Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bagua Zhang, Circle Walking Boxing

I did a major update this past weekend to my webpage on this subject. Take a look.

Bagua Zhang: Bibliography, Links, Resources, Lessons

I really enjoyed attending a bagua and taijiquan class led by Master Kent Howard at the Chico Kodenkan.

Consider Wang Shujin's advice that, "The [Bagua] definitions above are just rough explanations of a much larger picture. As for the details, it depends upon the learner himself to study, question, consider, analyze, and practice in order to find deeper meaning. The eight forms should also be examined and practiced individually. In conclusion, the more diligently you study the greater your return. Bagua Zhang forms imitate the nature of heaven and earth. Follow the principles of yin-yang and harmonize with the seasons, and you will benefit humanity by developing a more universal view of life. Embracing the yin-yang fish and treading the ba gua diagram you will walk the circle as though striding through the cosmos."
- Wang Shujin, Bagua Linked Palms, Translated by Kent Howard, 2009

"An Explanation of Bagua Zhang and the Eight Trigrams of the I Ching." From Wang Shujin's, Bagua Zhang Connected Palms, translated by Kent Howard, 2009. Bagua Linked Palms. By Wang Shujin (1904-1981). Translated by Kent Howard and Hsiao-Yen Chen. Blue Snake Books, 2009. 250 pages. ISBN: 1583942645.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Play and/or Work

"The supreme accomplishment is to
blur the line between work and play."
- Arnold Toynbee

"In Hindu philosophy the whole creation is regarded as the Vishnu Lila,the play of Vishnu. Lila means dance or play. Also in Hindu philosophy,they call the world illusion; and in Latin the root of the word illusion is ludere, to play."
- Alan Watts, Work as Play

"We may play with and pass on a garden, possessing one is an illusion.
Gardeners must dance with feedback, play with results, turn as they learn.
Some gardeners don't grow old and stop playing; they stop playing and grow old.
Nature's playfulness is a gardener's delight.
A garden is a sporting field, an area for play."

- Michael P. Garofalo, Pulling Onions: The Maxims of Gardening

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bagua Zhang: Liu Bin's Zhuang Gong Bagua Zhang

Liu Bin's Zhuang Gong Bagua Zhang: Foundation Practices, Volume One. South District Beijing's Strongly Rooted Style. By Zhang, Jie. Contributions by Richard Shapiro. Blue Snake Books, 2008. Glossary, xxix, 232 pages. ISBN: 1583942181.

Professor Zhang, is very knowledgeable about the philosophy, history, and art of Bagua Zhang, and has a deep appreciation for many aspects of traditional Chinese culture. This book provides a very good introduction to this style of Bagua in the line of Cheng Ting Hua, Liu Bin, and Liu Xing Han. After providing an informative introduction to the history and philosophy (I Ching, Yin/Yang, Morality, etc.) of Bagua, Dr, Zhang gives clear instructions on circle walking, single palm changes, and twenty four movements of the eight animals. Emphasis is placed on a slow, rooted, and deliberate pace with enhanced awareness. The instructions are very clear and detailed, and keyed to accompanying black and white photographs.

A unique part of this book are the sixteen Zhan Zhuang (standing meditation) exercises, and the considerable emphasis and explanations on inner work, chi gong, and mind training. Most of the emphasis in this book is on providing clear instructions on how to practice essential Bagua so as to stay fit, improve the mind, harmonize with nature, build strength and balance, and enhance one's understanding of Chinese philosophy.

Dr. Zhang lived and worked his whole life in China, and published many books in Chinese. He currently teaches Chinese culture, calligraphy, chi gong, martial arts, and Tui Na massage in Seattle, Washington.

This is a good book for older persons seeking a sound introduction to Bagua Zhang practice and theory.

Bagua Zhang: Bibliography, Links, Media, Resources, Lessons

Monday, September 22, 2008

"Yes, ... And, ..." Technique for Learning.

"The technique I have developed to work directly with my Grinch (inner critic) is first to acknowledge its reaction and then ask a question. For example, if my Grinch says, "That was lousy." I reply, "Yes, that's true, it was lousy. And, if there were more smoothness in my body, what would it feel like?" This is what I call the "Yes, ... And, ..." technique." By acknowledging the negative voice, we blend with it. We soften the negative blow by going with it and not resisting. Then we shift our attention by using the conjunction "and." Using "and" affirms that we can simultaneously hold our vision of how we want to perform without excluding our negative assessment. Asking the question leads our attention toward exploring the sensation of what we want to develop instead of fighting against our Grinch. ...

I do not delve into the content of what the Grinch has to say, but instead I choose to put my attention on the rush of energy in my body. From using the basic practice techniques, we know something about working with energy. When we feel the rush of energy or notice that we are tensing or speeding up, we can stop, focus on our breath, balance our energy field, feel gravity, and evoke our quality. When we stabilize and soften in this way, the energy can begin to self-organize in a way that allows us to deal with the situation more skillfully. ... Pause and feel any sensations that arise. A new perspective on the situation may come with the sensations."

- Wendy Palmer, The Intuitive Body: Aikido as a Clairsentient Practice, 1994, p. 48

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Valley Spirit Taijiquan Practice Schedule

Current Taijiquan Class and Practice Schedule

Outdoors, Monday, 7:00 - 8:30 am, Valley Spirit Taijiquan Center

Indoors, Wednesday, 6:30 - 7:30 pm, Tehama Family Fitness Center

Outdoors, Friday, 7:00 - 8:30 am, Valley Spirit Taijiquan Center

Indoors, Saturday, 9:30 - 11 am, Tehama Family Fitness Center

Sunday, 7:00 - 8:30 am, Valley Spirit Taijiquan Center

We practice the Yang Style of Taijiquan, 32 Sword Form and Eight Immortals Cane in the Yang Style.

Blog Posting Schedule:

Green Way Blog: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday

Cloud Hands Blog: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Plans for Action

"Kata is central to good Karate training. Karate kata have existed for hundreds of years and have their origins within the Chinese fighting systems.

There is no direct translation of the term Kata into English. The best we can come up with is form or pattern. Kata is a predefined sequence of movements performed in a special order to maximize your practice time.

Kata teach you about body movement, weight distribution, angles, turning, awareness and how to deal with a variety of situations. Kata are composed of martial-type movements that help you learn certain skills.

Karate kata comes from a time where few people knew how to read or write. Information was passed down from the previous generation in the form of song, dance, ritual, poetry and stories. The human mind works with imagery and feeling, not lists of facts and figures. Using enjoyable playful learning tools like these are the most natural and efficient way to learn and remember things."
- Stephen Irwin, What is the Purpose of Kata Training

All of the mind-body arts use a "predefined sequence of movements performed in a special order." Yoga uses carefully defined postures (Aanas) and sequences of postures (e.g., Sun Salutations). Each style of Tai Chi Chuan has a specific sequence of postures and movements (Forms), unique to its style, that can sometimes take up to 25 minutes to perform.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kokoro: Heart, Mind, Spirit

Tonight, in our yoga class, I spoke about the integration or union (Yoga) of mind, body and emotions. We took a little time to reflect on the Heart Chakra (Anhata) and the idea of an emotional seat in the heart area. In yoga practice, we often try to cultivate the emotions of peacefulness (shanti) and joyfulness (anata). In life we should cultivate the full range of emotions, understand their sources and objects, understand how they motivate us into acting, remainding mindful of our emotional life. We don't want to become heartless or hard hearted - out of touch with our feelings and emotions, or a mechanical being without feelings.

In Japanese the word for heart/mind/emotion is Kokoro, and in Chinese the word is Hsin (Xin).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Five Animal Frolics Qigong Workshop

I traveled to Sacramento this past weekend and attended the two day workshop led by Ken Cohen, Qigong Master, from Boulder, Colorado. About 20 students learned part of the Five Animal Frolics Qigong Form. We learned and practiced the Crane and Bear sets of exercises, and one exercise each from the Monkey, Deer, and Tiger Frolics. We also learned a number of valuable meditation techniques.

Mr. Cohen has published numerous articles, books, audio CDs, and DVDs on Qigong and Native American spirituality. He is fluent in English and Chinese. His knowledge and skills in the internal martial arts is quite impressive. I found Ken to be articulate, very knowledgeable, energetic, a very good teacher, quite approachable and sociable, a wise person, and a kind and generous man who loves to share knowledge and mind-body improvement information.

I would recommend that all qigong and taijiquan enthusiasts and seekers take Kenneth Cohen's workshops. Were distance and financial constraints not an issue for me, I know I would enroll in his qigong instructor training program next week.

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: 345421094. MGC. One of my favorite books: comprehensive, informative, practical, and scientific.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Cane (Zhang) Taijiquan Practices

I have developed a new webpage on the Way of the Short Staff. It includes a fairly detailed section on the Tai Chi cane (Zhang) or walking staff which includes a blibliography, links, and resources. It will soon include a more detailed description of the movements of the "Traditional Eight Immortals Tai Chi Cane Form," Routine One, based on the Yang Style of Taijiquan, as demonstrated by Master Jesse Tsao.

The webpage also includes sections on the Aikido Jo, Jo Do, the Karate short staff, and exercising with a short staff. By "short staff" I mean a solid wood staff or cane with a length of 35" to 50".