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June 2007 - Editor's Notebook

Sim Pooh Ho continues his dialog with Alex Yeo about Taiji Gong, discussing its structure and functioning. He clarifies why the form is done slowly—one hour and fifteen minutes for his form, but it can last over two hours or more when really done slowly. He discusses different levels of Taiji Gong, including its higher levels such as qi and Dao Gong.
He discusses different levels of Tai Chi defense methods and notes that defense based on postures and form is usually useless against someone far stronger or trained in external Wushu. He notes that being able to employ empty and full is better but a higher level is the qi level. The ultimate goal in Tai Chi, he said, is Dao Gong. Cultivating the Dao not only changes oneself but all one’s reactions to people from self-defense to social relations.

Yang Zhenji lived through turbulent times in China. Born in 1921, his father, Yang Chengfu, died when Yang Zhenji was still a teenager. Yang lived through the war with Japan.
This was followed by the civil war, won by the communists in 1949, which led to massive changes, including the Cultural Revolution in 1966. These were difficult times to be a Tai Chi teacher. But as the article by Zhou Lishang points out he was dedicated to carrying on the tradition of his father through “80 years hard work.”

Qu Shi Jing tells the story of another Tai Chi teacher, who lived through much of the time experienced by Yang Zhenji. Qu’s teacher, Huang Jinghua, helped Yang Chengfu with the writing of his books.
While Tai Chi was not the most important aspect of his life, Huang achieved considerable skill. Qu’s own story is also interesting, giving a perspective of a person trying to learn Tai Chi during tumultuous times.

Cui Shiyi, another Yang stylist, lived during the same period, and was an important teacher in Beijing. Zhou Lishang writes in detail about his life and the teaching of his grandson, Cui Zhongsan, who has become an important teacher in his own right.
The article includes a discussion of important Tai Chi principles, particularly in regard to the Yang style.

Nando Raynolds writes about techniques that practitioners can use to develop relaxation mentally and physically. Raynolds is a psychotherapist in Talent, OR.
Relaxation has always been a component of good Tai Chi, especially in its martial arts aspects. Only when a practitioners become relaxed mentally and physically can they be able to distinguish Yin from Yang, insubstantial from substantial and empty from full.
Only when one has learned to relax can they implement the transforming force that involves neutralization and going from relaxed to expressing internal force on an opponent.
Nando Raynolds writes about techniques that practitioners can use to develop relaxation mentally and physically. Raynolds is a psychotherapist in Talent, OR.

Daniel Loney of Jerusalem, Israel, had been doing Tai Chi for a number of years when he found that he had Parkinson’s Disease.
He describes how he felt when he started to experience symptoms and how it affected his practice. He tells how his practice has improved him physically and how it has helped him to have a good outlook on life.

Eo Omwake, a longtime practitioner, writes about one of the cardinal principles of Tai Chi. Although it is so important, is also very misunderstood, certainly by beginners, whether they are learning for health or to practice Tai Chi as a martial art.
In the beginning,. players tend to exert too much force in the form movements, usually because they are awkward or because they have a lot of accumulated tension. As a martial art, players are often so defensive or aggressive, that residual tensions cause them to overreact. Omwake helps to clarify some of these issues.

An article in the April 16th issue of the Los Angeles Times reported on a study in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society that found that older adults who practice Tai Chi strengthened their immune system against the painful inflammation known as shingles.
The article also said there are five federally funded studies examining whether regular Tai Chi practice can help patients with heart disease, osteoarthritis and cancer, deal with depression, infection and joint inflammation.
Andrew Monjan, chief of the National Institute on Aging’s neurobiology of aging branch, was quoted as saying that Tai Chi “seems to be somewhat more effective than simple exercise and more effective than simple stress reduction.”
He said the shingles study showed Tai Chi appear to have “a fairly robust effect.”
Monjan said Tai Chi’s combination of slow, steady movements, rhythmic breathing and meditation appear to offer a unique mix of benefits.
Another factor he mentioned is acceptance of Tai Chi by older adults who try it.

In another report for the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, a study found that as little as three hours a week of brisk walking increases blood flow to the brain and increases the production of new neurons.
Arthur Kramer of the University of Illinois in a study last November found that three hours a week of aerobic exercise increased the human brain’s volume of gray matter (neurons) and white matter (connections between neurons).
The increase was so much that the exercisers had brain volumes typical of people three years younger.
The gray matter increased most in the frontal lobes, which handles high-level functions such as planning, judgment, attention and memory. The white matter increased most in the bundle of neurons that connects the right brain and the left.•

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