Tai Chi Class

Welcome to WholenessInMotion. Tai chi is a whole body and mind exercise that combines meditation, martial art and health tonic in one. This particular form is the Yang style, 37 posture short form as taught by Prof. Cheng Man-ch'ing. This fascinating and intricate exercise has many benefits and just about anyone can practice it.

Take a look at this site and consider the study of relaxation and how it can benefit you in your daily life. I look forward to working with you. Tom Daly


 

Archive for July, 2013

Tai Chi Chuan is a Dangerous Proposition

Posted By Tom Daly on July 17th, 2013

Tai Chi Chuan is a Dangerous Proposition

I’ve come to the conclusion that tai chi practice has within it a very threatening proposition.  It may challenge your sense of existence.  That is, your very sense of survival in the present moment.  The sense of “I am”.

How is this?  The longer you study, the more the tai chi form becomes about doing nothing.  Or better yet, it becomes about the other.  You still practice the form, push-hands, sword form or sword dueling.  But the essence that you are working towards is less and less and less.  It comes out of nothing.  Here is the ultimate challenge:  This nothing produces something but the intent to produce something has to become nothing.  Intent is reduced to nothing.  Having an intention to produce something is not helpful.  You may be giving up what YOU want.  The only intention is to relax and let chi move into the next posture.  Forget wanting to push.  It only gets in the way. 

Let’s go back to the beginning. When you start tai chi, you focus on relaxing the body.  Next you work to initiate all arm movements using only your body and gravity.  The body shifts and turns and the arms are moved.  Ultimately they do nothing.  Next, the very act of shifting and turning the body comes from relaxing.  There is a natural elastic response to this relaxing that transfers the body from leg to leg, but you do not have to consciously activate muscular activity for this to take place.  All you need to do is follow the body’s response.  It takes care of itself if you know how to let the relaxation and your natural structure do the work for you.  Chi begins to appear. (It was always there, but now you begin to feel it.)

Your cognitive mind disappears.  There is mind to guide your chi, but this is more the mind of allowing and observing, not words, emotions, visuals, etc.  If your hand gets near a flame, you remove your hand.  You don’t have to think that one through. 

So what do you have?  The only thing that is going on is that the mind directs the chi and the chi moves the body:  a relaxed body that moves itself and in turn moves arms that are responding to the movement of the body.   Once that spinning top is in motion, it simply lets itself spin.  It’s much ado about nothing.  But like an amoeba, you are changing into different shapes, as directed by the mind’s intent, or in response to your push hands partner’s direction.

Your body takes over and YOU become nothing.  And that may feel very threatening.  The process of tai chi is sort of insidious because no one will tell you that this is where the journey leads.  It sneaks up on you.  Few students actually get to this place.  We keep trying to do, to direct, to control, to create a perfect movement, to get in a push, to be good, to do it right, to be successful, to win.  This holding on to “doing” and tension gives us a familiar “something” to identify with.  It becomes who we are.  We will win here or there in the game of life with “doing” and tension.  But in tai chi, our “something” is whittled away.  Nothing takes its place.

Of course, this nothing leads to everything and it doesn’t mean that you don’t exist.  It opens up experience.  It allows you to see what you could not see before.  It helps you get out of the way of YOU.  It gives you new options that were hidden before.   It allows you to function without resistance to a jarring world.

And let’s face it, there is much much more to your existence than YOU.  There is the entire world.  Without the entire world, where would you be?

So what do you do to get there without feeling so threatened?  Don’t try to be “nothing”.  Our minds can’t fathom this.  Besides, this “nothing” is not nihilistic.  This “nothing” has more do with openness without boundaries.  It’s the open sky.  To start, just do less and less and less within the tai chi form.  You will learn more and more and more. 

And yet doing less and less and less is not the ultimate path.  This is a trap because you will always be in relation to strength or doing.  Less and less strength.  Less and less doing.  You need some strength or doing to have that diminishing relationship of less and less.  This is not really the goal of tai chi practice.  Something else has to appear.

What eventually has to happen is you need to jump tracks and work from a totally different perspective.  That new track is to follow the chi.  Relax, set the chi in motion, and follow.  You can’t muscle chi.  You can’t “do” follow.  You can only let it go, let it happen.  Your teacher has been suggesting this from day one.

There YOU go, and here IT becomes a spinning top, humming, “I’ve got plenty of nuthin’, and nuthin’s plenty for me.”

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Tai Chi Chuan and Two Hidden Skills

Posted By Tom Daly on July 16th, 2013

Tai Chi Chuan and Two Hidden Skills

They seem so simple, but I see very few students who have these two items.  One is a skill, the other is a method.

The first item is imitating exactly what you see.  I’m not talking about a difficult move.  I may demonstrate a certain arm position and look around and see many variations similar to my shape.  But not exactly my shape.  This seems to be a most difficult skill.  Many students simply don’t see that what I am doing is NOT what they are doing.  For some odd reason, in our culture, we can’t imitate with exactitude.  I’m not sure how to get this to change other than to remind students that they need to look more closely and seriously consider that what they think they are doing is NOT what I am doing.  Look again and again and again.

The second item happens when a student gets a correction.  Yes, they will successfully execute the correction in class.   Then the following week, they revert back to the original error.  The correction doesn’t stick.  The simple action that students don’t do is writing down the correction and then review it every day for a few weeks.  The error is assuming they have the correction simply by doing it once in class.  The reality is that they need to review it again and again and again before they have mastered it.  After all, when in error, they were in habit.  So if they don’t truly break the habit, they revert rapidly back into habit.

Both are a sort of blindness.  We don’t see that we don’t see what is right in front of us; we don’t understand that we need to be vigilant in corrections and repeatedly correct the same error until it becomes a healthy habit.  Both contain assumptions.  I assume that what I am doing is what you are doing; I assume that I understand the correction and I’ve mastered it.

So perhaps after “Relax!” we teachers need to say “Imitate Exactly.”

And then we need to say, “Write that down for review!”

Simple, right?

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Tai Chi Chuan and the Commitment to…

Posted By Tom Daly on July 16th, 2013

Tai Chi Chuan and Commitment to….

I always tell students that in order to be in a tai chi class, you have to commit yourself to attending as many classes as possible and avoid missing them.  This seems to be a difficult thing to do, especially in New York City with so many options on the table.  Like, if you don’t know what tai chi is and what it has to offer, then not attending a class here or there doesn’t seem like a big deal.  My counter statement is that aside from the linear progression of learning a new posture, you are learning a multi-layered exercise and that I can’t hit all of the notes in every class.  Tai chi is harmony, as in music.  Not just a linear melody. 

But what is it, after all, that you are committing to?  A tai chi buddy of mine reminded me of something rather deep.  That tai chi is about letting go and that much of life is about letting go.  There is more to tai chi than that, but this is a huge lesson that comes out of the oblique experience of coming to class every week and of course practicing between lessons.

I often ask students to change.  That is, to change HOW they approach class and practice.  Tai chi focuses on change which is a cousin to letting go.  Years ago, for whatever reason, I would practice and mentally criticize myself in the process.  I would end the form angry and discouraged.  Ultimately I realized that this is NOT an option.  Perfection comes to few and if I wanted to practice, I needed to accept whatever and wherever I am in my development.  This is why I don’t really judge the progress of others – we are all working towards something.

But the BIG COMMITMENT that a tai chi student is involved in, and this takes years to appreciate, is that tai chi offers a new way of approaching life.  It is a way of interacting with ourselves and others in a way that is deeply contradictory to much of the way we have been trained to live.  This, too, permeates class. 

Many try tai chi and leave.  I suspect this is because, at least in part, that the level of commitment to change, let go, allow, be present, not be invasive, use the ground, trust your structure and find true relaxation is a rather large commitment.  It takes time.  You don’t really know this on day one. Or day 100.  You have to trust that SOMETHING will make sense and create the joy that also comes from tai chi practice.

One well known teacher tells us that we measure our progress in decades.  Tai chi is a slow moving train.  It’s not a pill.  It’s a lot of work, but work that is fun to embrace.

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Times of India article on Tai Chi

Posted By Tom Daly on July 16th, 2013

 How Tai Chi Can Help You

The Times of India, July 16, 2013

Tai Chi, which has its roots in Chinese martial arts, is said to have many benefits

Tai Chi is essentially body movements done in a slow, flowing manner that is graceful and serene. It is a form of physical and cognitive exercise that can help one physically, emotionally, mentally as well as spiritually. Here are some benefits of Tai Chi…

– The main benefit is that it reduces stress. That’s because it creates a feeling of calmness and relaxes the mind.
– It can be practiced as a form of meditation as it helps the intertwining of the mind and the body through rhythmic movements and breathing exercises. Also, one can get in tune with one’s body.
– Studies have shown that Tai Chi is beneficial in psychological homeostasis, which is referred to as emotional control or tranquility. Another study says it improves upper and lower body flexibility as well as strength.
– It is known to aid in concentration, mental alertness, increased sensitivity towards one’s surroundings and circulation of positive energy throughout the body.
– It is relatively easy to do, especially for the elderly who cannot indulge in strenuous physical exercises or activities.
– Tai Chi is also known to improve balance. Experts say that proprioception, which is the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space, declines as one gets older. Tai Chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments.
– Tai Chi also improves muscle strength and flexibility.

 

Reader comment:  All true. Very interesting article. I have been practicing Tai Chi since 1999 when my physiotherapist recommended it to me to help with severe repetitive strain injury. I never looked back and Tai Chi has saved my life on several occasions since then. I was able to raise three children whilst dealing with the permanent injuries to my nerves and tendons in my hands and arms. Tai Chi has kept me sane, fit and relaxed. I recommend it for anyone and everyone, no matter the age or disability…you can even practice it by visualizing the movements in your mind and gain great benefit.

 

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