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Practice Everyday

If you’re like most of the people in Tai Chi Classes chances are you are a very dedicated student, as long as class is in session. What happens when you leave class? Do you take the principles you learn and apply them everyday? The teacher or instructor is there to guide you and show you the way. It is up to you to integrate the teachings and philosophies into your life. Take the time to practice what you learn and you will build upon it. Even if you don’t know the full routine practice what you can remember, whether it’s the warm up or the Forms. This will begin to build good habits and over time the following will become easier and easier. Surely we all agree that one or two hours a week is not enough time to change your life for the better but that’s about as much Tai Chi as some people get. In class we are breathing deep, we stand without locking our joints so the Chi can flow, we are relaxed, focused and united in mind, body and spirit. It feels right and everything is well within the Universe. After class are we continuing to breathe deeply and using the lower abdomen? What if we get angry, suppose somebody cuts us off in traffic do we rise up and breathe using our chests only, do our muscles tense up, face frowned and tight, joints locking…? When we stand in line at the BMV or grocery store are we locking the knees and cutting off our energy, are we slouching and reinforcing bad habits? Are we conscious in all our tasks and movements or is the mind scattered from North to South? Integrating the Tai Chi postural structure and philosophical qualities into everyday life is how we truly benefit from its’ practice. It is how we increase our longevity. It is how we find the immense health benefits that are so often spoken of as well as an ongoing feeling of peace. When someone or something causes us to get angry take a deep breath, relax the abdomen and allow it to sink all the way down and continue to breathe this way. Are you tensing up? Relax the places in the body that are tight, systematically use the mind to search and destroy tension melting it away, let the joints naturally rest within the earth’s gravitational pull. In class we use standing meditation (Zhan Zhang) as a training exercise. When standing why not use these principles whether you’re in a line or in your own kitchen washing dishes. Zhan Zhang unites the two halves of the body, upper and lower as well as uniting the mind and body. Physically it builds the leg muscles and increases circulation, respiration and overall body strength. The bones are what generate white blood cells and the bones in the legs are the largest in the body. The weight of the standing causes an increase in the production of white blood cells thus amping up the immune system. The standing meditation also teaches us to clear our minds of unnecessary chatter. Too many random thoughts can be overwhelming and stressful. Stress is a major factor in many diseases and ailments. Practicing Tai Chi relieves, prevents and or eliminates many stress and physiological maladies. Just google the health benefits of Tai Chi and be prepared to receive a plethora of information.
What if your goal is to gain Tai Chi skill? Tai Chi practitioners learn to root to the ground and can become seemingly immovable. Then there is also the ability to deflect 1000lbs using 4 ounces of force (as in Tai Chi Classics). Seasoned Tai Chi players remain calm in pressure situations and learn to “listen” with their bodies, thus they can easily redirect large amounts of incoming force and effortlessly control larger and stronger opponents. They can also issue great amounts of power through their bodies and into their adversaries. These are only a few of the abilities that can be gained through proper Tai Chi practice. There is good news and bad news. The good news is that anyone can gain these skills with practice. The bad news is that it is not an instant process, it does take some time, of course this is only bad news if you are in a hurry. In today’s society we are all about speed. Fast food, fast cars, fast everything…including martial arts. However, anything of quality will take some time to develop . One way to insure you are getting the most out of your time is to use the tips in the paragraph above. The same training that improves your health improves your skill. Doing the Forms daily builds muscle memory over time you learn to move in way that is natural and fluid the mind becomes clear and focused. Relaxed movement is much faster than forced or tense, and a focused mind becomes sharp. Learning to breathe deep all the time and relaxing will allow your Chi flow to become strong and smooth, thus increasing your ability to manifest Jin or internal power. Relaxing also allows you to train your sensitivity so you may learn to distinguish different energies or incoming forces and their directions, from this you learn to deal with them accordingly. The standing meditation mentioned above may not be easy but it unites the body. As you get better at it increase the time standing or deepen your stance. Once the upper and lower parts of the body can move as one you are able to issue whole body force from the ground. You are also able to receive force and redirect it into the ground or lead it to emptiness should you so choose. The connectivity created is like an unstoppable power that only get’s stronger and stronger. If one continues to train all of one’s life his abilities do not fade as with muscle based practices, but continues to grow. To witness a true Master’s abilities is like watching (or feeling) something that seems impossible, almost magical. I’ve often said that the Tai Chi Ren are the real life Jedis. Even though it does take some time once you begin to notice the gains and changes in your body the excitement is enough to make you want more. I once read that gaining Tai Chi skill is like stacking sheets of paper. Every day that you practice is like adding a sheet of paper to your stack until eventually it grows as tall as a skyscraper. How long does that take? Who knows, but if you’re going to be living and functioning every day you might as well be stacking.

Chris BurnettPractice Everyday

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