Newsletter #144 - August 2013
I posted the January workshop on line last week and we already have a number of registrations! You must have been keeping an eye on the website. Thanks for the enthusiasm, very much looking forward to see there.
This July I conducted a series of workshops, starting at home in Sydney. Then I travelled to New Zealand, one of the world’s most natural and beautiful countries, to conduct several workshops at Whangarei. In the native Maori language Whangarei means “cherished harbour”. It is an extremely beautiful harbour and the locals are exceptionally nice. Read the very informative article in the Whangarei Leader about the workshop.
Having been in bustling New York not that long ago I thought the pace in Whangarei was a little slow but gradually I realised the depth and uniqueness of the place and the people. Strangely it came clear to me when I saw a local arts and craft shop. I have travelled to many countries and visited many art shops. It is disappointing to see that they sell similar products, even in exotic places like Amsterdam, Prague or Shantou. In this little town everything in the craft shop was original handmade by many local artists.
The shop was called “The Bach” and it was started by Glenda Ferguson, who realised that the local community had a lot of very artistic people who found it financially prohibitive to have a forum for their wares. Glenda worked with many of the artists to set up the shop and they take turns to run it. It was not an easy task to work with so many individualistic artists! I had a wonderful time talking to Glenda about her mission to enable people to express their unique personalities and artistry. This is something that we in Tai Chi for Health value greatly; we believe everyone is unique and our mission is to bring Tai Chi for Health to help foster that individuality. It is a great pleasure to see people with respect for each person and such artistic diversity - a tiny shop but big in humanity.
Singapore consultant rheumatologist, Tai Chi for Health Institute Chair and Master Trainer Raymond Tang Ching Lau gave an excellent talk during the annual tai chi workshop in CT in June, entitled “The Future of Modernised Tai Chi”. Enjoy this refreshing, empowering and enjoyable presentation. Tang Ching is making the PPT freely available to our tai chi community so please contact him if you wish to use his knowledge and professional presentation. You can find his contact details from the Tai Chi for Health Institute site. Many thanks Raymond.
In this newsletter:
- Dr Raymond Lau drops his stethoscope and took the crystal ball to tell us about future of modernised tai chi
Meg Randolph and Beth Mackie tell us about their combined learning experience
Vill Chan tells us about her tai chi journey
Jennifer Chung talks about teaching Tai Chi for Health in Singapore
Caroline Demoise talks about what tai chi means to the individual
Dr Bob McBrien treats us to our regular dose of tai chi humour – I love the story of the policeman and his dog.
Download Tai Chi for Beginners Lesson Two for $2.99 and get lesson Three FREE (lesson one is free on Youtube).
Sep 07-08. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Sep 14-15. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Toronto, ON, Canada
Sep 21-22. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Albany, NY, United States
Sep 28-29. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Holland, OH, United States
Oct 05-06. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Woodbury, MN, United States
Oct 10-11. Exploring the Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis
Knoxville, TN, United States
Oct 12-13. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Knoxville, TN, United States
Sebring, FL, United States
Oct 25-25. Tai Chi for Arthritis Multiple Update Training
Walnut Creek, CA, United States
Oct 26-27. Tai Chi for Energy Instructor Training
Walnut Creek, CA, United States
Walla Walla, WA, United States
Jan 06-11. One Week Tai Chi Workshop
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Many other workshops conducted by my authorised master trainers are listed in the Workshop Calendar.
Teaching Tai Chi for Arthritis gave me a wonderful opportunity for a giving/receiving experience with a student. During the course of teaching Tai Chi for Arthritis I have had students with conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsonism, Fibromyalgia and many more. I have even had a student who was blind. As I began to teach a student who had an above knee amputation, I was stepping into new territory. My student and I had a talk about our expectations before she joined the class. I was completely open about the fact I had no experience teaching the Tai Chi form to an above knee amputee who was using a walker during my classes. I had been a Physical Therapist for 35 years and had plenty of knowledge from that perspective, but this was going to be a new journey for us both. This was an ideal mentor/mentoree relationship in which the roles constantly changed. I was able to devise ways to adapt the form for my student and she was able to make suggestions about what would improve her learning process.
The following is her account of her experience with Tai Chi for Arthritis.
“In April 2011, my right leg was amputated above the knee due to a rare sarcoma. I have been using a prosthesis with a Mauch knee since July of 2011. I walk with a single point cane about 95% of the time. I sometimes walk without a cane at home. I occasionally use a walker for long distances.
In the fall of 2012, I ended PT and was looking for a new activity to get more exercise. I had taken Tai Chi classes over a decade ago but had stopped practicing. I joined the Dekalb Medical Wellness Center and thought the Tai Chi for Arthritis class taught by Meg Randolph might be beneficial.
Tai chi tips I found useful:
Bring water, sit down to rest or do movements sitting down, as necessary
Use a walker or chair to hold on to as necessary. I positioned the walker in front of me during the tai chi class and used it as necessary during the class.
Use gait belt as necessary if someone is available to help.
Practice walking side to side with railing, etc. and walking backwards with walker and/or gait belt.
Remember you only have to barely bend knee (5% minimum is all).
Often I could not move my legs slowly enough but I just did the best I could. Often there were many places in the form when my step was pretty quick.
Learn how to open hips and be careful on turns.
There has been much give/take and flow with this experience. Both student and teacher have learned, benefitted and made great discoveries together.
This May, I attended the “Explore The Depth of Tai Chi for Arthritis Workshop”. I felt that it was a great privilege and opportunity to attend this workshop conducted by Dr Paul Lam in Singapore. The principles on Song, Jing, Breathing and the countless repetitive practices to improve each step were truly enriching.
Tai Chi will certainly be something I would like to do, as long as I am able. I aspire to learn more. In the process, I will be a tool to help promote the message that Tai Chi has many health and mental benefits.
It was a big challenge as this is a first ACTIVE AGEING PROGRAM for the community center to get 50 seniors to take part learning Tai Chi. On the first day of the tai chi class, I observed some came walking very slowly and with walking aid into the hall.
Teaching slowly and applying the Stepwise Progressive Method, the participants could not remember much. As soon as they leave the room, they forget everything. After 6 months, the progress was very slow. I started to explore doing Seated Tai Chi instead. Without having to balance themselves while standing, they feel more confidence to do the seated version of TCA. Soon I started to bring some of the participants out for Seated Tai Chi demos as community center have many senior and health talk activities. With the challenge to perform on stage, help them to remember and they also like to showcase their capabilities. Something they have never performed on stage in their whole life.
Soon I introduce them to do actual standing version slowly. With a strong foundation and understanding of tai chi movements, today after just 3 years they are able to practice TCO, TCD and TCA2. I gained so much experience and adjusting my teaching method to suit everyone along the way. Today Villa, Wee and Lee Tack are also TCA Trainers having completed doing the TCA Instructor Training Course. Recently with my encouragement, they also attended the Depth of TCA workshop in May 2013. I still have this senior group with me. Some dropped out along the journey and only 28 participants remain.
How we became so successful at reaching and retaining so many people?
Tai Chi for Health programs are into the fifth year in Singapore. With the experience we gained from teaching, today both Simon and myself we conduct more than 40 classes of tai chi a week. Over 500 people are still learning TCH programs. Many are still waiting for new classes to start.
Seeing how Tai Chi for Health programs grows in Singapore in just 4 years, we both feel our hard work, commitment, precious time spending spreading the TCHI vision, the strong inter-generational bonding and friendship are well spent. We enjoyed every moment and the fulfillment and satisfaction is immeasurable.
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I love tai chi because there is no end to the depth of understanding, the changes in awareness or the joy of experiencing the moment without the influence of thinking, cultural programming or the endless pressure to accomplish something. Doing tai chi is its own reward, transforming the day with a change of energy, refocusing you on the joy of living in the moment.
Many people would say that tai chi means improved balance and a better quality of life. This is true for people of any age or stage of life. The weight bearing nature of tai chi’s slow movements has given me many gifts. When I really slow the movements down and relax into feeling energy sinking during weight transfers or the awareness of being completely supported on one leg, that internal focus takes me deep into a consciousness that I never accessed in life through normal activities. Becoming internally focused opens up a realm that is so calm and peaceful that I refer to it as priceless.
Moving slowly and relaxing into being on one leg temporarily, especially if you can bend your knees, is an amazing fitness strategy. My legs are stronger now than when I began tai chi thirty years ago. And the more you can maintain a good alignment as you move very slowly with intense awareness and focus on relaxing and opening muscles and joints the deeper your mind will relax and uncover a deep reservoir of peacefulness. In Chapel Hill my favorite part of the week was when I went to Lisa’s class and just focused on these principles as she guided us through Cheng Man Ching’s form. This is not what I’d call a beginning form, yet it’s where I began my journey in California many years ago. But doing it today is completely different because of all I have learned about tai chi’s principles in my thirty year journey. Each form I learned, each teacher I experienced gave me an expanded perspective of the principles. I am amazed at what I feel now with this form compared to the early years. What might the experience of this form be in another ten or twenty years?
Wherever you are in your journey with tai chi, know that there is so much more to discover. Keep looking for the teachers who are able to lead you step by step toward a deeper understanding of what looks like a simple, straightforward movement. Everyone has a different way of explaining and expressing the principles. Go deeper into the feeling level of a movement, look for the insight and it will come to you. All teachers benefit from studying with another teacher. Find what resonates with you and devote yourself to practice and staying in beginner’s mind.
A common theme from folks was how much children's humor was appreciated. In their innocence children are able to deliver “punch lines” that make our day. For tai chi practitioners there is a wonderful opportunity to practice using “beginner’s mind” when we are laughing with a child. Here are a few more examples of how children brighten your day.
A physician told this story about her then four-year-old daughter. On the way to preschool, the doctor had left her stethoscope on the car seat, and her little girl picked it up and began playing with it." Be still, my heart," thought the doctor, my daughter wants to follow in my footsteps!
Then the child spoke into the instrument: "Welcome to McDonald's. May I take your order?"
An exasperated mother, whose son was always getting into mischief, finally asked him, "How do you expect to get into Heaven?" The boy thought it over and said, "Well, I'll run in and out and in and out and keep slamming the door until St. Peter says, 'For Heaven's sake, Dylan, come in or stay out!'"
My 3-year-old son put his shoes on wrong. When I said, "You have your shoes on the wrong feet," he replied, "But I don't have any other feet."
Jimmy, age 4 stepped on the scale and asked, "How much do I cost?" It was the end of the day, the policeman parked his police van. As he got out of his van, his K-9 partner, Jake, began barking. A young boy stood nearby, staring in at the dog. "Is that a dog you got back there!?" he asked. "It sure is,” the cop replied. Puzzled, the boy looked at the cop and then at the dog.
Finally he said, "What'd he do?"
END OF NEWSLETTER