Newsletter #26 - September 2003
- My Tour and the Unique Huon Pine from Tasmania by Dr Paul Lam
- Proof is in the Study by Dr Paul Lam
- Tai Chi for Enhancing Athletic Performance - By Sifu Dan Jones
- Five Magic Formulas to Lose Weight - By Dr Soraya Lingbeek
- How to Accumulate Jing - By Dr Soraya Lingbeek
- My Experience at the Perth Workshop - By Pat Webber
The first day of our Tasmanian trip. My wife, her friend and me arrived in Hobart and visited a local winery called Huon Village. We not only enjoyed tasting the boutique wines but we also accidentally ran into Lynne Foster, a past participant from last year's workshop. Having worked with so many people, I often run into past participants in the most unexpected places!
After our visit to the winery, we drove to our bed and breakfast lodging in Richmond. Richmond is a small suburb with about 10 boutique shops. Our accommodation was called "The Milhouse on the Bridge." This stone bridge is the oldest bridge in Australia, and I think it was built by convicts. The river was absolutely beautiful. I have I never seen so many noisy ducks enjoying themselves.
As we strolled through the shops, we came across a well-hidden walkway lined with trees. We were curious and decided to investigate. It's lucky we did because we discovered a place called Old Hobart Town. There, we met the builder/creator of this model town; a young man named Andrew who had worked with his father for two years. They had researched the libraries and many historical sites to build this miniature version of what Hobart was in the early days. It's a wonderful experience to see Hobart (see photos)-the bonsai trees and the models are realistic and historical. We saw a model woman killing a snake, convicts trying to escape jail and criminals being flogged publicly. We found it amazing that this model town, so well recreated, is hidden in a small town. We thought that it should have been in Hobart, although it's only a 20-minute drive from Richmond to Hobart.
Later that day we drove to Launceston and stopped to visit our friend, Kevin, who's a carpenter. He specialises in using a turner to create his works. Kevin is a top-class craftsman and his work is beautiful. He gave us an interesting lesson on the rarity of Huon pine. Huon pine is found only in Tasmania, nowhere else in the world. It takes over 1,000 to 5,000 years for the tree to fully mature. Because many of these pines were cut down, there are now very few left even though the law now prohibits logging. The law probably came too late. The wood has already become very rare.
Huon pine has a beautiful look and its own characteristic smell, which is very pleasant. The smell also drives away silverfish and insects so silverfish don't eat Huon pine furniture. It's nature's nicest repellent. Once made into furniture, the wood initially has a light colour, but after a few years, the fresh-pine look turns golden and can last forever as long as you take care of it since it's softwood. And just a bit of trivia. For those of you who read my first story about Tasmania, the ballroom in Tasmania's Government House has the biggest Huon pine floor in the world. We thoroughly enjoyed our lesson on Huon pine and took the opportunity to purchase some Huon pine bowls and plates.
Next month I will continue to tell you about my workshop in Launceston and how the peacock was thought to lose its beautiful tail.
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Tai chi is an ancient form of moving meditation and relaxation. It is a Chinese exercise and martial art with a history dating back thousands of years. Over 300 million people around the world practice it as an effective exercise for mind and body. The movements are done in a slow relaxed manner and are combined with deep, relaxed breathing. Adding an internal exercise like tai chi to an athletic training program helps to achieve a more balanced approach to sports training. When I use the term internal exercise, I am referring to an exercise that utilizes the mind, body and Qi to perform movements. External exercises are primarily dependent upon strength and speed.
Qi is the life force that flows throughout the body. It is the foundation of traditional Chinese medicine. It's also an accepted practice in many areas of western medicine. If the flow of qi is sluggish or blocked, the body's ability to perform physical and mental tasks is greatly diminished. Practicing tai chi builds up an abundant reservoir of qi in the body. It restores and maintains a strong, steady flow of qi throughout the body allowing it to perform at optimum levels. Strength and cardio training do a very good job at preparing the body for competitive sports. Incorporating tai chi into a training regimen enhances the balance, safety and effectiveness of the training. Athletes also gain an understanding and working knowledge of the concept of "Yin and Yang" which states that everything holds it's opposite. This is demonstrated, in the tai chi form, by the constant shifting of weight from one leg to the other. Continued practice of the form will eventually instill an instinctive sense of when to move and when to be still, when to use strength and when to relax, when to move forward and when to move back, when to go left and when to go right, when to go through and when to go around, etc. Tai chi is a very balanced and harmonious way for athletes to enhance their athletic instincts and abilities.
Tai chi training teaches athletes to utilize mind and body in all their movements. This greatly enhances your focus by keeping you in the moment. You have to think about what you're doing when performing tai chi. This greatly improves mind and body coordination. Being in the moment while participating in athletic events results in a great performance almost every time. Moving in a slow, relaxed manner, during tai chi practice, enhances body awareness and balance which could greatly reduce the likelihood of mistakes and injuries. Athletes are able to perform at optimum levels when their minds and bodies are in harmony and move as one.
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All readers must consult your doctor before engaging in the activities described in this article, readers who engage in these activities do so at their own risk.
Dr.Soraya Lingbeek is an internist and exercise physiologist trained in France and USA. She conducts research on the effects of T'ai Chi Chuan on cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood fats. Although she practices and teaches different styles of T'ai Chi Chuan, Chen style and martial arts remain her favorite.
Formula no.1: Liquid intake
Drink at least 2 Litre water, herbal Western or Chinese tea daily. Always carry a bottle of water to your work along with 2 lemons. Press lemon juice into your water. Lemons contain the precious anti-oxidant vitamin C, which strengthens your immune system against colds and flu. When exercising it would be good to drink a lot to prevent dehydration.
Formula no. 2.: Do not overdo
Train but not strain. When you exercise beyond your capacity and you start puffing heavily then this is a sign that you are burning glucose instead of fat. Roughly you start to burn glucose when your pulse reach 130 bps. This can be measured more accurately by a doctor using lactate blood tests.
Formula no. 3: Breathing
The slow, even and deep breathing from Tai Chi will produce energy to burn fat in the cells. You will need a high amount of oxygen to do this. In these stressful days people forget to breathe properly. A sedentary lifestyle will close up the lungs. Breathing becomes shallow (chest breathing) while using the accessory breathing muscles located on the shoulders and chest. The main breathing muscle is the diaphragm and to use this one must breathe deeply from the abdomen. Approximately 8 l of air pro inhalation is needed to "fire" the mitochondria (cells) to burn fat. Instead, you only send 2 Litre to your 70 billions of cells. Your body will burn glucose and produce toxic acid by-products. Come forward and light up your metabolic fire!!!!!
Formula no. 4: Protein intake instead of fat and refined carbohydrates
Have you ever seen Asterix and Obelix's magic drink? Well, there is nothing magic about this because this is nothing else than a protein drink. Protein is the main substance to build up muscle cells. Energy is needed to burn protein and this is taken from the fat cells.
Formula no. 5: "Feel" slim
Do you feel overweight and unattractive?
Studies have shown that people who feel overweight generally have problems to lose weight. So make yourself look slim.
1. Running shoes make you feel fit and agile.
2. Black or dark clothes make you look slim
3. A shirt/dress with V-shaped neck makes you look slender
4. Good posture, straight back and depressed chest makes your belly disappear. This is best achieved by Tai Chi practice.
Tai Chi and healthy foods will definitely help you to feel better and lose weight
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Before following any statements given in this article please discuss it with your family MD or teacher first.
Directing chi to any part of the own or at the opponent's body at will is the highest achievement of a Tai Chi Chuan practitioner. This can be used for all sorts of purposes, health and combat alike. Chi can be directed at arthritic joints, aching stomach and many other sick parts. When the goal is health this can be learnt through easier and shorter forms such as Tai Chi for Arthritis or Tai Chi for Diabetes. When I have stomach pain or headache I practice TCA or TCD and direct my chi directly to various local and remote acupuncture points involved in this condition.
However when chi is not concentrated in the dantian area at the beginning of each movement, it can never be conducted to whatever direction. This is more difficult than people may think. The best way to train this is through stationary push-hands routines. If you don't have a partner to push hands with there are a few other exercises with a non-Tai Chi partner:
I stand with feet together, eyes straight ahead with chin slightly tucked in, back straight, body and mind relaxed but not floppy like a noodle. Waist, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands relaxed but firm. The mind is determined (yi) and expressed through the eyes. I focus my thoughts of chi to the dantian, an area 3-fingerbreadth below the belly button. Then I let my partner push my chest with very little strength at the beginning and gradually increase the pressure. One of the core aspects of Tai Chi Chuan is that one should never be intimidated under pressure, continue to relax, breathe deeply and get hold of the 10 essential principles. I found it very helpful to keep thinking from the dantian and tell myself with all my intention that nothing can ever happen to me and push me out of alignment.
NEVER think from the point of contact. This point is on the chest, exactly at the spot where your partner pushes you with his hand. The harder the pressure becomes the more I think of not having a chest and this point being non-existent. Instead, I try to deflect my opponent's attack using my mind with the force coming from the waist. Alternatively your partner can try to bent your back or push your shoulders against the wall.
Internal closing force
After reading Kam's very helpful article I would like to share my own experience. As Kam already pointed out the importance of the 10 essential principles when dealing with relaxation and correct posture, I am not going to reinvent the wheel. When practicing especially Chen Style forms it is important to use internal closing force prior to delivering it (fajin).
The toe on the fajin side is turned in, hip closed and sunken, lowering stance will result in a complete sinking stretching force. Reverse breathing is also significant before delivering force. During inhalation the lower abdomen or more precisely the lower part of the diaphragm (chief breathing muscle) is contracted. Exactly when doing this move think of storing up jing. Fajin is carried out during exhalation (breathe out) and the lower part of the abdomen bulged briefly and sharply. Vocal sounds may support this staccato rhythm of the diaphragm. This can be very clearly observed in Chen 36 "Cover with Hand and punch with fist" which is a condensed form of many fajin movements in the original 83 Forms by Chen Fake.
I found this guided imagery very helpful to reach the state of yong chuan (fullness) through inward closing force. Imagine a balloon is filled with superfluous air and nearly bursts. The trapped air will then escape with explosive power during a pat. When playing the form the strength should not be totally spilled and "pulverised" at the first fajin of the form, rather the dose of the force should be increased as one proceeds in the sequence until reaching the peak of the form and then slowly be decreased as it comes back to the end. It is exactly like a huge invisible wheel and the retaining force goes back and circulates again to the next fajin. The twining force technique "extend and change direction" as shown in Chen Style cloud hands is a very effective method to store and recirculate jing.
My teacher always taught me this:" If you have an opponent imagine you have none, if you don't have one imagine you do have one." The intention (yi) can be seen through expressing the form as though constantly fighting an invisible opponent.
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A Tai Chi for Arthritis workshop was held in Perth, W.A. on the weekend of July 11 and 12 and I was fortunate enough to be asked to run it. Fortunate for two reasons. First, I haven't been to a Tai Chi workshop that I haven't enjoyed, and second, I had never been to Perth.
I was met at the airport on the Friday by Jacquie Walther and taken to her home for the weekend. Jacquie and her husband John made me feel right at ease from the very start.
On Saturday morning Jacquie and I set off to for the workshop. The drive from Jacquie's home gave me the opportunity to see some of Perth. I really liked the feeling of openness. The roads were not very busy, and that, coupled with the good road system, made for a relaxing drive - quite a contrast to Sydney on a Saturday morning.
The workshop was held at the headquarters of Arthritis W.A. in Shenton Park, which is an annex to the Royal Perth Hospital. Helen Burton did a wonderful job of co-coordinating the weekend and worked non-stop to make sure that everything went smoothly.
We had 20 people doing the course and what a terrific group of people they were. Four had travelled from Kalgoorlie and one from Esperance to attend. Everybody was encouraging and supportive of others and shared knowledge willingly. We had lots of laughs. New friendships were formed and on Sunday afternoon groups were arranging to get together in the future for practice and a cup of coffee. Others were finding out where to go for Tai Chi lessons. I sincerely hope that the enthusiasm is maintained.
As I'd arranged to stay in Perth for a few days to do some sight-seeing, I moved into a hotel just out of the city centre. It was only a five minute walk into the main shopping area. I found a map in a brochure and, even with my limited navigational skills, was able to find my way around easily. Perth is laid out in a grid system that makes the tourist's life simple.
In addition there is a city tour by tram available. It's one of those systems where the driver gives you some of the city's history and points out places of interest as you go. You can get off where you please and rejoin the tram when it comes around again. The day I did this tour was wet and cold, so getting off the tram was not at all inviting. One of the main attractions is Kings Park and I was grateful that Jacquie Walther had taken me there on a fine day. This is a very big park on the Swan River with a diversity of areas - natural bush, planned gardens, picnic areas, memorials, a restaurant. It's a lovely area with wide views of the river and city skyline.
I did leave the tram at the Burswood Casino and I wondered if it would have been so well attended if the weather had been kinder. There were thousands of people there, all very intent on the games they were involved in.
The following day was fine so I caught a train to Fremantle. The Maritime Museum alone is worth the trip. A ferry ride back in the afternoon was really interesting, especially the section of the river where many of Australia's wealthiest people live. Perth is said to be the most isolated capital city in the world. I know there are disadvantages to this, but, on the other hand, the city has not become too big (yet) and the pace is slower, which I found relaxing.
I would have loved to stay longer. I wish my new friends in W.A. all the best.
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