Sunday, April 29, 2007

Feedback From Readers

"You have a marvelous web site! I ran across your website when I was perusing links related to quarterstaff combat training. I wanted to comment on how deep and excellent your website is, even though I have only begun to explore the many branches there. I find the mixture of links, articles, quotes, and poetry to be very satisfying. Thank you for taking the time to build such an excellent place on the web. Respectfully yours,"
- Jim Frank, CBRE, Chief Engineer, Cherry Creek Radio, Montrose, 4/17/07

"Mike, I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate all the information and links on the Jo staff. It has been of tremendous benefit. I am studying Go Ju karate and have had interest in Aikido for years. I just recently started studying the Jo staff and came across your site while looking for more information. The kata videos are very useful. I could go on praising your web site and research, but will simply say best regards,"
- Phillip Pinheiro, 2nd degree black belt, Kern Karate Federation in Bakersfield, 4/20/07

"Michael, I would like to thank you for all the work that you put into your Cloud Hands website. I have learned so much from your efforts, particularly in the Eight Section Brocade and Zhang Zuang sections. Wish I lived closer to Red Bluff, however home is Phoenix, AZ. Again, thanks for the great site."
- Eric Hodgins, 4/21/07

"Hi Mike, I would like to thank you for all the wonderful information you have added to the web. I teach Taiji and have used your site on numerous occasions... I cannot thank you enough for all you have done... Best Regards,"
- Wayne W.Gorski, 4/27/07

Thanks to all for the positive, constructive, supportive, and kind feedback. I'm pleased to help publish information on the Internet to help people learn about and value Taijiquan and Qigong. Best wishes to all!

Lately, my focus has been entirely on Sun Lu Tang's Internal Martial Arts and the Sun Style Taijiquan 73 Form.

For years, the most popular webpage on the Cloud Hands Website has been the Staff Weapons (Jo, Bo, Pole, Cane) webpage. Sometimes, that webpage will be served to over 25,000 people in one month. The staff is used today in many external and internal martial arts styles, it is the simplest and least expensive weapon, and has been used worldwide as a weapon for tens of thousands of years. Personally, I train with 72" and 50" oak staff.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sun Taijiquan Characteristics

"The Four Characteristics of Sun Shi Tai Ji:
1. The natural position of the body. The position of the body is more natural than in other forms of Tai Ji. The basic position - San Ti Shi - comes from Xing Yi. It differs from the traditional basic position - Hun Yuan Zhuang. The position of the body is higher (angle with the knees of 135°), the axis head - centre of gravity falls on only one foot and not with equal distance of the two feet, the feet are positioned one compared to the other according to an angle of 45° and not in parallel or are aligned like usually used in other schools of Tai Ji. All these characteristics respect the natural positioning of the body with two consequences. Initially a practice more favorable to health, without excessive wear (of the knees in particular). Then, a good balance between stability and flexibility.
2. Flexible and fast movement. The movement of the feet is flexible and fast: as soon as a leg advances or moves back, the other leg follows immediately. One does not find in Sun Shi Tai a horse riding stance with feet equal distance apart or the bow and arrow posture of traditional Tai Ji. In Sun Shi, one uses the free steps coming from Xing Yi and of Bagua. The centre of gravity always falls on one leg; a foot supports all the weight of the body, the other follows, free. The steps forwards are the steps of Beng Quan, and backwards the steps of Pi Quan. The steps of rotation correspond to the steps of Ba Gua. Sun Shi is light, fluid and fast. It is compared with the water which runs and with the clouds which slip into a windy sky.
3. The specific figure of Kai He. Sun Shi Tai Ji has a very specific figure; Kai He (to open - to close) which is found neither in other forms of Tai Ji, nor in Ba Gua or Xing Yi. This Kai He appears with each connection and transition. It makes it possible to control and adjust breathing and to accumulate the Shi (energy potential) in order to prepare for the next change.
4. It is an art which aims at effectiveness in combat. Sun Shi Tai Ji is truly an art of combat. The amplitude of the gestures is limited, the course of the hands are direct, natural and aims to be effective. . It is not the force of the arms which strike, but the sum total of the elastic force of each movement carried out on a correct and uniform axis of gravity."
- Master Bob Melia, Sun Shi Tai Chi

Sun Taijiquan: Bibliography, Links, Resources, Instructions, Quotes, Glossary
By Mike Garofalo. 1MB+

Monday, April 23, 2007

Xing Yi Quan

"Of the three internal arts, Xing Yi is probably the most straightforward to understand in terms of practical fighting applications. Grandmaster Sun Lu Tang, however, believed that the most important reason to practice martial arts was the improvement of one's health; developing fighting ability was merely of secondary importance. Sun Lu Tang himself certainly benefited in both respects. In 1933, at the age of 73 and shortly before his death, Sun was examined by a physician and found to have the body of a 40-year old. Furthermore, throughout his life he was an awesome fighter: He worked as a professional bodyguard, taught martial arts at the Presidential Palace, and never lost a challenge match.

Certain health benefits of Xing Yi Quan training are obvious. It is a low-impact exercise requiring little jumping, few low stances, and smooth rather than ballistic movements. As Sun Lu Tang notes in his book, it can be practiced by anyone, both the young and old, and the sick and infirm. Healthy people will grow stronger, while those with a disease will recover their health. However, in addition to the external physical benefits, Xing Yi practice offers a sophisticated system of internal energy training that stimulates the major energetic pathways within the body.

At the core of Sun Lu Tang's Xing Yi Quan system is the 12 animals set. This set consists of 12 lines of movements, each emulating the fighting techniques of the 12 animals that come from heaven and earth. These are the Dragon, Tiger, Monkey, Horse, Water Lizard, Chicken, Sparrow Hawk, Swallow, Snake, Tai Bird, Eagle, and Bear. Regular practice of the 12 animals set benefits the practitioner both externally and internally. Externally, one learns the physical characteristics of each animal-the explosive power of the tiger, or the strength of the bear, for example. Internally, each animal form stimulates the internal energy, or Qi, in a particular and beneficial manner. The remainder of this article describes both the energetic work and the fighting applications of four of the animal forms: the Dragon, Tiger, Eagle, and Bear."
- Justin Liu, Cultivation and Combat: The Fighting Animals of Xing Yi Quan.

Xing Yi Quan, Hsing I Quan: Bibliography, Links, Resources, Quotes and Notes.
Research by Michael P. Garofalo. 78Kb.

Sun Style Xing Yi Quan

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Qigong Benefits

Twelve Benefits of Qigong:

"1. Well-being and improved health. Qigong emphasizes the whole body, whole system health. While it is true that qigong will often cure specific ills, this is not the primary reason for practice. It is not only a matter of adding years to your life, but life to your years.

2. Clear and tranquil mind. When the mind is at peace, the whole universe seems at peace. World peace begins with you; it is your responsibility to find a peaceful heart and mind. Then you can heal and transform others just through your presence. If you have a tranquil mind, you will make better decisions and have the skill to know when act and when to be still.

3. Deeper, more restorative sleep. Qigong will help you find the deep relaxation and mental quiet necessary for sleep.

4. Increased energy, including sexual vitality and fertility. Qigong people have more energy; it can reverse energy and restore youthfulness.

5. Comfortable warmth. Qigong is great for cold hands and feet. Circulation improves, and the body generates more internal warmth when it is cold.

6. Clear skin. The skin, like the intestines, is an organ of elimination. According to Chinese medicine, as your qigong improves, your body eliminates toxins, and the skin becomes clear.

7. Happy attitude. There is an old Tibetan saying, “You can tell a Yogi by his or her laugh.” Correct and moderate qigong practice usually creates an optimistic and joyous disposition.

8. More efficient metabolism. Digestion improves, and hair and nails grow more quickly.

9. Greater physiological control. This means that aspects of the body that were imbalanced or out of control begin to normalize, for example, breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure, hormone levels, and states of chronic inflammation or depletion.

10. Bright eyes. The qigong master’s eyes are said to glow in the dark, like a cat’s. The eyes also appear bright because the spirit and soul are luminous and the heart is open.

11. Intuition and creativity. Intuition and creativity generate each other and come from the same source, an awakened brain and being, an ability to think with the gut, to feel with the mind.

12. Spiritual effects. Advancement in qigong is often accompanied by a variety of spiritual experiences. For example, synchronicity, meaningful coincidences, become more common. When the qi is abundant, clear, and flowing, the senses perceive and are permeated by a sweetness. "

Adapted by Care 2 Health and Wellness

Adapted from:

The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing. By Kenneth S. Cohen. Foreword by Larry Dossey. New York Ballantine Books, 1997. Index, notes, appendices, 427 pages. ISBN: 0345421094. One of my favorite books: comprehensive,
informative, practical, and scientific.

The Way of Qigong. By Ken Cohen. 5 audiocassettes, 6 hours. Boulder, Colorado, Sounds True, 1993. ISBN: 1564552578.

Qigong (Chi Kung): Bibliography, Links, Resources, Quotations, Notes. By Mike Garofalo. 1MB.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Epicurean Values

"The wealth required by nature is limited and is easy to procure;
but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity."

"The most well-known Epicurean verse, which epitomizes his philosophy, is "lathe biōsas λάθε βιώσας "(Plutarchus De latenter vivendo 1128c; Flavius Philostratus Vita Apollonii 8.28.12), meaning "live secretly", "get through life without drawing attention to yourself", i. e. live without pursuing glory or wealth or power, but anonymously, enjoying little things like food, the company of friends, etc."

Epicurus, 341-271 BCE

Epicurean Philosophy Online

Epicurean History

From a Letter to William Short by Thomas Jefferson, 1819

"I take the liberty of observing that you are not a true disciple of our master Epicurus, in indulging the indolence to which you say you are yielding. One of his canons, you know, was that "that indulgence which prevents a greater pleasure, or produces a greater pain, is to be avoided." Your love of repose will lead, in its progress, to a suspension of healthy exercise, a relaxation of mind, an indifference to everything around you, and finally to a debility of body, and hebetude of mind, the farthest of all things from the happiness which the well-regulated indulgences of Epicurus ensure; fortitude, you know is one of his four cardinal virtues. That teaches us to meet and surmount difficulties; not to fly from them, like cowards; and to fly, too, in vain, for they will meet and arrest us at every turn of our road. Weigh this matter well; brace yourself up ..."

Syllabus of the doctrines of Epicurus (By Thomas Jefferson)

"Physical.—The Universe eternal.

Its parts, great and small interchangeable.

Matter and Void alone.

Motion inherent in matter which is weighty and declining.

Eternal circulation of the elements of bodies.

Gods, an order of beings next superior to man, enjoying in their sphere, their own felicities;
but not meddling with the concerns of the scale of beings below them.

Moral.—Happiness the aim of life.

Virtue the foundation of happiness.

Utility the test of virtue.

Pleasure active and In-do-lent.

In-do-lence, is the absence of pain, the true felicity.

Active, consists in agreeable motion; it is not happiness, but the means to produce it.

Thus the absence of hunger is an article of felicity; eating the means to obtain it.

The summum bonum is to be not pained in body, nor troubled in mind.

i.e. In-do-lence of body, tranquillity of mind.

To procure tranquillity of mind we must avoid desire and fear, the two principal diseases of the mind.

Man is a free agent.

Virtue consists in 1) Prudence. 2) Temperance. 3) Fortitude. 4) Justice.*

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Just to 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, April 16, 2007

Three Aspects of Taijiquan Practice

"There are three important aspects of Tai Ji Quan that should be emphasized in practice. These three are: 1) The health aspect, 2) The martial/self defense aspect and 3) The Philosophical aspect. You can consider these three aspects as the legs of a three-pin chair. If you take one leg away the chair would fall over. Only when you have all three can the chair serve it true function, without one or two it can only serve as an interesting object to look at (at most).

Remember the important points in practice and always check yourself to see if your movements follows these principles. Practice regularly: It is better to practice for 15 min every day than to practice for two hours once a week.

Though Tai Ji Quan is a really wonderful thing it is also one of the most difficult things to study. In order to make progress in the art it requires more than just doing the form a couple of times every day. It requires research:

The way to research the health aspect of Tai Ji Quan is basically to develop your feeling of your body-mind (i.e. become aware of thoughts and feelings coming to you while practicing and also of the changes in your body when executing the postures). After some years of practice with a knowledgeable teacher, you should be able to feel when a movement is harmful and be able to correct it.

The way to research the martial/self defense aspect is to think about and figure out different ways to use the movements in the form in a self defense situation. Remember the Chinese saying "although when practicing there is no one in front of your eyes but in your mind there is, although when defending yourself there is someone in front of your eyes but in your mind there is not."

The way to research the philosophical aspect of Tai Ji Quan to study the literature on Tai Ji (e.g. the writings of Wu Yu Xiang, Li Yi Yu and Sun Lu Tang) and compare the ideas you've found with how the form works.

Let your practice (and life) be guided by the balance principle (not to little and not too much), always seek to find a balance with yourself and your surroundings and you've taken an important step on the Tai Ji way."

- Per Nyfelt and Jiang Ling, An Introduction to Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan

Sun Style Taijiquan: Bibliography, Links, Quotes, Resources, Instructions, Glossary. By Mike Garofalo. 400Kb+.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Madame Sun Jian Yun's Practice Recommendations

Master Madame Sun Jian Yun (1913-2003) gave us the following advice about the practice of Sun Style Tai Chi Chuan:

1. The head should be upright but do not use force. Let the spirit be full.

2. The mouth should be gently closed with the tongue at the upper palate. Breathe gently through the nose. (Note: Personally, I prefer to have my mouth loosely open).

3. Both shoulders should be loose and dropped. Be careful that they are not raised: raised shoulders cause the chi to float.

4. Both elbows should be pressed down. When the elbows and shoulders are dropped, chi can be sunk at the dan tian. When the elbows are pressed down, the arms can be bent, with stored energy ready to be released.

5. The fingers should be open and loose. The wrist should be flexible.

6. The chest should be held in, not extended. An extended chest causes chi to float, resulting in top heaviness.

7. The waist must be flexible, as it is the commander of all the whole body's movements.

8. The legs should be bent: 'apparent' and 'solid' must be differentiated, otherwise agility is lost.

9. 'Chi sunk at dan tian' means deep breathing. Deep breathing is very important in Tai Chi Chuan, but it must not be forced.

10. Meditation is seeking movement in stillness; Tai Chi Chuan is seeking stillness in movement. During practice, the heart must be calm and the mind must be focused; only then can the physical movements be smooth and agile.

11. A special feature of Tai Chi Chuan is 'use will-power, don't use strength.' The aim is to achieve force that is alive, with extreme softness yet extreme hardness, extreme heaviness yet extreme agility. When will-power arrives, power arrives. If mechanical strength is used, it becomes sluggish and clumsy, floating externally, out of place in external arts."

- Translated by Wong Kiew Kit. Found in "The Complete Book of Tai Chi Chuan" by Wong Kiew Kit, 1996, p. 262.

Sun Style Taijiquan: Bibliography, Links, Instructions, Quotes, Resources

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Internal Vision

"Practicing Taijiquan is the same as other Qigong practices: from regulating the body, breathing, mind, Qi, and spirit, it aims at the goal of eradicating the layman nature and returning to the original pre-birth nature, from Taijiquan practice to comprehending the meaning and goal of life. It the goal is not as such, then it is near sighted in Taijiquan practice. From regulating the body, you are looking for the comprehension of your body's physical structure and function. From keeping the body loose, soft and calm, you are searching for the higher level Gongfu of internal vision."

Taijiquan Theory of Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming: The Root of Taijiquan. By Yang Jwing-Ming. Boston, Massachusetts, 2003. References, glossary, index, 270 pages. ISBN: 0940871432. Page 91.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sun Tai Ji Quan

"For practitioners primarily concerned with the exercise value and health aspects of Tai Ji Quan, the Sun style offers many benefits without the risks of other Tai Ji Quan styles. As explained above, the demands of martial practicality necessitated the inclusion of the basic advance and retreat footwork that dominates the Sun form. This stepping method not only quickly builds whole-body power, it is also much safer and less stressful on the joints of the hip and leg than the low stances and extended steps found in other styles. Most movements in the Sun form include a complete weight shift from one leg to the other in a cyclical rhythm. This complete exchange of weight exercises the legs with causing undue fatigue (much like the natural weight shifts that occur while walking). The movements in the form are done "three-dimensionally," meaning that the joints are opened and closed alternately in a natural rhythm, improving their condition and flexibility without the need to force the movements. The upright and natural stance improves balance and the ability to turn and shift the weight without undue effort. The addition of toe-in and toe-out steps from the Ba Gua Zhang arts has the potential to greatly improve the flexibility of the hips, an area that normally receives little exercise. The from can be done considerably faster than most Tai Ji Quan forms, without loosing the proper rhythm, creating the potential for efficient cardiovascular training. Each section of the form ends with an opening/closing movement that serves to center the practitioner and correct the posture during the form. The twisting and bending movements in the Sun form are excellent for restoring and maintaining the normal range of motion in the torso and the legs, without the use of force. The natural rhythm of the Sun form makes it easy to coordinate the breath with the movements. The Sun form requires no special equipment or costume, and it can be practiced in a relatively small space. Finally, the practice of Sun-style Tai Ji Quan can be adjusted for those of differing physical abilities; it can be practiced with great benefit by the out-of-shape beginner and well as the advanced adept."
- Tim Cartmell, from "A Study of Taijiquan by Sun Lutang," translated by Tim Cartmell, 2003, p.3.

Sun Taijiquan 73 International Competition Form
Bibliography, Links, Quotes, Instructions, Notes
By Mike Garofalo

Monday, April 09, 2007

Tai Chi Class in Cottonwood

Karen Mitsueda will teach Yang Style Taijiquan at the Cottonwood Community Center in the Spring of 2007. 5:30 - 6:30 pm Beginner's Tai Chi. 6:30 - 7:30 pm Intermediate level Tai Chi. Call Karen at 530-275-8963 for more information. Starting 4/4/07.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Saturday 4/7 Classes

I will be teaching Taijiquan Yang Style from 10:00 am - 11:00 am today, Saturday, April 7th, at the the Tehama Family Fitness Center in Red Bluff.

I will be teaching Hatha Yoga from 11:00 am - 12:15 pm at TFFC.

Oregon Trip 2: Shade and Sunshine

Mike Garofalo at Bandon Harbor in Oregon.

Mike enjoying a bit of sunshine near the marina in Bandon Bay, Oregon.

Betty, Karen and I arrived in Crescent City, California, in the evening on Wednesday, 4/4. We ate a delicious dinner and then slept overnight in Crescent City. We got up early on Thursday, 4/5, and enjoyed driving and sightseeing on Highway 101 as we drove south along the coastline of California. We took State Highway 299 from Arcata to Redding. Karen drove well all day, especially through the mountains. We had fine clear weather all day.

Betty and Karen

Betty and Karen standing at the base of a 1,000 year old redwood tree. Looks like they are doing a beautiful movement from Wild Goose Qigong. There were some very big and very old redwoods in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Clam Beach, south of Trinidad, California

Along Highway 101 a side road leads to parking areas at Clam Beach. You walk along sandy hills to get to the wide sandy beach. Miles of beach head stretches northward towards the rocky cliffs below the town of Tinidad, California; and miles and miles of sandy beach stretches out to the south. Be prepared for winds at this beach. The surf was robust the day I was there. A couple of miles south along Highway 101 is the turn off for Mckinleyville, and then a few more miles to the south until you reach the large turnoff complex at 299 and 101.

Mike Garofalo at Clam Beach

Mike Garofalo at Clam Beach