Saturday, 25 April 2009

Don't call me Master

The title Shifu is often translated in English as Master. In China, it actually has two meanings. In martial terms, it conveys a person of exceptional skill. However, it has more common usage in China as a professional person or a learned scholar or teacher.

If you ask any of the top tai chi masters in China for a translation of Shifu, they will say 'teacher not master'. It is this humbleness that conveys their true skill.

However, it is hard not to notice in youtube and other forums, a form of 'master worship' in conversations. It is characterised by people arguing about how their master could beat another master (or anyone else for that matter). Such hiding behind your teachers skill is unrealistic, deeply vulgar and embarrassing for your teacher.

I have seen classes where students literally elbow each other out of the way, so they can practice next to their 'master'. While someone may receive personal validation from such behaviour, the real damage comes in their lack of skill. For when it comes to sparring and pushing hands, their selfish competitiveness is likely to result in them getting less-than-honest feedback from their fellow students. I have seen this kind of behaviour literally drive classes apart and destroy a professional teachers earnings.

So before you announce your master's greatness to the world, think for a while. Are you saying this because they are invincible, ................or is it just because you want other people to say it about you?

Don't call me master - I am merely an instructor.


Saturday, 18 April 2009

Why all the quotations?

Anyone who has been to my classes knows that they are sensible, pragmatic and practical. There is very little in the way of psycho babble, and we all get on with it. However, I occasionally use quotes where appropriate. On twitter (follow me - my id is @taijirich), I have been using more and more quotes. So I guess you all deserve an explanation.

We all have a fight or flight mechanism that is constantly looking for danger. However, as we all know, the more dangers we focus on, the more trouble we will find ourselves in. One of the main aims of all martial arts is to dispel fear. You learn how to defend yourself and you condition your body for combat. These attributes give you a certain calm and ease in situations where untrained people would panic.

Some of the external martial arts have rites of passage. People who practice Karate and Taekwondo break wooden boards; Shaolin monks break sticks over their backs and lie on beds of nails. This is all great, but to quote Bruce Lee, "Boards don't hit back." And he is right. Breaking an inanimate object is not about winning fights. These are all achievable feats of strength and skill that are designed to give you a certain level of courage and confidence.

So without breaking boards, how can you empower yourself?

That's where the quotes come in. By telling stories and quoting famous people, your teacher can undermine any limiting beliefs, motivate the class and build up self esteem.

Just another reason why you should find a martial arts class and get stuck in. You don't need to be built like Arnie Schwartzenegger. As Henry Van Dyke said :

".. the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best."

See what I did there? ;-)


Friday, 17 April 2009

Tai Chi is more than waving hands in pyjamas and hugging trees

Check this out. It is Pao chui, which in English means "Cannon Fist". The New Frame is a style of Chen Tai Chi, and there are two sets

1. Xinjia Yi Lu (New Frame first set)
2. Xinjia Er-Lu (New Frame second set)

This was filmed at Chenjiagou - the birth place of Taijiquan.

Monday, 13 April 2009

What is Qigong?

Qigong is pronounced "chee gung", and is the cultivation of chi energy throughout the body. Chi is the energy that all life is dependent on. It is even more fundamental than oxygen. To have a demonstration of what chi is, have a look at the following video:

I was fortunate enough to meet a true qigong master in Zhiang Zhia Zhie national forest park in the 1990's. Master Li was just as elusive and careful with what he showed. I was cured of a recurring hip problem that I had sustained in my late teens.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Education - Is it right?

The present education system was developed in the late 1800's and has changed little since. It has been designed to do two things:
1. Create workforces to the demands of industry.
2. Create a self-perpetuating reward system around academic attainment and achievement.

Watch this vid. It's 20 minutes, but worth it.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Are you scared?

The maternity ward where they were keeping my new daughter Mia and my Wife on was particularly dark and stuffy. We decided to give Claire a rest, and I carried Mia across the ward to where the sun was shining through the windows. Mia had a touch of jaundice, and the sunlight would do wonders in taking the slight yellow pallor out of her face. We were enjoying the view of the sunny day from the window, when I was confronted by a nurse.

She was very 'concerned' that I was carrying my baby. Babies weren't to be carried, as it was a health and safety risk. I could possibly fall and injure myself or the baby.

This kind of fear was motivated, not out of any genuine care for the patients, rather that they might be found negligent and liable for compensation.

These fears are counter-productive. They actually end up doing worse. If parents can't practice carrying their babies in a safe environment, they are more likely to drop their babies at home, where care is likely to be delayed. Without advice, they might carry their babies incorrectly and inadvertently hurt them. But no... the hospitals tell you to wheel them everywhere.. and you remain incompetent.

We are a terrified society, full of reactionary overkill that is driving a wedge between us all. Don't rise to it. Whether it is an advert for deodorant ("Worried about body odour???") or a defense minister after a budget increase for his department, there is always money in keeping people scared or worried.

So, what fears are holding you back? Are they rational? What are they preventing you doing? What advantages can you see to resolving this fear?

And be happy.


Thursday, 9 April 2009

What is Tai Chi? Free Video Demonstration

Tai Chi is undoubtedly one of the greatest gifts that Chinese culture can bring to the world. Not only is it an effective self-defense system, but it brings unique levels of fitness, flexibility, strength, posture and relaxation to the practitioner.

Enjoy the video. I'll see you at the class!


Wednesday, 8 April 2009

New Arrival

On 3rd April at 10:17pm, my daughter, Mia April Northwood was born. She is beautiful.

To say I am happy is the understatement of the century.

Normal service will be resumed. I am also on twitter, so follow the link below:

Be happy,