Newsletter #29 - December 2003
- From the Editor
- World Wushu Championship in Macau - By Paul Lam
- Dancing the Night Away - By Robin Malby
- Scotland Workshop - By Norman Precious
- What is a Stance? - By Paul Lam
- Questions and Answers
- SNAP to a Healthy Lifestyle - By Your Health (a health newsletter)
On behalf of all of us from this newsletter and Tai Chi Productions, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas.
The World Wushu Championship is a bi-annual event supported by 80 countries. All these countries, especially China, have been working hard to make Wushu an Olympic sport. The 7th WWC was held in Macau in November this year. I will tell you my experience in this event and what a paradoxical city Macau is.
Robin told me how she found her way back to dancing. What a perfect story for Christmas. Celebrate Christmas with the dance of health. Tai chi is a wonderful gift to mankind, a martial art that brings peace and better health, the greatest gift of all.
Last month I wrote about my experience in Scotland. In response to my story, Norm tells us his Scottish story.
Tai chi stances are a fundamental topic. It's essential to have good stances as they will provide a solid foundation for tai chi. I have been asked about the proper stances many times so here is a general introduction to the topic.
Your_Health, an Australian medical newsletter sums up a few ways to better health. I totally agree with these measures, especially that of regular exercise-preferably tai chi.
The brochure for the one-week workshop in Monterey, California, USA in June 21-27, 2004 is now available. Please contact us at [email protected] if you would like one or more brochures to your friends. We look forward to seeing you in Monterey.
10% discount for the feature produce of the month: the Sun Style 73 Forms DVD.
This step-by-step instructional DVD is ideal for development of internal aspects of tai chi. Sun Style is characterised by powerful qigong elements, agile steps and flowing movements. It is suitable for people who have learned the Tai Chi for Arthritis Part I and II, or have one year or more tai chi experience. For more information or to place your order:
The question of the month came from the Forum by Hemant. We think it is a helpful question for readers and a useful review of our products. We would like to send you a complimentary Tai Chi Music CD. Hemant could you email our staff at [email protected] ? You can read it at the Questions and Answers of this newsletter, or the Forum:
Next month, I am going to discuss how important is the martial art aspect of tai chi. If you find my newsletter useful, please forward it to your friends. To subscribe go to http://www.taichiproductions.com/newsletter/
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The 7th World Wushu Championship (WWC) was held in Macau this year from the 2nd to the 7th of November. WWC is a biannual event supported by 80 countries. Macau is now part of China. It's a peninsula with half a million people and it has a unique mixture of cultures and people. I attended WWC as a member of its medical committee. Our job was to oversee the medical facilities, safety standards and the anti-dope procedure and policy.
We spent most days in meetings and carrying out our duties, but I tried to find time to catch up with old friends from different countries, talk to our national team and watch the competition. The San Shou competition is free style fighting, somewhat like boxing. It's the most popular item with the noisiest crowds. The competitors wear light head protective gear and a groin and body pad. The competitors engage in elimination fights within their range of body weight.
I don't feel comfortable watching people cheering and screaming and yelling things like "hit him, hit him" or "kick her, kick her." Despite my love for martial art, it's awkward to watch people punching each other viciously. At the end of the fight, I was happy to see that most competitors had good sportsmanship and seemed to have good energies for each other. When I met some of them off the ringside in normal clothes, their normal personalities shined through but I kept wondering why do nice people like that enjoy bashing each other? I guess that it's a sport and here I am just expressing my own personal feelings. No disrespect intended.
I tried to watch as many tai chi competitors as possible. You can see the numerous hours of training behind most of them. They have incredible flexibility, grace, and yet, I feel the scoring system did not give enough importance to the inner power and the internal components of tai chi. It's the athleticism and the gymnastic ability that score the most points.
The other Wushu items looked spectacular. The long sticks were powerful; the swords beautiful; the northern fist was grace combined with athleticism; and the southern fist looked like a practical martial art. I've noticed improvement in the standards of the competitors compared to previous events.
I feel that the time has passed for the Olympic Committee to announce Wushu as a competition sport in China for 2008. The rule that the host country has the right to nominate a new sport has been discarded, and I get the impression that Wushu may not make it to the next Olympics as a competitive sport but there's a good chance that it will be a demonstration sport. Tai Kwon Do was a demonstration sport in Korea before it became a competitive sport. Like most Wushu enthusiasts, we have great hope to see Wushu included in an Olympic game.
Macau is close to Hong Kong. If you travel by hydrofoil, it's about one and half an hour. Macau's peninsula includes hills and a beautiful coastline. I remember when we were high school students, we used to cycle on the stone pavements along the beach. We can still see the pavement but I don't see anyone riding a bike there since the beach is now surrounded by tall buildings and reclaimed land. I found out that 20 percent of the total area in Macau was reclaimed (by filling up the sea). The coastline looks like. Patchwork. Some spots are quite beautiful; others strange. Looking from the highest building-the observation tower-the view is spectacular. See photos.
Macau is famous for its casinos. Gambling has always been forbidden in Hong Kong and so Macau has made a whole industry out of setting up huge casinos for Hong Kong visitors. The casinos brought with them other industries such as prostitution, show girls, nightclubs and high-class restaurants around them. Outside the casino area, which is just within walking distance, you encounter a distinct contrast of normal housing and people. Within 10 minutes walk, you experience two different worlds. I found the local Macau people lead relatively simple lives. They are incredibly honest and more laid back than people in Hong Kong. As soon as I came near the casino area, I got turned off. I hated walking into the casinos because they're smoky and most of the people looked desperate and unhealthy. The only good thing about casinos is that they usually have nice restaurants.
Whenever time allowed, however, I enjoyed taking long walks around the city. Even at night time, I felt safe walking, even in darker areas. The food in Macau is good. The local people are interested in tai chi, and many asked me where to find good instructors.
By Paul Lam
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DANCE AND BE HAPPY: A REAL LIFE STORY FOR CHRISTMAS
I want to share with you a brief personal story. On your website about a year ago, you had one of my stories about how Tai Chi for Arthritis has helped my health. Here's the rest of the story:
My husband Doug and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and turning 50 in one big bash. We planned a huge party with all of our closest friends and family. We pulled out all the stops; hiring a deejay, ordering wonderful food, choosing a beautiful setting. I have suffered from muscle weakness for several years now due to fibromyalgia brought on by a severe back injury. I have not been able to dance for any length of time before fatiguing. The tai chi program has slowly improved this weakness. I ended up dancing at my party for more than an hour and a half with little break in between. Now that is a milestone for me. I attribute this success entirely to the practice of both TCA and Sun Style 73.
Lastly, I have been teaching a TCA intermediate class for nearly six months. We have learned almost all 31 moves. I'm so proud of these seniors. They have come so far. You would be thrilled to see them.
By Robin Malby, CA, USA
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Workshop organised by Derek Williamson & Lesley Roberts
What a setting for a Tai Chi for Arthritis workshop. Stirling has it all, magnificent Castle, beautiful scenery and a fantastic monument to William Wallace who is a famous Scottish hero, made even more famous by Mel Gibson in Brave Heart.
My journey started on Friday 27th at 8:30am from Grimsby Town station. Three hundred miles away and six and a half hours later and two train changes I arrived in Stirling. I caught a taxi from the station to the B & B I was booked into in Causey head Rd. It was a real cosy home and it was a special bonus that I could see the William Wallace monument from my bedroom window. At night it was flood lit and with a bit of mist swirling around it was spooky. Friday night after a bite to eat and loads of revision it was off to bed early.
Saturday morning I was up bright and early for a cooked breakfast. Derek had arranged transport for the people without cars. So off we went to the venue, a place called Stageworks. It turned out to be an industrial unit that had been converted (very tastefully) for performing arts. The course was well attended and there were people there from Ireland, Germany and a Dutch lady who lives in Switzerland and of course a good number of English as well as our Scotch hosts.
The weekend was for people to learn TCA I and TCA II and also enable practitioners to renew their certificates. I was there for TCA II, which is to learn the reverse of the first twelve movements and the new nine movements. It was a time to meet old friends and gain new ones. On Saturday each group worked in rotation with Dr Paul Lam, Derek Williamson and Lesley Roberts. Derek and Lesley were responsible for organising the weekend and although Derek probably got the short straw as he lives in Scotland, Leslie certainly put in a lot of work herself.
Anyone who has attended one of Dr Lam's workshops knows it is enjoyable work and by the end of the weekend you will have OMT imprinted in your brain. Oh yes, OMT one more time. Five o'clock saw the end of day one and off we all went back to our accommodation. Saturday night I was lucky and ended up eating in Stirling with friends I had met during a previous course. It was not a late night, I was tucked up in bed for 11:30.
Day two after breakfast, it was back to Stageworks. So it was back to OMT and the TCA II group had to learn the nine new moves. One move is called 'carry the tray'. It is a good job there weren't real trays, because there would have been a lot of dropped trays. Again Dr Lam, Derek and Lesley took it in turns to instruct us. It must be catching because this time both Derek and Leslie were telling us OMT. After lunch we learnt more practical and safety aspects and then each group gave a demonstration of the form they learnt over the weekend. At 4pm it was time for photos and to collect our certificates. Then it was time to bid farewell to old and new friends. I went back to my B&B, as I was not catching my train till Monday. If any one is thinking of attending a TCA workshop you will not be disappointed. This was my second one and it was just great.
By Norman Precious
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FINDING THE CORRECT STANCE
In tai chi, a stance is a position or a posture which involves mostly the lower part of your body. For example Chen style usually has a lower, deep-knee-bend stance. Sun style has a higher stance, and Yang is somewhere in between. See photos.
Like building a house, a good foundation is essential. The same is true in tai chi. Having a solid stance will give you good foundation.
Let me give you some simple examples:
Half Horse stance Chen style: It is lower and powerful. The weight distribution is 60:40% so that it is easy to shift your weight from one side of the body to the other and more difficult for your opponent to detect your true intentions.
Bow stance Yang style: The front foot has more weight, usually 70:30%. Bow stance offers a strong position, useful to deliver force (e.g. throw a punch). It also means commitment of lower the body to give support for the upper body to deliver a striking force.
Empty stance Sun style: All the weight on one foot and the other has no weight regardless of whether it is touching the ground or not. The practitioner has to be aware of weight distribution. In the empty stance, the empty foot can be used to attack by kicking or blocking your opponent. This stance also helps strengthen the lower limbs.
Different styles can have similar stances. Many even have the same name but can appear very differently, each having their unique features. For example, the Horse stance is generally lower in Chen style than Yang style but has a similar structure. All styles have an empty stance. Chen style has the lowest. Once more, the feet positions may vary between styles in Horse stance.
Different approaches to execute stances offer different advantages. Higher stances like the Sun style's empty stance are suitable for less flexible people and effective for qi cultivation. Deep knee bend positions like the Chen require more strength, flexibility and training thus offering more attacking power. It's important to choose a style with a stance position suitable for you. The key is to understand your purpose in practicing tai chi and find the most effective, safe and easiest way to fulfill your purpose. You can find more information about different styles and stances in my article "Five Major Styles."
Here are a few general guidelines:
1. Don't force your stance lower than your comfort zone. Over straining will hinder the flow of qi, cause injury and distort your overall posture. Practice regularly; your strength and flexibility will improve. When lower stances come naturally, there's real inner power. Forcing yourself to go low will only give you stiff muscles and cause injury.
2. Draw a vertical line from your kneecap to your toes. Your kneecap should never pass this line. If it does, you will over-strain your knee. You will also be more vulnerable to being thrown off balance by your opponent.
3. If you're not sure of the correct position, ask yourself these questions: Are you comfortable? Do you feel strong in this position? Do you feel stable in this position? Is it consistent with the overall intention of the form?
4. Check with a teacher or colleague if in doubt.
By Paul Lam
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Q: Being a Certified Senior Advisor and a Tai Chi and Martial Arts enthusiast, I recently purchased the Tai Chi for Arthritis and Tai Chi for Diabetes DVD's. I have to say that they were the best instructional videos I have ever seen. I have always had trouble learning from videos, until now.
I recommended the Tai Chi for Diabetes video to a doctor friend of mine who has diabetes and it run in his family. He was sceptical at first and then asked me if there was any research out there that supported the effects of Tai Chi on Diabetes specifically.
I would appreciate some help since I am on a crusade here to prove the benefits of Tai Chi to a skeptic. If there is some research out there that supports the videos, I will have another Tai Chi convert on my hands.
A: We think it is a helpful question for readers as well as a useful review of our products. To read the answer to your question please go to:
Q: Would it be possible to use wording similar to the enrollment form you have included in the tai chi for diabetes instructor workshop handout?
Also, I found this month's tai chi newsletter to be very informative, especially your trip to Scotland. I found your article on how to improve qi quite helpful… can I make copies of this article to hand out to my intermediate/advanced students?
A: Please feel free to copy my articles, published forms and other material for non-profit purpose. This means you cannot take my article or part of it for your own commercial products without my permission. You can use it as a handout to your students even though your students pay you fees.
You must try to use articles as a whole without change and add this line at the beginning: "Copyrights Dr Paul Lam, copy for educational purpose."
Any loss or damage incurred by using my article is the recipient's responsibility.
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The New Year is an ideal time to review your lifestyle and make some healthy changes. Why not review your SNAP risk factors? SNAP risk factors are Smoking, Nutrition, Alcohol and Physical activity. They are the four most preventable causes of disease in Australia and they play an important role in many serious and often chronic conditions.
Kicking the habit is the single most important thing you can do for your health. Quitting lowers your risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer. You will also breathe better, live longer (8 years on average) and have more money!
Keep trying until you succeed. Most successful quitters have had 3-4 failed attempts before finally quitting for good. Help from your GP and the use of patches, gum, lozenges, sprays or tablets will -increase your chance of success.
A healthy diet can help prevent heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. It also helps control blood pressure, cholesterol levels and your weight.
Try to eat a wide variety of foods. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, as well as bread, cereals, rice and pasta. Eat a low-fat diet, in particular low in saturated fat. Eat lean meat, fish and poultry and fat-reduced dairy foods.
Excess alcohol can cause high blood pressure, liver disease, impotence and memory problems, as well as strife with your family, workplace and the law.
The safe drinking limit is up to 28 standard drinks (such as a middy of regular beer) per week for men and 14 for women. Men should never drink more than 6 standard drinks in a day and women no more than 4. Try to have 1 or 2 alcohol-free days per week.
Regular exercise helps control weight and improves sleep and stress levels. It can also prevent heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes and some cancers.
Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity such as brisk walking on most (preferably all) days of the week. This can be made up of shorter sessions of 10 minutes. Try also to be more active during your daily routine.
A healthy lifestyle gives you more active, quality years with your family and friends, a longer life to see your children and grandchildren grow up and the best chance to grow old gracefully and in good health. You can't ask for better reasons than that!
Why not give it a try? Speak to your GP for more assistance and information.
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