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T'AI CHI MAGAZINE - August 2006

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August 2006 - Editor's Notebook
Most people practice Tai Chi Chuan for its health benefits and the quality of life it gives them. They know from their practice that it is good for their health and improves their lives. But there are increasing numbers of scientific studies that are confirming the health benefits.
Charlotte Jones and some of her co-students at Cheng Jincai’s Houston, TX, Chen style school gathered a wide-ranging number of documents and wrote about some of the results.
The results of the studies are impressive. And it is heartening to know that many other studies are underway. People need to know that there is scientific proof that T’ai Chi is good for their health and well being.
Motivation is central to people learning T’ai Chi and often central to people continuing their practice.
The health care system is in a growing crisis. T’ai Chi is not going to solve that crisis but it will make a positive contribution if people will invest in the time and effort to learn and practice it.

In another article Tian Jinmiao tells about her success in recuperating from a serious rheumatic heart problem. She began studying Yang style and after five years her health improved dramatically. She then went on to the Chen style.
She remarks that she had to make a transition from “the very gentle ways of Yang style.”
I don’t know what form of Yang style she learned but Yang style can be taught in different ways and from initial gentleness one can develop a very fluid, energetic strength.
I have spoken to other experienced internal martial artists and they initially felt that there was not much strength or vigor in the movements. It was only after continued practice or help from their teachers that they were able to develop their internal energy.
It is interesting that she notes that even in China people are finding the increasing pressures of finding time to learn Tai Chi and are being diverted to work or other modern day activities. Perhaps it is a case of the negative effect of globalization.
Tian Jinmiao was interviewed by Davidine Siaw-Voon Sim. Born in Malaysia, she now resides and teaches in the UK. She is the editor of “Chinatown–The Magazine” (culture, lifestyle and business). Sim is co-author of “Chen Style Taijiquan: The Source of Taiji Boxing.” She makes regular trips to China and the Far East to learn and research Chen style Taijiquan.

To get insight into a more traditional approach to Tai Chi, read the article based on notes of Jiang Yukun, written by Zhou Lishang. A traditional teacher and martial artist, Jiang gives refreshing cultural insights into the various techniques and principles of Tai Chi.
Some of his comments may be hard to understand but they follow traditional lines, including the idea that Tai Chi is a method of self-development. One’s understanding and skill essentially develops from one’s own practice. The more you practice, the better you practice and the better the results.

Gordon Muir of Victoria, BC, Canada writes an insightful article about T. T. Liang’s methods of teaching. Liang, who lived until he was 102 years old, was a key teacher in the U.S. for many years, initially teaching many students in Boston, MA.
Liang was an early contributor to the T’AI CHI newsletter in the early 1980s. He had an unique perspective about studying and teaching, which Muir includes in his article.
He was not only teaching the techniques but also the person in his own way. His masterpiece, according to Liang, was being able to get students to change their views of themselves and others—to change their personalities.

The dantians—fields of energy—are important elements of T’ai Chi practice and many other forms of internal work.
Michael Gilman, a long time practitioner who teaches in Port Townsend, WA, writes about the intrinsic qualities of the three main dantians and goes on to discuss their use in applications and push hands.
Initially, students are advised to keep the mind in the lower abdomen, the lower dantian, when practicing T’ai Chi, sitting meditation or standing meditation.
For most Westerner’s this is a foreign concept. How can you keep your mind in an empty spot in your abdomen? However, if you do it over a period of time, you will feel comfortable with it and it will become something you do throughout the day and perhaps even at night.

We have had a number of articles over the decades on how to avoid knee injury. Betsey Foster makes another contribution in this issue, focusing on a particular movement, White Crane Cools Its Wings, which also has within the form the Shoulder Stroke.
She suggests adjusting one’s posture so the angle of the hips and the back toe is 45 degrees.
This is a common problem in various styles, not only in this country, but also in China. It is usually common to beginners because they sometimes come to T’ai Chi with knee problems or without the knowledge of how to use the knees.
Part of the problem goes to the principle of using too much force. Beginners will often use too much effort and too much force when they do forms because they have not yet learned to modulate their efforts. This can result in too much weight being put on the knee or having a knee go beyond the toes, or both. It can be adjusted.

In this issue we have three articles by Liu Yao-ting, who began T’ai Chi in his 60s and lived into his 90s. The articles appeared in 1979 issues of T’AI CHI when it was just a newsletter. But the quality of his articles are still good today so we are publishing them again.

Also in this issue, we are reprinting an article by Douglas Wile, author of “T’ai Chi Touchstones” and other T’ai Chi books, about the Confucian influence on the development of T’ai Chi.
It is important to try to understand how Chinese culture has influenced and still influences the practice of Tai Chi Chuan.•
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