Newsletter #45 - April 2005
In this issue:
-- FROM ME TO YOU by Dr Lam
-- TAI CHI OUT OF THE BOX by Caroline Demoise
-- Q AND A by Dr Lam
-- SUCCESS AGAINST ALL ODDS by David Dean, OAM
-- TAI CHI HUMOR
Click on the title to read the article, and here to read previous newsletters
I have just started my two-month global tai chi tour. Hope to see you in one of my workshops. You can find the list of my workshops and those of my authorized master trainers from this link.
Over last two years I have re-discovered my love for photography. Looking at photos of the past workshops reminds me of the people and their positive energy; the scenery brings me back the countries. And then there are the flowers. They're something else! Each one is beautiful, each one is unique. Tai chi is like a flower. Each time you practice or perform is unique. Since we're all different, we express our tai chi and beauty in our own ways. Each time you practice, explore within yourself and appreciate the depth and beauty of your own tai chi.
See if you can see the beauty of the flowers and of the tai chi people from my recent New Zealand and Victoria workshops. And be sure to check out the photos of the Botanical Garden in Wellington NZ where my friend Sue took me.
This month Tai Chi Out of the Box is featuring the last article of this series. Caroline is going to tell us about her journey in tai chi. I would like to challenge you to think outside the box. If you have not tried tai chi, this is the time to do so. If you practice one style, and believe that your style is the best and no other is any good, try opening your mind and taking a look at other tai chi ideas. Each style has its unique features and great points. We can enrich ourselves by learning from each other and at the same time acknowledge each other's greatness.
Many people ask about the tai chi sword. Let me know if the answer in our Q & A is helpful to you.
Apart from FAQ (frequently asked questions), there is an item at the left navigational bar of this website called "Articles." You can find articles that might help you understand and improve your tai chi, such as how to start learning tai chi, what clothes to wear, how to improve your tai chi, and so on.
The Tai Chi for Diabetes handbook is just off the press. It's similar to the Tai Chi for Arthritis handbook, but written specifically for instructors and students of the Tai Chi for Diabetes program. It's light, easy to use, and complementary to the video or DVD. It contains 150 photos, 80 pages covering the following:
- What is Tai Chi?
- What is Diabetes?
- How Does Tai Chi Work for Diabetes?
- Warm-up Exercises
- Revised Warm-up Exercises
- Qigong for Diabetes
- The Basic Set
- The Advanced Set
- Wind-down Exercises
- How to Improve Your Tai Chi
The cost is USD $9.95. It's going to be part this month's feature package. If you wish to order 10 or more copies of this book in one order, we will give you for this month only a 30% discount and free postage. Please enter the comment section in your order "new05" as this newly released product order code.
This month's feature products:
1. Tai Chi for Diabetes handbook (NEW): Designed to assist people who are learning the program through a class or from the instructional video/DVD. It contains photos of all movements, instructions and articles. $9.95
2. Tai Chi for Diabetes DVD or video: A step-by-step instructional tape designed to improve and prevent diabetes. USD$24.95
3. The Tai Chi Music CD: The only tai chi music created from working at the actual tai chi rhythm and energy. $15.95
The complete package: USD$35.00 (Normally $51.90. You save $16.90.)
Click this link for more info or to place your order: https://www.taichiproductions.com/shop/product.php?product=68
Please enter the special package code "Special04" on the comment section.
Next month I shall show you some of the Tai Chi series of sculptures by the famous artist Juming, and how he expressed the integration of body and mind through his work.
Paul Lam MD
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Tai Chi is an inward journey. It is your personal journey and it feels to me like a transformational process that occurs on many levels. Let's look at some of the common transformations that happen on the physical, mental and spiritual level.
On the physical level, Tai Chi is a process of gradual change from stiffness to flexibility; from a relatively deconditioned state to improved fitness and from poor or average health to much better health. Over the months and years, we see a transformation from disconnected body movements to coordinated, fluid, full body movements.
When I was in college, young and supposedly coordinated and healthy, I took golf as one of my required physical education credits. What I discovered was that my coordination left something to be desired and on the final exam, which was to play 9 holes of golf, I was the very last person around the course. I was surprised at my lack of coordination. Forty five years later, I moved into a golf course community and was asked by my new friends if I wanted to play golf. I decided to take a lesson with the golf pro to see if there was any hope at all for me and the sport of golf. The lesson was very revealing. I was pleased at how well I was able to hit the ball following the pro's instructions. His comment to me at the end of the lesson was that I should be able to learn to play reasonably well in a relatively short period of time. Was he talking to the same person who took golf 45 years ago? Why was the experience so different? Then I realized it was the 20 years of Tai Chi, of having learned to focus and follow the arm movements with my eyes. Tai Chi had helped me become more coordinated and my golf game improved without ever playing golf.
On the mental level, we can observe the transformation from mindless movement to moving with intention directing our body. In Tai Chi we can shift from the computer functioning mode of the mind to awareness mode and focus on how we move and how the body feels as it moves. Another transformation that we experience is from a noisy, cluttered mind to a quiet, calm, still, focused mind giving us the benefits associated with more meditative states.
On the spiritual level, we can pursue the transformation from an ego/judgment based reality to a reality of clarity, awareness and compassion. Many people are focused on the effects that Tai Chi has on the body and do not let Tai Chi work on the mind and spirit in this way. But it is my experience that the deeper levels of Tai Chi take us into the territory of spiritual practice. With practice, we also notice the transformation from unconscious movement to being PRESENT in the body, fully aware of the many nuances of feeling and movement.
During the practice of Tai Chi, it is possible to shift from primary awareness of the material world to being more grounded in the spiritual world and being in the state that people call "Samadhi". The first time I experienced this state was on the campus of UCSD in San Diego. Toward the end of the Tai Chi class, I had popped through the veil and felt myself in the spiritual world where I experienced absolutely no separation from nature, from trees, from clouds, from people. The remarkable thing about this state was that there was no agenda in my mind. The computer functioning of the mind had transformed into BEING, a state very different from thinking. Anything related to time or living in society had taken a back seat to just being in the pure joy of awareness and experiencing connection with nature. No one taught me how to do this. It just came as part of the benefits of regular practice following Tai Chi principles. Over the years, as I have stumbled upon this state again and again, the transformational process feels more like one reality dissolving into the other. The transition between realities is slower and more seamless.
These transformational processes are part of the internal development available through Tai Chi practice. Developing the internal is your responsibility. It is the gift you are giving yourself through the study of Tai Chi. No one can do it for you. A teacher can show you the movements and provide feedback on your process of learning. A teacher can give you technical corrections, guidance on the internal components of Tai Chi and see the results of your practice, but you are the one who must have the desire to pursue the internal. When you have the desire to improve your Tai Chi and diligently follow Tai Chi principles in your practice, you can experience these transformational changes in your body and in your life.
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Q: Dr Lam, what should I consider when purchasing a tai chi sword?
A: There are many types of tai chi swords and it's good that you asked this question because there are several things to be considered. Let me list a few important ones.
1. The length. If you carry the sword with your left hand as shown in my 32 Tai Chi Sword video, the tip of the sword should be at the middle of your left ear lobe.
2. The weight. A light sword is preferable. Remember that you are going to swing that sword around frequently as you practice so lighter usually is better as long as the sword is well balanced.
Many nice looking swords are produced for decoration, some of which are very heavy. There are also swords produced for combat. I would definitely not recommend them for practise.
Wooden swords is a good option since it is less likely to injure you or other people but you need to be careful that it has a user-friendly handle and the weight balance is right.
3. The quality of the handle needs to be considered carefully. You need to understand how to hold the sword properly so that you can try out the sword to see if you can manipulate it easily. A couple of years ago, I had an article published in the Tai Chi magazine about how to hold a sword. Below is part of that article. Contact Tai Chi magazine for the full article with photos at www.tai-chi.com.
There are many different methods of using the sword such as thrusting forwards and cutting upward. The sword must be held in a very flexible way so the grasp can be changed to execute different methods of usage swiftly when the need arrives.
One must avoid using harsh force. Harsh force will make the muscles tense and the wrist tight, and hinder the flow of the internal force. To hold the sword properly, one needs the flexibility of the wrist as well as the fingers.
There are three main ways to hold the sword.
1. Carrying a sword with your left hand, assuming the right hand is your dominant hand. Your thumb on one side, middle finger and ring finger on the other side of the guard and the index finger straightened and rested on the handle. Usually you carry the sword in the left-hand vertical to the ground with the tip of the sword facing upwards and the sword is hidden behind your left arm.
2. When you are practicing with the sword using the right hand, place the middle finger and the ring finger on one side and thumb on the other side of the handle. Hold the handle as close to the guard as possible with these fingers and use mainly these three fingers to hold the sword. The index and the little fingers should be resting beside them stretched but relaxed, tightened or moved on when needed. The index finger and the thumb are often resting on the guard. The palm should be hollow in the sense that the palm should not be tightly against the handle of the sword.
3. Hold the sword fairly tightly with all the fingers together, all fingers on the handle. This method is only used occasionally, when you need to deliver force.
More well designed practise swords are coming out of China. But before buying one, I would recommend taking a friend who knows about swords or else buy a cheap one to start with. Use it for practise and as your skill and knowledge improves, it will be easier for you to choose the right sword.
Also, I find that it useful to use a tennis grip to wrap the handle of the sword. It feels comfortable and easier to hold. I like the idea of combining modern technology to improve the ancient art of tai chi.
I would also recommend practising tai chi for a year or two before you start learning a set of tai chi sword forms. The tai chi fist form should be the main component of your tai chi practice. You need to reach a certain proficiency level before you can extend your internal force and your energy to a weapon. Like most things we do in tai chi, it's much better to take your time and build a good foundation rather than rushing. You achieve more in the long run.
Become proficient with the 24 Forms before you tackle the 32 Sword. And at the advanced level; learn the 42 Combined Fist Forms before the 42 Combined Sword Forms.
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By David J. Dean, OAM.
When I was due to retire at the age of 65, I was faced with arthritis problems that severely limited my activities and abilities. I could hardly walk. I wouldn't go shopping because I couldn't walk from the car park to the shops.
I say I couldn't walk. I really should say I wouldn't walk. Why? First because of severe pain, and second in the mistaken belief that nothing could be done for me and that exercise would exacerbate the situation.
The main reason I was disabled was because of laminectomies some seven years prior. Whenever I attended exercise classes that involved twisting the back, i.e. water aerobics, I had problems afterwards. I really was in the depths of despair, depression personified. Fortunately I saw an advertisement in our local paper for an Arthritis Self Management program that was being conducted at our local Community Centre. In sheer desperation I enrolled in this course. In the first week they had me walking for four minutes, three times a week, one minute slow, two minutes a little faster and one minute slow. By the end of the six-week course I was walking for 20 minutes. I've never looked back
When the South Australia Arthritis Foundation put on a demonstration of Tai Chi for Arthritis at Adelaide Golf Lands, I was invited to go along. Rosemary Palmer's group was doing the instruction and that's where I found that by simply lifting my right heel when turning left and lifting the left heel when turning right, my back remained straight. Oh, if only I had found that out before!
The following year Dr. Lam came to Adelaide to teach people to become instructors. I wasn't sure if I'd pass the course but since one of the criteria was knowledge of arthritis as well as understanding the limitations of people with arthritis, well, I knew I had a pretty good chance of passing. (I've had osteoarthritis for about 30 years.)
Now I conduct three Tai Chi for Arthritis (TCA) classes for people between the ages of 55 and 92. One group, which I call the Elite group, has been with me from the outset. I am also an accredited instructor for Easy Moves for Active Aging. I've walked City to Bay (12Km) walks, Masters Games in the 5 and 10 km. walks, but the best walk I ever did was just 500 metres, and that was carrying the Torch in the 2000 Olympic Torch relay.
I was nominated and selected to carry the torch not only for the volunteer work I do for the Arthritis Foundation as a councilor/advisor on their Help Line but also as an accredited course leader in their self management programs, and a speaker on their speakers panel. Apart from that. I am the co-coordinator of the largest support group in South Australia. We have been going for just over six years and for the last two years we've had a waiting list to join.
This isn't to say it has all been easy. I've had some glitches, like a neck fusion, major back surgery, total replacement of my right hip and both knees, prostate cancer, a second replacement of my left knee, carpal tunnel operations on both wrists, frozen shoulder manipulations, contracting a second type of arthritis, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, and a second replacement of my right knee. But each time, the techniques I learned from that original Self Management Course with tai chi enabled me to cope and bounce back.
My primary reward for my community service (and tai chi is certainly among the top) is the appreciation of the participants. And there have been many recognitions as well. But the two most valued are the Centenary Medal two years ago and this year to be honoured by being awarded the Order of Australia Medal.
I must stress that none of this would have been possible without the original Arthritis Self Management Course that completely changed my life 13 years ago. So you can see that I owe an awful lot to the Arthritis Foundation and of course to Rosemary Palmer, and to Dr. Lam for giving me the opportunity to become a Tai Chi for Arthritis instructor. I started a new career at the age of 76. Because I found and realised the effectiveness of both courses, I can teach my students sincerely and enthusiastically. Thank you.
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One of my class participants said to me: "This Tai Chi must be working!"
I said:"Why do you say that?"
Her reply:" I tried to fall over, but I can't."
By a Tai Chi for Arthritis instructor in NZ.
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END OF NEWSLETTER
Warning: Dr. Lam does not necessarily endorse the opinion of other authors. Before practicing any program featured in this newsletter, please check with your physician or therapist. The authors and anyone involved in the production of this newsletter will not be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any injury which may arise as a result of following the instructions given in this newsletter.