Sunday, 19 January 2014

Why is posture important?

One of the mainstays in Tai Chi practice is the correction of posture. When I first started studying Tai Chi, I was frustrated by the fact that my Teacher spent so much time stopping the class and going around each student, correcting their posture. I wanted to learn about the self defence. I wanted to get to the secrets and inner workings of the art - not playing around like that.

Over the years, I have come to understand that correct posture and alignment is not only a core requirement of Tai Chi, but also a medical necessity.

Correct posture enables you to use your body swiftly and efficiently, without excess strain. It allows you to transmit power to every part of the body without injury:

Correct posture also prevents chronic conditions like Hyperkyphosis. When you are correctly aligned, you are much less likely to get whole host of complaints like back/neck pain, muscle fatigue, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, ankle, knee and hip problems. Poor posture also results in compression of the internal organs and wasting away of important muscle groups.

People with Hyperkyphosis (a hunched posture), are 2 times more likely to die from lung problems and 2.4 times more likely to die from Atherosclerosis than those with normal posture. Hyperkyphosis sufferers are 1.44 times more likely to die of any cause than those with healthy posture.

So the answer is clear. Posture is vital for every aspect of Tai Chi, and also for extending and enhancing quality of life to it's optimum.

See you at the class,


Saturday, 11 January 2014

Why is Tai Chi done slowly?

It is one of the fundamental dichotomies of martial arts - why do we have to practice Tai Chi slowly? When I first started training, a number of my friends were curious. Some were downright derogatory. 

They could not rationalise the slow, contradictory elements of Tai Chi with the realities of fighting and self defence. To the layman, it must seem unusual to move so slowly. So why are the movements slow?

The answers are more complex than those implied from first impressions. Slow practice from a beginner's perspective allows them to feel their balance, posture and the transfer of weight between the feet. As you get further on, the slow movements allow you to condition the strength of the legs and to relax the muscles that you are tensing unnecessarily, lowering your centre of gravity and creating a stable frame.

Further on, the slow movements allow you to feel the force as it is transferred into, through and outward in a spiralling manner through the body. Slow movements with partners also reinforce this spiralling, and teach you to become sensitive to your opponent's strength, balance and intention.

Contrarily, you can also perform Tai Chi quickly. There are special sets in Chen style Tai Chi that are intended to be done quickly, known as Cannon Fist. They are for advanced students who have learned the correct movement and know how to relax properly. The required quality of strength, posture, movement and relaxation for Cannon Fist can take much time to perfect. But once acquired, it's never forgotten, and can be done well into old age.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The simplest exercise is the best

Often I am asked, "What is the best exercise I can do when I only have a little time to spare?"

There are a number of options - 8 Pieces Brocade, 5 Animal Frolics, Wild Goose Qigong, perhaps some of the shorter Tai Chi forms. But by far the highest benefits to effort ratio, are the Silk Reeling Exercises (or Chan Ssu Gong) of Chen style Tai Chi .

Silk reeling involves the shifting of weight between the legs, in combination with spiralling movements of the arms and legs. It improves the posture, loosen the 18 joints and increase the body's natural range of movement. 

The name - silk reeling - is used to describe the quality of movement - like a weaver unravelling a cocoon of silk. If the movements are too quick or jerky, the silk snaps. Once this unending flow is fully understood, the movements become beautiful, powerful and deeply beneficial.

These movements increase the secretion of synovial fluid which lubricates the joints, keeping them supple. People who have been practising silk reeling have reported better coordination and an opening up of shoulders, back and waist. Silk reeling is also a Tai Chi fundamental requirement for self-defence. The Chan Ssu principles should be inherent in every aspect of the movement from posture to posture, circling, spiralling, opening and closing, advancing and retreating, powerful like a rolling ocean. 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year

With the commencement of a new class in Macclesfield, moving out of adult education, 2014 holds much promise. I am genuinely excited by what the future holds for us all. Recently, I have had the feeling that all of the last 16 years of work is starting to come to fruition. 

I hope you all have the same feeling of optimism that I do. With this in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

All the best,