Saturday, 27 June 2009

Tai Chi Breathing

One of my tai chi teacher friends had a student who was very diligent in his practice (let's call him 'Bob'). When asked whether he was happy with the move he had learned, Bob would say the same thing...

"It's ok, but I will get it right when I learn the breathing."

He went to a seminar with Chen Xiaowang and asked "How can I breathe correctly?"

Master Chen said "Breathe in."

Bob breathed in.

Then Master Chen asked him to breathe out. Bob breathed out earnestly.

"Breathe in," Master Chen said.

Certain that he was on the verge of some great discovery, Bob breathed in again.

"Breathe out," said Master Chen.

As Bob exhaled, a smiling Master Chen said "You've got it." and returned to the rest of the lesson.

Some FAQ's about breathing

How to breathe?

Breathe from the stomach, like singers do. If your chest is being expanded and contracted, you are breathing wrong. As you breathe in, your stomach should expand, and as you breathe out, the stomach should return. There should be no excessive effort to the breathing, and there should be no point where the breath is held.

When to breathe

If you are practicing your form, you should breathe out when you are releasing energy - even if your movements are slow. Inhaling should be done when you gather energy for a strike. The speed of breath should indicate the speed of the movement. So an understanding of the self defense aspects of your movements is key to getting the breathing right. As most moves have more than one practical application, you can choose which point to exhale and inhale.

What if I forget where I am with breathing?

Believe it or not, this is a very common mistake amongst beginners - especially when they are concentrating hard. My advice is... If in doubt, breathe out.

What about reverse breathing?

This is not something I can teach you without one-to-one direct tuition. My advice is to seek out someone who can train you properly. Also, understand that reverse breathing, while excellent for training, can cause damage if you keep doing it outside the training room.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

What is Hsingyiquan?

Hsing yi is a compact, effective internal martial art developed by Song dynasty General Yue Fei. It is a dynamic system involving moving forward and occupying the space of your opponent.

To strike, the practitioner pushes forward with his/her trailing leg and strikes before the leading foot hits the ground. This ensures that the landing of the front leg does not cushion the force of the strike.

Hsingyiquan forms are characterised by their linear movements and direct stepping. However, this 'direct' style disguises the 'soft' internal power that is the cornerstone of all internal styles (taijiquan, qigong, baguazhang and hsingyiquan).

The 5 elements of Hsingyiquan are as follows:

SplittingMetalLike an axe chopping up and over.
PoundingPàoFireExploding outward like a cannon while blocking.
DrillingZuānWaterDrilling forward horizontally like a geyser.
CrossingHéngEarthCrossing across the line of attack while turning over.
CrushingBēngWoodArrows constantly exploding forward.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Nature of Conflict

One of my twitter friends @Trevoke (follow him... interesting, thoughtful, mindful posts) asked me about the nature of conflict.

From an anthropological viewpoint, conflict is how nature selects the strongest, most successful attributes for survival. Conflict - at it's most basic is the struggle for life against the forces of nature and competition for procreation and scarce resources. It is driven by the need to survive and tempered with a fear of death. It is commonly known as the survival instinct.

Sometimes, we forget how things are. We perceive our environment to be more dangerous than it is. Our eyes and ears were designed to detect immediate threats. But with an international media industry, mobile phones and computers we are informed of every mishap around the world. As we become more knowledgeable, the more threats we will perceive. The more threats we perceive, the more our survival instincts will be triggered.

In a modern society, our survival instincts are expanded by technology and intelligence. This is a great source of inner and outer conflict. But your survival instinct can also be distorted. Consider money. Can you eat it? Can it protect you from the elements? No. Yet every day, people kill each other, fighting over money. Their survival instincts have been distorted by modern values.

Taoists have a name for distorted or expanded survival instincts. They call it "failure to see things as they are". Another Taoist teaching is to "put aside comparisons". For the more we compare one things to another, the more we risk being disappointed, angry and depressed.

In the basic natural struggle to survive between competing species, there is no absolute morality. However, we live in an organised society where are actions can provoke the survival instincts of others, which cause repercussions. One single action can send ripples that extend well beyond our immediate field of view.

Reflect on conflict for any period of time, and the enlightened mind has to acknowledge that as everything is connected, the cycle of violence, suffering and retribution has been rolling on since before recorded history. As we have become more analytical in our thinking, we have sought to exert ever more control over our environment and also each other. The resultant conflict has been inevitable.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Teacher - why do I have to stand like this for ages?

During most of my taijiquan classes, I will have a section where we practice form until we reach a posture, then stop like statues. Then I go through the class adjusting everyone's posture. It is probably the least popular activity amongst my students. I regularly get questions as to why we do this.

Posture practice does not only teach you to stand in an anatomically correct position. It allows you to recognise where unnecessary tension is, and relax into the posture. This may seem boring to practice, but your balance and rooting will improve dramatically as a result.

When I was in China, I became good friends with a stocky guy called Feng. As we practiced, I could not help noticing that his form was 'unorthodox' to say the least. A less polite remark would be 'rubbish'. His head weaved, his body leaned like a galleon in a hurricane and his shoulders were all over the place.

When the training moved to pushing hands and san shou, we teamed up. I expected he would be a pushover, but as the lessons continued, he swatted me around like a rag doll. My 'superior' technique was nothing against his rooting and power.

Later I asked Liming Yue if he knew Feng, and what his training methods were. Liming said that Feng did not do much form or pushing hands work, but he would stand in Zhang Zhuang and other postures for at least 2 hours every day!

Two hours - sheesh!

Standing in postures requires only standing room and zero equipment. Your rooting and power will go through the roof. So, next time you practice your form, stop a while, breathe deeply, relax all unnecessary muscles and pay attention to your posture. Standing postures can also be used as a meditation, therefore instrumental in the calming of the nervous system.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Using NLP to Manage Anger

Most people have a problem with anger these days. Maybe it's because there are so many demands on us and our mind gets pulled in many directions on a daily basis making it difficult to keep a peaceful mind.

So what practical steps can we do to help us remain more in control of our mind and maintain more peace? Here are ten time-tested techniques for effective anger management provided by
NLP Toolbox:

1. Reverse the Feelings

This is a very interesting method that was discovered by Dr. Richard Bandler. It works on the fact that to experience feelings such as anger you will feel feelings moving in your body somewhere: Feelings are never static or stationary.

Begin by thinking of an occasion where you experienced

A. Become aware of where those feelings are in your body.
Where does the feeling start and where does it go?

B. Now take the feeling and push it out a couple of feet in
front of you. (I know this sounds weird. Just act as if you
can do it, because you can.)

C. Turn it inside out and spin it the other way and bring it
back inside. If it helps, pretend you can do it and so it

D. Keep it spinning fast whilst imagining doing the thing
that used to make you feel anger.

2. 'Micky Mouse' those Critical, Angry Voices!

A. Think of that internal voice you sometimes get that is
overly critical of yourself and others. You know the one!

B. Listen to it go on and on as you change it into a cartoon
voice. How does your reaction to it change by hearing it in
the voice of Porky Pig? Silvester The Cat? Daffy Duck?

C. Try speeding the voice up or slowing it down.

D. Have fun with this.

Imagine several future situations that this critical voice
may arise and imagine 'Micky Mouse-ing' the voice in that

3. Positive intention?

A. Think of an occasion where you got angry.

B. Ask yourself, "What was the positive intention behind the
anger?" And then ask, "and what was important about that?"
Keep asking the question until you discover a genuine
positive intention.

C. "In the future how can I express this intention in a
better way?"

4. Disassociation

A. Remember an experience where you got a bit irritated.

B. Now disassociate so you can see yourself in the

C. Push the picture further off into the distance. So you
literally "get some distance from it," and have a new

D. Notice how you can now look at the experience more
objectively and gain new understanding and insights. And
what happens if you were to ask yourself, "What was the
positive intention of myself and the other people involved?"

5. Double Disassociation

This is the same as the above technique with another added

You imagine watching yourself watching that you in the

You got to give this a go, it's really amazing, you can even
reduce that most retched of emotions, jealousy, with this
simple visualisation!

6. Patience for the Future

Just think any time we get angry it's due to a trigger or
stimulus. There is a gap between the stimulus and our
response. It's in this gap that we choose our response.
Often though it happens quickly. Automatically.

We can 're-train' our minds to have a more appropriate
response that will enable us to be more resourceful.

A. What's it like when you experience a feeling of patience?
Remember a time that you patiently accepted what ever was
happening. What did you see, what did you hear and how did
that feel?

Notice how the feelings move.

B. Think of 3 future situations where it would be likely
that you would experience annoyance or irritation.

C. What is it that you see or hear just before you know when
to feel the agitation?

D. OK shake that feeling off and now remember the feeling of
patience from step A

E. Now imagine taking this feeling of patience into those
future situations.

How's that feel?

7. Reframing a Picture Literally

A. Remember an occasion where you got angry.

B. Disassociate: See your self in the picture.

C. Now put a frame around the picture.

How does your response to the situation change when you put
a wooden frame around it? What about a metal frame? A multi-
coloured frame. An oval frame? How about a colourful frame
with balloons hanging from it?

8. Perceptual positions

It's always useful to gain other perspectives on things.
More often than not, when we're angry we are stuck in one
perceptual position.

A. Remember an experience where you were angry with someone.

B. Notice what you saw and heard and felt.

C. Now step into there shoes: Pretend to see through there
eyes, hear through there ears and feel the feelings. Notice
that you in front of you. What else can you discover and
learn from this perspective?

D. Imagine stepping into a 'neutral observer.' So you can
simply observe that you and the other person over there.
What can you learn from this position?

E. Step back into 'you' again and notice what new learnings
and insights you now have. Chances are good that you now
have more understanding and empathy with the other person.

9. Collapsing Anchors

A. Select an angry feeling you want to change. As you feel
it squeeze your finger and thumb on your left hand to anchor
this state.

B. On an intensity scale of 0 to 10, where is this feeling?

C. Break state. Now think about what you would like to feel
instead. What would make you remain in a more resourceful
state? Relaxation? Humour? Etc.

D. Now choose one of the resourceful states you have come up
with and remember a time you felt that resource strongly.
What does this resourceful state feel like?

E. Remembering that resourceful state, anchor it to your
right hand by squeezing your finger and thumb together. (If
you want you can stack resources together by going to step 4
again and anchoring a different resource state.)

F. On an intensity scale of 0 to 10, where is this feeling?
Important: Make sure that this resourceful feeling is more
intense than the angry feeling.

G. Break state. Now squeeze your left hand finger and thumb
anchor, hold it, at the same time as you squeeze the right
hand finger and thumb anchor. Keep both anchors on for a few
seconds, say 7 seconds. (Note: Many people get a sense when
the anchors have 'collapsed' or integrated, often by a
noticeable shift in breathing.)

H. Release the left hand anchor and just hold the right hand
anchor for a couple of seconds.

I. Break state. Now think of the original fear you selected
in step 1 and become aware of how it's changed!

10. Circus/Cartoon Movie Music

A. Think of a memory or a future situation where you want to
lighten the mood.

B. Look at it like a movie so you can see yourself whilst
hearing loud circus (or cartoon) music in the background.

C. Run the movie backwards, from the end, with the music
playing loudly.

D. Now notice how your mood has lightened about the
situation you choose in Step 1.

Why not do this on several memories and/or future events?

If you have applied some of the techniques, above, you will
have re-programmed some of your 'bad habits' and can look
forward to a more peaceful, anger managed future! And the
great thing about many of these tools is that you can use
them right away and experience effective results within

Letting go of conflict and difficult emotions

Following my recent blog entry about conflict, I mentioned how difficult it is to let go of it. Your mind turns it over again and again as you try to come to terms with what went wrong.

As a result of conflict, your survival instinct becomes amplified. You perceive threats everywhere. You lash out with the minimum of provocation, and when people avoid you or fight back, it justifies your distorted viewpoint.

Meditation can really help you to find your centre. The following exercise developed by my friends in the Monroe Institute helps you let go of negative emotions: CLICK HERE for a link


And be happy.

Monday, 15 June 2009

The Monroe Institute - Start of Something Special

Earlier this year, I contacted The Monroe Institute, giving them my details and asking how I could support them. I had been buying and using their tools from the hemisync website for a long time, and was looking for a way to engage at a more personal level. Imagine my surprise and delight when I was asked to attend their retreat on the creation of a network of "Chapters" throughout the world.

When meeting the rest of the group, it was very clear that I was in the company of some truly exceptional and grounded people. After a brief introduction, we got right down to business. We discussed ideas and issues. Then we would adjourn for solo hemisync exercises to focus our energies and consciousness. Upon our return, the energy of the whole group dynamic would change, and we kept moving forward like this at an astonishing pace for the whole weekend.

It is my opinion that if the business community adopted the relaxed, creative, focused way of working that the hemisync process engendered, then ego would be put aside and people would work quickly and efficiently to build relationships, resolve problems and manifest the best for their customers. Time after time, I witnessed levels of physical, emotional and spiritual synergy that have surpassed any other environment I have experienced.

All I can say is.... when can I come back?

Visit their site to find out more -