Newsletter #30 - January 2004
In this issue:
-- From the Editor
-- What is Tai Chi by Sybil Wong
-- Tai Chi and Martial Art by Paul Lam
-- How to be a Student and Instructor by Norman Precious
-- Stephanie Hill and her teacher enjoying Tai Chi for Arthritis classes.
-- Bernie and Adelaide
-- Teaching Cloud Hands by Sue Smith-Heavenrich
-- Diabetes. Secrets to a long, healthy life by Your_Health
Click the following link for all articles
The January annual one week workshop is the highlight of the year for our team and me. There is no greater way to start a new year! Next month I will tell you more about how wonderful it was, and share with you what we have learnt from each other. Meanwhile we have the mid year one week workshop in USA to look forward to. If you did not make it to Sydney in January, hope to see you in Monterey. Remember to contact us for the mid year workshop brochure or go to this link for more information. http://www.taichiproductions.com/workshops/displaygen.php?workshopid=40
What is Tai Chi? I am fascinated by many different answers. Sybil gave a talk on this topic at the January workshop, while Kam demonstrate five different styles.
How important is the martial art component for all tai chi practitioners. Some say without the martial art component you are not practising real tai chi, I will outline my view, and would love to hear yours. I would also make my position statement for the Tai Chi for Arthritis program.
Another controversial issue is about traditional teaching style. Many traditional teachers believe that student should never learn other form of tai chi, at least without the teacher's permission. Sometimes this can cause conflict when a student ventures out to learn new forms. I think it is great if we can work with others, we will all gained something worthwhile. When Norm's teacher first found out about his attendance of my workshop and his subsequent intention to conduct a Tai Chi for Arthritis class, Glen naturally was not pleased. But Glen was patient, he listened to Norm's reason, and accept that. At the end of the date, they know each other better and together they are able to help more people to benefit from tai chi. I think we can all learn much from them.
Stephanie Hill has coordinated a great workshop in London, Ontario last year with the blessing and help from her 77 years young teacher Beryl. They have found Tai Chi for Arthritis popular in London. Not to be outdone, Bernie and Adelaide share their tai chi experiences.
As my regular readers will know, teaching is my favourite subject; Sue has an innovative teaching method to share with us.
Your_Health, an Australian medical newsletter has this article for people with Diabetes. On this topic, we will make the tai chi for diabetes the feature DVD for this month. Click here for the product information. https://www.taichiproductions.com/shop/product.php?product=41
The review of the month is won by Soraya, she has done a throughout review of the Combined 42 Sword, with clear description that help viewers to make the right choice. Read her review at: http://www.taichiproductions.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=490. Soraya, please contact our staff for your free Music CD.
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It is difficult to summarise tai chi in a short sentence. It is multi faceted and is different things to different people. Some people see it as a meditation, some as an exercise you do in the park, others as a form of relaxation. But to put it simply, tai chi is one of the most famous Chinese martial art of the internal style.
External styles concentrate on the external form, featuring vigorous body movements and harsh punching actions. Internal styles place emphasis on breathing and the mental component of their training. Execution of movement is generally soft, fluid, gentle and graceful. Breathing is deepened and slowed, aiding visual and mental concentration, relaxing the body and allowing the life force or "Qi" to flow unimpeded throughout the body.
These techniques help integrate the mind and body and allow the achievement of total harmony of the inner and outer self.
The History of Tai chi and the 5 major Tai chi styles
The ancient Chinese created tai chi based on their knowledge of traditional medicine, Qigong and martial art.
There are five major styles of tai chi and some lesser know styles. I will talk mainly about the major styles in chronological order, not implying that one style is superior to another.
In 1670's Chen Wangting, a retired army general of the Chen Village in Henan Province, developed several Tai chi routines, which included the old frame form still practised today. This is known as Chen style Tai chi which is oldest form of Tai chi. Chen style Tai chi is characterised by alternating fast and slow movements, soft gentle moves and explosive, force delivery moves.
Yang Style Tai chi was created by Yang Luchan in the early 19th century. This is a more gentle form and is the most popular form practiced today. This style is characterised by gentle large frame movements. Our 24 forms is largely based on Yang Style
Wu Yuxiang created the Hao style Tai chi which is a lesser know style. This style places emphasis on internal force
Wu Jian-quan created the Wu style Tai chi. This style is characterised by softness and emphasize on re-directing incoming force. This style tends to have a slightly forward leaning posture
Sun style tai chi created by Sun Lu-tang in the early 1900s is the youngest of all the forms. This style is interesting because Sun Lu-tang who developed this style was a well know exponent of Xingyiquan and Baguaquan (two other famous internal styles). Sun style has lots of Qigong elements is characterised by lively steps and a slightly higher stance. Tai chi for arthritis is based on this style
As you can see, all styles have their own characteristics and some styles are more suited to certain people. However, they all share the same principle and learning the different styles, besides being fun; can help to enhance your Tai chi by helping you gain better understanding in executing the different movements. It is similar to solving a problem by using different approaches from different angles, this helps in gaining understanding by looking at something from another perspective.
Those who have learnt Chen style will agree with me that it has put new dimensions on their Yang style and those who have practised Sun style will have experienced Qi in a different way and could use this to enhance their other forms.
Benefits of tai chi and Reasons why people take up tai chi
Tai chi can be practiced by people of any age with any level of fitness. It is low impact and safe if practised correctly. If your legs are not strong, practice with a higher stance. If you are not flexible, kick a bit lower, don't go down as low. The health benefits are the same.
Tai chi has been shown to improve muscular strength, flexibility, fitness, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and other chronic diseases. It improves balance, prevents falls, helps posture and builds up immunity to disease. It also improves mental illness, depression and stress. It is comforting for me to know that no matter how old I am, I can still practice tai chi, enjoy it and still benefit from it.
If I live to be 90, I don't think I will manage to ride a horse or do other strenuous or high impact type exercises, but I think I will still manage to practise tai chi. It is good for me to know that tai chi, which I enjoy so much now, is something I can hopefully keep doing forever.
Reasons why I took up tai chi, benefits to me, why do I keep doing it
When I first tried tai chi, I did not have any health problem, I was not particularly stressed, and was not interested in relaxation exercises. I was interested in martial arts because it looks exciting but martial looked too strenuous.
Tai chi looks a bit like martial arts but looked to be easier and less strenuous. Its movements have wonderfully inspiring Chinese names (which sound surprising strange in Australian), like parting Wild Horse's Mane and The Rhinoceros looks back at the moon.
It looked graceful, almost like a dance. I looked at Paul demonstrating his tai chi and he looked pretty good so decided if I practised maybe I can look good too.
Initial experience of what I found
I quickly realised that it is not a dance and the purpose of it is not to make one just look good. It is actually a martial art. Paul looked good because he has internal strength not because he is performing a dance.
It is not easy; in fact it is relatively strenuous, especially on my quads. It is very interesting. It demands mind and body co-ordination and I found that there is so much that I can look forward to learning, the different styles, fist forms, sword forms, fan, push hand, etc.
It is fun and I enjoyed doing it. In fact, I was hooked.
I soon realised that it has even more depth than I originally thought. I began to have more understanding and appreciation of internal strength and what it means. If I practice and pay attention to what it is that I am trying to do, I will improve.
Although there is a lot to learn and achieve, it allows me to have a little success or improvement/understanding from time to time, just enough for me to feel that I am achieving something. This sense of achievement is very rewarding and keeps me going. It is difficult enough to keep me feeling challenged but not so difficult that it is beyond me. It is fun to do and I feel great practising tai chi.
Important things we can learn from tai chi
I think there are few lessons to be learnt from tai chi. Firstly, there is peace and harmony within oneself, extending to peace and harmony with others around us and with our surroundings.
We learn humility in knowing that we will never be perfect, that we can always learn from others.
Because all movement are directed by the mind, controlled by the waist and expressed by the hands, we will develop unity of mind and body.
I think that tai chi is a personal journey towards self awareness, awareness of one's body and life force, remembering that perfection is never reached; rather the experience is a journey and a never-ending challenge
On our journey, we will reap health benefits, have improved flexibility, strength and balance, be less stressed, make new friends and have lots of fun
I am very happy that you are here to join Paul, my fellow instructors and myself on our amazing journey. I hope that you will have a great time.
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Tai chi was originally a martial art. And while nowadays the majority of people practise it strictly for its health benefits, the martial art component is extremely important since it's an integral part of tai chi. The martial art training consists of several different stages. Let's look at them and relate them to your tai chi goals. Note that if your goal in doing tai chi is strictly for health, the martial art stages that involve higher risk of injuries are not suitable or necessary.
The Different Stages of Martial Art Training
To gain martial art skill you first need to start with strengthening your muscles and improving your flexibility, balance, and fitness. You can do this by practising the forms.
The next stage, the internal aspect, involves mental balance-improving the clarity of mind and relaxation as well as building up your internal strength and structures such as bones and ligaments. You can also gain these from practicing the forms, keeping your mind focused and using visualisation techniques.
By now, you should be acquiring the skill to move your body in the most effective way for combat, which again can be gained from practicing the forms correctly.
As you progress, you'll learn the martial art intention of the movements and the correct posture including where your hands and feet should be as well as where to apply force, and how to absorb, redirect and control the incoming force. You'll also understand where the internal force should be and how to direct it. In other words, you'll learn how to control your own body and mind so that you can best control your opponent.
Up to this point in your practice, you've been able to enhance your skill by practising the forms, the qigong exercises, and by using visualisation techniques. These skills, as shown by medical studies, will improve your strength, agility, balance, mental concentration, fitness, immunity, in fact all aspects of health.
Practising these can be enjoyable, challenging and fulfilling. This practice will bring you to a higher level of tai chi. In fact it will also improve your skill as a martial artist. For example, if you with your training were to fight someone of similar size who had spent an equal amount of training time in another physical exercise, the chances are you'll win the fight. That's because most of the components of an effective martial artist-strength, inner power, positions, effective usage of the body, clarity of the mind-are exactly what you've already practiced for better health.
The Final Stage of Tai Chi Training For Martial Art
Now we move to the ultimate purpose of martial art: total control of your opponent. This could mean severely injuring him or her. While tai chi is based on the philosophy of yin-yang harmony and balance of nature, it was, after all, designed to be an effective martial art. Most tai chi movements show martial intention and have the potential to hurt someone. For example Golden Guard Stamping Foot aims at hitting the chin, top of the head and punching the abdomen with internal force. Such thoughts send shivers down my spine. I, as well as most of my tai chi friends when we practice, certainly don't want to think about hurting anyone. Naturally, there are different levels of control. Ideally a high-level tai chi practitioner can control his opponent without hurting him. But to reach that kind of skill and control requires a lot of special training. And the more real the training the more effective it will be. Bear in mind, though, that it isn't always possible to achieve perfect control. Even the most skilful practitioner could make a minor mistake, which could result in serious injury to either party. Therefore, the more real the training the more chance of injury.
Chen style tai chi was the original style that demonstrated its martial art power by using fast and slow movements when delivering force as well as jumping in the air, kicking and punching. You can see these practices have higher chance of injury. Most other styles are slow and graceful like the most popular Yang style. To use the slow style for actual fighting, you would have to modify it and train differently. It's not possible to move slowly in a fight, and if you don't train to move fast, you wouldn't be able react fast enough in a real situation.
If you want to experiment, have a friend throw a punch at you as fast as he can. (Make sure that he isn't actually going to reach you) One of the most accepted tai chi ways to receive a punch is to use one hand to touch on to his wrist, the other hand at his elbow. Ideally your joints would be loosened and your internal force would be ready to absorb and redirect the incoming force. Your body would be totally relaxed, in the right stance and balanced well enough so that you could move back without compromising your balance. You would try to receive your friend as fast as he comes.
Chances are, you'd find that difficult. Most likely your external muscles would become tense. It takes the average tai chi practitioner an immense amount of practice before that elastic loosening force is ready to absorb force. The same goes for the hands being placed in just the right position. Get your friend to punch from different directions and see how long you'd have to train to receive an unpredictable punch from anywhere in a fully ready tai chi way. It's likely that this could be an impossible stage to achieve for many tai chi practitioners. You and your friend would have higher chances of injury if you practise this at close range.
When you try to teach a new student the fighting aspect, the student will naturally tense up. Fighting is associated with the classic fright and flight reaction; thinking of it makes people naturally tense up. This impedes the learning of tai chi. When people are tense, they will have difficulty learning the essential principles of tai chi such as slowing down, cleansing the mind, loosening the muscles, focusing on precision, body awareness and weight shifting. Therefore for beginners it's much more effective to work on the essential principles without too much emphasis on the martial art application.
Pushing Hands in tai chi is an ingenious invention. It's a two-man drill to help the twosome feel each other's force and experience some aspects of combat. It can be fun if the participants stay within the artistic aspect. This isn't easy to do. The subtlety of push hands takes a great deal of time to acquire, and very often people use harsh force to try to "win" in pushing, predisposing the opponent to injury.
While pushing hands is a useful tool, it isn't a necessary practice in order to reach a high level in tai chi. No matter how much push hands a person does, he or she won't understand tai chi without practising the forms.
Push hands has acquired a magical reputation that sometimes leads people to lose prospective. For years the National Push Hands Competition in China was won by weight lifters with no tai chi experience. Now, there's a rule that all competitors have to demonstrate a set of tai chi before they're eligible for the competition. The way I interpret that is while push hands is a great technique; it's very useful but not necessarily as magical in combat as some of us think. The magic of tai chi is in its health-giving property that comes from regular and intelligent practice. If tai chi were a pill, it would be the best medicine ever.
Tai chi is a most effective martial art, but training to use it for fighting is another matter. The training techniques that lead to the actual fight, such as sparring and fast punches, are the final stage of the martial art components. This stage has a higher chance of injury. Nowadays, there is little chance that we need to physically fight for our lives, and if that happens we would have little chance against anyone with a gun no matter how skilful we are.
The training of tai chi in the slow style is incredibly effective for building health and strength. Many studies have shown these training methods to be very effective for building a strong body and mind. In fact, this is why tai chi is gaining so much popularity.
The essential principles, which make tai chi an effective martial art, are equally effective for health improvement. Understanding them helps to correct the forms, improves inner strength and is essential to reach a high level of tai chi. The final stage of martial art training is not necessary to reach a higher level and is fraught with a significantly higher risk of injury. Therefore you should carefully assess the risks and benefits before embarking on this level.
A POSITION STATEMENT ON THE TAI CHI FOR ARTHRITIS PROGRAM
by Paul Lam
Tai Chi for Arthritis is an easy to learn, safe and effective program. The goal of the program is primarily to relieve pain and improve the quality of life for people with arthritis. Second, it will improve almost all other aspects of health for people with or without arthritis. High risk of injury is not consistent with our goals.
Anyone who is involved in teaching or practising Tai Chi for Arthritis should avoid the final stage of martial art application. Understanding the essential principles is important; visualisation should be used for practice. Sparing, push hands, or training of fast force-delivering movements are not appropriate. Demonstrating the intention of a movement should not be done with physical contact to avoid possibility of injury. Students or instructors who wish to pursue these endeavours should do so outside the area of this program.
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I then attended a course for Arthritis Tai Chi held by Dr Paul Lam in Manchester and a subsequent advanced course held in Stirling. Upon my return from the course I advised Glen that it was my intention to set up my own class. However, I intended continuing to be his student as the class I was teaching would be of a different style.
We then decided it would be beneficial for us both to place an advert together, we were overwhelmed by the response and formed East Coast Tai Chi incorporating both styles. We designed a logo with Yin and Yang with a view to bringing all classes under one identity, however being able to offer the most suitable style to the individual. We also promoted ourselves through our web site www.eastcoasttaichi.co.uk giving general information of the classes on offer to potential students, whether they were interested in the martial art aspect or the health benefits to be gained.
We have also been fortunate to gain local TV coverage, filming at the classes offered and a background of the business and how it came to be established.
Our collaboration has been most beneficial and has enabled me to continue studying Yang Style under Glen's supervision, and also to assist many people with their health problems through my Tai Chi for Arthritis teaching, and together Glen and I have been able to promote Good Tai Chi.
As a practitioner and instructor of Yang Style Tai Chi, my two main objectives are to continually progress and offer the benefits of Tai Chi Chuan to as many people as possible.
Tai Chi has many concepts that all people can encompass within their lives. There are several styles and many different approaches, which ensures there is a suitable course for each individual, however within all practises the eventual goals are the same. Working alongside other Tai Chi instructors can only be of advantage to the art, as long as their concepts and principles are appropriate.
The approach of East Coast Tai Chi allows my student and now instructor Norman Precious to offer Tai Chi as a health art, to improve general well-being as well as being most suitable for sufferers of arthritis and many other health problems. Whereas the Yang Style classes I instruct offers a much more physical approach, therefore allowing the opportunity to discover other areas of Tai Chi.
The two classes could therefore be regarded as Yin and Yang, which is a major concept within Tai Chi Chuan.
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Hello Paul and Anna,
I just wanted to let you know that my evening with the Blue Bird club was a great success. I spoke for about 20 minutes on TCA and then did a demo, followed by a question and answer period.
I asked Beryl (my teacher who is 77 years young and is still teaching tai chi) to join me in the demo as we are of two different generations and each have our own interpretation. It was well received. We generated lots of interest and everyone received my brochure regarding TCA.
I am very pleased that we reached about 50 people tonight and they will in turn spread the word. We will be able to help so many people with arthritis, it is very rewarding.
Here is an update: Beryl is teaching 3 classes and has 15-18 in two classes and 10 in another class. She has several men in her classes and is very pleased about this as they are sometimes reluctant to learn Tai Chi.
Doug Roberts is teaching 3 classes outside of the London area and has about 20 people involved.
I know of two other classes in London at the Seniors Community Centre.
Then, there is my own class.
I think there are people who are conducting more classes but am not sure. Time for an update with everyone.
I have asked all instructors to please notify the Arthritis Society of their classes and times and whenever anyone inquires as to where the classes are they are instructed to call the Society.
I have my own mission with the Arthritis Society and want them to get 'on the band wagon' with TCA. I am working on them.
This has three main purposes. One, to keep a central registry of classes. Two, to keep the Arthritis Society involved, although in a quiet way. Three, and this one is very important, to keep bugging the Society and make them aware that there is a great need for TCA.
Well, I have come home very tired from my guest appearance but feeling very satisfied and a bit 'pumped up' to campaign for TCA.
I hope this note finds you both well and that your travels, Paul, are going well.
Take care and we'll talk again soon,
Update Mon 12/15/2003 2:01 PM
My class - I had extremely positive feed back from two of my pupils. One lady said she has been able to cut her morphine back by 25%! The other, who wears a knee brace and has great trouble, said she is able to go up the stairs much easier since starting TCA. She said she has done other forms of exercise and also strengthening exercise but has not had results this good. They both said they were wondering if it was the Tai Chi (for Arthritis). We all agreed that they were making progress and the only thing new was TCA, so I suggested they draw their own conclusions and keep on with whatever it is they are doing.
This makes me feel really good. This and their big smiles at the end of the class!
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I am 91 years old Bernie and since taking Tai Chi I have found that my muscles are more flexible, my steps are lighter and I feel over all, so much better. I have benefited from doing Tai Chi and I would recommend that everyone should try it.
My name is Adelaide Hughes and I am 82 and a half. Tai Chi has improved my way of life remarkably. It has made me more agile; I am able to stand straighter and taller than I once did. My arms are stronger and my movements are suppler. My balance has improved, as has my peripheral vision. I have definitely benefited by doing Tai Chi.
Adelaide Hughes, Gladstone, Queensland.
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Children learn best when they have fun doing it. I think this is true
for adults as well, so when I teach tai chi for arthritis, I try to keep
the focus on having fun.
"people practice cello," i tell them. "but tai chi people play." if
we refer to ourselves as "tai chi players" then the emphasis should be
on play. I tell this to my students at the first class, and remind them
every day. Then i give them things to play with: large balls to rotate
from side to side, imaginary paintbrushes to "paint the rainbow" or
"paint the wall". And cloud hands.
For some reason, "waving hands like clouds" seems to be a stumbling
block for some students. So i begin introducing the movements in my
first class. You do it as well, if you do the warm-ups for tai chi for
arthritis: the turning-waist-while-holding-ball warm-up.
"let's play with energy balls," i say, and i toss each person an
imaginary ball that is (i think) about the size of a volleyball. We
begin by moving the ball around, up and down our legs, around in circles
that go away from the chest and return near our belly buttons. Then we
move the balls from side to side as in the warm-ups, and let the balls
grow into huge inflated beach balls. The students toss them around,
play volleyball, shoot hoops, and always roll them side-to-side. By the
time we get to learning movement #1, commencement, they feel comfortable
with playing around - and with moving this invisible ball.
Next class session, after the warm-ups, i say, "hey! Do you remember
those imaginary balls we played with last week?" this time after they
roll it around a couple times, i tell them to blow it up to beach ball
size, and then when they move it side to side, turn the bottom hand do
the palm is looking at the floor. After playing around a minute with
that, we make the top hand say "hi" to the folks on the beach.
Later in the class, after a water break and before we review the form
as we know it, i introduce "crab-walking". If you've watched crabs then
you already know that they can walk sideways pretty good.
By the third class period my students are ready to put the hands and
feet together and do "waving hands like clouds". It takes them about
ten minutes, and by the end of the class they are pretty much finished
with learning the first six moves.
The following week i greet them wearing my t-shirt backwards. Or
inside out. "because," i tell them, "today you'll take everything you
know and turn it around." so we commence the form, open and close
hands, do single whip and waving cloud hands to the right, open and
close and then i say, "stop! Now go the other direction."
of course i help direct the students by saying aloud what we're doing.
It's both funny and hard at the same time. Some of us discover that we
can't go that way. Others say, "gee, this is so much easier than the
other way." by the end of the day they have a form that balances the
right and left sides.
From then on each time i teach one of the moves, such as brush knee &
twist, i teach it both to the right and left. They practice both
directions, adding it to their form. By the time they have learned the
"first twelve moves," they have also learned the second twelve.
What allows us to be playful with the movements, i think, is taking them
out of the serious context of "learning a tai chi form" and playing with
the moves as a game.
When you are playing, it doesn't matter what the movement looks like.
The more you do it, the more it will come to resemble what it should
look like. Meanwhile, as with all play, whatever you are doing is the
right way to be doing it. There is no "wrong" way to play, i tell
them. The precision in their movement will come with practice. For
now, i want them to just have fun.
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DIABETES. SECRETS TO A LONG, HEALTHY LIFE.
The approach to preventing complications in diabetes has recently shifted from simply lowering your blood glucose levels (BGL) alone to a greater emphasis on other risk factors.
Controlling your glucose level is vital to prevent 'microvascular' complications (i.e. resulting from damage to the small blood vessels) such as kidney failure, loss of vision and neuropathy (nerve damage).
However, most people with diabetes die from 'macrovascular' complications (affecting larger blood vessels) e.g. heart attack, stroke and blocked leg arteries, caused by smoking, raised lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides) and high blood pressure.
Control your glucose levels
You can lower your glucose with regular exercise, weight reduction and a diet low in fats and rich in carbohydrates. Eat more low GI foods as they raise your glucose more slowly (see recipe opposite).
Smoking is by far the most powerful preventable cause of macrovascular diseases. All diabetic smokers should quit.
Life saving news about cholesterol
New evidence has shown that simvastatin, a cholesterol-lowering drug (in the statin class), can result in a 25% reduction in the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart bypass surgery and blocked leg arteries in diabetic patients, even those with normal cholesterol. Many experts now recommend treatment with statins for all diabetic patients over age 40.
Lower your blood pressure
High blood pressure causes both macrovascular and microvascular complications in diabetes. It can be lowered with weight control, reduced salt, less alcohol, regular exercise, no smoking and medication. The target for diabetes is <130/85.
For more information: www.idi.org.au.
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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.