Sunday, December 30, 2012

Swimming Dragon Qigong for Weight Loss

As you are aware my weight has been an issue for most of my life. I am fasting once a week, pursuing a sensible diet, and I'm exercising more. I found an exercise called Swimming Dragon Qigong recently. I sought out instruction because the claim is that this exercise performed for 20 minutes daily will affect the flow of energy in the body and thus regulate the metabolism.
This short form is pretty simple to learn and I am trying it out for the next 100 days. (100 days is a common theme of practice in Chinese martial arts so I'm applying it here.)
Here is a video of the remarkable Mr. Fernando Bernall of Florida performing his version of the exercise.

It is also supposed to be useful for creating beautiful skin, a healthy spine, and regulating hormone levels.
My personal experience so far is that after practice my skin and body are much warmer than usual. I'll keep posting information as I progress in my hundred days. We are currently on day two.

If you want to try out this program with me feel free to grab a copy of the book by Master TK Shih off of Amazon.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tai Chi, Shingles, and Medicine

According to the National Institute of Health: "Shingles (herpes zoster) is a painful, blistering skin rash due to the varicella-zoster virus, the virus that causes chickenpox." This is a pretty awful condition that I'm sure most people would like to avoid. The good news is that the folks at the NIH have done research that indicates that practicing Tai Chi somehow increases immunity to the shingles virus

Basically when you had chicken pox as a child your body fought off the infection and all was well. But the virus remained in your nerves in a dormant state. All well and good and your immune system has kept it dormant ever since. But as we age or as we take certain medications or experience stress the immune system can weaken and the virus can come back in the form of shingles. So it makes sense that we want to keep the immune system strong. The thing that stumps most Western researchers is how the heck Tai Chi makes a difference to the immune system?

If you look at it from an Eastern medical point of view the answer is apparent. Tai Chi and other forms of qigong increase the wei qi or the energy field that guards the body from infection and injury. If the energy field is strong then the body will have a strong immune system. Many people will say what the heck are you talking about? Energy fields? Well like it or not Chinese medicine is not based on chemical or mechanical structures but on the idea that everything is composed of energy and that by influencing the energy you influence matter. As more research is done and more sensitive equipment is created I have a feeling we are going to see a bridging of the two medical paradigms.

Chinese medicine is wonderful at prevention and treatment of chronic illness. Western medicine excels at trauma care and stopping infections that have already set in. Many people tend to approach these two paradigms with an either or attitude but it is better to understand the ailment and seek the medical attention that is right for your condition. If I have a broken bone I don't need an acupuncturist, I need a doctor who can set the bone. The acupuncturist or herbalist can come in after the bone is set and the condition stabilized and then proceed to help me promote my body's natural healing process. 

Chinese medicine helps you to get to the root cause of an illness, it does not just suppress the symptoms with drugs. Tai Chi can help give you glowing health by increasing the flow of qi through your body and mind. And when you put more energy into a system the system the longer it lasts.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tai Chi, Standing Meditation, Letting Go, and Awareness

In training Tai Chi one will often be told to hold a standing meditation or Zhan Zhuang posture. The purpose of these postures is to make you stronger and more physically relaxed. There is an additional benefit here. To accomplish the task of relaxing you have to bring awareness into play. You work your way through your body feeling your insides. Your muscles, bones, organs, connective tissue. You work on letting go of tight places and easing more and more into relaxation. This is a kind of attention that most of us never pay to ourselves.

In terms of qigong wherever the awareness goes energy follows. This means that by moving your awareness to a certain part of your body you will direct energy there. Notice I'm not saying to visualize or imagine. Imagining is not enough. You need to simply observe and be aware of the area of tightness or pain. A helpful exercise that comes from the martial arts is to breathe deeply as you keep your awareness on the problem area. We will cover deep breathing in another blog but for now just do your best.

So you stand and breathe deeply, relaxing the body more and more. This practice should be done everyday. Start with 5 minutes and slowly increase the time to a maximum of 20 minutes. It will make you stronger, more resilient, and more relaxed. You can add this exercise to any workout routine and reap great benefits.

The Wuji Posture, the safest and simplest posture for standing meditation.

If you want to know more about Zhan Zhuang Standing Meditation please check out The Way of Energy by Master Lam Kam Chuen. This is one of the best books available about standing meditation for health and fitness.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I Liq Chuan- Martial Art of Awareness

This is a Chinese martial art called I Liq Chuan or Mind Strength Boxing. The big Malaysian gentleman is Master Sam FS Chin. He has incredible martial skills. I have done several workshops with him and he never disappoints. If you want to feel top notch, powerful kung fu Sifu Sam and his students are a great source.
Here is the I Liq Chuan web site:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Drunken Kung Fu

This is a video of Drunken Kung Fu. I love this stuff. Fun to practice and entertaining to watch. The purpose is you reel and weave around as if drunk and you turn that into a fighting system. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The One Finger Handstand

This gentleman is the monk Hai Teng. He was 90 years old at the time that this video was made and he was famous for his "One Finger Skill." He could use his finger to hit someone with devastating force. This guy is a shining example of what daily exercise can do for you! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hard Work, Failure, and Kung Fu

In my last entry I covered the meaning of the words kung fu. If you learn a skill you have to practice it every single day. Even if you stink at the thing you are learning practice. Most people try something and if they are not talented at it they give up and do something else. The question is not one of talent but one of desire.

How badly do you want to learn this skill? It doesn't matter if it's martial arts, cooking, music, photography, writing, or anything else. If you don't want to practice it it's just a whim, a desire that is about as strong as a puff of air. You need to tame your desire and turn it toward what you really want.

I can hear people now saying but I'm not good at (insert given skill.) Being good doesn't matter. Even if you totally suck and have no talent whatsoever practice will make you better. Enough practice will make you competent. Even if you have no money you have Google and a dozen other search engines at your disposal and the entirety of human knowledge to help you get started. Too often we hide behind excuses that we don't have money, we aren't talented, we don't have time. But we need to be truthful we lack desire. Learning and practicing a new skill can change your life entirely. You have to be willing to fail and fail and fail again. Fail hard. It is not only ok to fail it is a good thing to fail.

A Tai Chi master named Cheng Man-ching started out his life sickly and weak. He learned Tai Chi and cured himself of Tuberculosis. He wasn't an inspiring looking physical specimen being rather small and unassuming looking. He was in fact remembered in mainland China primarily as the kid who would push hands with anybody and who often got beaten. After some years of this though Cheng learned how not to lose. He in fact in his elder years gained a reputation for being unbeatable. So much so that the renowned martial arts writer Mr. Robert W. Smith said that of all the masters he met in Asia "none could stand before Cheng." Here is the story of a poet and painter who by dint of hard work and stubborn persistence became so good at martial arts that he defeated all challengers and impressed a man who had a black belt in Judo, had boxed golden gloves, and was a former US Marine. It's kind of hard to BS your way past all those martial arts fighters and a veteran pugilist and soldier. Cheng Man-ching said that his philosophy was invest in loss. Every time you lose you learn something. Cheng didn't get discouraged and cry that his skill was not good enough. He learned from the losses. He made friends with loss and learned to love it.

This is what you have to do. Embrace loss. Learn from it. Loss is your best friend. Now go choose a skill and practice so that you can grow your kung fu.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Kung Fu

The words Kung Fu conjure up images of warrior monks and cyberpunk warriors. They make us think of men and women flying through the air like in The Matrix or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. What do these words actually mean though?

According to Wikipedia, kung fu is Chinese term referring to any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete. This means that kung fu refers to any skill that it takes time and effort to develop. So you can have kung fu in music, cooking, flower arranging, or any other skill you have to practice to improve.

In the West however kung fu usually refers to Chinese martial arts. The Chinese fighting systems are a vast and fascinating subject. There are over 1000 different styles that are known today. This is an amazing cultural treasure trove for health and self defense. In coming posts we will feature videos and a little information about kung fu styles. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Applications of The Bagua Single Palm Change

Barret and I are back demonstrating the martial art and self defense  applications of the 
Baguazhang Single Palm Change.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Meet the Teachers: 10 Questions with Sifu David Carr

 Sifu David Carr is a teacher of Choy Li Fut Kung Fu and Yang Style Tai Chi.

Ten Questions

  1. Where are you from? - Born in Savannah, Georgia - raised in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
  2. Where do you teach now?  - 'The Kwoon' 5602 South Ridewood Avenue Port Orange, Florida 32127 Telephone: (386)-795-6988 
  3. What made you interested in martial arts? - My dad bought me a pair of boxing gloves when I was 8.
  4. Too many to list - but my teacher since 1973 in the Chinese arts has been and still is Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong of San Francisco - 
  5. What are your favorite martial arts? - those that require two people
  6. What is your advice to someone just starting to learn martial arts? - First half of your martial life, do all that you are told to do - no questions.  Last half of your martial life - question everything. 
  7. If you could start your training over from the beginning what would you change? - Not a darn thing!
  8. Where can we find more info about joining your classes? - on facebook at 'The Kwoon' or 
  9. What benefits have your martial arts training given you? - easier to list what benefits I never received.  I've found fame, glory, money, friends, piece of mind, self-confidence, love, and mostly - i found 'self'
  10. What would you like to see happen with martial arts in the coming years? - I would love to see the world recognize and understand the importance of the principles of martial arts and instill them into the educational systems of the world.  Wouldn't have to be the 'martial' aspect, but at least the principles.  No better people on the planet have I found than those in the arts - following 'the way'

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sun Style Tai Chi Applications

Here is a video of Sun Style Tai Chi martial arts applications!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Eating Bitter

In Chinese martial arts you often hear someone mention the words "Chi Ku." This means eating bitter. To eat your bitter means that you must devote time to long painful practice whether it is holding a particular posture (Zhan Zhuang) for a long time or repeating a particular movement say a kick for hundreds or thousands of times.
Most recently I have been training with my current instructor and he has been drilling me on my stances. Being a tall person I naturally neglected my stances. My newest teacher being a taskmaster instructed me to deepen my stances and improve my legs. I'm 36 years old as I'm writing this and have never really practiced much deep stance work. I am now doing the forms with my thighs nearly parallel to the floor and my muscles are screaming, the joints of my knees have ceased popping and now the stances are becoming more doable. But this has been one of the hardest lessons of my life. The learning to get low in a stance and thus cultivate more energy has improved my martial arts so very much.
I have had to eat my bitter and practice harder. This same teacher also instructed me to practice 250 punches and 250 kicks everyday. I have complied and after a few weeks of doing this my punches hit far harder and my kicks are getting faster and faster.
This kind of practice work... the stances, the basic techniques... this is the good stuff. We always want to get to the advanced stuff and after that more advanced stuff. As I grow older and grow into my art I find myself being brought back to the basics over and over. After 27 years of learning and practice it is always back to the basics! You have to keep your mind open and your spirit humble to embrace the basics again and again.
No matter what you do... strengthen the foundation and the whole building improves. Eat bitter and practice hard!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Martial Applications of Tai Chi

I made a video today of the martial applications of Yang Style Tai Chi! Enjoy!