Newsletter #126 - February 2012
- Facilitate Enjoyment. An Extract from Teaching Tai Chi Effectively, Dr Paul Lam
- Journey of Self Discovery, Dr Paul Lam
- Teaching Tai Chi Effectively, John Gough
- My Impressions of Sydney 2012, Aileen Moxon
- ACSM Recommends Tai Chi, Jim Starshak
- Why Learn Push Hands? Caroline Demoise
- Feature Profile – Rosemary Palmer
Facilitate enjoyment, an extract from “Teaching Tai Chi Effectively”.
Hear and read Dr Paul Lam’s welcoming speech at the 14th Annual Sydney Workshop with special emphasis on tai chi principles.
John Gough shares with us how teaching tai chi effectively helped his students take ownership of their tai chi. For him his students keep coming back and his classes keep expanding.
Scholarship recipient in the 14th Sydney Annual Workshop, Aileen Moxon, gives us her impressions of the workshop.
Jim Starshak informs us ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) recently established neuromotor, or functional fitness, as a new exercise category and have specifically recommended tai chi as a neuromotor exercise.
Caroline Demoise describes the value of learning push hands to reinforce tai chi principles and improve your tai chi form.
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February 16 - 17, Daejeon, Korea
February 18 - 19, Busan, Korea
Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Yours in Tai Chi,
Dr Paul Lam, Director, Tai Chi for Health Programs, Narwee, NSW, Australia
This extract was taken from Chapter 2 “What It Takes To Be an Effective Teacher”. Facilitating enjoyment is one of the attributes. The Summary marks the conclusion of this chapter.
For those of us who enthuse about tai chi, practicing it awards us with a wonderful feeling in our body and mind. Intrinsically tai chi is an enjoyable exercise, art and sport. It is this enjoyment that urges us to practice and to share our enthusiasm with others. If people don’t enjoy doing something, they will soon stop doing it.
A caring, positive attitude—along with sound tai chi and teaching skills and an ability to incorporate tai chi principles and enjoyment—are the foundation on which an effective teacher stands. You too can be an effective teacher, or even more effective than you are now.
It is wonderful to see so many friends return year after year. A special welcome to Charlie who has not missed one single workshop in the last 14 years! Although last year he got lost and went to the USA workshop instead, so it still counts. It is also wonderful to meet many new faces; I look forward to working with you. A special welcome our friends from far remote places and from overseas.
When I shared my idea with my colleagues, some doubted it could work, they kept asking me “How do we get tai chi people to come?” Well we did, year after year! Now together with the USA annual workshops, we have successfully done 23 one-week workshops! The workshop has become a great place to learn and/or to improve your tai chi, to make new friends or renew friendship and to share this special tai chi spirit. When we get together we energise each other, and help each other to grow physically, mentally and spiritually! More importantly, we have a wonderful time! I can vouch for all the instructors when I say how much we enjoy working with you, and how much you have inspired and taught us!
Let me share a tai chi principle with you. Practising tai chi principles is what makes tai chi almost magical in improving health and wellness. Tai chi is the way of nature; in nature there is a natural tendency towards balance and harmony, which brings about positive results. So it is only natural that tai chi brings about better balance and harmony to the internal energy.
Let me demonstrate a couple movements in different styles: Yang Style and Sun style Single Whip.
John Gough, Workshop Instructor, Kogarah, NSW, Australia
So on the first class of the following year, all excited, I stood in the hall with three students. Where had I gone wrong? After much talk and beating of breast, and analysis, I reached the conclusion that while the students had enjoyed themselves, however, they had not taken ownership of their tai chi. My challenge!! How do I encourage my students to own their tai chi.
Now I would like to share with you something I call, “The Cement”-“Winning the confidence and respect of your students” This is the glue that keeps my classes together and everybody winning. It is easy to say but not so easy to put into action, so this is how I work to achieve it.
I try to Listen to what my students are saying, not only to me but also particularly to their fellow participants. I try to listen with my ears, eyes, heart and mind, not only to what they are saying but also to their body language, for this really tells me what their real attitude is. I work to be open and honest in my dealings and what I say at all times. I involve my students in as much of the process as possible and encourage them to have their input. I encourage them as often as possible and always use positive comments. I praise them as a group and especially individually, as this helps them to feel good about themselves and works to build a culture of a positive and welcoming environment. Laugh - and laugh often, builds a happy and enjoyable classroom.
The Progressive Stepwise Teaching Method works well for me and for my students have given me good feedback on my teaching style. Lead by example - Practise – As their teacher it is my responsibility to ensure I am as good as I can be. If I can get into class before my students arrive I practise. I want them to see me practising and I invite them to join in where possible. Some make a point of coming early so they can.
So how has all of this worked for me? Well I have started a number of classes since the awakening, I am teaching approximately ninety to one hundred students per week across the TCH menu, and Yang and Sun styles, a little qigong, and my classes are located in community halls and private and government organisations.
The answers - Fantastic, I would survive to tell the tale, and “yes‟!
Rather than prattle on as my husband would say, I thought I would abbreviate my impressions:
A sense of expectation from the moment I walk through the gates of St Vincents College.
Enthusiasm that oozed out of every pore, of those I met, similar to the geothermal energy that bubbles from the earth in Rotorua. (One of NZ‟s premier attractions)
The powerful sound of silence, as we listened and absorbed the energy generated from demonstrations.
The fluidity of movement, as mind and body coordinate together in physical and mental poetry.
The openness of participants to learn and their ability to share.
The harmony among participants and instructors that undulates outwards like waves rippling on a pond.
The wonderful sensation that felt like “controlled floating”.
The positive focus, as opposed to stress, which allowed us to learn and enjoy.
The smiles, the noise, no, not of the City, rather the sounds of sharing experiences, the laughter and occasionally tears of emotion, and the hugs - so healing.
The fellowship, meeting new friends, renewing old friendships.
So visiting Sydney was memorable in many ways, and I think everyone I spoke to had a common goal, that thirst for knowledge, and like them, the more I learn, the more I know I need to learn. From the bottom of my heart, I give thanks to all those who made it possible. Until the next workshop ...
Master Trainer Jim Starshak has been involved in fitness for most of his life. He is recognized by the IDEA Health & Fitness Organization as an Elite Personal Fitness Trainer and is “Re-Certified with Distinction” as a Certified Personal Trainer by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He currently teaches in Kansas, USA.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the world’s largest sports medicine and exercise science organization. They promote and integrate scientific research, education, and practical applications of sports medicine and exercise science to maintain and enhance individual’s physical performance, fitness, health, and quality of life. For most of us probably know them best for their standardized exercise protocols used health, fitness, and rehabilitation professionals throughout the world. When ACSM speaks, people listen!
In 2011, ACSM added a new exercise category – Neuromotor – to the familiar categories of Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Muscular Fitness, and Flexibility. Neuromotor—or Functional Fitness—incorporates motor skills such as balance, coordination, gait, and agility along with proprioceptive training. ACSM recommends that all healthy individuals participate in a neuromotor exercise two to three times each week. This is significant to all of us as ACSM specifically includes tai chi as a neuromotor exercise.
In order to improve and maintain physical fitness and health, ACSM states that it is essential for most adults to participate in a program of regular exercise that is beyond their activities of daily living and includes cardiorespiratory, resistance, flexibility, and neuromotor training. Multifaceted physical activities, such as tai chi, inherently involve all of those exercise categories. According to ACSM, neuromotor exercise training is especially beneficial as part of a comprehensive exercise program for older persons to improve their balance, gait, agility, muscular strength, and to reduce their risk of falls and fear of falling
Although designed years ago, our Tai Chi for Health programs each dovetail perfectly with ACSM’s new guidance. Our programs also comply with ACSM’s additional guideline that exercise programs should be easily modifiable to meet any individual’s habitual physical activity, physical function, health status, exercise responses, and goals. Both these facts should be mentioned when promoting your Tai Chi for Health class.
ACSM readily admits that we need much more research on tai chi. However, they also recognize that tai chi is already the most widely studied functional fitness program, and, that it has been shown to be effective in improving balance, agility, motor control, proprioception, and quality of life. Although limited by the number of tai chi studies on younger populations, ACSM’s evidence still suggests that exercises that involve balance and agility—such as tai chi—may reduce anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries and recurrent ankle injuries in men and women athletes. Tai Chi for Health really does have something to offer just about anyone!
Gerber, CE et.al. Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: 43:7 July 2011, pp 1334-1359.
Accessed at: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2011/07000/Quantity_and_Quality_of_Exercise_for_Developing.26.aspx.
If you know a long form from memory and want to deepen your understanding of basic tai chi principles, push hands can provide another perspective to explore and deepen your tai chi. Your body will need a certain level of conditioning to enjoy the partner routine that flows in a circular pattern. Traveling back to a somewhat seated position with weight on your back leg as you receive energy from your partner takes strong legs or will develop them. You really want to park the negative aspect of ego with your car and not bring it to the class to truly enjoy push hands. Winning isn’t the goal. As you learn a new physical skill, making mistakes i.e. getting caught in an awkward alignment or tensing when relaxation is called for is critical to the learning process. If you aren’t comfortable with yourself when your partner uproots you, this sport is challenging. But if you want to know yourself on an energetic and physical alignment level, then a skilled partner is an excellent teacher. When you know yourself deeply, you have a foundation to understand your partner’s energy, strengths and weaknesses by listening and feeling through gentle touch.
In Terre Haute when I saw the Push Hands demonstration Saturday, I knew I wanted to uproot the tree myself so I invited instructor Mearl Thompson, to come to North Carolina for some training with my students. The workshop was a huge success and the information was precious. One student, Philip Griffin, expressed it this way: “The thing that struck me is that push hands is the essence of yin and yang in action. In our tai chi forms we display yin and yang principles in postures, and yes even feel yin and yang through the expression of our body movements. But push hands “Is” different. Yin and yang are fully concrete, completely visible and felt, and entirely expressed in every movement of push hands. I think push hands makes the interplay between yin and yang clear and easy to grasp and understand. Solo tai chi postures take on new meaning and feeling with that deeper understanding.”
Paul Finkel, another participant, described the experience this way: “Although I thought I had a good comprehension of tai chi walking and weight shifting when doing a form, that is, putting down the heel then the toe and then shifting the weight into that leg, the Push Hands method of drawing the knee forward, then relaxing into the posture allowed me to feel the energy flow down my back and into the heel of the back foot and into the ground for the first time. As a result I know now that I need to have more moments of relaxing into the postures when I do tai chi.”
Betty Akiba realized after the workshop that the spiral energy and the figure eight movements we were practicing in Sun style “would provide the power that was needed in martial arts applications. For example, Mearl demonstrated how to pull an opponent slightly downward toward him and then push up from the heels while straightening the arms to get his partner off balance. It was an “a-ha” moment to connect the dots between martial art movement and what we strive for in tai chi for health and energy. Spiral movements are not only beautiful, flowing and efficient; they are strong and powerful, without being effortful.”
I was brought up in England and worked in journalism and market research before emigrating to Australia with my husband, Eddie and young family in 1970. It was on a cruise ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean when I first saw Tai Chi and from that day my life changed. They had lessons while at sea, and I had my first introduction on how good Tai Chi is for balance. It was no mean feat to step to bow stance while the ship was pitching and rolling on a very rough ocean. When I got back to Adelaide I found a teacher and with support of family, Tai Chi became part of my life. My Tai Chi journey had begun. I began to teach Tai Chi in 1986 while still working for the Education Department and started my own school, The Moving Meditation School of Tai Chi and Qigong in 1994, specialising in Qigong and Yang style traditional forms.
I was introduced to Dr. Lam through a video, which had been loaned to me. I loved the way Dr. Lam performed his Tai Chi and emailed him. He replied offering his help where possible. This came in an invitation to the very first Better Health Tai Chi Chuan January workshop in 1999. My friend Pauline and I flew over from Adelaide. Anna booked us into a motel, as the workshop was not 'live in' and we shared with Maureen from Queensland. It was a great week and my introduction to the 73 Sun style. Little did I know then that it would become so important over the next decade.
I was invited to be one of Paul's Master Trainers in 2002 and have promoted the Tai Chi for Health programmes in SA since then, with exceptional help from Arthritis SA. Apart from teaching the Tai Chi for Health programmes in SA's capital, Adelaide, I felt it was important to take the programmes to the rural areas of the state. I initially travelled extensively promoting both the Tai Chi for Arthritis and Tai Chi for Diabetes programmes. Although I don't travel as much now, programmes have been established and are ongoing. New trainees and leaders travel to Adelaide to gain their qualification or update from all over the state through Arthritis SA. Also several leaders have gone on to further improve their skills by travelling to Sydney to attend the January Workshops.
South Australia is not a large State with regard to population, but after a serious car accident I realised we needed another MT. Brenda Hum became our second Master Trainer and she will be taking over some of the rural areas of SA, while I retain my focus on city locations and the South and South East country locations.
Rural areas rely on government grants to run their recreational and health programmes, and the coordinator is pivotal in this regard. The programme in the South East of SA has been our most successful, operating since 2004. We are most fortunate that the South Eastern Health Service Coordinator fully backs the programmes, securing grants, networking and ensuring all leaders update regularly and new leaders are trained. It is through the Tai Chi for Health programmes and scientific studies carried out, that Tai Chi has finally become an acceptable therapy by medical professions both in Australia and the around the world.
So where do we go from here. I am keen to add the Falls Prevention module to the TCA programme and Brenda and I are planning to extend into the Northern Territory with both the Tai Chi for Arthritis and Tai Chi for Diabetes programmes.
Tai Chi is a very important part of my life. When I first learned Tai Chi I thought I knew it all but now, after 28 years, I realise I know so little. The journey I began so many years ago continues to enthral me as I'm sure it will for the rest of my life.
For radiant health we want to exceed our minimal daily requirement for laughter. Developing radiant health through laughter involves being open-minded and discovering ways to poke fun at the world. Here is one way.
How often have you enjoyed reading the funny signs that merchants have for their business? Here are a few for your humour file. Pass them on.
Here are signs that poke fun at the world:
* On a home repair truck:
"We repair what your husband fixed."
* On the trucks of a local plumbing company:
"Don't sleep with a drip. Call your plumber."
*At a tire shop in Milwaukee:
"Invite us to your next blowout."
* Door of a plastic surgeon's office:
"Hello. Can we pick your nose?"
* At a towing company:
"We don't charge an arm and a leg. We want tows."
* On an electrician's truck:
"Let us remove your shorts."
*On a maternity room door:
"Push. Push. Push."
*At an optometrist's office:
"If you don't see what you're looking for, you're at right place."
*On a fence:
"Salesmen welcome! Dog food is expensive."
*At a car dealership:
"The best way to get back on your feet miss a car payment."
*In a restaurant window:
"Don't stand there and be hungry. Come on in and get fed up."
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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.