, then the upper body can relax and sink down into them, making the top more flexible. ... Taijiquan requires lightness and sensitivity in the upper body. At the same time, the lower body should have a feeling of extreme heaviness and connection to the ground. This feeling is often compared to a large tree with deep roots. While the branches move and sway in the wind, the trunk is solidly anchored by its roots."
- Davidine Siaw-Voon Sim and David Gaffney, Chen Style Taijiquan, 2002, p. 106.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Wearing of the Green

A St. Patrick's Day blessing upon everyone: Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

Yesterday, of course, was St. Patrick's day. Many people from Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England immigrated to the United States over the centuries. Also, many Catholics, who celebrate St. Patrick's Day, came to America; and, I went to Catholic Schools through the 12th grade.

The street where we now live in Red Bluff, California, is "Kilkenny Lane," and the late Irishman, Jack Murphy, and his two sons, Mike and Mark and their families, are our neighbors.

My wife, Karen, was born on St. Patrick's Day, as was her sister Ginger, and their father, Delmer, always like to think of himself as an Protestant Irishman.

My daughter, Alicia, married a good Irishman, Sean Flinn.

Therefore, the "Irish" influence is significant in my past and present background.

Annetta, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, sent me an delightful email today. She told me about her background in the landscaping business and about some recent gardening experiences. She also included a bit of Irish lore and wisdom:

"Mike, I so enjoy your website. It has been a welcome sight during this long winter.

I live in Albuquerque and we have been having weird weather since last summer. We had excessive rains in the summer and lots of snow this winter. I have not had to do any watering most of the winter. Usually we have to water at least twice monthly during the heart of winter.

The snow wreaked havoc on many of the trees in our neighborhood. I went around and got snow off branches throughout the brunt of the storm to save branches. I am glad. I didn't have too many losses or the neighbors around me for that matter.

My daffodils are up and the tulips are growing nicely. They are running a little late but I am sure they enjoyed the extra coldness of this winter.

I had been cautious not to peek yet under the various mulches at some of my plants such as Jupiter' Beard or my peonies. But I had to look because we have been having incredible high 70s and the temperature hit 80 degrees this past week. They are a comin'.

It is St. Patrick's Day and I plant a few shamrocks each year in its honor.

The Shamrock: in fact, the first written mention of this story did not appear until nearly a thousand years after Patrick's death. The shamrock, which was also called the "seamroy" by the Celts, was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it symbolized the rebirth of spring. By the seventeenth century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism. As the English began to seize Irish land and make laws against the use of the Irish language and the practice of Catholicism, many Irish began to wear the shamrock as a symbol of their pride in their heritage and their displeasure with English rule.

St. Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans of Ireland.

A St. Patrick's Day blessing upon you: Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

"May you never forget what is worth remembering,
Or remember what is best forgotten.
May you have the hindsight to know where you've been,
The insight to know where you are,
and the foresight to know when you've gone too far.
May you have warm words on a cold evening,
A full moon on a dark night,
And the road downhill all the way to your door.
May you never make an enemy
When you could make a friend
Unless you meet a fox among your chickens.
May your fire be as warm as the weather is cold."

Mike, Thank you again for your wonderful resource."
- Annetta, 3/18/07

Thanks to you, Annetta, for sharing your thoughts. Thanks to all the kind people who write to me each week. May this Springtime bring you all much delight. Peace, Prosperity and many Blessings to all!

And for all the internal martial artists and qigong players around the world, who delight in practicing outdoors this spring (north) or autumn (south) day, may your practice be a delight to you. Cheers!!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan

Sun Lu Tang (1861-1933)
Sun Style of Taijiquan
Bibliography, Resources, Links, Quotes, Notes
List of Movements in Standard Sun Style 73 Movement Competition Form
Research by Mike Garofalo
3/17/07, 149Kb

Biographical Timeline for Grandmaster Sun Lu Tang (1861-1933)

Bagua Zhang by Sun Lu Tang

Hsing Yi Quan by Sun Lu Tang

Friday, March 16, 2007

Chen Style of Taijiquan

Chen Style of T'ai Chi Ch'aun
Bibliography, Links, Quotes, Notes, Resources
Research by Michael P. Garofalo

Website Address: http://www.egreenway.com/taichichuan/chen1.htm

I started studying Chen Style Taijiquan in March, 2007, at age 61. The Chen Taijiquan practices are fairly challenging for an old man, and invigorating. Aging gracefully requires one to be open to new ways of moving, new ideas and practices, and new people. Learning is fun, humbling, and gets one back to "beginner's mind."

What I have found the hardest to consistently practice in these first few first weeks of study is doing Standing Meditation (Zhan Zhuang), Standing Like a Tree, Chen Style. I have read books by Jan Diepersloot and Michael Mayer about standing meditation (Yiquan), and am familiar with a variety of meditation techniques, since I teach Hatha Yoga, have studied Zen since 1962, and majored in Philosophy. I would much rather move than stay still, standing in a semi-squat, but I am making some effort in the practice.

Holding and moving in the lower stances typical of the Chen style of Taijiquan is also difficult. My thighs, hips and lower back have ached a bit more from being in the high squatting positions with legs wide. As with all new exercises, it will take four months to get basic conditioning and tolerance for the new movement patterns and postures. Patience and practice will improve the situation. Chen Taijiquan appears to me to be very sophisticated in its movement arts and will require many years of determined study and practice to gain modest proficiency.

Carmine Farruggia has provided me with instructions and guidance. I will get some additional instruction from him this month in Sacramento.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Movement Over Stillness

"What makes Chen unique, in my opinion, is that it starts with more of a physical training regimen through forms training. This can be called houtian/post heaven/body building in nature and it stresses building the body up in ways that Chen style needs. Apsects that are stressed include extending the postures, holding lower stances, spreading the feet wider, going lower in movements to work the dang, working on peng or groundpath, and perhaps using exaggerated fajing and chansijing by some groups in order to get a feel for
those requirements. These attributes will often be exaggerated to some extent because doing so allows beginners to get a better feel for them. It's easier to grasp bigger movements than smaller, exageratted over subtle. This is movement over stillness."
- Chen Style as External, Part III, Formosa Neijia

I added a few references and links to my webpage on the Chen Style Taijiquan Saber.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Standing Meditation - San Ti Shi

"Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still,
learning to be astonished."
- Mary Oliver, Messenger

.

"Standing still in the circle of trees, in the sacred space,
one wet and chilly morn,
feet rooted, toes clawing the earth, sunk deeply down;
twisted like a dragon, alert, poised, ready to fly;
settled like a bear, strong, full of power, gathering;
looking through the tiger's eye, mind-intent, penetrating;
embracing the Trinity of Body, Mind, and Spirit,
as ancient as Now, the Three Bodies, all still, all one.

From the edge, the cosmic circle opened,
Chang San-Feng slipped inside, smiling,
he stroked his long beard and spoke softly,
"Ah, another old man standing so still in San Ti Shi.
Continue, my friend, stand in peace, touch the mind.
The subtle winds of understanding blow down the centuries.
When still, fly like the Eagle; when moving, walk like the Mountain.
Tame the Tiger within, ride the Tiger to the temple, and roar in silence.
Awaken like the Bear from the winter of the soul, and rise like a Man.
Feel the vital energies from bone to brain,
Sense the Great Tao before you Now,
Drop delusions, break through the Gate of Mystery,
Embrace the Center, Empty, unattached, ready to be filled
With boundless beauty, everything There, marvelous beyond words."

The cottonwood leaves spoke with the wind,
the sun rose over the shadows,
my legs shook a little;
the cosmic circle trembled,
the Master had gone."
By Michael P. Garofalo, Poetic Reflections on Chang San-Feng.

.

Mike Garofalo in San Ti Shi posture.

.

A commonoly used standing posture in internal martial arts is the San Ti Shi. This is the "Trinity Posture, Three Bodies Posture, or the Three Legged Posture...." For a description of the posture, photographs of the posture, and the purpose of standing postures visit my notes on the webpage San Ti Shi, Three Body (Heaven, Man, Earth) Standing Posture

Zhan Zhuang (Standing Like A Tree)
Rooting Deeply Into Tranquility, Power and Vitality
A Chinese Meditation and Qigong Discipline
By Mike Garofalo, 137 Kb.

Chang San Feng, Taoist Master, Circa 1300 CE

Sacred Circle

Meetings with Chang San-Feng. Poetic reflections by Mike Garofalo.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Neijia From the Inside of China

Take a Internet spin over to Jarek Szymanski's Chinese Martial Arts Pages. They are published by China From the Inside. This website is an excellent contribution to our knowledge and understanding.

Jarek writes:

"Welcome to Jarek's Chinese Martial Arts Pages! This site is dedicated to Chinese martial arts often referred to as Neijia - Internal Family. However you will find here not only articles about Taijiquan, Baguazhang and Xinyi/Xingyiquan, but also other arts related - because of their theory or history - to them.

The site contains many original Chinese texts, most of them translated into English for the first time ever; interviews with leading current experts of internal martial arts in China who often only now, with the country's opening to the outside world, are willing to share their knowledge and secrets of practice with outsiders; many rare photos of past and present masters. Moreover you can also find many books and video materials on Chinese martial arts released in Mainland China, most not available anywhere else. These materials can be purchased through this site.

As I have been living in China since 1990, learning the language, practicing martial arts, traveling extensively and interviewing masters living in remote villages, I hope the information included in this site will show you some aspects of the arts that most of the enthusiasts living in the West have not been exposed too."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Shape Shifting

White Crane Spreads It's Wings
Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg
Tiger Returns to the Mountain
Fair Lady Works the Shuttles ....

Upward Facing Dog
Pigeon
Crow
Fish ...

"Ancient sacred wisdsom traditions teach that the very purpose of human evolution is to become all things; and that this is one thing that makes human beings unique amongst the animals. In the Daivalya Upanishads it says, "by seeing oneself in all beings and all beings in oneself, enlightenment is obtained.

By assuming different postures we become the archetypal energy potentials inherent in life's aliveness; we transform one state of Being into another. For each posture speaks a language of becoming one of the forms of creation ... of our creation ... of the universe's creations.

Shape shifting from one stance to another breaks fixated life stances and activates the healing power of the universe of possibilities. The primordial healing gift of being human is being a consciousness-shaping animal. When we do so, we return to the mythical cave of human creation."


- Michael Mayer, PhD., "Secrets to Living Younger Longer: The Self Healing Path of Qigong, Standing Meditation and Tai Chi," 2004.


"What is the work of works for man if not to establish in and by each one of us, an absolutely original centre in which the universe reflects itself in a unique and immediate way? An those centres are our very Selves ..."
- Teilhard de Chardin

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Daoyin: Guide the Qi and Stretch the Body

"Many different interpretations were given to the word "daoyin" during the ages. The following two are the most reliable:

daoqi yinti - guide the qi and stretch the body
daoqi yinliao - guide the qi to obtain a healing effect

Both interpretations describe important aspects of the exercise and are not contradictory to each other. The first describes briefly the technique while the second refers to one goal of the exercise; actually with daoyin we guide the qi and move our body in order to obtain a beneficial effect to our health."

The word "Qigong" began to be used after 1915 to replace the word "Daoyin."

I enjoyed visiting this webpage called "Daoyin"

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Meditation in the Garden

"Handle even a single leaf of green in such a way
that it manifests the body of the Buddha.
This in turn allows the Buddha to manifest through the leaf."
- Zen Master Dogen

"Waking up in the morning,
I vow with all beings
to be ready for sparks of the Dharma
from flowers or children or birds."
- Robert Aitken

"In the assemblies of the enlightened ones there have been many cases of mastering the Way bringing forth the heart of plants and trees; this is what awakening the mind
for enlightenment is like. The fifth patriarch of Zen was once a pine-planting wayfarer; Rinzai worked on planting cedars and pines on Mount Obaku. ... Working with plants, trees, fences and walls, if they practice sincerely they will attain enlightenment."
- Dogen Zenji, Japanese Zen Buddhist Grand Master
Awakening the Unsurpassed Mind, #31

I read that Chuang Tzu, the noted Chinese Taoist author, was responsible for maintaining a large orchard.

Green Way Wisdom - Spirituality

Friday, March 09, 2007

Eight Silken Treasures Qigong

Eight Section Brocade Qigong
Eight Silken Treasures Qigong
Ba Duan Jin Qigong
History, Instructions, Bibliography, Links, Resources, Quotes
Researched by Michael P. Garofalo
Last Updated on March 9, 2007

Eight Section Brocade Qigong By Michael P. Garofalo.
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. This document is about 110 pages in length, 26,000 words, and with a filesize of 340Kb. Last updated on March 9, 2007.
Web File Location: http://www.egreenway.com/taichichuan/esb.htm.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Taijiquan Class Schedule of Mike Garofalo

T’ai Chi Ch’uan
Class Schedule
Spring and Summer of 2007


Instructor
Mike Garofalo
Began his Studies in Taijiquan and Qigong in 1986
Yang and Sun Styles of Taijiquan
Qigong and Yoga Mind/Body Movement Arts
Personal Fitness Trainer, AFAA Certified
M.S., B.A. Philosophy


Wednesdays: 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays: 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Tehama Family Fitness Center
2498 South Main Street, Red Bluff, CA 96080
530-528-8656
Cost: Free for TFFC Members, $5.00 for Nonmembers


Fridays: 7:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.
Sundays: 7:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.
Valley Spirit Center
Outdoor Practice Areas for Taijiquan and Qigong
23005 Kilkenny Lane, Red Bluff, CA 96080
530-200-3546 - Call if Your Coming
Cost: No Charge, but donations appreciated.


Cloud Hands: Taijiquan and Qigong Website

Mike's Taijiquan Class Schedule Flyer (PDF Format)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Taijiquan Teachers' Roles

Dave Lowry, the noted martial artist and author wrote:

"My own thinking is that a sensei is very much like another kind of person who is responsible for important matters. A person who, like the sensei seems to be from another age, a person of rare and unique gifts. The sensei, it seems to me, is very much like a vintner.

A vintner is the person who produces wine. He is the one who is responsible for it, from the planting of the grape vines, all the way until the raw wine is poured into casks to age. The vintner is the talented individual who can look at a particular hillside or a handful of soil and can tell you which kinds of grapes will grow best there, what kind of yield you can expect. He knows when the grapes need to be pruned. He makes vital decisions throughout the growing season, to fertilize, to spray for bugs. He must decide when to pick them in the fall, to wait for a few more days to let them fully ripen or to pick now and beat out the rain that can adversely affect the whole harvest.

The vintner is responsible for the blend of grapes that go into fermentation tanks. He must add the sugars if they're needed, to begin the fermentation process. In short, he is the guy responsible for the wine from the time the grape vines are planted or bud out, until the moment the wine is on its own, so to speak, when it has been put in casks and must now age and develop according to the qualities inherent in it.

Doesn't this sound very much like the sensei's task? He is the person responsible for a student, from the time that student enters the training hall until the crucial period of the training process has been completed. The sensei is a person, then, in my estimation, who can take a person of raw and unknown potential and turn out a complete and worthwhile product. He can oversee the process from beginning to end."
- Dave Lowry

I once read that "Sensei" means "One Who Has Gone Before." The word "Sensei" is Japanese, and means instructor, trainer, teacher, guide, or mentor. In Chinese internal martial arts, the instructor or teacher is often called "Laoshi." More advanced and respected teachers, with whom one has a close and long standing mutual relationship, are sometimes called, in Chinese internal martial arts, "Shifu" or "Sifu." Top level teachers with 20 or more years of experience, and many numerous talented students, are sometimes called "Master" by those that respect them greatly.

It is not the name, but the role, the experience, and the dedication to teaching. Helping others learn, bringing out the best in others, passing on a honored tradition, organizing and leading a class activity, and constantly advancing one's knowledge as a teacher ... these are the key elements. Acting as a Mind/Body Arts, Internal Martial Arts "Vinter" ... that idea appeals to a philosophical gardener like me.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Chen Style Taijiquan Practice

Last Sunday, March 4th, I learned about the Chen style of Taijiquan from Carmine Farruggia. We practiced for 2 hours in Redding, at Enterprise High School. He provided me with instruction in Chen style standing, rotation of Dan Tien, a form to practice Peng, Lu, Gi, and An, stick pole work for energy, use of heavy ball exercises, and we did some push hands. He gave me many ideas as to how to proceed with beginning to learn Chen style Taijiquan. It was an excellent training session.

Carmine Farruggia has 35 years of martial arts experience: from jujitsu, Xiao lin kung fu, wing chun, kenpo, Meihuazhuang and Taijiquan. Over the last 7 years he has studied with some of the best Taiji teachers in the world such as Yan Zijie, Chen Xiaowang, Chen Qingzhou, Chen Xiaoxing, Chen Bing, Chen Youchang, and Chen Weilien. He has studied in the Chen Village in Henan province, Hengshui Village in Hebei, and Jinan in Shandong.

Carmen lives with his wife in Sacramento. He is an elementary school music teacher and concert musician.

Since 1988, he has operated the Sacramento Kung Fu and Tai Chi Association.

I'm now reading the book by Mark Chen: Old Frame Chen Family Taijiquan. Berkeley, California, North Atlantic Books, 2004. Appendics, notes, bibliography, 246 pages. ISBN: 155643488X.

Check out the instructional media resources developed by Master Chen Qingzhou.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Great Bear Steps

"Taiji Quan movements evolved from this ancient lumbering gait of a bear, unfortunately due to the linguistic drift and misinterpretation, the Great Bear Polar Circle remains hidden for most practitioners. If one retraced to an older practice of the Five Animal Frolics, one can still see the original lumbering Gait of a black bear frolic swaying side to side. If Taiji Quan did evolve from the Five Animal Frolics then the Taiji form must contain within its structure a Bear movement. Such discovery re-connects me to the ancient Complete Reality Sect of Taoist Ritual and opens my eyes to the depth of Taiji practice. That the very functioning of the Taiji form is a shamanistic journey of recreating the Heavenly drama of the Ursula Major constellation which contained the Big Dipper. With the Great Bear Rite as part of my practice of Taiji movements, this transported my consciousness to a level that is universal. My body became part of the Cosmos. The movements took on a numinous quality."
- Sat Chuen Hon, The Great Bear Star Steps

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Walking the Circle

"Hidden in a remote corner of Beijing's Ditan ("Temple of the Earth") Park is a small area with gongfu enthusiasts practicing their eight directions exercises. The men (and all visitors to this area seem to be men) balance precariously on a series of bricks and stones, carefully stepping from one to the next, the best proponents able to make many rounds."
- Xiaming, Flickr Photos and Notes

Walking the Circle.

Ba Gua Zhang is an internal martial arts style that involves dodging attacks and attacking while moving in complex circular patterns. A few practice Bagua Zhang while walking in a circle and stepping from post to post which are set in the ground in a circular pattern; or, walking on the ground between large posts sent in the ground in a circular or figure eight pattern.

Walking in circles for meditative focus is also part of the labyrinth traditions.

The symbolism of the eight trigrams also has relevance in this context.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Jostling the Hips

Mike Garofalo, Red Bluff, California
Mike Garofalo practicing Yang Style Taijiquan, Fair Lady Works the Shuttles posture.

One of my favorite periods of the year in Red Bluff, California, is from March until May. The temperatures are very comfortable. The grass is green everywhere. The energy of earth and air are rising. An excellent time for "jostling the hips" outdoors while doing taijiquan, qigong, and walking.

"Spring slattern of seasons
you have soggy legs
and a muddy petticoat
drowsy

is your hair your
eyes are sticky with
dream and you have a sloppy body from

being brought to bed of crocuses
when you sing in your whisky voice
the grass rises on the head of the earth
and all the trees are put on edge

spring
of the excellent jostle of
thy hips
and the superior"

- E. E. Cummings, Spring Onmipotent Goddess Thou

Friday, March 02, 2007

Feedback From Readers

"I just came across your page while doing research for an upcoming presentation - actually I came across it in the past but because of time constraints did not take the time to visit. That was a mistake, but you are now saved in MyFavorites. I want you to know that I think you have done an extraordinary service to the tai chi community."
- Roy W. Geib, Ph.D., Alvin S. Levine Professor of Microbiology & Immunology, Indiana University School of Medicine, 2/10/2007

Kudos for the Cloud Hands Website

"Just a short note to say how much delight I have taken from the poetry quoted on your site. I was searching for some lines to use in an internal newsletter here at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, and now I have too much to choose from. What a problem!!! Thank you,"
- Katherine Bourdonnay, 3/1/07

"Michael, thank you for your compilation of quotations on happiness. My mother is a master gardener and I note the same radiance in her as in your biography and photos.
I am studying the philosophy of happiness and trying to assemble poetry that speaks to the great bringers of happiness: joy, contentment, surrender, etc. as well as confronting the takers of happiness: grief, fear, anxiety, worry, strain, etc. Any recommendations would be welcomed. I thank you for your life work! Hurrah for libraries and those that work within them. I also have taught yoga, I hope you won't mind if I share your collection with interested parties!"
- Lisa, 2/9/2007

Kudos for the Spirit of Gardening Website

"Hi Mike,
I note your piece on zen dance today. Don't know anything about this choreographer, but suggest you search out Cloud Gate dance theatre if you don't already know them... url is http://www.cloudgate.org.tw/eng/english/cgdt.htm
They use taichi in their daily training, and achieve deep fluidity of movement in performance. I've seen their work, but only on film. It has an extraordinary beauty.
I used to be a dancer, and now teach choreography and tai chi in the dance department of an English university.
Thanks for all your efforts to create a truly fascinating website. I visit daily...
Best wishes"
- Tim Lamford, 2/15/2007


And, a critical comment from RGW:

"RE: “Weeding my fiction books; into the giveaway box two old Bibles tossed.” (Your words taken from one of your web pages). Just had to let you know that if the message is to toss out “two old Bibles” as a weeding out of you “fiction books”, is ignorance. Just because you have not received the baptism of the holy spirit, who comes in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and only in that name, does not mean that it does not exist.
FYI. (and have a nice day!)
Sincerely, RGW" 2/24/2006

RGW,
Yes, in my opinion, the Bible (Old and New Testaments) is mostly unimportant hokum offered up by bossy Middle-Eastern men who got too much hot sun on their heads. Moslems and their Koran are no better. Why decent and educated persons would want to bother to ponder or fret over the petty tribal politics and local customs of these ancient Jews and Arabs is beyond my understanding. What little there is in the Bible or Koran that is of value to us in 2007 could be figured out by anybody with ten cents of common sense.
Just because you, RGW, believe in something also does not mean that what you believe in exists, no matter how many manly divine Authorities you fancy. Maybe the "holy spirit" will someday help you see the truth in this matter. And, likewise ... have a nice day!
Mike Garofalo (MPG)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Walking Your Way to Fitness

"Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday I walk myself into a state of well being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill...if one keeps on walking everything will be alright."
- Soren Kierkegaard.

"Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy
of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the
fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort
which life implies."
- Eric Fromm

Green Way Wisdom - Walking


Walking in Red Bluff, California