Newsletter #37 - August 2004
In this issue:
-- Dear Friends from Dr Paul Lam
-- Bob Greene's Talk by Dr Lam
-- Ireland by Dr Lam
-- What Is Tai Chi and Why Do I Practice It by Dr Stephanie Taylor
-- Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor's Training Working in NZ by Elva Arthy and Toi Walker
-- Silk Reeling by Dr Soraya Lingbeek
-- My Knee by Ray Martin
-- Yang Sister by Cynthia Fels
Click on the title to read the article, and here to read previous newsletters
I have just returned from Indianapolis after a presentation at the American Association of Diabetes Educator's annual conference. It was a well organized scientific conference with over 3,000 diabetes educators attending. I learned a lot and also found out how beautiful Indianapolis is. I will show you photos in the next issue.
At this conference I presented Tai Chi for Diabetes along side with Bob Greene, the fitness expert for Oprah Winfrey. Bob presented motivation for activities. He had totally captured the audience of with his talk. It is so impressive I have included a summary of my recall for you. My tai chi friend Ralph Dehner from Cincinnati cancelled his class to assist me. Thanks, Ralph. Sorry class. I promise I won't take your teacher away too often.
On the same trip, I presented a Tai Chi for the Aging workshop at the 6th World Congress of Activities and Aging in London, Ontario. There were 600 delegates from 36 countries attending. The delegates came from different walks of life, including researchers, academics, government officials, MDs, fitness leaders, and tai chi practitioners. I found that all the delegates shared one thing: We understand that activities are essential for healthy aging. It was great to meet so many people who were interested in tai chi and my presentation. It was so good to catch up with many friends. My tai chi friend Stephanie Hill did everything to make my stay in London most enjoyable. Thank you, Stephanie. Also I enjoyed giving a talk organized by the Arthritis Society in London as well as meeting up with two inspiring ladies, Beryl and Gloria.
As I promised in the last issue, I will talk about my experiences in Ireland and how beautiful it is. You should see my screen saver. Yes, it is a stunning rock scenery beside the sea at the Giant Causeway (one of the world's seven wonders).
At the Monterey workshop, I enjoyed the presentation by Dr Stephanie Taylor about what is tai chi and why she practices. On the other hand, just about the same time, I missed the opportunity to conduct two workshops in New Zealand but Elva and Toi made it up by to telling us what happened there. Also, Soraya offers intriguing insight into silk reeling with the Tai Chi for Arthritis and Diabetes programs.
Last week in the Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor's training workshop in association with Diabetes NSW, I re-met Ray Martin (no, this is not Ray Martin the TV personality). He told me how much tai chi has helped him regaining mobility after surgery that put three pins inside his knees (check out the photos of this). Ray has been teaching Tai Chi for Arthritis for last two and half years. Good for you, Ray, for sharing your art with others. Lastly, not to be outdone by the Fan Fan club, Cynthia tells us about her Yang sister in the Monterey workshop.
<cjharris76> has this to say about the Qigong for Health video: "Wonderful Exercises - This is one of the best Qigong videos I've ever seen. It's very easy to follow and leaves you feeling quite relaxed afterward." We this is helpful to browsers so we have chosen his as the review of this month. Congratulations, cjharris76. You have won a Tai Chi Music CD, Please contact us to claim your CD.
In honour of the National Diabetes Conference, I am going to leave the Tai Chi for Diabetes run as the feature product for another month.
I'm leaving next month to conduct workshops in UK, Sweden and USA, hope to see you there. Please forward this newsletter your friends who may interested to come to the workshop. Below is a list of my upcoming workshops. Please note the Tai Chi for Back Pain Instructor's training workshop in Florida, USA has three placements left, others are filling up fast. The two Tai Chi for Diabetes instructor's training workshops in USA are the only ones I will be conducting this year.
For more information go to this link: http://www.taichiproductions.com/workshops/index.php
In the month of October:
-- 9-10th Tai Chi for Arthritis part I and II in Birmingham, UK
-- 16-17th Tai Chi for Back Pain in Florida, USA
-- 23-24th Tai Chi for Diabetes in Minnesota, USA
-- 30-31st Tai Chi for Diabetes in San Diego, USA.
-- November 20 - November 21, 2004, Christchurch, New Zealand
Tai Chi for Diabetes Instructor's Training Workshop
-- January 9 - January 15, 2005, Sydney , Australia
One week Tai Chi Workshop
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Bob Green started his talk with a story about when Oprah started training with him, how she improved her fitness, how he encouraged her to enter a race, and how he went shopping with her. It was something that really got everyone's attention.
He continued with how it's not dieting that matters most because everybody knows what is the right diet and most people know what the right thing is to do for health. Most important is the motivation. Even though everybody wants to improve themselves and be healthier, as soon as people walk out of the auditorium, half of the people will forget all about it. He went on to say how many people would actually take up exercise, how many people would actually stay with it after one month, six months, one year, five years and so on. Of course, by the end of one year, there were very few people, a small percentage of people, who stayed.
Bob said he has studied people who continued to exercise for more than five years. He found four common general characteristics. If people have these four properties, then they stay and become successful in achieving better health. Here are the four things:
1. Honesty. Be honest to yourself about what you want to do, what you can do and why.
2. Responsibility. Be responsible for yourself, not just responsible for other people. People tend to make a promise to another like an engagement and will keep to it but they don't keep the promise to themselves. They don't take the responsibility to take care of themselves as seriously as for others.
3. Inner strength. Inner strength helps a person to persevere.
4. Commitment. To make a commitment to yourself or to others, write down your commitment and sign it. Keep it yourself or keep it somewhere else or with your friend or mentor. When people start training with him he often asks for a written commitment. He also discussed the possibility of having someone like a mentor or friend to help you to stick to this commitment.
He talked about a practical way of how to improve oneself by using a life cycle-a round wheel divided into eight sections. It can be a piece of paper or a magnet, you put on your fridge. Draw a circle and divide it into eight sections with lines like pieces of a pie and on it you write what is important for your life such as family, romance, studies, whatever. It doesn't matter whether you fill in all the pieces. Then next to the important things you put a plus or a minus sign. If you are very happy with how you are going in that area, you put a plus and if you feel that you need improvement, add a minus sign.
Everyday at least once you start from one area with a minus, think of anything that you can do. It could be just little things, for example, if family is who you value and you feel that you want to improve the family relationship, then you could write a letter, send an email, or do something simple to improve the situation and do it that day or better still straight away. It could be something little. If exercise is what you need to do, just go walk for five minutes or stretch for few minutes. So that every day you do something little but positive against any pie with negative sign on it and after a period of time, you will find that you have changed a lot and a lot of negative will become positive. You will be surprised after a year how much more fulfilled you could feel. Be sure to put the life cycle in an obvious place like a fridge and visit it every day and do something every day.
Comment: This is a difficult topic and what he says makes good sense. We probably all know these, but to achieve it is another matter. People who write down their directions in life are more likely to get there. You can find out more about Bob Green's program and books on his website, www.getwiththeprogram.org
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Irish people have such a great influence in many western countries, I was surprised to find that both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland combined have around 4 million people. There are more Irish in America than Irish in Ireland! Irish people are artistic and sophisticated. Apart from my friend Charles from South Australia, Dave Allen is my favorite Irish joke teller. I could never forget this joke: An old man goes back to his home town after having left it many years before. He met some old friends in the pub, asked about how his old friend John. The pub friends said, "Oh John died few years ago of cancer." The old man was very sad and asked about John's wife. "Well, she died too last year!" "Oh that is so sad," said the old man. "Did she die of cancer too?". "No, not as bad," came the response. "She died from pneumonia."
Ireland is so green; I didn't mind the narrow roads as they are lined by fence-like hedges. We drove through some of the most beautiful roads around the "Lough" (which is a lake or inlet. There are many in Ireland). Both sides are lined with trees or hedges; the lough view is out of this world. The only trouble was that I had to concentrate very hard because many roads are narrow and curved. Fortunately, on-coming cars on these roads are scarce. The roads are so narrow, though, that to pass another car, we sometimes had to swerve outside the road.
Irish people are polite. Many people stop their cars in the middle of the road (not to mention the pedestrian crossings) to let people cross. When we asked for directions, most people took great care to help us, repeating directions several times. One garage attendant even went back to the shop to write the instructions down (and I didn't buy any petrol from him) and then came out to point out to me which road to take.
It's hard to imagine that these kind and philosophical people had been warring for many years. I guess nice people are more likely to be controlled by a government or by charismatic leaders. Usually it's the nice people who become victims of any war. Ireland is so peaceful now. People are focused on improving the quality of their lives. Looking back years over the years, it's hard to see how they could have hurt and killed each other. Aggression is a dangerous thing; it bleeds violence and then the bad feelings take a life onto itself. Sometimes hatred takes generations to die out. How much more we could achieve by instead spending time and energy on love and constructional activities.
In some ways, being in Ireland made us feel like time had gone back. People are not so rushed. There are so many little towns, and some of them have only a few houses spreading around a vast green pasture. People are generally nice and honest, and proud of their handiwork-just like in the old days.
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Tai Chi Chuan is often translated as "The Supreme Ultimate Fist" revealing its origin as a martial art. It was extensively practiced as a martial art in ancient China. In the West, Tai Chi has also become popular for general health and also for spiritual cultivation. It is important to remember the martial origins of Tai Chi because it is that focus and intensity that brings life to the daily practice of Tai Chi.
The unique feature of Tai Chi is the emphasis on cultivation of internal energy. Most of the martial arts, like Karate, focus only on development of external force. In Tai Chi the force comes from internal cultivation, and is more efficient and effective in combat than brute force. Mastering the internal allows the mind to lead the Qi which results in the most effective application of power.
So, why should we practice Tai Chi? We are not likely to need this skill on the way to the grocery store. The practice of Tai Chi brings not only the skill in the martial arts and physical fitness, but also an internal serenity and enhanced degree of personal awareness.
The benefits to physical fitness have been shown in studies of cardiovascular conditions, in muscle strength and in flexibility and balance. Tai Chi also helps to reduce stress, and stress responses. The practice induces a quiet attitude often called "a moving meditation". Tai Chi also benefits the spirit, making it strong and peaceful.
So, we can practice Tai Chi for all these benefits, but there is also another benefit that we have not discussed. The regular practice of Tai Chi Chuan creates an internal harmony and peace that is of benefit to the individual and to everyone around him or her. It is by our own personal practice and mastery that we create peace within ourselves and our surroundings and take one more step toward making the world one family.
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I was looking forward to a return trip to New Zealand to fly across the beautiful harbour and cloud shrouded hills of Wellington and once again experience that special feeling that is New Zealand. Susan Fry and Toi Walker had worked extremely hard to organize two workshops in less than five weeks. Under the expertise of Dee Young the ACC Injury Prevention Programme Planner assisting Alistair McDonald also of ACC generously offered to sponsor Tai Chi for Arthritis Training Workshops in Wellington and Auckland. Laden with Winter woolies, gloves, scarf and matching head wear of sorts, hot water bottle safely in my suitcase, I was met at the Wellington Airport by Susan who whisked me away to the cosy Sharella Hotel. My room overlooked the botanical gardens, a mass of multi-coloured trees and shrubs splendid in their Winter dresses. Pat and I had much to discuss and plan with our anticipated 52 students for this workshop.
The crisp Wellington morning found us outside the Kokiri Marae breathing steam and feeling grateful for the warmth of the sun. Many of the students from the Greytown workshop 2003 had made the excursion from the North and South Island to update their Tai Chi skills and it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces and be the recipient of hugs and kisses. Honoured with a traditional welcome, we were sung in to the meeting house and accepted the warmth of the people before our own welcome to the students. Thirty students had gathered to learn the Tai Chi for Arthritis program and 22 were keen to update and learn the new forms.
We were able to share the main talks and discussions in the warm main hall and go to our separate groups for training. The students were enthusiastic and focused and many sharing their teaching experience and knowledge which enriched our two intensive days. The atmosphere and warmth of the students was wonderful to experience and I found myself entirely in another world. Pat and I spent our evening talking about how the day had gone and trying to work out where we needed to direct our work the next day. We thought about our students and hoped we had given them our best. We enjoyed a delightful meal and a glass of New Zealand wine (or two) and when my head hit the pillow I slept undisturbed till morning.
Sunday morning brought a sea of happy faces and beautiful postures! Toi had indeed been busy with personal training for anybody who asked and the improvement in the students' form was outstanding. For many the second day was a challenge with so much to consolidate and new work to think about. Bodies were tired but spirits were lifted and energy remained high till the end of the day. The workshop had been a tai chi journey of discovery for the new students and a sharing and exchange for those whose tai chi journey had already begun. There was a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction and it was difficult to close the workshop. We stood in a circle and sang a Maori farewell prayer before our final goodbyes as the cool winds of early evening suddenly sprang into a life of their own.
My journey home was via Christchurch and it was after one in the morning when our plane touched down in Brisbane. Somehow the days flew by as they do and five days later I was flying over the rugged beautiful coastline of New Zealand again. Auckland was cool and wet and it was wonderful to be back again. Pat had already arrived from Sydney and over dinner we compared notes and plans for our next workshop. Sue arrived later in the evening and it was great to see here again. Toi and his wife Janeen and their five beautiful children had driven up from Wellington and were already at the Marae in Mangere called Nga Whare Waatea greeting the students and overseeing everything. Toi's niece Tiana belonged to this community and she was most helpful making the students comfortable and helping with the catering and organization.
The morning was cool and sunny and our welcome ceremony was held in the courtyard outside the four meeting houses. The person who sung us into the Marae wore a stunning feathered cape and the welcome by a Chief Piripi was warm and moving. Toi explained some of the symbolism of the structure of the meeting house (Whare) - how the angled struts in the roof represented the ribs, the main beam along the length of the room was the backbone, how the central pillar was the heart. Outside the gable boards of the Whare were the arms which stretched out to the sides as if to welcome you inside. No food or drink is ever consumed inside the Whare and it was explained to us that the reason we left our shoes at the door was so that the inside of this sacred room should not be contaminated with dirt from the outside as the Whare symbolized a women's body and should be respected and treated with care.
The introduction is always great fun at a workshop and again we were amazed that people had come from all over New Zealand to participate in this workshop. Not only were the students from diverse backgrounds but we had a wealth of Tai Chi experience including Yang, Chen, Tao, and I Ching We were able to split our 30 students into two groups and Pat and I were able to change around for the training and join together in one large group for our talks. Susan and Toi were invaluable during these sessions and their suggestions and training skills helped to keep things running smoothly.
As the students left to start their journeys home, we closed the workshop and retired to the canteen to have a long awaited cuppa. Janeen and Tiana were still working in the kitchen when we were the surprised guests of a Maori concert the very thought of which takes my breath away. As Tiana is a member of the Marae her people honoured her as a way of saying thankyou. Thirty or more people filled our tiny theatre with the most melodious spirited singing I have ever heard. The minute they started their performance, a great rush of emotion and warmth hit me like a wall bringing me to tears. Their warmth and strength extended to me and even though I didn't belong, I felt part of them was given to me. The amazing harmony is still ringing in my ears and the skill and timing of the poi and the sticks was something to remember for ever. Completely drained and feeling quite overwhelmed by it all, the Haka blew me away. Only four feet from the front row I was frozen to my seat. This very special performance was a gift for me to treasure and remember when I think of the Land of the Long White Cloud.
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Paul's Forum is a great opportunity to share Tai Chi experience and I have been inspired by many thought provoking questions. Many people think they need to learn vigorous and difficult Chen forms to experience spiral force or silk reeling. No doubt that Chen style, especially the new frame, is extremely rich in spiral force. However, to a certain degree, spiral force is present in any style and form. It has not been mentioned very often that TCA, TCD and Paul's warm-ups contain a considerable amount of silk reeling.
Experts could hardly agree on definitions concerning spiral force. I would dare to say that silk reeling could be defined as an internal force winding and twining through the whole inner body, driven by the mind and spirit, which is than expressed outwardly through specific movements. In the old Chen frame, Yang, Sun and Wu style this is less obvious to the eye of the observer and more internal.
One of the greatest Chen style masters of the last century, Grandmaster Chen Fake, has created the new frame or xin jia which contains a more outward translation of the spiral force. Chen 36 and the national competition form Chen 56 belong to this new frame. In the xin jia forms, spiral force is enhanced by more frequent twisting and turning of the waist as well as small rotations of the wrist being the extension of shoulder and elbow. When these movements are executed from within, they can be very useful to absorb or redirect strikes and kicks. Not to mention the various health benefits, among others increased blood and lymph circulation, better stretching and strengthening effect on the skeletal muscles and tendons along with improved range of motion of the spine and other major joints.
I have always enjoyed Paul Lam's head -to-toe warm-ups, TCA and TCD which I practise regularly. Medical research and experiments with individual T'ai Chi moves belong to my passionate activities and I have discovered more silk reeling energy in the following moves:
Paul's head-to-toe warm-ups:
- The 2nd neck turn consists of a curve to both sides along with hand/eye coordination
- The 1st spine stretch contains spirals of the hands between holding the ball and moving up the hands into the spine stretch(similar to "Parting the wild horses' manes" Yang style which is without spine stretch)
- The 2nd spine turn includes waist rotations and turning/changing hands while holding the ball. One can visualize a qi ball between the hands
- The knee stretches contain turning the fist and spiralling prior to punching
TCA and TCD contain many repetitions of "wave hands in the clouds" with the arms moving in a larger curve and the turning of the waist to the left and right. "Brush knee" contains a small spiral movement in the knee-brushing hand. In martial application this hand is successfully applied to deflect a kick. "Fair lady working at shuttles" in TCD also contains small spirals of the elbow/wrist which is very useful to absorb a side strike while palm striking at the same time.
Long, long ago my teacher told me to keep my mind clear and in high spirits. "Express the spirit through your eyes, energise your movements by following them with your eyes," his words still linger on until now, especially when my mind gets floppy at times ."Concentrate 50% of your thoughts on qi conduit and 50% free and relaxed, then your qi will be strong enough to drive your force.
Thank you so much Paul for your wonderful little easy-to-learn forms, they are so rich in content and the healing effect is almost a miracle.
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My Knee by Ray Martin
I had a motor vehicle accident on 1/1/96 in which my left leg was broken. I now have three pins in the tibial plateau and had gel inserted into the left through keyhole surgery. I was told by my doctors that I would get osteoarthritis in my left knee.
When I started tai chi (authentic Yang family tai chi) in June '99, I only had the ability to bend my knee to about 20 percent. X-rays in March '04 showed minimal degeneration (after eight years). My doctor stated that he had seen far worse degeneration after 12-18 months!
I can now sit on the floor with my feet tucked under my body. This, I believe, is due to my tai chi.
Yang - 5 years
Tai Chi for Arthritis -2 years
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In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few... Shunryu Suzuki
I came to the Asilomar Conference 2004 as a TCA instructor, lover of tai chi, lover of Sun Style tai chi and BaGua Sword. I had only a dab of Yang to my name. I had originally signed up for the Sun 73 Form and by some twists and turns ended up in the Yang 24 Form class. It was a move I questioned at the time as being right for me, and one I later knew was exactly right for me.
As a true beginner to Yang style, endless possibilities stretched before me and also served to stretch me as well. Just what were these possibilites?
Well, first an instructor who just fit my learning style. Pat Lawson was an expert at the form, possessed infinite patience, and was loaded with humor, and positive affirmations. We could really be looking dismal and she would find a way to tell us just how great we were, mean it, and spur us on.
She was humble, and always willing to tell us a good story on her own learning experiences. Her approach transformed us from klutzy Yang catepillars to baby Yang butterflies that could indeed actually fly. I learned much from Pat, not only about the form and its 24 movements, but also how to be a good tai chi instructor. Another possibility was the experience of learning something that was totally new. This meant I often had to unlearn a Sun Style move and change it to a Yang Style move. And frequently I found that both my feet and my brain rebelled every bit of that learning process. This taught me much empathy for my own students. It was an immersion in their feelings of "How will I ever get this?" or "I will never remember this move on my own." As a result, I returned as a much better instructor for my students.
And then there was the most unexpected and greatest possibility of all-the deep friendship and bonding that had occurred between us. We later coined this phenomenon The Yang Sister Phenomenon.
We laughed together, and at times laughed so hard that we cried together. We panicked that we would never "get it" together, and we practiced and practiced and practiced both in cand out of class by the dunes together. We partied, danced, and shared stories together. We even shared a bad singer in a coffee house together, And finally, when I couldn't be present at the final demonstration, one of my Yang sisters wore my name tag under her shirt so that my energy could be there with them,Apart but together.
I cannot do the form without feeling my "sisters'" energy and presence all around me. It is the greatest gift, the greatest beginner's possibility, and one which never even entered this humble beginner's mind as a possibility when I came to the conference.
So, here's to my "Yang Sisters." We may now be spread out all over the country, but we are still doing our form together and will always be doing it as one.
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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.
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