This book covers some of the basic aspects of the beautiful and remarkable martial art, exercise, and philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan.
The following material is taken from a selected series of lectures on Tai Chi Chuan provided by Dr. Gregory T. Lawton at the Blue Heron Academy from 1980 to 2011.
Tai Chi Chuan, A Studentâ€™s Lessons A Collection of Lectures from the Blue Heron Academy by Dr. Gregory T. Lawton Second Edition, December 2011 All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without written permission from Gregory T. Lawton. Copyright 2011. Dr. Gregory T. Lawton 6757 Cascade Road, SE Suite 172 Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546 616-464-0892 Art, Photography and Layout â€“ Dr. Gregory T. Lawton
About the author Dr. Gregory T. Lawton has trained in western boxing, wrestling, and Asian martial arts such as Aikido, Jujitsu, Kenpo, and Tai Chi Chuan. He is an 8th degree black belt in Kosho Ryu Kenpo Jujitsu and holds the title of Yudansha Taigu. Dr. Lawton’s main and most noted Tai Chi Chuan instructor was Professor Huo Chi-Kwang. Professor Huo, the renowned Chinese scholar, artist and calligrapher who served as Taiwan's ambassador to France and who was a personal friend of Pablo Picasso, was a master martial artist and was a student of Yang Shao Hou of the Yang Family. Dr. Lawton is a health science writer and the author of over two hundred books, manuals and educational products ranging from massage therapy and martial arts, to health promotion, and from alternative medicine to conventional medicine. He is an award winning artist and photographer. Dr. Lawton has been a member of the Baha’i Faith since 1970 and follows the Faith’s principles related to the promotion of world unity and peace.
Dedication In my book, “Scent of a Forgotten Flower” I stated that power is the ability to change a human heart. That ability is only possessed by the Great Teachers that pass this way every few thousand years and who are the true Educators of humankind. I owe the changes in my life to one such Teacher and to the Bahá'í Faith. If my life and work have any substance or value, it is due to the Bahá'i Faith. The second force for change and growth in my life is due to my wife Ginny. The positive dynamic between a man and a woman, as husband and wife, is like the orbiting of the planets or the gravity between the earth and the moon, and can serve to keep us on a constant and steady path. The third important force for change in my life is the result of my daughters Megan and Jaime. The gift of children in a life serves to show you your possibilities for goodness and innocence. And finally, the last positive force for change in my life has been my teachers and mentors. I am blessed to have had several remarkable people in my life who selfishly shared their abilities and wisdom with me. These teachers include Professor Huo Chi-Kwang, Dr. James Schleichert, Joan Laird, and Mr. Kikrullah Khadem.
SIMPLY A TEACHER I am simply a teacher, only moments ahead of you on this journey, and yet I lead. I cannot change you. I cannot give you what you will not accept. I cannot teach you what I do not know. I cannot pass to you a gift I do not possess. If you will not accept what I can give, what purpose is there to this? I cannot give you all the love you long for, the love for which you so desperately search. I can only point you in the direction of true love and hope you will take that path. I cannot be all the people in your life you hoped would love you. I am a teacher. I am not God. I am here to encourage you, to assist you, to simply point the way for you. My responsibility is to simply lift you up, not carry you along. Therefore, lift up your burden, arise and struggle. Take the steps along the path of your life, your special life. Find your truth, your goodness, your gifts and use them no matter what the cost, no matter what the sacrifice. The truth is this - life lived without knowing yourself and acting on that knowledge is a sad, faded dream of what your life might have been.
Table of Contents I.
Introduction, Pages 8 through 21.
The Basic Principles of Tai Chi Chuan, Pages 23 through 31.
Temple Exercises or Nei Kung, Pages 33 through 43.
IV. Tai Chi Chuan as a Discipline towards Unity and Peace, Pages 45 through 57.
Looking at the Blue Heron Academy Tai Chi Chuan School Form, Pages 59 through 98.
I - Introduction By appearance, Tai Chi Chuan is a dance in slow motion. But this unhurried grace is simply a mask to be lifted away layer by layer until reaching the seed of spiritual and physical energy within. The gentle dance of Tai Chi is poetry in motion. Tai Chi is an expression of the most beautiful thoughts and beliefs brought from the intangible into the actual. Tai Chi allows us to actualize our spiritual self through the demonstration of physical form and technique. Tai Chi is not a mere philosophy of words but rather a test of words through the application of Tai Chiâ€™s intrinsic principles.
In the forms and shapes of nature we see the movements of Tai Chi
Tai Chi is not a religion but a tool for the attainment of universal spiritual attributes. We desire discipline and our dedication to practice teaches discipline, we desire self-esteem and the beauty and accomplishment of Tai Chi grants us self appreciation and the appreciation of others, we desire to learn spiritual mysteries and deep meaning within our lives and Tai Chi guides us to deeper understanding and discovery.
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Tai Chi is a tool toward our own "naturalness" which means to be free from physical, emotional, and mental stress. We were not created to live unexamined lives, or to be alienated from our true selves. When we obtain "naturalness" we have emotional and spiritual balance, or simply health. Tai Chi slowly will lead us toward personal health as it improves respiration, circulation, digestion, and the strength, tone, and flexibility of our bodies.
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Tai Chi is comprised of several different elements and forms of movement which include meditation, breathing exercises, Chinese yoga (Dao Yin), health and martial Chi Kung, and Tai Chi postures and forms. The opening movement of the Tai Chi form is called Commencement.
Tai Chi Commencement
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The statement "Be still as a mountain, move like a great river" describes, in poetic language, the meditation in stillness and flowing motion that is achieved through the practice of Tai Chi. This is a real ability.
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â€œThat which is essential cannot be spoken of with wordsâ€?, this is the dilemma of teaching. The teacher cannot directly show to the students the inner realities or truths that are spiritual. The only aspect that can be seen is the material or physical act, which in the mind of the student becomes confused with the essential truth. The essential truth can be somewhat described, but the words are hollow like a dried gourd, empty but for the seeds which, if planted in the soil of a fertile heart, will grow over time into a strong fruit-bearing plant. "The strength of the tree is not perceived through its bark." The teacher cannot reveal to you truth, creativity, and reality. Students discover truth, creativity, and reality in the natural course and organic process of becoming fully human and a true human being.
A pure spirit cuts deeper than the sharpest sword.
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The path to truth, creativity, and reality is the path of purity. Purity emerges and unfolds in your life like a flower blooms. The teacher is the gardener, your life circumstances are the garden, and as the sun of spirit and rain of guidance fall upon you, you grow, or if you deny yourself the sun or rain you wither.
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The martial art and science of Tai Chi is not learning a dance, although it has elements of dance within it, it is not how many techniques you know or how beautifully you move, even though techniques are building blocks to knowledge and ability and Tai Chi is an expression of beauty. The martial arts are not about the endless quest to learn more, and more, and more. This ambition to learn more and more and to demonstrate it like a badge or trophy is not truth and does not mean anything; it is a superficial act of self importance.
Chi Kung Posture Lifting Hands to Heaven
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The silk flower had great beauty but, alas, no fragrance.
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Arts and sciences such as Tai Chi, Yoga, meditation and the martial arts are a serious path to self knowledge, and becoming a true human being. That which we understand on an intellectual level to be accomplishment is not accomplishment, but an idea that we have formed about accomplishment. What we identify within ourselves as ability is not ability, but an idea in our mind about ability. Spiritual qualities cannot be fully understood by the mind nor expressed in words alone. The imperfection and limitation of this life and our human nature can never hope to reach perfection and that which is without limitation. The best that we can accomplish is to imperfectly mirror or reflect perfection through action. Actions, spontaneous, creative and pure, reveal the nature of the spirit, like a flash of light in the night. When our demonstration of Tai Chi reflects this inner light then we rise above the mere mechanical and the tricks of technique and mirror forth the true reality. This is the goal of Tai Chi practice.
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This is not a sham or a trick. This is the most sacred creation of God, the human soul, its training and your discovery of its abilities. This is your inner self, your true self, your reality or being, that god-like creation that once tempered by the fire and ice of life returns in purity and glory, or impurity and dimmed, to its Father. The teacher is a guide on the path to steer you from pitfalls and danger. The teacher does not see the vistas for you, gaze upon the majestic view for you. The teacher attempts only to awaken you to fully use your senses to see, hear, and feel the spiritual world around you and within you.
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There is a written tradition which says, "The student laughs and the teacher cries, the teacher laughs and the student cries." The teacher wants the student to succeed. True perception of reality is rare and is a lonely journey. The teacher wants companions along the way. The intimacy that exists in a true teacher-student relationship can be compared to that of family and the breakthroughs that a student achieves on the way, to those family events characterized by celebrations of marriage and birth or the grief of a death when a student loses their way and quits the path.
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Standing within you, strong and radiant, is your true self, a powerful, but peaceful warrior possessed of wisdom and desirous of manifesting itself through outward acts of service, charity and kindness. The beauty and grace, peace and calmness, sincerity and sacrifice of this true self inspires awe and our awareness of the truth of this radiant inner light is the motive force that drives us on in our struggle to discover and reveal our divine reality, our spirit.
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I I â€“ The Basic Principles of Tai Chi Chuan My teacher Professor Huo Chi-Kwang, scholar, calligrapher, artist, and student of Yang Shao Hou, was trained in the Confucian tradition of the five excellences. This system of education recognized that mankind is endowed with a noble spirit and that careful systematic training can elevate a man or woman to a being of virtue and nobility. The five primary excellences are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Intellectual attainment through diligent study of the arts. Spiritual perception through prayer and meditation. Refinement of the personality through the fine arts. Compassion through the healing arts. Self empowerment and nobility through the martial arts.
At the Blue Heron Academy of the Healing Arts and Sciences we assist the serious student in the development of these higher virtues and spiritual verities. We recognize that the achievement of this level of personal maturation is: -
Fundamental to personal happiness Strengthens our loving personal relationships Contributes to a stable and peaceful society Deepens our knowledge and awareness of God
The five excellences are a model for positive human behavior, and no matter what our race, creed, nationality, religion or no religion we all benefit from these principles of self development.
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Tai Chi Chuan is practiced through certain physical exercises and disciplines that are manifested through the practice of meditation, Chinese Yoga (Dao Yin), health and martial Chi Kung and the Tai Chi Chuan forms. Here are some of the physical attributes that we attempt to develop through the practice of Tai Chi Chuan: 1. 2. 3.
Proper breath technique and control. Meditation, concentration, and mature mental focus. The manifestation of physical power through either a single technique, or through martial forms. The manipulation of natural body energy such as defensive chi. The physical attributes of speed, coordination, flexibility, and agility. Simple relaxation body and its muscles and joints.
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Correct Posture in Tai Chi Chuan The following list describes the correct body posture for the practice of Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung:
Imagine that your head is hanging from a string. Look forward. Keep your mouth closed with a relaxed jaw. Touch your tongue lightly to the roof of your mouth. Breathe through your nose. Relax your body. Keep your head and spine comfortably relaxed. Allow the weight of your shoulders and elbows to gently fall downwards.
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Sung, or Relaxation in Tai Chi Chuan To relax the body you must first relax the mind. The relaxation of the mind is not to imply an unfocused daydreaming or unawareness. Rather the mind is alert, calm and attentive, unconcerned, focused but flowing. Like a butterfly visiting a flower. To relax the body you must release your tension. This implies both emotionally and physically that you release everything that contributes to resistance. You must surrender to more comfortable feelings and this surrender will relax both your mind and your body. However, sung is not simply relaxation. Sung is also an enhanced state of relaxed alertness. It denotes a watchful readiness. Like a cat laying on the ground but ready to pounce in an instant.
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Breath Control and Proper Breathing is the Foundation of Tai Chi Why is breath so important in Tai Chi? The breathing patterns of Tai Chi incorporate the conscious use of the lungs, diaphragm, and intercostal muscles, as well as, the nose and mouth to channel Chi throughout the body. Chi or life force energy is conceptualized as a subtle force that imparts stamina, strength, and health. The relationship between movement and breath is a struggle against the normal state of disruption and dissipation that characterizes much of our daily lives toward a state of inter-harmony and the ultimate objective, stillness. Tai Chi is a discipline of practices which attempt to quiet the mind by concentration on breath and slow movements. Think for a moment about the implication of this. Agitation and causes of agitation exist all around us. Through the continual practice of breath and movement, we learn how to focus our energies toward calmness and stillness. This is like the eye of the hurricane, a calm center surrounded by whirling forces of destruction. An analogy is a pool of water. Drop a stone and the agitated water moves particles of dirt from the poolâ€™s bottom obscuring the view. The reality of the individual can only be experienced when the body and mind have been stilled. The practice of breath in Tai Chi not only benefits the body and the flow of life energy, it offers us a center of focus when faced with fear, anxiety, or agitation. Remember, breath is peace.
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Natural Breathing Chi Kung breathing methods primarily use the natural or abdominal breath. Natural breathing is your instinctive respiration. It is the breathing pattern seen in children. The abdomen expands when inhaling and retracts when exhaling. This is done comfortably without forcing the breath. All of the basic principles of Tai Chi should be observed; a straight but relaxed spine and back, the head held comfortably erect as if suspended by a string from above, your eyes remain open but are allowed to become unfocused so the images you see become hazy, and the tip of the tongue lightly touches the roof of the mouth. Use your breathing as a focus for your concentration and meditation. Your mind should become peacefully active and aware. This means that you gently ponder your ideas or concerns looking for inspiration and answers to questions and problems. It also means that you are peacefully aware of your surroundings and changes within those surroundings. Your demeanor is one of peaceful benevolence to the sound and movement around you. This is a detached awareness, a loving recognition without fear of threat or harm to you.
Breathing is the foundation of all movement.
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Reverse Breathing Reverse breathing also uses all of the basic Tai Chi principles described above. Your sense of peacefulness and calm awareness are also the same as described above. The difference between natural abdominal breathing and reverse breathing is that your breathing technique is the opposite as that of natural breathing. When you inhale your abdominal muscles contract and when you exhale your abdominal muscles expand. When you inhale and tighten your abdominal muscles you increase the "air" pressure inside your abdominal cavity which gently massages your abdominal organs. Many students find reverse breathing difficult to learn. Its mastery can greatly improve your personal health by strengthening the function of your vital abdominal organs. If, for instance, you find that youâ€™re abdominal muscles tire quickly when you first begin this practice, this tiring is a direct indication that you need to practice this technique. Also remember that reverse breathing is the first breath used in the Yang Tai Chi Chuan form (during Commencement) and it is the breath technique used in many Tai Chi defensive movements involving the release of Fa Jing.
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Rooting Exercise 1. 2.
Stand with your feet shoulders distance apart. Follow the basic principles of Tai chi â€“ a. Imagine that your head is hanging from a string. b. Look forward. c. Keep your mouth closed with a relaxed jaw. d. Touch your tongue lightly to the roof of your mouth. e. Breathe through your nose. f. Relax your body. g. Keep your head and spine comfortably relaxed. h. Allow the weight of your shoulders and elbows to gently fall downwards.
3. 4. 5.
Bend your knees so that your "center" drops three to four inches. Remember to remain relaxed and to breathe naturally. Maintain a feeling of weighted heaviness and as if you are rooted to the ground.
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Wu Wei Wu Wei or “non-doing” is the accomplishment of something without apparent effort. Koichi Tohei, Master Aikido teacher, has described this state as "It looks like something, but it is nothing; looks like nothing, but is something." Wu Wei might be thought of as energy conservation. It is the practiced ability to perform life’s various functions and duties with grace and ease. It is the acquired state of "going with the flow." There are four basic principles that can help us achieve this state of balance between energy and effort: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Relaxation Breath Control Rooting Chi (Energy)
These four basic principles are fundamental elements for our understanding of Tai Chi and the mastery of Tai Chi as a way of life. Tai Chi is not the formalized practice of a memorized sequence of movements, but rather the art of living. Can you separate art from life? Both the way we act in life and the life itself are the same. It is not the thought of Tai Chi that leads to accomplishment, but the practice as applied to life that leads to mastery. The practice of Tai Chi is a tool from which is fashioned the form of our daily living.
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I I I â€“ The Temple Exercises or Heaven Nei Kung In practice Nei Kung is a collection of breathing, meditation and movement exercises designed to strengthen the body and to improve health, increase flexibility, improve balance, sharpen the mind and concentration, and to contribute to the growth and development of the human spirit. The Heaven Nei Kung exercises to follow are based upon ancient movements and are named after various virtues of the human spirit. The exercises are performed in a slow and gentle manner and orchestrated with the rhythm of the breath like the slow inflow and outgo of waves on the shore of an ocean. When performing the Heaven Nei Kung exercises you should observe and follow the basic principles of Tai Chi posture and movement including; breath, relaxation, rooting, and chi.
Shen or Spirit
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The beginning and first Posture of Heaven Nei Kung is seated meditation.
First, we sit in stillness. This is the first Heaven Nei Kung posture and is represented by the symbol for Mountain.
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Then we begin the Heaven Nei Kung exercise set with Lifting the Hands to Heaven.
This exercise begins with the hands held at the side of the body and slowly lifted upwards as is depicted in the illustration.
This posture, the second Nei Kung movement, is also called Splendor.
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The third Nei Kung exercise is based upon the Tai Chi movement known as An. This movement expresses the concept of giving and receiving.
From the Lifting the Hands to Heaven posture the hands are slowly lowered to shoulder height. The arms are then rotated facing away from the body and the arms and hands are then pushed outwards away from and in front of the body.
This movement is called Light. This illustration shows the first part of the An movement.
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This illustration shows the second part of the An movement.
Once the arms and hands are pushed outward from the body the hands are rotated towards the body and the arms and hands are brought back closer the body. This pushing away and pulling back movement is repeated several times. As you push away from the body you exhale and as you bring the arms and hands back towards the body you inhale. After you have completed several repetitions of this movement stop the movement with the hands facing and close to the body.
This movement is called Grandeur. These two movements are the third and fourth movements of this Nei Kung exercise set.
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The fourth Nei Kung exercise is based upon a group of movements called Gathering Chi.
From the last position push the hands downward, palms facing down. Once you have reached the position depicted in the illustration rotate your hands and palms upward. Exhale as you push your hands downward.
This illustration shows the first part of the Gathering Chi exercise. This Nei Kung movement is called Perception.
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The fifth Nei Kung exercise is also based upon the Tai Chi movement Gathering Chi.
From the last position, palms facing upwards bring your hands and arms towards your face. Inhale as your palms move upward. Once your hands have reached face height rotate your palms downward and lower your arms and hands once again as you exhale. Repeat this movement several times.
This Nei Kung movement is called Knowledge. These two movements are movements five and six of the Nei Kung exercise set.
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The sixth Nei Kung exercise is based upon the Tai Chi movement, Ward Off, Left.
This movement is best described as a sideways pushing movement to the left. This movement involves pushing the arms and hands to the left and then reversing direction and pushing back towards the right.
This Nei Kung movement is the seventh movement in the Nei Kung exercise set. This Nei Kung movement is called Mercy.
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The seventh Nei Kung exercise is known as Ward Off, Right.
This movement is simply the reverse of Ward Off, Left and is performed towards the right side of the body. The combined movements, to the left and to the right are repeated several times. As you repeat the movements to the left and to the right, inhale and exhale as your hands move from one side to the other.
This Nei Kung movement is the eighth movement in the Nei Kung exercise set. This Nei Kung movement is called Compassion.
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The eighth and ninth exercises of the Nei Kung exercise set are a combination of Lifting Hands to Heaven and Gathering Chi.
Execute the Lifting the Hands to Heaven posture and when your hands have reached the upward position reverse direction with the arms and hands and push downwards performing the Gathering Chi movement. When performing this combined movement, and when the hands pass the face, the palms of the hands are facing the face. Repeat this movement several times inhaling as you reach up and exhaling as you push downward.
This combined movement in the Nei Kung set is the ninth Nei Kung movement.
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In the ninth Nei Kung movement Gathering Chi is combined with Lifting the Hands to Heaven.
To complete and to end the Heaven Nei Kung exercise movement set simply lower the arms to the sides of the body, while exhaling, and stand and relax. You may wish to return to the seated meditation position.
This completes the Heaven Nei Kung movement set.
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IV - Tai Chi Chuan as a Discipline towards Unity and Peace A number of years ago, and at a seminar in New Mexico, a group of Blue Heron Academy students participated in a discussion regarding the purpose of training in Tai Chi and as a result of that activity created the following statement: The purpose of our training in the art, science, and philosophy, as well as, the physical, moral, and spiritual disciplines of the martial arts is: •To see ourselves and others as spiritual beings. •To trust that which is the highest in ourselves, and in the Universe. •To concentrate on our wellness. •To experience and explore our innate healing abilities. •To accept our inherent right to defend ourselves. •To live without harm to others •To integrate with others, and still remain true to ourselves. •To accept each other’s experiences with love. •To spiritualize our lives. •To experience our oneness. •To show forth a compassionate and personal responsibility for our own lives. •To realize we are free to change our lives as we choose. •To fully appreciate the blessedness of life in all its aspects. •To share love with others. •To be detached from all save that which is the highest in our selves. •To be grateful for the gifts we receive.
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Inculcated within the physical forms, postures and techniques of Tai chi there is a philosophy of the preservation and utilization of energy (chi). This philosophy is manifested in every aspect of the practice of Tai chi including how we breathe, stand, move and interact with the world and people around us. Because Tai Chi is not simply a philosophy, but is also a form of self defense this philosophy is expressed in terms of the conflicts, whether physical or mental, that sometimes occur between people. The relationship between movement and breath is a struggle against the normal state of disruption and dissipation that characterizes much of our daily life as we attempt to achieve a state of inner-harmony or balance between mind, body and spirit. The daily activities of life form the substance of our daily tests and difficulties which measure both our resolve and ability to obtain this inner-harmony or balance. Our goal is to become still, quiet, and peaceful and one tool to accomplish this task is Tai Chi Chuan. Since it would be, and look, silly to do the Tai Chi forms as we walk down the street or on the job, it is the principles of Tai Chi that we must constantly cultivate in our lives. These principles include: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Use soft to overcome hard Use calm against agitation Use small energy to neutralize big energy Retreating is better than resisting
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If we examine the history of the last two centuries in terms of an interest in the establishment of world unity and peace we can see a growing movement towards the dynamics of peace. Once separated and segregated societies are now interrelated and there has been a great gathering of the worldâ€™s peoples as is seen in immigration and the diversity of peoples residing within many cities. Tai Chi was born at the beginning of this great movement towards unity and peace and its core philosophy and principles, its artistic creativity and its science of the body and breath, all reflect this new world reforming energy. The four principles listed previously are expressions of this recognition that efforts towards unity and peace are not only the hallmark of our era but also represent the strongest motive forces in the Universe. Tai Chi Chuan, its practice and application, is therefore, a peaceful energy that promotes personal harmony, as well as, a philosophy that embraces world unity and peace.
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As was previous mentioned in Chapter One, Tai Chi is not a religion but its core principles are based upon spiritual perceptions and truths that are derived from the beliefs of various religions. It seems that the followers of many different religions including Daoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity have discovered, in the peace and beauty of Tai Chi, a resonate chord that is compatible with their beliefs. Perhaps this acceptance is because of the universal principles of unity, peace, and non violence that we find in both the practice of Tai Chi and the philosophical aspects of Tai Chi whether used as a martial art or a simple system of exercise. A clear example of the belief in a world reforming and dynamic force for change in the world today is seen within the central principles of the Bahá'í Faith whose fundamental verities are reflected within the non violent and harmony promoting philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan. The central principles of the Bahá’í Faith include: The essential unity of all religions. Mankind comprises one human family. The elimination of all forms of prejudice. bigotry and intolerance. The independent investigation of truth. All knowledge comes from a single source. Science and religion should be in harmony. Equal opportunity and education for all. There are spiritual solutions for the problems of the world, including poverty. The equality of men and women. The promotion of world unity and peace. Tai Chi, the supreme ultimate, is correctly practiced through actions of non violence and the transformation of negative and violent forms of aggression and threat into unity and peace.
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Once again the core principles of Tai Chi Chuan include these central concepts: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Use soft to overcome hard Use calm against agitation Use small energy to neutralize big energy Retreating is better than resisting
Rather than responding to aggression, anger, or unkindness with our own aggression, anger, or unkind acts - in Tai Chi we learn to deflect, redirect or to neutralize these negative actions in ways that promote understanding, acceptance, and harmony. While in Tai Chi we learn and practice physical techniques as a form of self defense against physical aggression and violence, we also attempt to inculcate within ourselves a mental and spiritual attitude of non violence and non aggression. Tai Chi has several concepts and physical practices by which we can begin to learn and to practice this and these methods include; centering, rooting, chi, breath, relaxation, softness, yielding, neutralization, blending, shifting, molding, yin and yang, and an understanding and acceptance of yourself and others as spiritual beings. When we can become physical, emotional and spiritual expressions of these principles we become instruments for the promotion of unity and peace.
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Letâ€™s examine a few of these central concepts. Of course, we have already learned about the Tai Chi principles and practices related to posture, movement, relaxation, breathing, rooting, and meditation, but letâ€™s investigate a few more of the very important and essential concepts and practices of Tai Chi.
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Neutralization The purpose of any martial art is the avoidance of injury to oneself or others through self defense. This purpose does not imply self defense by becoming an aggressor. Neutralization in Tai Chi is the principle of avoidance of harm or violence. Avoidance is a superior reaction than physical contact with counterforce or aggression. It is better to neutralize a punch or kick than to block it or be hit by it. Neutralization involves stepping, shifting, turning or moving away from an attack, yielding to physical force, or absorbing an attack so that the intended blow will either be redirected or be dissipated and rendered harmless. This kind of action is a controlled response. The practitioner remains relaxed and rooted, poised to flow both mentally and physically into an appropriate movement. Many of the hard style or external schools of the martial arts teach a linear form of concentrated attack. This "willing" oneâ€™s self through every obstacle is not always effective. Neutralization places the burden of the attack on the aggressor.
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“To be Centered” Centering could be described as the feeling you get after you have returned home after a long trip away. In the deepest meaning of “to be centered” it means the development of the awareness of the true self. When this occurs, we feel a sense of security. This feeling is centeredness. When you feel a sense of centeredness, it is not unlike the feeling that you may have experienced during prayer, quiet meditation, standing in a holy spot, or appreciating the creation of God while out in nature. When you stand to begin your Tai Chi or if facing an opponent, you need to be able to go home, to enter this place of calm centeredness. This is why we spend so many hours practicing the basic principles of Tai Chi, Chi Kung, Dao Yin and meditation. Although centering means more than just the body being centered, we usually visualize the area located below the navel and centered between the spine and navel as the “center” of the body. When you move in any direction, it is this body center that we visualize as guiding and directing this movement. When you move any limb, this movement is first initiated by the body center. When you breathe or move Chi, both the breath and Chi are generated within this body center. Of course within this vast Universe that is our home, there is no center.
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Blending "My soul spills into yours and is blended Because my soul has absorbed your fragrance, I cherish it. Every drop of blood I spill says to the earth: I blend with my Beloved when I participate in love. In this house of mud and water My heart has fallen to ruins. Enter this house, my love, or let me leave." - Rumi To blend is to mix together so thoroughly that the things mixed can’t be distinguished. Does the drop lose itself in the ocean, or is the drop fulfilled and uplifted by the ocean? If we are made up of energy, and we are, where does "our" energy begin or end, and "another’s" energy begin or end? Are we as separate as we appear and behave, or are we as interconnected as the drops that form the ocean? There is a new revitalizing spiritual influence recreating man and earth. This revitalizing influence represents peace and unity. Because of this new spiritual force a new dynamic is needed that metaphorically defines the expression of physical interaction in the martial arts and the interaction of two people in contention and conflict. The fire and heat of contention and conflict must meld the two contenders into a unified harmony. Blending is a concept and physical application that defines contention and conflict and invites a non-violent solution that can foster understanding and unification. "I’ve heard it said there’s a window that opens from one mind to another, if there’s no wall, there’s no need for fitting the window, or the latch." - Rumi
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Standing with Spirit To many, the human spirit is not apparent. Many confuse the mind and the power of intellect with the spirit but the mind is only the light reflecting from the spirit which we might view as a mirror reflecting light. What is the power that produces an oak tree from an acorn? Why does the beauty of the flower whither and fade? What is the animating power that creates a baby and nurtures it into another childâ€™s mother or father? When we lay our body into a shallow hollow of dust what has flown away? The mastery of Tai Chi is a tool that helps us learn the art of living and this experience lies within our ability to know ourselves. We know our bodies, and work and education teach us about our material abilities, but how much do we know about our soul? If we only learn about our material mind and body we will be limited in our development. Our bodies become athletic, our minds capable, perhaps brilliant. We also need to learn about and understand our inner abilities, our spiritual attributes, because they are our true reality and power. When we stand with Tai Chi, and itâ€™s peaceful energy, we are simply reflecting the light of our true self, our true reality. Tai Chi is like a palette held by an artist. We apply the colors and hidden shapes and forms appear upon what appeared as a blank canvas. are we only uncovering the hidden beauty that was there all the time? When you stand with Tai Chi, stand with spirit.
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â€œI hang my limbs, rags upon a pole, and pose a Tai Chi posture. Is the form an external shape, a bronze statue? Or is the form a mirage, formed by the heat of the soul, compressed by a fevered spirit and released, a flower unfolding in the Sun, by inspiration? I see before me the dance of dying moths. They swirl upward like white ashes lifting on waves of heat.â€? From Scent of a Forgotten Flower
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As we can see there are many beautiful and profound concepts inculcated within the practice and philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan. These concepts form the physical practice of Tai Chi, as well as serving as symbols and metaphors of understanding and self discovery. Another beautiful and profound concept found within Tai Chi is referred to as synergy. When you combine centeredness, relaxation, calmness, rooting, and meditation, as well as, other Tai Chi concepts you produce a state of being known as effortless presence that is close to the essential qualities that emanate from your true reality, your soul. The true beauty and power of the soul is only imperfectly seen, as if looking through a dirty window at a flower garden, like trying to view the majesty of the Universe through a pair of binoculars, or listening to Bach through a cheap radio and a mono earphone. In Tai Chi, and in life, synergy is your goal. The more frequently you can manifest synergy in your Tai Chi, and actions, the closer to the mastery of Tai Chi you are. The appearance of synergy in a personâ€™s Tai Chi is the difference between true Tai Chi and the practice of something that looks like Tai Chi. Another word for synergy is oneness.
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V – Looking at the Blue Heron Academy Tai Chi Chuan School Form – Part One. In the pages to follow we will look at and outline the basic movements of the Blue Heron Academy Tai Chi Chuan School Form. This Tai Chi Chuan practice form is a synthesis of postures, movements and techniques that represent the five major family styles of Tai Chi Chuan including, Chen, Yang, Wu, Hao, and Sun. I must acknowledge my debt to the teachers from whom I have “borrowed” movements, postures, philosophy and theory including, but not limited to, Professor Huo Chi-Kwang, Grandmaster Y. W. Chang, Henry Look and Master Wen-Mei Yu. I also must acknowledge, through forty years of research, once again “borrowing” the ideas, theories and concepts of many leaders within the Tai Chi Chuan family community including the visionary revisionist Chen Pan Ling, as well as, many other Tai Chi Chuan leaders and teachers both living and those who sadly are no longer with us. As a teacher of both the healing and the martial arts I have adopted the following ideas and rules as pertains to the teaching and practice of Tai Chi Chuan: 1. Honor the past, but live in the now and prepare for the future. 2. Honor the martial arts by living as a spiritual warrior. 3. Do not dishonor the martial arts through deluded thinking and empty forms. 4. Deeds and actions are the true expression of the martial arts, not words. 5. Use what works and discard the remainder. 6. The true expression and use of the martial arts is through creative spontaneous movement. 7. Many claim ability, many demonstrate forms, and fewer still possess true ability. 8. Real ability is built upon a foundation of mechanical physics, and not metaphysics. 9. The more esoteric a form or technique is the less likely it is to be effective. 10. The true martial artist cannot be separated from the art, the two - the martial arts and the martial artist, are one and the same. 11. The origin of all knowledge is from a single source, God, and taught to mankind by his Manifestations, the true Educators of mankind. After God and His Manifestations, knowledge is discovered by mere men and what one man has learned all men may learn. Other characteristics of our martial arts training include reeling silk and fa-jing, small circle chin na, shuai jiao, san sau and dim mak, as well as, combat applications of postures and techniques.
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Tai Chi Chuan Form – Part One - First we stand ready…
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Then we begin the Tai Chi Chuan Form with the opening movement Commencement.
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Here we see the movement Commencement from the side.
Secondary movements not depicted include Crossing the Heavens.
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The next movement is called Ward-Off Left and is also known as Partition of the Wild Horses Mane.
The secondary movement not depicted is palm strike.
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Now we move into Ward-Off Right.
Ward-Off Right leads us to Leading Roll-Back and the Grasp the Sparrowâ€™s Tail Sequence.
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The Leading Roll-back Grasp the Sparrowâ€™s Tail Sequence of Movements, Pull-Down.
Not depicted here is the Leading Roll-Back technique.
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The Leading Roll-back Grasp the Sparrowâ€™s Tail Sequence of Movements, Press - Forward.
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The Leading Roll-back Grasp the Sparrowâ€™s Tail Sequence of Movements, Push.
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The Leading Roll-back Grasp the Sparrowâ€™s Tail Sequence of Movements, Press - Vertical.
The second press is performed as a vertical to downward trapping chin na technique.
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The Leading Roll-back Grasp the Sparrowâ€™s Tail Sequence of Movements, Press-Downward.
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The Leading Roll-back Grasp the Sparrowâ€™s Tail Sequence of Movements, Brush-Off.
Note the trunk rotation in executing this posture.
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The Leading Roll-back Grasp the Sparrowâ€™s Tail Sequence of Movements, Push.
Note the inward turned hands in this push technique.
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Moving left into Lifting Heaven.
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Moving into Dragon Palms.
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Entering the posture Rising Hands.
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The posture Fair Maiden at Shuttles, first position.
The Fair Maiden at Shuttles postures are performed in four directions. Only two directions are depicted here.
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The posture Fair Maiden at Shuttles, second position.
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The posture Fair Maiden at Shuttles, third position.
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The posture Fair Maiden at Shuttles, fourth position.
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The posture Single Whip.
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The posture Wave Hands in Clouds, Right - first position.
Wave Hands in Clouds is performed with trunk rotations to the right and left and is repeated by stepping three times to the left and three times to the right - unless you are performing the short version of the Tai Chi Chuan Form where Wave Hands in Clouds is only performed once.
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The posture Wave Hands in Clouds, Right - second position.
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The posture Single Whip.
In our Tai Chi Chuan form Single Whip is always performed before and after Wave Hands in Clouds.
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This is a transitional move called Close-Up.
Close-Up is one of many transitional moves in our form, we also call this move â€“ Advance, and it leads us into the move called White Crane Spreads Wings.
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The posture White Crane Spreads Wings.
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The posture Brush Knee and Twist Step, Right.
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Now we move into the posture Reaching-Up.
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The posture Play the Guitar (Pipa).
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The posture Brush Knee and Twist Step, Right - first position.
In this sequence of movements Brush Knee and Twist Step is repeated on the right and left sides, three times.
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The posture Brush Knee and Twist Step, Left - second position.
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The posture Brush Knee and Twist Step, Right - third position.
After the third Brush Knee and Twist Step we repeat the Reaching-Up posture. In the short version of this form we only execute one Brush Knee and Twist Step, Right
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The posture Reaching-Up.
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The posture Play the Guitar (Pipa).
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The posture High Pat on Horse.
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The posture Deflect, Parry and Punch.
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The posture Apparent Close of Tai Chi Chuan.
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The posture Apparent Close of Tai Chi Chuan, continued.
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The posture Apparent Close of Tai Chi Chuan, position three.
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Close of Tai Chi Chuan, part one.
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A Special Thank you and Appreciation A special thank you and appreciation is owed to Sean Butterworth for his expert execution of the Tai Chi Chuan form postures in this book. Sean is a very capable martial artist, a Kosho Ryu Kenpo Jujitsu black belt, and mixed martial artist. Many people are surprised by the number of Kenpo practitioners that also study and master Tai Chi Chuan. I first heard about the value of Tai Chi Chuan from a Kenpo instructor working for Thomas Connorâ€™s at TRACO International in the early 1970â€™s. Many Kenpo black belts find value in Tai Chi Chuan including high level and esteemed members of the Kenpo community like Grandmaster James Ibaro and the Tracy brothers, Al and Will. My thank you to these visionary Kenpo leaders for pointing the way. The second edition of this ebook appears with the addition of Chapter Five which includes photographs of the first part of our school Tai Chi Chuan form. This is not the end of the revisions of this ebook since Chapter Six is already underway. Chapter Six contains information pertaining to the meaning and significance of the Chinese names of the postures of the various Tai Chi Chuan forms.
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The material in this book is taken from a selected series of classes and lectures on Tai Chi Chuan provided by Dr. Gregory T. Lawton at the Blue Heron Academy from 1980 to 2010.
Dr. Gregory T. Lawton teaches Tai Chi and Martial Arts, Herbal and Natural Medicine, Massage Therapy and Acupuncture at the Blue Heron Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan Call for further information about the Academy classes and online education programs 616-285-9999 888-285-9989 or visit our website at: www.BlueHeronAcademy.com email@example.com