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Water - The Strongest Element of Them All.

I get some strange looks sometimes when I say that 'Water' is the strongest of the five elements especially as it relates to the Yin element. Many feel that it should be Fire being the strongest Yang element - however, Lao Tzu sums it up quite well in the Tao The Ching saying -
Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water, but, for attacking the hard and strong there is nothing like it, for nothing can take its place - That the weak overcomes the strong, and the soft overcomes the hard. This is something known by all but practised by none!!!
How true.

The Rhythm of Nature!

It is truly amazing at how a session of Chi Kung can make you feel. I was outside practising under an amazing oak that resides in our garden and really feeling the energy flowing. As you know Chi Kung and Tai Chi place great emphasis on coordination of breath and movement and there I was going through a sequence when I could actually feel the rhythm of nature!!! It was an amazing experience and although I always feel connected when practicing this felt totally different - an amazing feeling of 'being in the web'!!!
It is nice to know that after years of practice in both Tai Chi and Chi Kung that something new can show itself or enhance the feelings that you already have. With this in mind I have decided that on my June workshop[ I will take everyone out to the lovely wood that adjoins my studio and let everyone practice outside and see if they can get that same wonderful feeling. The workshop will be on Saturday, June 14th 1030-1.30.

The Three Treasures!


Yesterday. during our really constructive workshop we touched upon the Three Treasures (Jing, Chi and Shen) which is a complete workshop in itself - maybe next one!!! However, meantime I found this little piece that I put out quite a while ago and it tries to explain what they are - a bit of a ramble I'm afraid but here it is.

The three treasures are – Jing, Chi and Shen

Jing or essence is most closely related to our physical bodies and stored in the kidneys (also according to Taoist philosophy it is stored in the lower Dan Tien)


Chi can be said to be our life force and controls our movements and is closely related to the liver and spleen organ systems. Once again according to Taoist philosophy chi is said to be stored in the middle Dan Tien.

Shen (Spirit) – is the essence that shines through when Jing and Chi are strong – the Shen is related to the heart and Taoist philosophy say it is stored in the higher Dan Tien.

A Story on the Three Treasures.

Just a bit of useless information here!!! I once read that you could equate the three treasures to a candle – Jing would be the basic essence of the candle – that being the wax and the wick. Chi would be the actual flame of the candle whereas Shen would be the radiance around the flame – the better the basics of the candle then the flame and the radiance around it will flourish!!!!

Recommended Reading

In a first burst of enthusiasm, beginners often rush out and buy books on Tai Chi or Chi Kung without really knowing which ones would be suitable for them. For instance, it is no good buying a book on Chen style Tai Chi if you are doing Yang - in fact, there isn't much point buying a book on Yang form unless it is the one you are doing - are you practising a long or short form - which line of the Yang family are you following because although the principles and concepts remai...n the same the forms are sometimes different - the same goes for Chi Kung. So with that in mind, if you are training with me here is some recommended reading to begin with.
First of all Master John Dings '15 Minute Tai Chi' - this is an excellent book covering exercises, the short form and lots of other information on Principles and Concepts. I still consider Master Ding as my teacher although I haven't seen him for a while but he taught me so much and it is also where I trained as an instructor.
Second recommended read is Ged Sumner 'You Are How You Move' - Ged co-founded the College of Elemental Chi Kung in London and made this book very readable and straightforward. It covers the basics of Elemental Chi Kung. I also become an instructor for Elemental Chi Kung and found that it went hand in hand with my Tai Chi practice and devised my classes around the two disciplines.
Remember that it isn't possible to learn Tai Chi or Chi Kung from a book - you need a teacher (doesn't have to be me!) to show you the way and explain some of the more intricate details of the arts. In a first burst of enthusiasm, beginners often rush out and buy books on Tai Chi or Chi Kung without really knowing which ones would be suitable for them. For instance, it is no good buying a book on Chen style Tai Chi if you are doing Yang - in fact, there isn't much point buying a book on Yang form unless it is the one you are doing - are you practising a long or short form - which line of the Yang family are you following because although the principles and concepts remain the same the forms are sometimes different - the same goes for Chi Kung. So with that in mind, if you are training with me here is some recommended reading to begin with.
First of all Master John Dings '15 Minute Tai Chi' - this is an excellent book covering exercises, the short form and lots of other information on Principles and Concepts. I still consider Master Ding as my teacher although I haven't seen him for a while but he taught me so much and it is also where I trained as an instructor.
Second recommended read is Ged Sumner 'You Are How You Move' - Ged co-founded the College of Elemental Chi Kung in London and made this book very readable and straightforward. It covers the basics of Elemental Chi Kung. I also become an instructor for Elemental Chi Kung and found that it went hand in hand with my Tai Chi practice and devised my classes around the two disciplines.
Remember that it isn't possible to learn Tai Chi or Chi Kung from a book - you need a teacher (doesn't have to be me!) to show you the way and explain some of the more intricate details of the arts.

Are you a Writer/Musician/Artist?


Writers Block, Empty Canvas!

 

 
We all suffer from it now and then, don’t we? We have a deadline to meet or stuck on the next idea for a project, writing, music or art. Chi Kung can definitely help open up those creative channels in a most satisfying and harmonious way. Some of you may know that in my other life (other than running the studio) I also love my music and play with Positively Dylan (catch us at the Greyhound, Wivenhoe Saturday 2 December) while also occasionally writing the odd ditty or article. I have found that my best ideas come during or after a session of Chi Kung when my mind and body are relaxed to such an extent that I am completely open to ideas. So I am looking to share these techniques with you by teaching a workshop in the New Year – hopefully, it will enhance your creativity while also giving you some really useful relaxation/breathing exercises.

If this is something you would be interested in let me know either by dropping a message on facebook or contacting me via email.

Can it be coincidence!!!

No matter how positive you try to be, sometimes you get really down and can't see things improving - this is when you tend to just give up on whatever it is that seems to be going wrong even though it is something that you really want or enjoy. I must admit that this year hasn't been particularly great for me - started off with health problems (now all sorted out) and then struggled to find the enthusiasm to teach Tai Chi or Chi Kung or even play music - things that are very close to my heart. So I pick up a book called 'The Essence of Tao' and just opened a random page and this is what came up.
'' When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn''. Harriet Beecher Stowe.
This seems so appropriate for me at the present time that I felt the need to share - thanks for reading.

An Article to appear in the New Year

Here is an article (with some photo's) that will be published hopefully in the Tendring Business Letter in January - Thought I would give you a preview.
The Balanced Path at The Tai Chi Studio

The Tai Chi Studio began life in Wivenhoe in the autumn of 2002 after I moved to North Essex from London where I had worked for the best part of 25 years as a London Taxi Driver (now that’s stress!!!). I started my Chi Kung/Tai Chi training in 1988 and became an instructor at the John Ding International Academy of Tai Chi Chuan in 2000 and also studied Chi Kung at the 5 Element College of Chi Kung in London where I also  became an instructor. In June 2014, after several moves to larger (not necessarily better) premises the studio returned to its ‘Bijou’ routes to a purpose built studio at the Hall Farm and Business Centre, Little Bentley.
I knew instantly when I came across this shell of a building (an old stable block) that although there was ivy growing through the walls and ceiling and the floor was just a pile of rubble the place had all the potential for the kind of premises I was looking for. Unfortunately, even with all good intentions I had nowhere near the funds to afford the transformation – Enter Hugh Cobbold, the owner of Hall Farm and Business Centre. He asked for what purpose I would be using the premises and agreed to actually do the work out of his own pocket – to say I was ‘gobsmacked’ would be an understatement – yet, after six months I was moving from my old studio in Great Bentley into a lovely, airy space which just oozed the kind of energy that such a venture needs.
The studio is very much a one man show – it is unique in the level of tuition that it offers in Tai Chi and 5 Element Chi Kung. Classes are small (ten at the most) and informal and I love seeing the progress made by my clients who come to me for many different reasons – the majority have health problems ranging from bad posture, respiratory difficulties, high/low blood pressure, sleeping and digestion troubles etc. while others attend purely for the ‘feel good factor’ that can be achieved through meditation and gentle (but not easy) exercise. Some like to explore the internal and external energy side of the work, realising that the exercises take us on a fascinating journey that opens up so many different avenues in our lives (a story for another time).
As well as normal classes I also offer private tuition (one to one or groups) – regular workshops and corporate seminars. I believe that Chi Kung is especially beneficial to businesses with a high level of stress involved and workshops can be arranged at the studio or on office premises. The workshops help bring harmony into the workplace without losing the drive that is obviously needed to succeed; in fact, many people have found their energy levels have increased to such an extent that their work rate has improved greatly – this is especially the case for people in jobs that have strict deadlines (journalist/authors/artist etc).
In the past I have worked with sixth form pupils at the Colne Community School – I have also ran 5/10 week courses for teachers in primary/secondary schools and the Essex Probation Service along with teaching classes for a period at the University of Essex.

Chi Kung and Visualisation




 
The first thing we need to do at the beginning of a session is bring our energy down (grounding) because we have usually come from a hard days work (not me of course!!!) or been stressed out in one way or the other. We do this by standing in Wu Ji, which literally means emptiness, bringing our energy out of our heads and focusing more on our centre.

Visualisation plays a big part in this and I have noticed that sometimes I have to change the way I describe how to attain Wu Ji. Usually I go through a list – Feet shoulder width and parallel – Legs straight, not locked – Tuck the tailbone slightly – Slightly sink the chest – Relax the shoulders and let the head sit comfortably with the chin slightly pulled back and then imagine your energy coming down from your head – releasing the thoughts that come along and interrupt the process and feel your energy just accumulating in your lower Dan Tien with the feet rooted through Kidney 1 spot.

Of course, all this makes perfect sense to me because I have performed Wu Ji for many years and can drop into the posture and state easily, but for some this concept is hard to imagine so I ask that you make your own visualisation.

I suggest newcomers to imagine themselves as an egg timer with the sand slowly dropping from the top (head) to the bottom (lower Dan Tien and feet) and this seems to work really well for everyone – I always joke that it only last for three minutes though (the old gags are still the best) – I then encourage people to make their own visualisation – you don’t have to necessarily share what it is but people do come up with some wonderful ways to bring their energy down – and if it works then that’s great.

Also ‘Tucking the tailbone’ sometimes gives a little trouble because people tend to thrust their pelvis forward causing them to lean back and be as far away from the Wu Ji posture that it is possible to get, so I advise that you just let it drop so that it points to the ground – this is quite easily done if you have your knees relaxed.

Pulling the chin back also has the opposite effect sometimes because the student tends to lift the chin up thus forcing the head back (if you combine this with the thrusting forward of the hips you get some very strange postures!!!) – instead just gently pull the chin towards the chest and feel the top of the head lift as if being suspended from above.

I hope this may help you in your Wu Ji. I advise standing in the posture for at least five minutes once you feel ‘rooted’ and just ‘Wallow’ in the stillness!!!

 

 

A Matter of Faith!

Do you have true conviction that everything will turn out well - I wish that I did - sometimes I feel that everything is going well and other times I just feel that nothing is going right. I have to ask myself is this because of my lack of conviction that all will be well.
Here is a little story from my early years concerning my dad, a lovely man who always believed things would work out in the end.
I was 13 years old and my nan had just died - we were living in rented accommodation in Bow, East London and the house was rented under her name so the landlord decided that we had to go because he wanted to sell the place.
I can remember now as he came around with a smirk on his face telling my mum and dad that they had two weeks to find other accommodation unless of course they wanted to buy the house - a wry smile came across his lips knowing that with my dad working as a postman and my mum working as a telephonist had absolutely no chance of raising the money in time.
My mum was in tears and my dad said 'don't worry, something will turn up' I know that he believed this beyond doubt cos that was the way he was and sure enough that weekend he and his workmates won the football pools which when shared out between them left enough to buy the house!!! The look on the landlords face was classic when he found out and think that he would have liked nothing better than to turn my dad's offer down but to guys like that money is money. So that was it, we became home owners.
My dad was like that right to the end where his last words to me were 'your mother worries too much' before he passed peacefully away on to whatever adventure awaited him in the after life.
I really wish I had his faith!!!

Misconceptions!!!


I have come across several misconceptions about Tai Chi and Chi Kung over the years – Some people seem to think they are a form of Religion or Cult and some schools may actually give this impression – so much so that some churches will not actually rent their halls to practitioners for fear that it would somehow affect their congregation – or worse still send the people who attend the classes down some evil, satanic path. You may laugh but I have actually known this to happen!!! Yoga seems to be ok though for some strange reason!!! Tai Chi and Chi Kung, if anything, will enhance your beliefs as you get to know and understand yourself better as you tune into your body and clear the mind.

Another misconception about Tai Chi is that it is only for older people – again, nothing could be further from the truth – Tai Chi is a very effective martial art which unfortunately seems to have been forgotten or totally ignored by some of the teachers/schools that are around. Every move has several fighting applications and I have found through teaching them that people have a much better understanding of what they are doing otherwise the whole practice turns into some kind of dance with no meaning whatsoever – I know there will be people who will disagree and I accept that this is my opinion although I know it to be one shared by many others too. Personally I would advise older people to take up Chi Kung to begin with – you will learn techniques that can then be taken into Tai Chi if you wish to go down that path. The forms are much shorter than Tai Chi – the long 108 Step Yang Form is particularly demanding. More people drop out of classes because they cannot remember the movements than for any other reason. Some ask why they cannot just follow the group but that is not the way I teach – I like people to be able to go home and practice getting the full benefits regular practice can bring.

Chi Kung is a powerful healing system bringing a unity of mind, body and spirit but there is one thing that has to be present when practising and that is intention. Sometimes I look around the class and see that intention is totally lacking so energy will just not flow – there is an old expression that says ‘No Yi – No Chi’ and this is very true – your energy is guided by your intention and along with breath/movement coordination and a good relaxed posture (not floppy) it will flow through every muscle/sinew/bone and organ of your body giving that wonderful feeling of ‘Yeah, everything’s ok – all will be well’ – People sometimes ask if I can guarantee they will be cured of certain illnesses – of course I cannot give any guarantee and I certainly would not advise coming off any medication you may have been prescribed but go into it with an open mind and intention – What have you got to lose in ‘giving it a try’?  – I have seen some pretty remarkable recoveries or at least remissions take place over the years.

I have studied both Tai Chi and Chi Kung for many years and the benefits they have given me over the years are tremendous – those who read the blog regularly will know how I came through a serious health problem earlier in the year – It was through regular practice of both arts that pulled me through – also I find solace in them when other things in my life are not so good – the last few years haven’t been exactly great but I know that through it all I can find that place within me that says ‘it’s ok, everything will be fine.’ I can’t explain how or why it works I just know that it does!!!

P.S. I, like everyone else get overwhelmed every now and then with events and sometimes this is hard for people to understand, thinking that I should be this ever smiling, happy guru figure – If I were to give this impression without actually feeling it I would give a very false impression of who I am and what I stand for.

I seem to have digressed a little there but sometimes things have to be said.

 

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