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HOW DOES TAI CHI WORK?

Zookinesis and Tai chi promote health.

We hear that Tai chi exercise is much more healing than other types of exercise. It strengthens the internal organs, makes you more flexible, improves the flow of blood, lymph and intercellular fluid, improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs, sharpens your attention and strengthens your immune system. How can a simple exercise do all that?

We hear that it has something to do with improving the flow of “chi” energy but for most of us, that means little. The idea of chi is not part of Western culture and we don’t have a feel for what it means. In the almost 40 years of teaching Tai chi and Zookinesis (a type of chi-gung exercise) I have found ways to explain how these exercises work beyond the benefits of other exercises and offer an explanation below:

We modern people pride ourselves in being somehow superior to animals. We think great thoughts. Our behavior is not controlled by instinct. We feel that our superiority is demonstrated by our technology. We have advanced drugs and surgery that save lives.

Yet our general health and feeling of well-being may not be superior to people of older times. In fact our world is filled with emotional stress and chemicals, which stress the body biologically. Heart attacks and other heart disease strikes earlier and earlier in life and the rate of cancer has greatly increased.

How does Tai-chi strengthen the body’s health and calm our emotions so we are resistant to stress? I have proposed in my writings and classes a simple theory that can make the logic behind Tai chi and Zookinesis more understandable.

In our modern world our basic instincts are almost irrelevant. We don’t live in natural surroundings for the most part and our instincts have been molded by natural environments. So we now rely on our minds, which tell us how to work our devices and how to tell time so we won’t show up for work late. This requires a subduing of natural instinct which hasn’t had time to evolve to function in the world of computers, cars and cell phones.

Yet our bodies still have to function biologically. The molecules and cells within our bodies aren’t controlled by computers. In fact, the entire body is a sort of biological computer, with its trillions of molecules all containing a kind of information as to how to function and adapt to varying situations within the body.

If the thinking mind imposes its patterns on the body’s functioning, there is a conflict. The body has to function one way in order to be healthy but the mind is sending signals into the body to behave quite differently.

With instinct the information in the biological computer moves upwards to control the organism and make it behave in order to achieve maximum health. With the thinking mind the control moves downwards to subdue the body and even its biochemical activity.

When we practice Tai chi, especially in the push hands exercise, we have to yield our attention to the body. We train each muscle and joint to respond with ease, precision and intention. At the beginning this requires the thinking mind (to learn our forms or the principles of push hands, for example). But then our minds have to let the body go and the movement of attention must be from the body’s individual body parts upward to the organism as a whole. The thinking mind could not possibly process all this information in real time.

We get to such a degree of precision that the decisions of movement are not made by a muscle as a whole, but rather, each nerve energizing a part of the muscle must act independently so that the muscle contracts in a wave. The smaller and smaller you can get in this precision the better. But even more importantly, you need to allow each tiny part to “make its own decisions”. If you are still making those decisions in your head, you counteract the precision of the body.

But, you might ask, if the thinking mind is not controlling all these precise movements, then what is? Now we get to the question of “chi”. The experience of chi is that of a communications system other than the thinking mind, nervous or endocrine system, that coordinates all this activity.

The real secret of chi is that it is a conscious energy that works from the level of the very small, upward into the body as a whole. Unless we cultivate this “chi consciousness” (known as “Body-Mind”), the body loses its precision – not just in practicing a form, but in staying healthy in general. The movement of consciousness from the tiny to the large must not be dampened by the movement of consciousness from the large (the mind, the feeling of ourselves as an identity) to the small.

To allow the movement of consciousness in both directions allows us to remain intelligent and also healthy. Each movement of the Tai chi forms or the Zookinesis exercises and each principle of movement of push hands, promotes this upward movement of consciousness, that is, of course, if it is done correctly.

Simply memorizing a Tai-chi form or pushing someone will not have this beneficial effect. Only a legitimate teacher can explain and teach you how to practice Tai-chi in the proper way that promotes this healing effect. This is why even teachers keep learning from other teachers to understand the best ways to practice their Tai chi to promote this effect.

Few people in modern times have experienced the upward movement of consciousness emanating from within each part of the body, let alone how this movement of consciousness is completely connected to the natural environment. When you live in a simple and natural way you soon can feel how the cycles of nature promote similar cycles within your body, which then promotes adaptive behavior on the chemical level and on the level of how you live your life day to day. You feel very connected to your environment.

The disconnected way we live our lives now leads not only to poor health, but also to a feeling of isolation, which then reverberates into the fabric of our society. We do not feel as connected to other people or other living things. That disconnection leads us to order our society in such a way that we can easily ignore the suffering of others or of the earth.

Tai chi practice has the potential of transforming our society, our health and our happiness by restoring the natural flow of consciousness that rejoins us to the earth.

BREATHING TO HEAL

The breathing process is essential to understand in order to promote healing. Proper breathing organizes the posture and functioning of the entire body.

When you breathe in the diaphragm pulls downward. This inflates the lungs. When we practice Tai-chi, this pulling down of the diaphragm towards the feet not only aligns the body, but also provides some of the power of the movements. Breathing in requires relaxation of the abdominal muscles, which then promotes the relaxation and sinking of the entire upper body. As the neck and shoulders relax, the head can sit comfortably in its position. Breathing becomes easy and full.

The downward pull of the diaphragm also coincides with the broadening of the bottom of the foot through relaxation. As the foot relaxes and the diaphragm presses down, this creates a pressure that connects the feet to the ground. This and the general relaxation of each joint and muscle create the “root” that makes your stance solid yet your body loose and flexible.

Each in-breath creates a pulse of downward pressure into the root, which creates a wave of energy through the body upward. It is important to maintain the downward pressure even while the wave of energy moves upwards or else the wave will pull you out of your own root.

As your diaphragm pulls down, the lungs fill up from the bottom first, and only towards the end of the breathing in do the upper lungs fill. If you fill up the upper lungs too early you stop the downward pressure and the whole process of generating the wave of energy.

Imagine that your lower abdomen is a clamshell and that as you breathe in the lower part of the clamshell opens downward and presses into the ground. The breath then flows forward (as you are still breathing in) out of the opening in the clamshell.

Advanced Tai-chi students learn to breathe precisely so that the way the diaphragm presses down varies in order to create certain effects in posture and movement. In this way the form and push hands are really controlled from the abdominal area downward with the upper body just responding to the dynamics of that area. The result is that an intricate complex of “waves of energy” are created to give the form more substance and to make the push hands more effective.

Unfortunately most of our attention is in our heads and it is difficult for us to work with the dynamics in the lower area of our bodies because that area is “so far away”. So we say that you have to “live in your legs and pelvic area”. This means that your attention is not stuck in your head but can fill the lower area and operate from that area. The lower area of your body becomes the “home” of the attention just as much as your head is its home now.

For most people the attention is stuck in one location like a king sitting on a throne. In order to achieve the high level of health and awareness required in Tai-chi, the attention has to be able to move and flow just as the body moves and flows. The attention must be like water, not like a king on a throne. Achieving this change can be frightening. We are so used to the attention being frozen in place that we usually cannot even imagine it moving. Yes, we can pay attention to one thing and then to another, but the “seat” of the attention remains frozen.

This frozen attention then freezes the entire body down to the organ and cellular level and inhibits the activity on those levels. When we practice Tai-chi the fluidity of the body influences the fluidity of the mind and the fluidity of the mind releases the body.

It all starts with understanding Tai-chi breathing (natural breathing) and its role in “melting” the frozen mind and body. This can only be accomplished by working with a competent teacher. Make sure that your teacher understands these principles so that your Tai-chi practice will be truly a healing experience.

TAO TE CHING – The Art of “Not Knowing”

Snake Creeps Down movement of Tai-chi Yang Form

The Tao Te Ching is one of the formative books of the philosophy of Taoism. Written by Li Ehr (Lao Tsu) in the 6th century BC, this little book of 81 paragraphs provides a mysterious and poetic view of this naturalistic way of life.

The first paragraph states:
The Tao that can be told
Is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
Is not the eternal Name
(translation by Stephen Mitchell)

This paragraph can help us to gain greater skill in our Tai-chi forms and push hands practice. It suggests a way of “knowing” that is different than memorizing facts. This little book points us in the direction of a depth of awareness that lies beneath our normal way of perceiving and analyzing. In Norse mythology this same substrate of awareness is called “The Underworld” and the “Tree of Life” is what connects the deeper, surface and higher levels of awareness.

When you begin to learn Tai-chi you have no choice but to use your programmed mind (thinking mind) to memorize movements and principles. You feel that if you can do all the movements in the proper order and write down all the principles, then you have learned Tai-chi.

But there is still more to learn. The purpose of Tai-chi practice is to lead you to the deeper level of awareness and to understand the nature and dynamics of consciousness. The exercises are just a means to an end. Without full access to this deeper substrate of awareness you don’t have your full power in life.

At a certain point in your practice you must be willing to “not know”, that is, to allow the intelligence of your body to take over the movements and let the “head” (thinking process) to just sit there and not get involved. At first the student feels that if he lets his head just “sit there” he will not be able to function. How can he exert his intention without thinking?

There is a different type of intention possible that is organic. It is like dropping a pebble into a still lake. The ripples emanate from the initial action (of the pebble). Feel your belly area as the still lake and your tensions and thinking as the pebble. Drop the pebble into the lake and then do your Tai-chi form or push hands. At every moment your movements should come from dropping pebbles into the lake.

This means that the grabbing, tense, unsatisfied mind ceases to “claw at the world” and just takes a break. This frees up a lot of energy for the natural mechanisms of the body to work. If we claw at the world our perceptions are limited to what we are grasping for. When we give up grasping, then we can really see what is going around us and inside of us.

“Naming” in the paragraph of the Tao Te Ching refers to the tendency to making the world we perceive conform to the world we expect. I call this, “The Echo of Expectations”. (What you see of a reflection of what you expect to see). Your body activities, down to the cellular level, then conform to your expectations rather than to your perceptions. You are locked into what you “know” (the story you tell yourself about what is going on). Your world becomes small and your ability to react appropriately becomes limited.

And so Tai-chi practice is a process of “not knowing”, i.e., being willing to not control every movement with the thinking process but to remain in the feeling mode, to participate in life and allow yourself to “not know” where that will take you. Your attention should be within the action, not in the head looking down at the action.

And then you find that you are now outside of a cage you didn’t even know you were in, a cage of “knowing”, of “naming”.

ALIGNING BODY, MIND AND BREATH

Push Hands Practice

At the recent push hands workshop in Connecticut the greatest problem the students had was energizing their bodies from the ground up. Since most of their attention was in their heads, their energy tended to start from there and go downward.

Teaching them to “even out their attention” had a great effect, not only on their push hands, but also on their most basic feelings and attitudes. In the “evening out” exercise I point out to them where their attention is weak in terms of in front, back, at the top, bottom, to the right and left of their bodies. Then I get more specific and point out more minute areas of unevenness.

Each time I point these things out, the students can clearly sense the unevenness and fairly easily rebalance their attention. But before it was pointed out to them, they didn’t notice the differences.

When you are trying to “uproot” your partner in push hands to throw him off balance, your energy must come from the ground up as you breathe in. You use your whole body and your breath, while the arms and hands just serve to connect your body to the partner. You don’t actually push with your arms.

Push hands trains you in the basic principles of Tai-chi-Chuan as a martial art. It also teaches you how to use your body properly in everyday life. Even more importantly, it teaches you how your body and mind may be twisted up in knots and how that affects your ability to enjoy your life and interact with other people.

My approach to teaching push hands is not technique oriented. I show people what they are presently doing and ask if that makes sense in terms of what they are trying to do. Usually it doesn’t. Then I explain how the body and mind were designed to be able to perform difficult tasks with ease. If you use your body and mind as they were designed your life will be easy.

It is a process of unraveling the twisted knots of body and mind to arrive at the simplest solution. One of my students said that the reason that there are no shortcuts in Tai-chi-Chuan is that the proper action is already the shortest action.

A push hands player may have his hand right on the body of his partner and be in a perfect position to push. But if his mind is somewhere else, he will feel he is a mile away. We learn to align the body, the processes of the mind and align the body with the mind so that everything works together, at the same time and for the same goal in the simplest, shortest way.

If you can learn to send your energy upwards and forwards from the legs and hips into the partner, not allowing the energy to escape towards the chest and head, and use the in-breath as the basis of your push, you will begin to align your actions properly. And that action will begin to transform the alignment of your body, energy and mind properly.

You can think of your belly as a floodlight covered by upper and lower flaps. When they open, the light floods out and forward as you breathe in. As you breathe out, they close. As you breathe in, widen your eyes and when you breathe out relax your eyes. You can use this as a meditation.

DON’T FEEL AWKWARD

One of the greatest difficulties in learning Tai-chi is that very few people can control their muscles and joints on a fine level. Most people are awkward and are often worried about showing their awkwardness in front of other people. No worries. Everyone else is awkward too.

In order to regain a complete connection between your attention and every muscle and joint of the body, we begin with Chi-gung exercises. In the case of my school, we practice “Zookinesis” (animal exercises). There is no point in learning Tai-chi forms, let alone push hands, if you are not connected to your own body.

The result of this complete connection to your body is that you are able to feel the flow of momentum through your body and can make your movements smooth. You can feel the flow of internal energy (chi) through your body and let go of the ways you block that energy. This results in being able to feel life more intensely and being able to feel more joy.

Then when you practice forms or push hands, you can see how your habits of tension and fear freeze parts of your body so they can’t participate in the exercise. For example in push hands, the pelvis should be relaxed so that it feels like a piece of wood floating in the ocean, bobbing with the waves. The upper body should move with the action of your partner so you don’t resist his actions.

While the hips and upper body work together to neutralize your partner’s pushes, they cannot lock together. Each works in its own way and has its own qualities and yet they also work together. In fact each muscle and joint should be independent and work in its own way and yet all work together for a common goal (of neutralizing and pushing the partner).

If I can get your hips to lock together with the upper body and get your upper body to lock together with your fears and habits, then I can control your movements. So you see that the ultimate goal of push hands is to free you from your fears and habits so that your body and mind can work effortlessly and efficiently.

The result is that each part of your body becomes conscious and can experience joy and your life is much more fulfilling.

We had a wonderful weekend at the Tai-chi Park (successor to the Tai-chi Farm). There were many workshops on Chi-gung, forms and push hands. This is a 30 years old plus tradition started by Master Jou, Tsung, Hwa. The present incarnation is a 23 acre park in the woods with a beautiful stream running through the property, in Northern New Jersey.

It’s like a Tai-chi family reunion. Many teachers only meet each other once a year on this weekend. We are hoping to start our own traditions on Long Island with Tai-chi in local parks and the first annual Tai-chi workshop at our school (the Long Island School of Tai-chi-Chuan in Sound Beach) on Sat. Sept. 22nd. Maybe we can develop a closer Tai-chi community here.

I am also making plans to give workshops at other teachers schools. Hopefully the teachers can all visit each others schools and bring fresh ideas to our students. If you have similar Tai-chi get togethers in your area, please let me know (631 744-5999).

PUSH HANDS – THE GAME OF LIFE – NOW COMPLETE

Volume 2

The new “Push Hands – the Game of Life” dvd is now complete – both volumes 1 and 2. This program is a workshop about how to make your life more powerful using Taoist principles. It uses the Tai-chi two person exercise of Push Hands to visually illustrate these principles.

It explains the physical dynamics of the human body and the mechanics of the mind (attention) in great detail and how, by gaining skill of these mechanics, we can influence the course of our lives. What we think of as great obstacles, can easily be dissolved using the skills we gain in push hands practice. We can even neutralize the aggression of other people, whether emotional, mental or physical.

Most importantly, Push Hands – the Game of Life, teaches strategies to deal with everyday life to make your life more healthy and successful. Even if you do not practice push hands, you will easily understand the principles and be able to apply them.

LINK TO VOLUME 1

LINK TO VOLUME 2

WHAT IF THE WORLD WERE FLUID?

One of the most important lessons I have learned from my training is that the condition of your mind and emotions greatly affect how you perceive your physical environment. Your senses don’t simply tell you what’s “out there”. The senses are in a fluid relationship with what is going on inside of you.

My wife Jean used to teach a class in the “foam roller”, a four foot long, eight inch thick piece of sturdy foam. At the beginning of the class you lie on the floor and notice how your back feels on the floor. Of course, the floor feels very hard.

After rolling on your back on the foam in various ways, you lie on the floor again and the floor feels as soft as a soft mattress. How you feel the floor depends to a large degree on the condition of your back – tense or relaxed.

After a push hands class, students feel very different than before. Push Hands requires you to relax and to be connected to your partner. Your attention must fill his body so that you know what is going on inside of him. In this way you will know if he is preparing to push you. Your attention must be “released” into the partner as well as into the ground, so that you are “grounded” or “rooted”. If you are rooted you are much harder to push over.

After class your state of connected attention is still with you. As you move in your surroundings, you seem much more connected to them, less isolated and more aware of what is going on around you. The world around you seems much more vivid. It seems to be part of your flesh and much more alive.

Now imaging feeling this way all the time. You would have to live in a “softer” (more natural) environment to be able to exist constantly in this state. Otherwise the “harsh” world would wear you down quickly.

And that is why we tense up and withdraw our energy from the environment. Our modern environment is not “biologically friendly”. It is friendly to machines. And so we must become like a machine and become dead to the relationship between our inner state and our perceptions. Our state becomes frozen so that we can feel comfortable in a frozen environment.

TRAINING WITH GRANDMASTER WILLIAM C. C. CHEN IN THE 1970s

I have been asked to recount my experiences of studying with Tai-chi-Chuan Grandmaster William C. C. Chen in the 1970’s. When I first saw his form, its fluidity and lightness amazed me and I knew I would continue studying this art for the rest of my life.
He began each class doing the entire form once through. I remember one particular time when he was moving so beautifully that I had to stop and step to the side to give him my full attention. I noticed that none of the other students saw anything unusual in Master Chen’s movements. In fact, the other students never really watched him doing the form. They were always in their own world.
Master Chen peeked around at the students at one point and saw me watching him and he laughed under his breath. I asked him later what he was doing differently but he said he was just doing the form as usual.
In another case he was trying to get me to relax when he kicked me in the gut. I couldn’t relax and always tensed up. At the end of the class we were all in a tight circle listening to Master Chen and he said, “When you kick, you have to kick like this” and he kicked me right in the gut. Of course, I wasn’t expecting it so I was relaxed. He turned to me and said, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t see you standing there”.
At this time I owned an animal importing company and tried out what I learned with the animals. Then I took what I learned from the animals and tried it out in the class. From time to time I brought in an animal to show Master Chen. When I brought in a tarantula, I put it right onto his arm to see what his reaction would be. He just calmly watched it walk around on his arm and said it was “cute”.
On my first day of fighting class, he had me punch him in the face to get the feeling of punching (I was wearing boxing gloves). I was hesitant to punch him in the face as his only protection was little pieces of paper towels curled up into his nostrils. He insisted that I continue punching him and urged me to hit harder. After about 30 punches, I stopped and he asked me why I stopped. I explained that my wrists and arms were hurting.
My interest was not to learn fighting but to learn for health purposes. But Master Chen insisted that I take at least two months of fighting classes. At the end of the two months, Ed Scott (one of his instructors) punched me into a corner and kept punching. I hid under my arms and peeked out hoping to get Master Chen’s attention to deal with this situation. Master Chen was watching us but he was laughing. My only hope was to wildly try to punch back and then Ed backed off (not that he really had to. My punching wasn’t very good at that time). But something snapped in me and from that moment on I loved sparring. I continued going to sparring class.
The emphasis of his training was on allowing force to flow through the body while using minimal movement. He brought in a simple hygrometer – a bowl half filled with water, with a sheet of rubber stretched out on the top. A hollow glass tube pierced the rubber sheet and went into the bowl. When he pressed down on the rubber sheet, the water shot up the tube. He explained that when you step down you should feel as if you are stepping on a rubber ball. The compression of the ball creates an energy which shoots up through you. It is as if you are the hollow tube.
Before fighting, he would tell us a story which seemed to be leading to a lesson. It was hard to understand him at that time as his accent was thicker than now. So we strained to understand him. Then when he got to the conclusion, his “lesson” seemed to have nothing to do with the story. He immediately paired us off to spar. But our heads (at least mine) was spinning with confusion as to what he was getting at with the story. As I sparred, my mind was all bound up and I found I could spar much better. Did he confuse us on purpose? I don’t know.
He always told us to ask him questions, but in all the years I went to his classes I don’t remember anyone asking him anything. I always came in prepared with at least one question. It made me have to analyze what he had taught us. Most of his students were from the city and didn’t have cars. I came in from Long Island. So I drove him home after the classes. There I could ask him lots of questions. He once told me about the time he tried to get into a parking space. Another car tied to swerve in to get the space. Master Chen and the other guy got out of their cars. There was an argument. Master Chen knocked the other guy down, who then ran back to his car and drove away.
I asked Master Chen, “Isn’t Tai-chi supposed to be peaceful? And now you’re telling me you knocked that guy down!” He replied, “It was peaceful after I knocked him down.”
His studio at that time was on 23rd Street, near 7th Avenue. The floors were marble and the air conditioning didn’t work. There were no windows. It must have been 120 degrees in the class during the summer. After fighting class I felt the punches to my head for a full day, as if someone were still punching me. We always started sparring by punching each other in the head a few times to warm up. I remember that when “Big Bob” and Ed Scott (both over 6 feet tall and around 250 pounds) punched each other in the head to “warm up” it lasted about 10 minutes. They would pound each other without protecting themselves to get used to being hit. (In those days we didn’t wear headgear). The sound of their poundings were so loud that you couldn’t hold a conversation until they finished.
The walls of the studio were covered with quarter inch paneling (no sheetrock). If you were thrown against the wall during push hands, you hoped you would land between the studs, in which case the paneling bowed in, rather than directly onto the stud.
Priscilla had her Amway storehouse in a little room off the entrance hall and would keep the students supplied with soap and other products. Right after that room was a little counter and behind that Master Chen’s office. At a certain point (I think in the early 1980’s) I stopped attending class. I had moved further out on Long Island, so the trip was difficult and had taken on other responsibilities such as writing my books. After a few years, I visited Master Chen. I walked into the studio and up to the counter where he was looking down at his paperwork. He looked up and just started talking to me as if we had been in the middle of a conversation.
Nothing ever surprised or upset him. When we went to the movies one day Priscilla got upset about someone in front of us talking too loud. She was going to complain but Master Chen said, “Take it easy. Relax.”
His fighting was very quick and evasive. At a certain point I realized that if I aimed for where he was I would never hit him. So I learned to strike to where I thought he would move to and was much more successful in getting my strikes in.
His form always seemed to me to be like dripping water. He almost moved into position and then relaxed to move into the next position. Yet you could see that his energy completely finished the move even if his body “understated” the move. If you could divide your mind into two parts – one following the body’s movements, and the other to the natural completion of the momentum, you could understand the way Master Chen “blended” the two in various ways.
That is what taught me the most. I analyzed the components of his form both on a body mechanics level and an energetic level. That allowed me to understand what he was saying when he tried to explain the principles. So when I practiced push hands in class for example, I tried to extend the “mind” into the part of the partner’s body which had the least awareness or the least fluidity and then let the mechanics of my body create momentum to move along the pathway that my intention laid down, leading to that vulnerable part of the partner’s body. The expansion of my breath then caused the push itself.
I think that you cannot just take what Master Chen says and try to duplicate that within yourself. You have to see him, analyze the role of body mechanics, mind and energy and apply it in innovative ways so that it works for you. I think that is what he expects of you. He used to say that he is just interested in body mechanics, but I notice on the workshop dvd that he is now talking more about mind and energy.
I don’t think you can separate mind and energy dynamics and only work on body mechanics and hope to gain the kind of skill that Master Chen has. He also seems to concentrate on a different aspect of Tai-chi-Chuan in each decade. You need to know the whole range of his teaching from the beginning when I studied to now, to get an appreciation of the whole. I wish he had done a workshop dvd each decade so we could see the evolution of his approach to teaching.
I should also mention that I originally studied with one of his students, Herb Ray, who also had this analytical approach, taking apart every nut and bolt of the training in excruciating detail. The emphasis on how I teach now is identifying and letting go of all unnecessary behavior patterns so that there is no excess of movement – that the goal is accomplished with the movement of energy and the minimum movement of the body. I think this is the essence of Master Chen’s training.
He once wrote me a saying in Chinese (which I still have) that Master Chen, Man Ching taught him. “Tai-chi means not moving arms. If it is moving arms, it is not Tai-chi”. This means of course, not moving arms by themselves. At least that’s what he told me it means. I don’t speak or read Chinese.
These are some of my recollections and I have devoted my life to promote what I learned from Master Chen and from my other teachers. One thing I personally feel very strongly about, and this comes from my other teachers. Without really understanding Taoist alchemy and the teaching of the elements, it is very hard to progress in Tai-chi. You just get to a certain point and you can’t seem to get any further. Just thought I would throw that in, now that I have your attention. I would also suggest getting involved in acupressure massage as this really gives you an understanding of how the flow of energy in many people has become so entangled in a mess. It helps to understand that when you do push hands. If you can perceive the dynamics of the partner’s attention and energy flow, then push hands becomes very easy to do. (Or I should say that it becomes very clear what you need to do. “Easy” is probably not the proper word.)

PUSH HANDS CLASS

Take a look at clips from one of our push hands classes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsXq_S9WIAU