Sunday, 29 January 2012

That Sinking Feeling

We were in the basement room of the T'ai chi Centre. John Kells told us to get a chair and form a circle.

The instructions on how to sit were simple. Sit with your perineum towards the front edge of the chair. Sit upright, with your ankles aligned with your knees, feet flat on the floor. Hands were palm down on top of the knees. Keep the head up, with the chin slightly down. Tongue up against the gum behind the front two teeth. The mouth is gently closed, breathing is natural, in and out through the nose.

We closed our eyes and imagined a flow of warm water down the front of our bodies, going straight down, deep into the earth. The key was to keep letting go down the front of the body.  It is easier to get this when sitting down. You are sinking your energy to take root in the earth.

We then take this feeling and keep to it as we practise our forms. The upper body becomes lighter and you feel firmly rooted, yet not stuck heavily to the floor.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


Every month John Kells would hold a Saturday Intensive Workshop.

Weather permitting, we would venture into Regents Park and go through our forms. We would then head back to the basement room in the Tai Chi Centre for chinese tea and bread with jam or peanut butter.

After tea we worked on feeling the energy "skins". These started some distance from the body. The stronger the energy of the person, the further out the first skin would be. There were four skins before reaching the body, then the flesh, sinews and bones, the blood and Ch'i and finally the Spirit. We took it in turns to work with each other to feel how different we all were.

If you work with energy you will understand that we all have a particular "feel" by which we can be identified. This work further developed sensitivity which was applied in pushing hands.

Building on this sensitivity allows communication to begin much earlier, before the physical contact. It is a fascinating area of study.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Serial Abuse of Mindfulness

I'm always mindful ( couldn't wait to get that word in, mindfully of course ) of fundamental principles.

Has anyone written a book on Mindful Tai Chi? The Mindfulness of Qi gong? The Mindful Practise of Mindful Tai Chi?

Sorry, can't help thinking that I must use the word Mindful just like all those idiots in the late 1980s/early 1990s used their fingers to mimic inverted commas as if it was some bleeding edge, state of the art communication tool.

Seems like Mindfulness has been hijacked as the latest buzzword to appear in a thousand book titles. Has anyone written Death by Mindfulness? The Mindful Politician?  Couldn't see them on the bookshelves in London yesterday.

Thursday, 19 January 2012


The arms are a conduit for energy.

To be stiff, rigid, tense in the arms is to close the pathway for the energy to be expressed.

The energy is issued from the back, channelled up from the ground.

Essentially it's my core to your core. When you watch someone do their Tai Chi and they are moving their arms in isolation from their body it becomes apparent that only partial, stiff force can be used.

When stiff force is used the hardness can be felt by the receiver. When energy is issued correctly the receiver feels nothing but is uprooted cleanly.

Sunday, 15 January 2012


Tai chi emphasises sensitivity to a high degree.

So when you touch someone, you should be feeling their root, the connection to the ground. When they touch you, they should not be able to feel you.

Not everyone chooses to delve into this aspect. A lot pay lip service to the concept. Because frankly it is hard. It's painful. The Chess player Capablanca said you had to lose a thousand games before you could start winning. Cheng Man Ching talks about investing in loss. Few are prepared to undertake this journey because they want to win straight away.

Sensitivity needs to be balanced with order to be able to take it. For me standing in San Ti posture works on developing both aspects.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Ground Up

The thing is to be able to relax down to the feet so the ground comes up through you.

Monday, 9 January 2012

No Break

As we go through the movements of T'ai Chi, or should that be the other way around, there is no break or discontinuity.

Cheng Man Ch'ing describes this as movement and swing, swing and movement. We turn the waist and the hands follow. When the waist stops moving, so do the hands. However, the energy produced by the initial waist turn after it stops produces the next movement as there is a "swing" derived from it. And so it continues, on and on.

This key principle is what distinguishes the dross from the sublime. Otherwise we end up moving like a brick, a stiff.

Source: Cheng Man Ch'ing's Advanced Form Instructions by Douglas Wile, Sweet Ch'i Press, 1985. ISBN 0-912059-03-6

Friday, 6 January 2012

Peripheral Vision

From time to time I across discussions and articles on how to improve your peripheral vision or Eagle vision.

The advice given to me was to soften the gaze, not to focus directly on anything with the eyes as if trying to grab it.

Then to imagine the eyes as traffic cones, with the tip at the back of the skull.

This allows better peripheral vision and works for me.

Give it a try?

Monday, 2 January 2012

Weakness is a Strength

We were gathered in the basement mirror room, listening to John Kells talk more about yielding and pushing hands.

When someone is pushing you, your first reaction might be to resist and use strength. Of coure, the strongest will prevail. This may well be true. But what happens when you are faced with someone stronger? You lose. It is not possible to guarantee that you will always be stronger than the other person.

However, you can guarantee to be weaker. Always. So you listen, accept, stick and follow the incoming push, introducing a subtle turn. The other person suddenly finds themselves in a disadvantageous position.This won't work if the other person is not committed to pushing you.

What appears to be weakness leads to a position of strength. Weakness is an act of transformation. This principle is not unique to T'ai Chi and can, for instance,  be found in Judo or Aikido.