Monday 19 December 2016

On Tour in the USA...

Taoist Sanctuary of San Diego
I just got home a few days ago after a couple of weeks teaching and enjoying some great hospitality across the pond in the USA. 
The first stop was sunny California for a four day workshop at the Taoist Sanctuary of San Diego, Bill and Allison Helm's long established centre for traditional healing and martial arts. 
One of the items was a talk on Taijiquan's "six harmonies". During the session we spoke about the role of looseness and co-ordination  in the harmonisation of both internal and external aspects.

Over the years we have had the opportunity to interview many high level Taijiquan teachers from Chenjiagou. To get things rolling one of the first question we usually ask is "what is the single most important thing a person should pay attention to when training Taijiquan ?" Anyone who has trained for any length of time knows that there is no single simple answer, but it seems to work  in getting things started.

Faced with this question:

Chen Xiaowang answered: "maintaining the dantian as the body's centre" - The dantian acts as a co-ordinating point through which all the power of the body can be focused and brought out to a single point.

Chen Xiaoxing answered: "timing is of the utmost importance" - Timing of different aspects including the left and right sides, upper and lower body, and internal sensation co-ordinated with external movement.

Chen Ziqiang answered: "the most important thing is to always be aware of the feeling beneath your feet" - Taijiquan's sequential and co-ordinated movement starts from the feet, goes through the legs, directed by the waist and expressed in the hands.

Wang Xian answered: "to rid one's body of all unnecessary tension" - He expanded that "In Taijiquan practice, holding even the slightest tension in your body means that your whole body will be out of balance".

Early morning in Yosemite Valley
We took a few days off for a road trip to Yosemite National Park - a long time bucket list item since I bought an Ansel Adams print of the El Capitan rockface over thirty years ago! It was fantastic to train at dawn in the Yosemite Valley, seeing deer coming down to drink in the river a few hundred metres in the distance. During Taijiquan practice we very much focus on the "small dao" - looking at the inter-relationships of the body as an integrated system. In the evening I read about John Muir (1838-1914), one of America's most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist.  Muir has been given many titles over the years including "The Father of our National Parks," "Wilderness Prophet," and "Citizen of the Universe." Reading some of Muir's quotes in his favourite place reminded me of the "great dao" that Taiji philosophy draws from:

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” 

"There is not a fragment in all nature, for every relative fragment of one thing is a full harmonious unit in itself"

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

A Seattle Wall

Next to Seattle to Kim Ivy's Embrace the Moon School for Taijiquan and Qigong for three days of workshops. Carrying on the focus on incorporating correct principles in practice, working on the Laojia Yilu routine. Kim's training centre is in the process of some renovation work and one of the walls due for covering with sound proofing insulation had become a temporary backdrop for friends and students of "the moon" to post their thoughts. A few of my favourites from the 150 or so affirmations written on the wall: 

"Often the best answer is practice"
"One more time"
"Just relax, and when you think you are relaxed, relax more!"
"The secret of Taiji? Very strong legs!"
Embrace the Moon Taijiquan and Qigong Centre

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