Newsletter #66 - February 2007
In this issue:
-- From me to you, by Dr Lam
-- The First International Conference of Tai Chi for Health, by Pam Kircher
-- What we learnt from the Tai Chi for Diabetes research program, by Pat Webber
-- Workshop coordination, by Caroline Demoise
-- Doing 32 form sword in a handicap scooter, by Joanne Zeitler
-- Humor and Laughter for radiant health by Dr Bob McBrien
The January tai chi workshop in Sydney and the First International Tai Chi for Health Conference held in Korea in December last year, have been very rich sources of interesting talks. I will be publishing some of these as articles in this newsletter throughout the coming year. In this newsletter I will start with a summary of the Tai Chi for Health conference from one of its keynote speakers, Dr Pam Kircher. Dr Kircher gave a comprehensive talk on different ways of applying tai chi in different countries. The conference was one of those rare events that draw together in one place, with a common goal, tai chi practitioners, tai chi teachers and research workers. Together we can make great things happen!
Thank you to so many of you who have told me how useful they’re finding my new book ‘Teaching Tai Chi Effectively’. I am especially happy to hear that your students are enjoying the improvement in your teaching skill. One of the most important points in the book is ‘Safety first’. During my more than 30 years of medical practice my first principle has always been ‘Do no harm to your patients’. I would like to recommend to my tai chi colleagues that they do likewise. No matter what objectives your students may have, injury will always set them back. Tai chi, like any other form of exercise, has a chance of causing injury, so it is our duty as teachers to find the safest way to teach it. I have published the entire fourth chapter, Safety First, of my book on the articles/health page on my website and have made it copyright free for non profit purposes.
In this month’s newsletter:
- Dr Pam Kircher's summary of the recent Tai Chi for Health conference in Korea will give you a taste of the conference, the next best thing to being there in person.
- Last year my research team was funded by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners to conduct a scientific study of tai chi's effects on people with type 2 diabetes. This study has now nearly finished and in a talk at the recent Sydney workshop one of the instructors for the study, Pat Webber, shared what she had learned from being involved in it. Conducting a scientific study is a major challenge for anyone. All of us who were involved in it learned a great deal, and I am so glad to have been able to share this experience with more people. You can read Pat’s talk in this issue of the newsletter.
- People often ask me what it takes to coordinate a workshop for me or for one of my master trainers. Caroline Demoise has coordinated many such workshops, as well being involved in many of them as a master trainer – here is Caroline's article about it.
- Joanne Zeitler from Arkansas, USA, wrote to me recently about an inspirational student of hers, Chuck Martin, who is confined to a handicap scooter, but hasn’t let it stop him learning the 32 form tai chi sword.
- And finally, we have everyone’s favourite, Dr Bob’s ‘Humor and Laughter for Radiant Health’, which this month is all about the funny results you get when signs in foreign languages are translated into English.
Book review of the month
This month we feature a review by Sheila Rae of Yang Yang’s ‘Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, the Science of Power’.
I am reading an exceptional book that I would like to share with you. What makes this book unique is the author's comprehension of and ability to convey to the reader the depth of taiji study. With the help of understandable bio-mechanical terms, Yang Yang's specific, instructional and applicable instruction enhances all taiji forms, while pointing out that form is only a tool to learn and internalize principles of movement.
This book gives the serious student the tools to practice in the proper way, correctly and efficiently, to realize the benefits of taiji. It is grounded in reality and practical experience, concentrating on core exercises, which are simple, although not easy. Emphasizing the essential principles of nurturing and naturalness, the reader can use the knowledge Yang Yang offers to practice taiji in a manner that develops internal energy, which will carry over into everyday life.
A must read!
‘Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, the Science of Power’ by Yang Yang is available from www.chentaiji.com.
If you’ve recently read a book that you would like to recommend to other tai chi enthusiasts and that has some relevance to tai chi, please send your review to me at [email protected].
This month’s special offer
In February, when you buy a copy of the 'Tai Chi for Osteoporosis' DVD, you’ll get a free warm-up and cool-down exercises wall chart, worth AU$8.95.
Tai Chi for Osteoporosis is a program designed to build strength, improve balance and better health and can enhance quality of life and reduce the risk of falls. It is supported by Osteoporosis Australia. The large format wall chart outlines the warm-up and cool-down exercises for tai chi with photos of each movement and descriptions by Dr Lam.
For more information about these products and to order your copy, go to the online shop. Please quote SP0207 in the comments section to get your free wall chart.
You can read an article I wrote about tai chi and osteoporosis for ‘Osteoblast’, the official magazine of Osteoporosis Australia, on my website under Articles/health. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become fragile and brittle, leading to a higher risk of fractures than normal bone. It is almost as common as high blood pressure. Usually osteoporosis has no signs or symptoms until a fracture occurs. Fractures can lead to long-term pain and disability, loss of independence, and may even contribute to premature death. It is a serious condition that responds to medical treatment and lifestyle changes. My team has designed a tai chi program specifically for osteoporosis, based on available medical evidence. The program is safe and effective. In the article I discuss what is tai chi, how does it work for people with osteoporosis and what is the best way to use tai chi to help improve or prevent the condition.
I will be conducting the inaugural instructors’ training workshop for Tai Chi for Osteoporosis in Terre Haute Indiana, from June 2-3, 2007. Go to the Workshop's page for details. Hope you can come.
Product review of the month
Congratulations to ‘Tonyk’ of Leicester, UK for winning a Tai Chi Music CD for his review of The Tai Chi for Arthritis DVD:
‘Production quality is excellent and [it] has obviously been professionally produced.
‘The warm up exercises are very familiar to me but have been cleverly modified to prevent injury. In the future I will be doing the exercises in the way shown in the DVD. They should be within the capacity of anyone regardless of their age.
‘The instruction on the form is excellent. Dr Lam is obviously a high level teacher and explains things in a very clear manner.
‘I would recommend the DVD to anyone who is interested in learning tai chi to improve their health.’
You can read Tony’s full review in the Forum.
Thanks Tony for your review. We would like to send you a Tai Chi Music CD for being our winner. Please email us at [email protected] and give us your postal address.
Enter your review of any of my products in the Forum and you will have a chance to win a tai chi music CD too.
We have already scheduled lots of workshops for this year. Here’s advance notice of some that may not yet be listed on my website. Register by emailing the coordinator listed below.
March 24-25, Adelaide, South Australia: Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Coordinator: Rosemary Palmer: [email protected]
May 10-12, Cincinnati, USA: Therapeutic Tai Chi for Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists
Coordinator: Ralph Dehner: [email protected]
May 17-18, Florida, USA: Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
May 19-20, Florida, USA: Tai Chi 4 Kidz
Coordinator: Susan Scheuer: [email protected]
June 2-3, Terre Haute, Indiana, USA: Tai Chi for Osteoporosis
June 4-9, Terre Haute, Indiana, USA: One week Tai Chi Workshop
Coordinator: Anna Bennett: [email protected]
June 30–July 1, Melbourne, Australia: Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Coordinator: Rani Hughes: [email protected]
July 28-29, Sydney, Australia: Tai Chi for Arthritis; Tai Chi for Diabetes and updates (4 separate workshops)
August 18-19, Sydney, Australia: Therapeutic Tai Chi for Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists
Coordinator: Anna Bennett: [email protected]
August 25-26, Brisbane, Australia: Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Coordinator: Suzanne Mclauchlan: [email protected]
Find out about other Tai Chi for Health workshops conducted around the world by me or my master trainers on the workshop calendar page on the website.
Yours in tai chi,
Paul Lam, M.D.
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Our Seoul hosts created the perfect environment for the first international conference, from the elegant brochures announcing the conference to the lovely setting at the Textile Center complete with daily fresh flowers for keynote speakers and for Rhayun Song’s (the translator and organizer of the conference) table, to the spacious practice rooms, to the printed proceedings themselves. My hope is that this article will allow you to have a taste of the conference, the next best thing to being there in person.
The approximately 200 participants began each morning by hearing a keynote address. The first morning Dr Lam spoke about the development of the tai chi for health programs and his hopes for the future. He then introduced participants to the physical experience of tai chi for health. Some of our participants were researchers who had not actually experienced tai chi for themselves, so this was a wonderful introduction not only to the mental aspects of the program but also to how the program feels to participants.
The next morning Dr Roy Geib from Indiana University School of Medicine in Terre Haute, Indiana, USA, spoke about examining ancient practices with modern science. He discussed the variety of CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) modalities and how tai chi fits into the spectrum of CAM therapies. He then discussed some of the research issues that need to be considered when studying the effects of tai chi. These include asking the right questions, using comparable populations in the study, and using consistent tai chi and teaching methods. We all left his talk being glad that we were part of a consistent tai chi for health program that uses the same teaching method throughout the world, but we also were conscious that we need to be aware of the need for that consistency when participating in studies.
The third morning, I discussed the various practical ways that tai chi for health programs are being used throughout the world. Tai Chi for Diabetes throughout every aspect of a Native American pueblo community was one example in the US. In New Zealand, the Tai CA program has been used nationally through the government sponsored Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) in their injury prevention program. Some other places where the tai chi for health programs have been useful include prisons, mental health facilities, stress reduction courses, senior centers, Alzheimer’s units, hospice, and cancer support groups.
On the fourth morning, Dr Eunok Lee from the College of Nursing, Seoul National University in Korea spoke on “Expanding Strategies of Tai Chi for Health.” She gave a clear and concise discussion about participating in research that included writing the research proposals, obtaining funding, selecting the program, advertising for the program, obtaining appropriate participants, ensuring participant retention during the course of the study, writing, publishing, and presenting the research outcomes. Her ideas for participant retention include a contract, daily at home practice with reports at the group sessions, and calling people midweek to see how their practice plan is proceeding. This is useful information for instructors whether we are currently participating in research or not.
Dr Lee is retiring in February, 2007 and there was a heartfelt standing ovation from the audience for all of the work that she has done in developing the Korean Society of Muscle and Joint Health and in promoting not only this conference but the very robust research that is ongoing in Korea with regard to the tai chi for health programs.
When the keynote presentations were complete, we had options for two breakout sessions before lunch. Participants could choose workshops, symposiums, or concurrent sessions.
Some examples of workshop opportunities included “Tai Chi for Arthritis: Understanding TCA as a Martial Art,” “Sun Style Tai Chi for Multiple Sclerosis and Other Autoimmune Disorders,” and “How to Improve the Rooting in the Practice of Tai Chi Form and Push-Hands.” The Symposiums each included three or four presenters discussing their programs and/or research. Examples included “Tai Chi for Physical and Mental Health of Patients with Parkinson’s Disease” and “The Impact of Tai Chi on Senior Chinese Citizen’s Mental Health.” The concurrent sessions included three presenters per session. Examples of presentations included “Development and Application of Early Rehabilitation Program Using Yang-Style Tai Chi Exercise for Breast Cancer Patients after Mastectomy” and “Literature Review: The Basis for Tai Chi Chuan as a Therapeutic Exercise Approach.” Overall, there were some 45-50 presentation opportunities in these breakout sessions.
An optional opportunity was lunch at the textile center where we met in interest groups that included such topics as “Tai Chi and Complementary Therapies”, “Enhancing Research Outcomes”, “Tai Chi for Children”, and “Tai Chi for Chronic Conditions”. Participants in the group discussions could share ideas and concerns with fellow participants interested in the same topics in the realms of specific aspects of tai chi for health.
Throughout the course of the day poster presentations were displayed in the break area. Over the course of the four days, we had an opportunity to review some 50 poster presentations. Some topics included “A Review of Exercise Program for Community” and “The Effect of Tai Chi Exercise on Pain Relief of Arthritis Patients”.
In the afternoon, we could enroll in a certificate workshop that included primarily four-hour sessions per day. Offerings included Tai Chi for Arthritis 1, TCA 2, Exploring the Depth of TCA, and Tai Chi for Diabetes. These were the workshops that are usually presented in the weekend format throughout the world. It was an opportunity for researchers to experience in depth the workshops that instructors attend, a chance for people to become certified as instructors in new areas of Tai Chi for Health, or a chance for current instructors to enhance their skills and understanding of the depth of TCA.
We closed the conference with a demonstration from our participants in the certificate workshops. We then had closing remarks from each of the conference organizers and keynote speakers. All agreed that it had been a remarkably successful first international conference for tai chi for health. The four days was a wonderful blending of practical information, awareness of the breadth and depth of research that is ongoing, opportunities to practice tai chi and to improve teaching and movement skills, and a way to meet new tai chi friends. Participants gave a rousing standing ovation to Dr Rhayun Song, Dr Eunok Lee, Dr Hyun-Sook Kang and their very extensive group of colleagues who created this experience of a lifetime!
The next International Conference for Tai Chi for Health will be held in the US in the first week of December, 2008. Dr Roy Geib is the chair of the organizing committee. Stay tuned for more details in the near future. Meanwhile, I hope this excursion into the Seoul conference has given you a glimpse into what it was like to be a participant. May you experience the next international conference in person!
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Pat Webber, who was an instructor with the recent scientific study of tai chi's effects on people with type 2 diabetes, gave this talk at the recent workshop in Sydney, Australia.
Being involved with this research program reinforced some very basic good teaching principles for me.
First of all, it reinforced the need for instructors to be flexible in their teaching plan. The people involved in my class were not, on the whole, people who had been very involved in exercise. They were active in their daily lives and keen enough, but struggled with coordination in some basic movements, to the point where it threatened to become stressful for all of us. Before this got to be too much of a problem, I found it was best to move on and to revisit these moves at a later date when they were feeling more in control and more comfortable with each other and with me.
The slow pace of tai chi is very beneficial for diabetes sufferers as stress aggravates their condition. However this slowness in itself was a source of some stress to a number of the participants! Because of the structure of this class, we had the opportunity for lots of repetition and this did help them to slow down.
One of my favourite sayings, which I repeated often to the class, is ‘If you don’t want to make a mistake, then do nothing. You might be bored, but you won’t make any mistakes with your tai chi!’ It’s so important for both students and instructors to be aware that it’s OK to make mistakes. Mistakes aren’t important. We all make them and dwelling on them gives us nothing to build on.
Dr Lam time and again emphasises the importance of seeing – and acknowledging –what’s good. The development of this habit makes life easier for both student and instructor, because the student doesn’t feel that he or she is being constantly criticised, and it gives the instructor a very useful tool– the opportunity to praise.
Renee Mill – a clinical psychologist – writing about praise, says that it should be specific, descriptive and realistic. So, for example, just saying to somebody that their Cloud Hands is ‘beautiful’ serves no purpose. Relating the praise to a basic principle will give insight and a boost to the student’s self esteem. ‘Your Cloud Hands looks good because you are maintaining your upright posture’ gives the student something concrete to build on.
The research program reinforced for me the importance of allowing time for socialising. One day Effie came to the class looking and apparently feeling better than she had previously. She had a spring in her step and quite a glow about her. I remarked on it, thinking that it was solely the result of tai chi. But Effie told me that the week before, another student had reprimanded her when she confessed that every day she ate quite a lot of chocolates, especially when she was feeling stressed. Effie was feeling proud of herself because she had not eaten rubbish all week and was feeling the benefit of the change to her diet. I’m sure that Effie had previously been given dietary advice by medical people and had even read advice in popular magazines, but apparently her classmate’s words made more of an impression.
One of the students shared with the class his previous tai chi experience. Ben has some chronic health problems and some years previously had decided to join a tai chi class, hoping that he would learn to relax. However, his stress was made worse because of the teaching methods used. In Ben’s words: ‘There were two teachers and they got angry with me when I couldn’t do exactly what they said. They got really angry when I couldn’t balance and they used to yell at me.’
These instructors may well have performed tai chi beautifully, but, as instructors, they didn’t meet Ben’s needs because they were inflexible, and they certainly didn’t make him feel happy to be there. He said, ‘I used to feel sick at the thought of going’.
I can’t imagine that those instructors enjoyed their teaching either.
So, the message for me was this: Be flexible, create an atmosphere where people feel that their efforts are appreciated, and be open-minded enough to realise that doing the movements of tai chi correctly is not the only benefit to be gained from joining a class.
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Being a workshop coordinator for Dr Lam has many benefits. In the planning, publicity and inquiry stages, you meet and talk to diverse and interesting people, all of whom love tai chi as you do. These contacts may or may not end up registering for the workshop, but they now know you as a tai chi teacher and may end up in a class with you or referring people to you in the future. These contacts are quite valuable. When you invest time in something that benefits people there is a return on that investment to you. That’s how life is.
When the day of the workshop finally arrives, there is that wonderful camaraderie, sharing of information and learning from each other that is part of every training session, not to mention what you will also learn from Dr Lam during the workshop. I have coordinated and participated in over a dozen workshops with Dr Lam and I have learned new things at every workshop. This is the most beneficial aspect to being a workshop coordinator. As there is no end to what we can learn through tai chi, every opportunity to participate in a workshop will improve your skill level and understanding of this vast Chinese art.
There are several qualities that are important in being a successful workshop coordinator. Being organized is essential and makes the experience easier for both you and workshop participants. The brochure needs to be completed early and sent to people likely to be interested in attending. Advertising by word of mouth, by personal contact by you and with information strategically placed in physical therapists offices, medical centers, chiropractic locations and with local tai chi schools is essential.
Replying promptly to inquiries gives a professional quality to workshop administration. People have many questions, issues and concerns and even if they seem extraneous, weird or unimportant to you, they are very important to the people asking and deserve a courteous and complete reply.
Attention to detail gives an impression of competence. There are many details involved in getting the handbooks ready and having all the forms required to make the registration process smooth and efficient. Having a list of participants, so that you know who has paid, who still needs to pay, what information is missing, etc. makes it easy to get all those details organized during the registration process.
Being on time, maintaining a relaxed, calm demeanor and always having a smile on your face make you a valuable team member in organizing a workshop. Most importantly, enjoy the process and take the opportunity to learn everything you can during the workshop.
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Dear Dr Lam,
This is Chuck Martin, one of my Tai Chi students. Chuck started in my Tai Chi for Back Pain class last spring and is now in my Tai Chi for Arthritis class. He has had several surgeries, two heart attacks, cornea transplants, and is confined to his handicap scooter due to lack of mobility in his right leg. To celebrate World Tai Chi Day last April, I had a picnic lunch for my Tai Chi classes and while we ate, I showed them your demonstration video with the 32 sword form. Chuck enjoyed watching you so much that he bought a Tai Chi sword. I have given him my copy of your instructional video of the 32 sword form and he has been teaching himself and adapting the positions for his ability. He brings his sword to class occasionally and demonstrates his progress for us. He is such an inspiration to the class and to myself as well. I am so proud of him that I wanted to share his story with you.
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When we set a goal to find the joke each day brings, it is no surprise that world travelers return home with stories of the funny signs they encountered in non-English speaking countries. The year I lived in Japan there was a road construction site with a sign in English warning driver. It read, “Slow men working.”
Here are a few signs for English speaking travelers; perhaps you have your own.
Lost in Translation
In a Japanese hotel room: Please to bathe inside the tub.
In a Bucharest hotel lobby: The lift is being fixed for the next day, during that time we regret that you will be unbearable.
In a Yugoslavian hotel: The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.
In a Hong Kong supermarket: For your convenience, we recommend courteous, efficient self-service.
Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop: Ladies may have a fit upstairs.
In a Rome laundry: Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.
In a Chinese hotel: Drinking excessively, making great noise or playing recorder loudly in hotel is forbidden.
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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.