Monthly Archives: August 2015

A Pathway to Balance

Balance has been a problem for me through all the years I have practiced taiji. I simply am not good at sitting the kicks.

When I first started, I thought the problem was my feet, and if I could only get the proper shoes, or the proper arch supports, I’d be fine.

Eventually I realized that the problem wasn’t just my feet. It was pretty much my entire body. It was the way I’d adapted to the curve in my spine. It was the way I’d allowed my head and neck to give in to gravity. It is very difficult to sit a kick when your body parts aren’t aligned.

But now I have a new pathway to balance.

In my last two posts I’ve talked about taking classes at the Yang Chengfu Tai Chi Chuan Center in Redmond. One of these classes is a taiji basics class taught by Master Yang Jun’s wife, Fang Hong. Laoshi (teacher) Hong is patient and kind. She also clearly knows her stuff.

So when she told us at the first class that standing on one leg for 5 minutes per leg per day would give us good balance, I decided to believe her, no ifs, ands or buts, and I made a commitment to myself to do it. Continue reading

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My Saber and Me

saberWhen I said, in my previous post, that I might be on a yangward journey, I did not write about one small, very yang thing:

My saber—and the fact that I am learning a taiji saber form, full of slashing, chopping and thrusts, with the occasional kick and hand blow thrown in.

When I studied the class schedule for the Yang Chengfu Tai Chi Chuan Center in Redmond a couple of months ago, I noticed they were offering a saber form class on a night I was free. I decided to sign up.

I cannot remember why it was that I thought I should take a saber class. Certainly I was forgetting that I had once learned a Chen-style sword form, but had decided to abandon it because I wasn’t spending enough time practicing it to keep it up.

But sign up for saber I did, and I am now perhaps halfway through learning a two-minute form. You wouldn’t think it would take eight weeks to learn one minute of movement, but it has, and I am not good. My moves are sloppy, my balance is poor, and I’m not yet feeling any qi, although that could be because the saber form is faster than the bare-hand form, and I have slow-moving qi. However, I am definitely beginning to feel the form’s potential for yangly fierceness. Continue reading

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A Yangward Way

Taiji Diagram: Yin contains yang, yang contains yin; yin ever becoming yang, yang ever becoming yin

Taiji Diagram: Yin contains yang, yang contains yin; yin ever becoming yang, yang ever becoming yin

My friend Karl is writing a novel titled “A Yinward Way.” Its aging male protagonist believes the world has become so yang-dominant, so overly, aggressively masculine, that it is in peril. He’s seeking to find a way to help the world restore its yin/yang balance, even as he himself is being drawn towards the yin.

The notion that the world has become way too yang for its own good is not unique; I’ve read many discussions of this and believe the argument has merit. A yinward shift might be a good thing.

And yet I find that I, myself, am actually on a yangward path of late, at least in my energy practices.

I don’t know why this is.

It may be that men become softer and more sensitive as they age—i.e., more yin, like the protagonist in my friend’s novel, while women become fiercer and more direct, i.e., more yang. (I’m only partly making this up; I think there’s some science in this area.)

However, it could also be that my internal Daoist pendulum is swinging from the yin-ness of all the Yi Ren Qigong and Taiji Qigong I’ve done so much of over the past five years towards something more yang.

In any event, some months ago I found myself wanting to do more taiji. The many systems of taiji are also systems of qigong, although they don’t generally get referred to as that. But they are particular systems of qigong originally practiced as training for hand-to-hand combat.

My two qigong practices are mostly about moving energy around inside my body to improve my health and well-being. It feels very good to do this, very relaxing, very heart-opening, very bringing-me-back-to-peace. Taiji involves sending energy outwards in a focused manner, whether or not there’s somebody to hit. It’s definitely more yang. Continue reading

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