Saturday, June 8, 2013

A moment

Tai Chi under the stars.
Tonight I felt the universe as close and intimate as my own pulse.
Thrumming through my veins
I felt the fire of the stars and the cold of the void
And rejected nothing.
The wind blew through me as my atoms danced apart
An endless loop of grasping sparrow's tail
I left the gossip and the worries behind
Shadow boxing beneath the stars
Health evaporated
Opponents vanished.
Heaven above
Earth below
Body empty and filled with glorious space.
The ocean rolled
The Palace beamed
Silence in the cave
The only prayer left was
I love you.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

None of My Business

There is an old saying that goes: Tend to your own knitting. This means that you need to take an interest in your own affairs and not be so keen to work on other people. When I first started learning Tai Chi and Qigong I was out to save the world with this powerful new set of tools that would revolutionize the way I experienced life. I was zealously working to spread the Tai Chi gospel of good health, long life, and strange nigh mystical powers to the whole wide world. In other words I had become an insufferable boor. 

The hard truth to accept is that many people do not want to hear about Tai Chi. They are comfortable with other forms of exercise or they have a paradigm that includes a different treatment protocol than what someone who embraces qigong and Chinese medicine would use. It took me many years to realize that this is ok.

There are in fact many cases where people like their illnesses and are defined by them. If those illnesses are taken away then a large portion of their personality is stripped away from them. I suppose the Buddhists were say that it is their Karma to experience such illness. The hardest thing in the world is to simply allow people to be and to accept them for who they are without judgement. I have been working with this concept a lot lately. 

When I teach martial arts one big thing that I often stress is you cannot control what your opponent does. You can however control your response to the attack. You have to accept the attack as it is. You do not fight against it. You have to flow with it or apply force at a point of your choosing. Never let your opponent dictate your actions and do not rely on your opponent reacting a certain way. In short you need to be open to what is actually happening and not thinking about your martial art, your plans, your ideas, your wishes about what the opponent is going to do.

There is a Daoist saying that says one should be like water. Beneficial but not pushy. Water sits in a pool or in a fountain and does not run and leap into a thirsty person's mouth. Water is passive but ever so powerful and beneficial. When we accept that there is only our life and our bodies and minds that we can control then we are in a place of power to be useful to the world just like water. When someone wants or needs help you provide it without being pushy. Otherwise it's none of your business...

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Courage of Early Morning

Napoleon supposedly said that the courage of early morning is the rarest courage of all. This is an interesting sentiment. I have always been a morning person. I enjoy waking up and working out. However there have always been people in my life for whom waking up seemed almost painful. Like some shocking dump into a nightmare world from the safety of dreams. Why is this?

I have several pet theories on this subject. One of which is that sleep is an escape from a life that one is unhappy with. We are all in prisons that we have created. Bad relationships, fears, phobias, illnesses and our response is to run away from these things. We have become very adroit escape artists each and every one of us. We fear a thousand million things we hide ourselves in the cloak of our anxieties. This is one of the supreme benefits of Tai Chi practice. 

Tai Chi forces us to be present. To be aware, to sit in the mind and the body observing what is happening. It forces us to feel and to be authentic and in the moment if it is real Tai Chi. It could just be a slow motion dance and that is cool too if you enjoy it but I think it is a nobler thing to pursue the warrior path in Tai Chi training. That we work to understand ourselves and the world around us and to blend harmoniously with that world in a spirit of loving cooperation rather than a controlling desire to manipulate outcomes. 

Alan Watts once said that the essence of power is trust. In order to be truly powerful we drop our carefully honed defenses and allow ourselves to trust. Trusting is a hard thing to do but if you drive a car then you do it all the time. You trust other drivers to know the rules and obey them in at least some half assed way. You trust that the little lines on the road are effective barriers to enforce safe traffic behavior. So if you can trust yourself and others to the point that you move around on freeways in large metal containers going roughly one mile per minute then why not trust yourself in other things? Look at the world not as you would like it to be but as it is currently. Only when you know exactly what is there can you decide what you want to do with it. Try this exercise. Observe your life for one week without judging any of it. Nothing is good or bad it simply is. Write this stuff down. There are no mistakes or wrong answers. No punishments need be levied nor rewards doled out. Try to change nothing. Just observe it. 

After your week of observation then you know exactly where you are. Now you can effectively look at changing the situation if that is what you would like.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Tai Chi Game

Tai Chi is an exercise, yes. Tai Chi has many benefits, yes. Tai Chi is much more important than these two things however. Tai Chi is a game. It is the game of getting to know your mind and body and relaxing into who and what you are. In Tai Chi we first learn drills and movements and those are good useful things but we go beyond those things after a bit and begin using the mind to influence the physical attributes and perceptions of the body.

This is where the cool stuff starts to happen. How can you receive a larger person's full bodyweight and not be knocked over? How can you explode energy outward and throw someone with extremely little effort? How can you learn to meet an attack whether emotional, mental, or physical with total relaxation and security in the fact that you will be safe? How can you learn to trust your body to do what needs to be done at the appropriate time without micromanagement?

The answer to all of these questions lies in learning genuine Tai Chi from a good teacher. There is nothing mystical about these skills. They are a part of every single human being. We don't need to fight but we do need to learn the martial tricks of Tai Chi in order to foster a better relationship with our minds and bodies. Meditation and yoga are fine tools for this purpose as well but because I am often quite skeptical Tai Chi worked better for me because there is an automatic feedback device. Need to know if a posture is correct? Have a partner push on you. Are you really relaxed? Play some push hands. These things provide reality checks beyond just our internal feelings and they are also a tremendous part of the game. So come on let's play.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

12 Essential Rules to Live More Like a Zen Monk : zenhabits

This is a fantastic article on how to gain some of the peace of mind through some easily practiced Zen methods.

12 Essential Rules to Live More Like a Zen Monk : zenhabits:

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Master Alex Dong - Slow set taiji 1st part - YouTube

Master Alex Dong - Slow set taiji 1st part - YouTube:

This is the very skilled Master Alex Dong performing the slow set of his family's Tai Chi. His great grandfather studied incredibly closely with Yang Cheng-fu from the Yang Style lineage and Master Li Xingyuan from the Hao Lineage. His family has produced many top notch teachers and they have a fantastic fast form set that must be seen to be believed.
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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Push Hands: Relaxation Therapy Martial Arts

In Tai Chi there is a practice that players have called Push Hands or Tui Shou. This practice involves two players touching hands and attempting to keep their own balance while putting the other opponent off balance. This is a pretty fun and neat game but too often it degenerates into some really bad Sumo wrestling. I have often told the story of how I like Yoga but I prefer Tai Chi because when I practiced Yoga I would be very calm and peaceful until someone came in and said something to annoy me. Tai Chi forced me to become comfortable with people even in the case of them touching me.
Many times when someone lays hands on us there is an automatic reaction to tense up and protect ourselves. Tai Chi Push Hands teaches us the very important lesson that this tensing up does nothing to protect us. It in fact makes it easier for our assailant to harm us. A good push hands friend of mine who is much better than I am taught me the valuable lesson that when you are being pushed you have to sense where the force is going in your body and then let go of that point of tension. This is a strange phenomenon and is better felt than explained. So we have this interesting concept where in order to defend ourselves we must relax and not fight against the person attacking us.
This concept is amazingly difficult to grasp. But let's take it out of the kung fu arena and into daily life. You come to you and yells: "Why did you screw up the paperwork on the Boberson account?" Everyone's natural reaction is to blow up and say: "How dare you speak to me that way! And I did not screw anything up!"
Now let's take this situation and say someone has come in yelling at you. They are insisting that you have screwed up in some way. Let's feel where this is hitting us. Is it my ego? I go there and relax that. Then I look at it again? Is it my feelings? I relax that. Then after going through my points of stress and dissolving them I can ask questions that will garner actual results. Asking questions and assessing rather than responding to an attack with a knee jerk attack reaction. This is the essence of push hands. Power and ability come not from being strong and hitting back but from learning and listening. You can then apply an attack of your own or allow the attacker to simply play out their attack while you remain centered and unharmed.
The paradox of Tai Chi is that power comes from relaxation and letting go. Not from pumping up and getting strong. This is the most useful lesson you can learn. Adapt, analyze, assess and do not panic.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Three Faces of Tai Chi: What benefits are you looking for?

After many years of teaching Tai Chi I have come to the conclusion that there are three different ways for people to benefit from the plethora of things that Tai Chi has to offer.

Tai Chi for Senior Citizens

The first group are Senior Citizens who need the gentle movements and stretches as well as the invaluable balance training and boost to the immune system. For these folks I give them traditional health exercises known as Tai Chi Qigong (pronounced "chee- gung") This usually makes them quite happy and they see many benefits from the practice. It's easy to remember and enriches the lives of those on the shady side of 70. You could practice this kind of course 3 times per week and get benefits.

Tai Chi for Health

The second group are younger folks usually between 40 and 70. These folks want to get some interesting exercise in a low impact way. Tai Chi is perfect for them. It consists of a short moving form and a lot of repetitions of basic moves. There is stance training and a lot of emphasis on mindful movement. You learn to make friends with your body and to work it out in a complete and holistic way. This kind of Tai Chi practice can really benefit your performance in other sports or activities as well as helping you rehab from injury faster.You could practice this kind of Tai Chi 3 times per week and get benefits.

Combat Tai Chi

The third group ranges from the very young up to some students who are past 70. This is the most diverse crowd I teach and they are interested in advanced Tai Chi. They go through the other stages yes but the eye is always on the prize of martial arts skill. These folks want to learn to do pushing hands (a two person exercise that leads to fighting skill), applications, and to use their bodies and minds to generate tremendous amounts of force with very little external movement. Students who take this approach are doing truly traditional Tai Chi. This kind of work takes commitment and practice but it will pay off with insights into the nature of mind and body, the subtleties of energy, and a world of self defense possibilities. However this kind of work requires daily practice.

Three levels of involvement in Tai Chi. Wonderful benefits to be had from all three. Tai Chi is a huge subject and its wonders are pretty much inexhaustible. Also the ages presented here are merely guidelines. I have a few folks in my combat classes who are past 70 and they can regularly throw around people twice their weight without a moment of strain. I have teenagers who just want to do Tai Chi for health and they enjoy it very much. Tai Chi has something to offer everyone from its three faces.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Health Benefits Of Tai Chi -

Health Benefits Of Tai Chi -

Check out this article on the benefits of Tai Chi practice. It is too valuable to miss.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Learn about your body: Fascia

For your enlightenment and education here is a wonderful anatomy lecture about why our current views on sports medicine and exercise need some serious revision. Check out all three parts. We work with the body in Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga as well as in all our other sports and exercises. Let's get to know more!

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy New Year! 2013 the Year of the Snake

Today is Chinese New Year and May your Year of the Black Water Snake be a happy and fulfilling one. For many Chinese martial artists there is the tradition of learning the Lion Dance to be performed during the various lunar festivals throughout the year. These dances are frenetic, flawlessly synchronized, and are incredilbe displays of athleticism. They are also monumental exercises in teamwork.

The head and tail of the lion have to work in harmony. The ego has to surrendered to the dance. Very often in martial arts we tend to forget the value of teamwork. In my school we practice a lot of sparring. However when we spar it is not a competition. It is not a fight. It is an exercise where we help each other learn. Many people value the idea of just putting on gloves and beating each other up but that is such a long and inefficient way to learn. Cooperative exercises develop self-defense skills far more efficiently and effectively than just jumping around and bashing.

Many people will argue that this is silliness and pure fantasy and that one cannot learn to fight this way. For them I point to the Muay Thai boxers of Thailand. When they practice they go easy on each other. They work on technique, they spar lightly, and they give each other feedback. The reason for this is very simple if a boxer gets hurt in practice then he loses out on the ability to fight in a match and matches are where the money is made. A single match can earn a successful fighter the equivalent of five years of wages. Muay Thai fighters are considered to be some of the best sport fighters in the world.

Teamwork involves working together to help other members of the team to improve and accomplish goals. This is often forgotten in today's fast paced overly-competitive world. Our combined efforts are so much greater than our individual attempts. The lone wolf or the star of the show idea is inefficient and leads us into alienation and loneliness. If we all work together like the head and tail of the lion then we can accomplish amazing things. So ask yourself today as we enter the Year of the Snake how you can work with others to accomplish greater things than you are capable of alone.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

When you just can't practice

I practice my Tai Chi and Kung Fu pretty extensively everyday. Everyone marvels at how disciplined I am about the whole thing. But the truth is it is just as hard for me to practice as it is for everyone else. One of my teachers once addressed this problem of just not wanting to practice. He suggested a wonderful method that helps me every time. Go to the place where you normally practice and gently talk with yourself about all the reasons you don't want to practice.

In my experience every time I do this I end up practicing. At first maybe just the Tai Chi form, or walking the  Bagua circle just a bit. By the end of the time I usually end up having practiced for an hour or more. Our minds are vast and complex. They are simply tools. If we put our awareness on our motives for not doing something we can usually tame the mind and do the exercise we have set ourselves to do.

For me today was like that with my kung fu practice. I had been experiencing a dry spell in writing and posting to this blog when the inspiration hit me. I could talk about the negative. The "I can't" syndrome. The whole idea that you can't do something or lack the time to do it is complete bull. The world is full of wonderful impossible people. Strive everyday to be one of them.

This video is about Yoga but really it applies to any exercise from running to Tae Kwon Do to Tai Chi.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Extraordinary Results

I'm starting to post a series of vids showing off the incredible feats that are possible through intense training. The motto I have adopted is that extraordinary results require extraordinary effort. Enjoy!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Extraordinary Results and Curing the Incurable

"What are you prepared to do?" -Sean Connery, Untouchables

If you look at Tai Chi and Qigong literature you will see stories of practitioners who cure themselves of incurable illnesses. These men and women cultivate their qi and beat the illness. Tai Chi and Qigong can help lots of illnesses such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, depression, diabetes, MS, Heart Disease, Cancer, Anxiety,and other physical and mental problems. There is even the potential for cure. Yes I said cure.

Just practicing Tai Chi and Qigong 20 minutes everyday or a few times a week is enjoyable and can yield great benefits. Curing an illness by these means requires far more commitment. As Mr. Robert W. Smith once wrote: "Commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved but the pig is committed." This is the attitude one must have if one wishes to defeat an illness. You have to be prepared to learn the methods of Qigong and Tai Chi and practice them very hard for at least an hour or two everyday. You have to work hard and sweat and labor. I was once part of the half hour per day Tai Chi will fix all my problems club. The truth is it ain't so. If you want to become strong and overcome your ailments (mine was extreme obesity brought on by poor diet and lack of hard work) then you have to be prepared to work very hard at your regimen.

You will have to alter your diet, you may very well need to consult with a good Oriental Medical Doctor. You will have to work for these extraordinary results. Too many times we see these arts as an easy way out an alternative to hard arduous exercise. But the truth is it's another kind of exercise. A brilliant wonderful mindful exercise but you still have to work hard.

I advocate that rather than seeing things as alternatives in terms of health and exercise look at each one as a tool. I love the Tai Chi, Qigong, and Martial Arts tools they help me achieve my goals. Those are tools in a toolbox that I use to maintain and improve my state of wellness. I can still use Western Medicine if I choose. I can go to an herbalist, a chiropractor, or acupuncturist as well. I can consciously choose what I want to eat. I can take walks, meditate, practice yoga. These are all tools that can help me to live well.

The key is that cures and improvement are possible. Even if you never get that cure you still get the benefit of your efforts. A cure is an extraordinary result and extraordinary results require extraordinary effort. So then what are you prepared to do?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Tai Chi is a Martial Art

Here is a nice little example of Tai Chi fighting

I was talking with a friend today who happens to be a skilled Tae Kwon Do practitioner. He was chuckling as I mentioned that Tai Chi is a very powerful martial art. I asked him why he was laughing. He was under the impression that Tai Chi was a no contact discipline. Tai Chi has a good and well deserved reputation as a meditative health exercise but it is more than that. It is a powerful fighting art.

Most people want to learn Tai Chi for health. That's good and it's ok. You simply attend a class, learn some gentle movements, breathe deeply, and come away satisfied. However there is more to Tai Chi than health practices.

With proper training a Tai Chi practitioner becomes an incredibly powerful and capable martial artist. The quality of touching hands with a good Tai Chi player are a feeling of softness coupled with an iron like immovability. Wherever you attempt to touch him or her your force just falls into emptiness. You push as hard as you can on them but your force never reaches their body and pushes them over. Then they can without warning strike or push you with tremendous power that can knock you back or take you to the ground in agony. If you try to grapple them you find that your best throws don't affect them they are incredibly strong and heavy no matter how big or small they may be. Their power is subtle and goes beyond simple understandings of muscle and mechanics. Tai Chi and the other internal Chinese martial arts Xingyi and Bagua are truly beyond the normal experience one has with martial arts.

Beyond the form and the healing exercises Tai Chi has a two person practice called push hands. Push hands is an exercise that teaches you to relax and adhere to Tai Chi principles all while being touched and pushed by a partner.

After Push Hands you move on to learning San Shou or free fighting. This is where you take the lessons learned in form and push hands and apply them to an opponent situation. Without proper two person training Tai Chi can never be a martial art.

Aside from the form and two person exercises there are training methods to help build a Tai Chi body. The kind of body that creates the qualities I have described earlier. Tai Chi is definitely a martial art and a very powerful one.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tai Chi, Awareness, and Healing

Tai Chi is a fantastic way to start your morning. It makes you breathe deeply, move slowly with awareness and causes you to wake up and become more accustomed to the activity of the day. It's fun and the intensity can range from a gentle flow to a hard core workout with your leg muscles screaming from keeping a deep stance. Even if you don't feel like practicing a whole form take one move and practice it over and over investing your awareness into the exercise.

Awareness is so important. I used to relax and focus. I then learned to think of and feel energy moving. Now I use the more direct and useful method of shifting my awareness from place to place. In qigong circles there is the saying that where the mind goes energy follows. I have come to feel that mind isn't the best way to state this. Awareness is better. You can be aware of your mind, or your hand, or a tree in the distance. Imagining something happening, say a stream of light or some other image creates an expectation and that expectation creates unnecessary anxiety in many folks (myself included).

Awareness has a profound effect on healing. When I had a headache I used to try to imagine healing energy going there. Sometimes it would help but most of the time my head just kept hurting. Then I discovered that if I simply became aware of my head, really felt the headache and paid attention to it without judging or taking action then the headache simply went away. There was no need to try to make something happen. Just breathe and observe. In Chinese medical terms my energy followed my awareness and healed the problem that was causing the headache. This was really a fantastic breakthrough for me.

In martial arts when I want to hit something I put my awareness through it or inside of it. In qigong I move my awareness through my body and it experiences healing and comfort. In relationships there is peace to the level that I am aware of the other person. The mind is constantly moving. It is never silent until of course you move your awareness away from it. Then it can keep on blabbering but your awareness, that essential you that observes, has moved on to another thing. This observer viewpoint is incredibly powerful and is a wonderful thing to explore. Your ticket to controlling consciousness is not so much beating it into shape but controlling where you put your awareness without judgement.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ip Chun, Son of Ip Man

It's been a long week and I'm gonna update you more on it in coming posts. Here though is the awesome and spry Ip Chun imparting words of wisdom about Wing Chun Kung Fu. His attitudes apply to all martial arts. Until next time practice hard!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Inner Power and Master Yuanxia Zhang

My friend and Tai Chi colleague Mr. Lester Holmes posted this video on his Facebook feed this morning and it was too good not to share. The vid comes from Mr. Novell Bell. Novell is an excellent martial artist and a very good teacher. Check him out! Without further ado here is the video of Master Yuanxia Zhang, he is discussing Xingyiquan (Mind Shape Fist), using the whole body, health, and inner power. This is premium stuff.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Me, Punching, and Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee looking awesome because real badasses smile and show respect!

Bruce Lee once said: "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."

Like most martial artists I am a bit of a Bruce Lee fan. He was a pretty cool actor and his athleticism was impressive. He had some Traditional martial training but never completed it according to many sources so he had to kind of piece together the rest of his martial training which was geared for looking great in movies. Nothing wrong with that. The other side to Lee however was apparently his basics served him in good stead because most folks report that he could punch and kick with more force than almost anyone they had ever encountered. I think a lot of this power came not from his learning background but the man's sheer tenacity and demanding work ethic.

So I decided to test out the 10,000 times rule. I started practicing my basic punching and blocking combinations from White Crane Kung Fu. I started at doing 120 per day. That set of 120 felt great. So I did two sets... finally I worked up to doing 10 sets per day. That is 1200 punches performed slowly and with an eye on getting all the basics of posture, movement, and relaxation in order. In typical Chinese martial arts fashion I vowed to do these 1200 punches every single day for 100 days. At the end of this period I will have thrown 120,000 punches with perfect form. In the 11 days I've been doing these simple punches I have managed to improve my power, speed, and ease of delivery. I am able to knock down a 350 lbs. partner bracing himself with a pad with a nice effortless punch. I'm looking forward to seeing where I can go from here.

An added benefit of this insane punch regimen is that I am getting more endurance and my shoulders and abdomen are getting stronger. I think that the 1000 slow reps of any skill regardless of martial art is a good idea. If nothing else it gives you more movement in your day. Something we in the modern world desperately need.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Art Never Fails

I was pondering today upon what makes up martial arts. Soldiers get hand to hand combat training in their Basic Training regimen. Some basic self defense can be taught in an good 8 week course. Cardio Kickboxing is a great way to get out your aggression and get some cardio done. But martial artists spend years learning and practicing. Contemplating this has led me to the conclusion that the purpose of the martial arts is the pursuit of excellence.

Military training, self defense, and exercise are worthy goals but they are not actually martial arts. They are activities. A true martial artist falls in love with the martial arts and works hard to perfect his or her skills. Whether it is kung fu, Tai Chi, Karate, MMA, Aikido, or anything else we work hard to perfect the techniques, the fundamentals. In MMA that would be learning proper techniques and conditioning so that one excels at ring fighting. In Karate one practices mainly blocking and punching. In Tai Chi we practice producing effortless power and neutralizing an opponent.

The problem is that when we fail to stop an MMA player or a karate-ka we get the idea that we need to focus on studying the art that defeated us. That is just silly and is a waste of time. You need to focus on the art you love and work harder. Condition yourself practice until the art works to stop your opponent no matter what they happen to do. If a Brazilian Jujitsu player takes you down then work on neutralizing his grab and beating the snot out of him before he can use his techniques. If that pesky Tai Chi guy trounced the BJJ player then the BJJ player needs to work harder on perfecting his techniques.

If a Karate-ka claims that his or her system is about one hit, one kill then he or she needs to prove that by simply taking out an opponent carrying a pad with one swift punch. If you cannot knock someone holding a pad off of their feet then you have failed in the objective you were training for.

Most often this failure comes from the refusal to work hard enough. A martial artist is like any other artist. You must practice the art until you become a master of it. You may be talented but without practice your talent will never blossom. Choose your martial art and practice hard. Repeat the moves and techniques thousands of times, spar with all opponents, learn how the techniques work. Eat, breathe, and sleep your art. This is how Martial Artists are made and there are no shortcuts. Remember we as people fail but the arts never fail. You either practice hard or you don't.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fu Zhong Wen- the Tiger at the Gate

Master Fu Zhong Wen was an amazing Tai Chi practitioner. He started learning Yang Style Tai Chi from the tender age of nine years old. His teacher was none other than Yang Cheng Fu, the grandson of the Founder Yang Lu Chan. By all accounts Fu was very very skilled at Tai Chi and he has been referred to as Yang Cheng Fu's "Tiger at the Gate" because when people would come to challenge the grandmaster he would let them get soundly thrashed by Fu Zhong Wen.
Fu came from the old school of Chinese martial arts where challenges were pretty common place. We are very lucky to have video of him. Check it out here he is at an advanced age moving so well and so beautifully. This is him doing the Yang Style 108 form and it is gorgeous. His son, Fu Sheng Yuan, is living and teaching in Australia today keeping up the family tradition of excellence in Tai Chi.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Four Basic Rules of Self Defense

Here are four basic rules to start you on the path to creating a wise and reasonable self defense plan.

1. Walk away if you can. I cannot stress this one enough. Do not get into a fight just because you have learned a few self defense techniques. Avoid conflict if you can. Any conflict carries with it risk no matter how skillful you are. Your life and health are too precious to waste on proving a point or avenging some slight to an imaginary thing called honor. For years I had people ask me what I would do if someone came up and insulted me or my mother or America or whatever. I always answer: laugh and walk away. Life is too short to defend concepts. If there is a real physical threat, by all means defend yourself but if someone is insulting you just let it go. So to reiterate if you can walk away do so.

2. Don't argue with guns and knives. This is really a no brainer. This is not TV. Knife and bullet wounds suck horribly. You often won't survive an attack with one of these implements. Just do ask your attacker says and let them go. This works in cases of robbery. Just give them the wallet. your wallet is not more valuable than your life. The big exception to this rule is if your attacker tries to take you somewhere. Your chances of survival drop significantly if you are being taken to a new location. In this case some knowledge of firearms and blades is your best bet. Know what you might be facing and you can make an informed decision on your plan of action.

3. Don't make threats. This is just really stupid. If someone bumps into you, cuts you off on the freeway, or in some other way damages your calm simply ignore it and move on. First, you never know what that person is capable of if insulted. They could have a concealed handgun, a knife, or be just plain old reckless and homicidal. Second, if you are going to fight someone it is tactically a huge mistake to say: I'm gonna kick your ass. This gives them a warning and any tactician will tell you that 99% of warfare is deception.

4. Be prepared mentally, physically, and tactically. Have a plan for self defense situations. Learn self defense scenarios and play them out with a friend and then mentally over and over and over. If you practice a lot then every practice reduces the panic reaction you can have when dealing with an attacker.

These four simple rules are a good start to gaining streetwise self defense. You can protect yourself if you learn the rules and back them up with action. Learn how to punch, how to kick, how to aim for targets and how to escape from holds. You don't have to get a black belt but you do have to do some work. The work of learning to protect yourself is work well worth doing.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Natural Remedies for Depression

Depression is severe despondency and dejection, accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. It is also defined as a condition of mental disturbance, typically with lack of energy and difficulty in maintaining concentration or interest in life.

WebMD lists the common causes of depression here. The purpose of this post is not to debate causes of depression or the merits of various treatments. The purpose is to increase your awareness and give you tools that can be used in your battle with this very real and serious problem.

Many people with depression issues experience mood swings. There are dietary factors that you can control that may aid in easing these sudden mood changes. Blood sugar levels can be a major factor in the rapid changes of mood many people experience. You drink a soft drink, have some candy, or even fruit juice and this causes a temporary high feeling that creates a false sense of energy and well being. This feeling lasts until the pancreas kicks in and releases a large burst of insulin to compensate for the large amount of sugar you just took in. This insulin spike can cause depression, fatigue, bad temper, and numerous other ill effects. Cutting out sugars and pursuing a balanced diet can work wonders for stabilizing the emotions.

A great quick remedy for depression is deep breathing. Indian yogis have a saying that goes if you control your breath you control your destiny. In my experience this is precisely the case. Asian medical paradigms say that oftentimes depression is caused by insufficient qi or prana. The common thread between the ideas of qi and prana are that both come from the breath.

The technique for using the breath to combat depression is simple. Select a quiet place and sit with a straight back. Breathe deeply inflating your belly and then your lungs and then breathe all the way out emptying lungs and belly.
Breathe in, then hold for a little bit, then breathe out.
As you breathe in, think that all good things are entering your body.
As you breathe out, think that all the bad things in your body are leaving.
Try this for a few minutes and you will notice many positive effects.

Other tools in your anti-depression toolbox are: regular exposure to sunshine, exercise that raises your heart rate, doing something creative (writing, painting, doodling, singing, etc.), and acupressure.