Newsletter #17 - September 2002
A heel kick requires concentration, balance and leg strength. It is important to maintain an upright body, mental focus and good balance. You should perform the kick to your comfort level. It's more important to kick correctly than it is to kick high. The preparation is as follows:
Right knee slightly bent, left foot close to the right, resting on the ball of the foot , hands crossed in front of the lower abdomen with shoulders loosened. Eyes looking straight ahead, body upright, weight on the right foot, sink qi to the dan tian. The left thigh faces out, roughly at a right angle to the right side.
Raise your body by straightening the right knee almost all the way, but keeping it slightly bent. Breathing in, bring the left knee up, letting the foot drop naturally. Bring both hands up, with qi raised, to the middle of the chest. Hands crossed in front of your chest with left hand outside the right.
Turn both palms out and fingers pointing diagonally upward, elbows pointing downward. Flex the left foot so that the left toes are pointing up.
Open up both hands, kicking the left foot forward. The centre of the force is at the heel. Kick 90 degrees towards the left, keeping your right knee slightly bent, your hips relaxed and breathing out as the qi sinks to the dan tian.
The left hand should be facing the same direction as the left leg. The right arm should not be 180 degree to the left as this will make both shoulders too tense. Place the right arm about 135 degrees from the left, right hand, slightly higher than left to help your balance.
Both elbows should be slightly bent, shoulders loosened, fingers pointing upwards while the main force comes from the heel of the left foot. Imagine as you kick your opponent, the left hand strikes at your opponent with the outer palm.
In this pose, it helps to imagine that you are stretching out inside a huge bubble and that your hands and your left foot are pushing towards the edge of this bubble. Bear in mind, however, that as you do this, you need to keep your knees slightly bent and your qi sinking to the dan tian so that you are well balanced and rooted correctly. Internal force goes to the left heel for kicking and the left hand for striking.
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How I started a workshop in Hong Kong was unusual. Several years ago, I presented the Tai Chi for Arthritis program at the American Rheumatology College Annual Scientific Conference. There I met the guru of the Arthritis Self Management Program, Dr Kate Lorig from Stanford University. Kate introducted me to Peter Poon, a physiotherapist who is in charge of the department in the Margaret Trent Rehabilitation Hospital in Hong Kong. Since then, I have been conducting regular workshops in Hong Kong.
Being a Chinese who has spent some time in Hong Kong, it's been interesting to be connected through somebody who lives in America, but such is our world, which is getting a lot smaller. The Margaret Trent Rehabilitation Hospital is located near The Peak in a not too populated spot in Hong Kong. Rare, indeed, because most of Hong Kong is jammed full of huge concrete buildings and people. An old two-story building located near the top of a mountain is as rare as ham's teeth.
I never did enjoy my time in Hong Kong because the place moves too fast. People are too busy for you, and many people's main interest is business and money. All those things put me off a little-until I met these new friends from the workshop. My new found group of very caring and sincere friends makes Hong Kong more enjoyable to me.
Just to recount an interesting incident, one day I was sitting in a taxi cab talking intensely with my local host, Peter Poon. Suddenly the taxi driver butted in. He wanted to talk about a weird, unrealistic plan to solve the desert problem in China by making everybody carry one kilogram of good soil whenever they passsed that desert. It seemed strange and impractical to me, and I was a little annoyed that he interrupted our conversation. Nonetheless, my host listened to the cab driver and interacted with him. As I was getting more and more annoyed, suddenly I realised Peter's kindness. Somehow he understood that the cabby was lonely. It's always nice to discover the good part of human nature. My annoyance disappeared.
Even though I spent time in Hong Kong, nearly 40 years ago, I feel that I am a stranger, especially since it has changed so much. It was good that my host took me out to some really nice seafood restaurants that only the locals patronise.
Considering Hong Kong being populated by mainly Chinese people and has very high quality Chinese cuisine, one would think that Hong Kong would have lots of tea shops and tea cafes to sell it. Not so. Hong Kong people are too busy for this kind of thing. (I'm a Kung Fu tea enthusiast. If you're interested, read my article on Kung Fu tea.) Nonetheless, my host Peter and his colleagues who knew of my interest in tea, took me to a very interesting tea café. This café doubled as an antique furniture shop. The shop specialized in hand-made furniture that imitated antiques expressing individuality. Interesting.
We walked past all the furniture to go upstairs to a small area where there was a tea Grand Master who came to talk to us about tea. You can imagine that I was going to enjoy this. The first thing that the Tea Master did was to apologise that they cannot bring in mountain water, fresh daily, from China. (The best tea requires the best mountain stream, definitely not chlorinated water!) They can only manage to do this once a week and since we had arrived on the weekend, and the water had arrived the day before, he apologised for not having fresh water.
We tried a few types of teas. I enjoyed the experience, drinking quality tea served by the right person and in the right environment is indeed a rare combination.
Hong Kong might not still be my favourite place, since it's home to some fine, caring people the place is much nicer in my mind. I suppose the same holds true for every place in the world, it is the people which make a place, city or country what it is.
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Six weeks ago I suffered a mild MCI while I was out for my daily run. I had a catheter done in the hospital in Bangor that evening and the doctor found some mild blockage in two arteries. There was no need for any medical procedures at that time. I am on plavix, asprin, and lipitor. I had hoped that I would avoid the family history: mother, father, two sisters all victims of high cholesterol. I guess it runs in the family. I have known for twenty years or so that this was possible, but thought I had beat it with diet, exercise, and supplementation. While I was feeling bad about all that I had done to prevent this seemingly not working, the doctors told me that if I had not done all that hard work, I would have died.
While I was in the hospital, even the day after the heart attack, I did Tai Chi and qigong. Then as I spent two weeks recovering, I did Tai Chi and Qigong everyday. It is six weeks later. The doctor gave me a clean bill of health. I am running again, shorter distances, but running. I am beginning to do some hard form TKD, and hope to be back at this in a few months.
Tai Chi works. I am sure that it saved my life, and has helped to make the recovery go quick and smooth.
Bruce M. Young, CT, USA
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