Thoughts On Tai Chi Form And Drills
During my twenty plus years of training full-time with world-renowned Chinese masters and leading Yoga teachers has rewarded me with gold medals in the solo Tai Chi form and Tai Chi sword, as well as in fighting competitions in North America, and Europe, in China, as well. Being exposed to such a high level of knowledge and training for six to eight hours a day, taught me that in order to have success one needs to not only emphasize the connection of the body, mind, and spirit, but to also utilize the forces around us.
I have used the principles and techniques from the various Eastern arts to help individual cancer patients survive, to help the elderly cope with “unnecessary aging,” and to develop and tailor a mind/body approach for the medical community to battle debilitating diseases such as cancer and arthritis. I have helped many individuals to improve their skills and reach their goals, both physical and mental. These techniques can be used by anyone interested in having a better quality of life right now.
This program is unique in that the form is trained to both the left and right, which I believe has many benefits. Also, remember that any of the exercises in this program can be done while sitting, even by those in a hospital bed, and I encourage all practitioners to experience the training while isolating the upper body. Unlike many Tai Chi publications, the main focus of this program is the internal aspects of the movements, the breathing techniques and internal visualizations, and especially the skill of tapping into earth and heaven energies. These ancient internal practices are nearly a lost art, and it is important that we pass them on to future generations.
Commitment to Tai Chi
What does it takes to get the most out of Sunrise Tai Chi program, for both martial training and for the improvement of daily performance and general health? The first step is a commitment on various levels.
Once committed, you must understand the theory behind this approach, and then learn the exercises, or mind/body prescriptions, and begin to fine tune and balance all five aspects/building blocks of our being: Body, Mind, Breath, Energy, and Spirit. You must then harmonize yourself with the three forces of earth, heaven, and human, which is a life-long journey of self-discovery and self-mastery. The Sunrise Tai Chi book and DVD will give you the needed fundamental first steps in this journey into the self. The basic steps are the pillars of your success. Train it until you become it.
Once you understand and train the program for a while, you will increasingly experience many benefits. You will build your muscle mass and bone density. You will free your skeleton from being a prisoner of your soft tissue. You will know how to use 80 percent effort, allowing the body to develop efficiently. You will find balance between strength and flexibility. You will increase your lung capacity and your oxygen intake, which will lead to an upgraded performance of every cell in your body. By improving your breathing, you will then be able to utilize your breathing in your visualizations and meditation.
Remember, the breath is a “banana,” a tool to “Seize the Monkey Mind,” calm your emotions, and to strengthen your Horse Mind, or your wisdom. When the wisdom mind is strengthened, you will be able to stay longer in a meditative state, between awake and asleep. The benefits of this have been documented for centuries in the East, and since the 1970s in the West, thanks to Herb Benson’s groundbreaking work, The Relaxation Response.
Staying longer in this meditative state will encourage production of ideal levels of healthy endorphins, neurotransmitters, and hormones, and will give your immune system an immediate boost. Your energetic circulatory system will open up, removing blockages and stagnations, improving the function of your internal organs, and your level of energy will increase tremendously. You will have a deeper understanding of the universe, and of the subtle energies around us. You will have a stronger sense of your self, the earth beneath you, and heavens above. Living with an awareness of the five building blocks and these three forces will help you live in the present moment, which is the key to being a true martial artist, and the secret that leads to improved health and longevity.
The Sunrise Tai Chi program is a journey in which you strike a balance between external and internal work, developing the body and mind, while tapping into sources of abundant universal energy, such as the sun. In doing so, you will be on the right path to developing a powerful fighting spirit, and a better quality of life, with countless benefits for yourself and those around you.
Stationary Tai Chi Movements—Drills
The Tai Chi stationary drills are designed not only for better health, but also to prepare you for the Tai Chi form. The stationary movements give you the opportunity to emphasize and experience the physical and mental skills more strongly when later doing the Tai Chi form. The drills also give you the opportunity to figure out how to put together the physical and the mental visualizations with movements from Yang-style Tai Chi. Each one of the Tai Chi movements you learn and perform have a martial application as well as specific benefits towards better health, longevity, and a higher quality of life.
Remember the five building blocks: body, breath, mind, energy, and spirit. Try to bring all of them into the Tai Chi drills. The first part of each drill is stationary and the second part includes moving. As mentioned in the Tai Chi Classics, the whole body should be like pearls on a thread. If the movements are not a continuous, agile flow, the thread will rip and the pearls will fall.
To accomplish this concept of being one connected unit when moving takes time and practice. I recommend that you focus and emphasize specific skills from the different building blocks one at a time, and then at other times coordinate the skills with one another. For example, practice Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail ten times while emphasizing the movement of the spine and chest bows. Focus on just stretching the bow and releasing it.
Then practice the posture another ten times focusing on the skill of Empty/Full Moon breathing. Then, for the mental visualizations, practice ten times emphasizing only the Four Gates breathing. Again, ten more times, while just focusing on the baton/bubble visualization.
Sometimes, I practice just my legs while putting the center of my palms two inches below the navel, and other times I sit on the edge of the chair and just focus on the upper body. When you are ready to practice the physical and the mental together, and include moving the bows, Empty/Full Moon, and Four Gates breathing, and the baton/bubble energetic visualization all at once, do the drills more slowly. You may find that closing your eyes at first will help.
Remember the sensation of the Tai Chi Ball exercise and try to recreate this sensation without the ball in your Four Gates breathing, as well as in your Upper and Lower Energy Centers. If you are flexible and your legs are strong, you will be able to perform the Tai Chi form with low stances, but when doing so, make sure you are not sacrificing correct physical alignment: sacrum tucked in, head suspended and shoulders dropped.
Protect your knees; your weight should go through the knees, not into them.
Your mind should be in a deeply relaxed, meditative state, which is necessary for the internal visualizations. You should feel a strong sensation of the three forces, earth, human, and heaven. Strong abundant energy should be flowing throughout the body. Try always to smile when you practice, and carry the sensation inward to your mind, your chest, your heart, all your internal organs, and throughout your entire body.
The above is an excerpt from Sunrise Tai Chi: Simplified Tai Chi for Health & Longevity by Ramel Rones with David Silver.