Healingtaichi's Blog

Study Sheet for Spring 2015

Tai Chi Chuan (Taijijuan)

Spring 2015

1 Credit Hour

Wednesdays  2:00-2:50 p.m.

Providence Forum, McLaughlin Center

Cynthia Quarta e Call: 406-788-8938 or Text: 406-890-7254 e cquarta01@ugf.edu

 

Taiji Study Sheet

 

“A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for tai chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age,” says Peter M. Wayne, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Program at Harvard Medical School’s Osher Research Center. An adjunct therapy is one that’s used together with primary medical treatments, either to address a disease itself or its primary symptoms, or, more generally, to improve a patient’s functioning and quality of life.”

Mind-body practice (Tai chi & Qigong)

 

What is Taiji?

The origins of Taiji are not entirely clear.  Sinologists do seem to agree, however, that a Daoist monk by the name of Zhangsanfeng is responsible for developing the Kung Fu style known as Taijijuan.  Historians do not agree on the year in which he was born or on the details of his early life before he built his monastery on Wudang Mountain.

How Master Zhang came to create this martial art is also in question.  The most popular and most often repeated story of what inspired him, concerns his observation of a fight between a bird and a snake.  The snake was victorious because of his circular movements and lightening fast strikes.   You will notice that our movements are also serpentine during much of the form.  We rarely move in a straight line either toward or away from our opponent.  Since we practice this form slowly with concentration and deliberate movements, you will have to use your imagination to visualize what the striking movements would look like when they are performed at full speed.

People often ask if taiji is a martial art, or is it a vehicle for spiritual development, a way to reduce stress, or a health/fitness program.   It may surprise you to know that Taiji is all of these things. The Chinese viewpoint is, after all, holistic.  We are not physical beings only or purely spiritual beings or simply a bundle of emotions.  We are all of these just as taiji is a martial art, a fitness program, a means to reduce stress, a moving meditation, and a vehicle used by many to achieve a higher level of spirituality.  In addition, the result of Taiji practice is a state of balance within us as it restores the natural symmetry between our bodies and our environment.

Taiji is a time-tested exercise program to gently tone the body, increase energy flow, stimulate the mind, calm excess emotion between mind, body and spirit and create a synergistic balance between us and our environment.  It relaxes us so that our ch’i can flow freely throughout our bodies producing a perfect balance between mind, body and spirit.

 

            “The word ‘taiji’ is an ancient Daoist philosophical term symbolizing the interaction of yin and yang, which are manifestations of the same forms in nature” (www.chentaiji.com)

 

 

Yin and Yang in Us and Our Surroundings

The Chinese believe that two elemental forces exist in the universe.  Everything in the universe, down to the tiniest grain of sand, contains a Yin aspect and a Yang aspect.  We experience these two elemental forces in nature every day as hot and cold, wet and dry, day and night, and so on.   Below is the Taiji Diagram or the common representation of these two forces of nature.  Note the small dot of white in the Yin or black fish-shaped part of the circle and the black dot in the Yang or white fish-shaped part of the diagram.  This tells us that each of these two elements contains an aspect or attribute of its opposite.  We will discuss this relationship in the form as we practice the postures (steps).

 

Dr. Kaptchuk in his book, The Web that has No Weaver, lists the five principles of Yin and Yang in Chinese thought:

 

  1. All things have two aspects: a Yin aspect and a Yang aspect.
  2. Any Yin or Yang aspect can be further divided into Yin and Yang.
  3. Yin and Yang mutually create each other.
  4. Yin and Yang control each other and,
  5. Yin and Yang transform into each other.

 

These two principles maintain the dynamic of the universe by their oppositional activity, constantly creating a state of friction.  At the same time, however, they are symbiotic, relying on each other for their very existence.  Without Yin, there can be no Yang and without a Yang there can be no Yin.

As we learn the 24 step short form, we should ask ourselves a few questions about the construct of the form in relationship to the Chinese theory of Yin and Yang.  For example, how can we apply Yin/Yang to our practice for our benefit?  How does that balance help us with our wellness and promote the flow of ch’i as we exercise?  How does the knowledge of the nature of the Yin/Yang principle help us improve our general health?

Each movement within the form has a Yin portion and a Yang portion.  If we keep our speed and the amount of time given to each of these portions balanced, we retain the harmony between the two aspects of the movement.  If we move too quickly through the Yin part of the movement or the Yang part of the movement, we risk an imbalance in the movement and in ourselves.

It is the imbalance of Yin and Yang and the disharmony of these two principles of movement and change that cause illness and disease according to Chinese theory.  Therefore, the more we attend to re-balancing the Yin and Yang properties within us, the more energy we cultivate and the healthier we will be in mind, body and spirit.  We must be cognizant of these three aspects of ourselves since the whole of the person must be considered when attempting to achieve a state of wellness.  Any imbalance or dis-ease of mind or body or emotions or spiritual state will inevitably result in a general disequilibrium of the entire person.

When we keep ourselves in Yin/Yang harmony, we are then also in harmony with our surroundings.  We can have little or no effect on our immediate surroundings or on the macrocosm that is the universe.  But the state of our being greatly benefits from a state of equilibrium between us and both our immediate environment and that of the greater universe.

 

 

The Three Dan Tiens

 

The three dan tiens that house the Three Treasures are the cultivation points from which all energy flows.  The lower dan tien is thought to be located between the pubic bone and the navel about midway through the body.  The lower dan tien is connected in Chinese medicine to the kidneys and is believed to be the source of a person’s power particularly when Taiji is used as a martial art.  The middle dan tien is in the area of the solar plexus and related to general physical vitality.  The upper dan tien is to be found in the area of the pineal gland.  To measure its precise position, draw an imaginary line from the tops of your ears through your head and another line from between the eyebrows (the Third Eye Point) straight to the back of your head.  Where the two horizontal lines intersect is the location of the upper dan tien.

The ancient Chinese believed that those who develop the proper balance between mind, body and breath are in possession of three treasures.  Those treasures are named jing, ch’i and shen.  They can be found in three specific locations in the body called the dan tiens.  The lower dan tien is believed to be the repository for jing, the middle dan tien for ch’i and the upper dan tien for shen.    Jing refers to the energy or ch’i as it is expressed through movement away from the body such as that used against an opponent.  The ch’i of the middle dan tien denotes the “breath” of the body which is believed to reside in the middle dan tien in the area of the diaphragm, lungs and solar plexus.  Shen is related to all mental and spiritual activities.

Superficially, jing is identified with the sex organs, a man’s sperm and testosterone and a woman’s ovaries and estrogen.  Yet, the proper definition of this term includes the whole endocrine system and all of the chemical interactions of metabolism.  Jing is our biochemical makeup; how we grow and develop, the strength or weakness of our constitution, how we age, and whether our body retains its youthful vigor or begins to deteriorate in middle age.  All of this is determined by the quantity of jing available in the body.  This is not necessarily, however, a preexisting condition but is also dependent on the way in which we live our lives.

Ch’i that resides in the middle dan tien (located in the solar plexus) is most accurately defined as the functional energy of the body.  Together with jing it regulates maturation and aging.  Ch’i is believed to be responsible for the involuntary functions of the body such as breathing and heartbeat and voluntary muscle activity.  Ch’i also controls the circulation, particularly the amount of oxygen in the blood and the processes of the nervous system.

Shen is associated with mental activity.  Decision making, academic achievements, analytical thought, and impulse control all fall within the purview of shen.  When expanded through meditation and concentrated effort, shen takes on a higher aspect related to intuition, creativity and spirituality.  Because we concentrate our efforts and our minds on the three dan tiens in our Taiji exercises, we will be activating the properties or treasures that reside in all of these locations.

 

The Eight Meridians

In order to be able to visualize the movement of energy through the body as we do in all the exercises and the form we practice in this class, we need to know what routes we wish the energy to take.  That, in turn, depends on which part of the body we are targeting and what we hope to accomplish.  In this class, however, we will be concentrating only on the eight extraordinary or vessels rather than trying to keep track of all twenty of the energy pathways.

The eight extraordinary meridians act as reservoirs and distribution centers of energy that can be stimulated to re-energize the body, mind or spirit in times of stress, illness, fatigue or when we are called upon to exert more energy than normal.  Of these eight meridians only two have their own acupuncture points, the renmei (Conception Vessel) and the dumei (Governing Vessel).  The other six of the eight extraordinary vessels utilize the points from the other twelve main meridians. They also serve as storage for excess energy that may remain in the twelve main meridians.  Unlike the twelve main meridians, however, the extraordinary vessels are not directly connected to organs or systems of the body.

The eight extraordinary meridians are listed below:

 

The eight extraordinary meridians are listed below:

 

  1. The du begins at the perineum, rises up the back and along the centerline of the body, over the scalp, down the forehead, ending at the upper palate of the mouth behind the teeth.
  2. From the tip of the tongue, the ren moves down the centerline of the front of the body and back to the perineum.
  3. The chong is a line that begins at the perineum and runs vertically through the three dan tien points in the middle of the trunk.
  4. The dai resembles a belt encircling the waist, starting and ending at the navel.
  5. Beginning at a point on the dumei at about the middle of the upper back, the yangyu traverses the back of each arm and through the inside of the middle finger. Yangyumei ends at the laogong point on the palm of the hand.  When you curl your fingers, the laogong point is where your middle finger rests against the palm.
  6. The yinyu meridian begins at the laogong points, traveling up the inside of each arm, across the pectoral muscles and through the nipples. Yinyumei ends at the renmei before traveling a short distance along the daimei.
  7. Beginning at the perineum and traveling along the outside of each leg are the pathways called the yangqiao. These meridians run the full length of the leg through the instep to the sole of the foot.
  8. From the soles of the feet, the yinqiao moves up the inside of each foot, looping around the ankles and returning to the perineum by way of the inner thighs.

 

Types of Ch’i

 

The concept of ch’i is at the very center of Chinese philosophy.  According to Wolfgang Metzger in Tai Chi Chu’an & Qigong: Techniques and Training, this connection can be understood in four ways:

  • Each human being has inherited a certain quality of ch’i that can be very high but also very low. This inherited, or prenatal, ch’i is called Yuan Ch’i.
  • Ch’i is also given to us through food, the Gu Ch’i or nutrition ch’i.
  • The Kong Ch’i reaches our body through breathing and – together with the Yuan Ch’i and the Gu Ch’i – combines to form the overall ch’i or Zheng Ch’i.
  • Zheng Ch’i is the all-encompassing term for several types of ch’i that have very special functions.

 

 

The Five Basic Functions of Ch’i

 

In addition, ch’i itself i.e. Zheng Ch’i, has five basic functions.  First, no movement of the body would be possible without ch’i: secondly, ch’i provides immunity to the system from all outside pathogens.  The third action of ch’i is the regulation of the conversions that take place in the body such as the change of those nutrients to blood and urine whenever we ingest food.  Fourthly, ch’i ensures protection from all assaults on bodily substances and organs, internal or external.  Finally, ch’i regulates body temperature, ensuring sufficient blood flow for warmth in the winter and for cooling our body temperature in the summer.

 

 

What You Need to Know About the form

 

You will begin the form by standing with your feet fist-width apart.  Then step out with bent knees so that your feet are about shoulder-width apart.  “Sink your ch’i” so that the extra energy flowing through your body returns to the lower dan tien which contains the greatest amount of general ch’i and in particular, the type of physical energy that will be needed for the form.   Take the leftover ch’i and send it down your legs into your feet to “root” yourself to the ground.  The purpose of rooting is to stabilize yourself and make it more difficult for your opponent to knock you off your feet.

Next, we orient ourselves within the area where we practice the form, by visualizing a clock face.  The direction we face when we start, determines where 12 o’clock is and where to turn to face 3, 6 or 9 o’clock.  Spatial orientation is important so that we can practice the form in any setting – inside your room, apartment, or even outside with no walls.

 

Our working area has five directions and each of those directions is associated in the practice of Taiji as one of the five elements which are basic to Daoist philosophy:

 

  • Center which is associated with the element earth,
  • forward which is considered to be metal,
  • backward which is identified as wood,
  • right which can be either fire or water,
  • and left which can also be either fire or water.

 

In addition to the five directions, four diagonals are also used in the various Taiji forms.    The form that we practice in this class is the short or 24 movement form that is traditionally taught to new Taiji students.  In this form, we use only four basic movements which are listed below:

 

  1. Ward Off
  2. Roll Back
  3. Press
  4. Push

 

The five directions listed above are said to be the Five-Style Steps.    The four basic movements are called the four cardinal directions.  If we were to go on and learn the more advanced long form, we would add four more basic movements performed on the diagonal.  Together these directions (forms) are considered the thirteen original styles of Taiji.  For more in-depth information on this topic, read The Essence of Tai Chi by Waysun Liao which is listed on your syllabus under Additional Recommended Reading.

Each movement has a yin portion and a yang portion.  As we begin the yin phase of our movement, we breathe in through our nose, mouths closed and tip of the tongue resting on the hard palate behind our front teeth.  This produces a flow of energy through the body that remains within our bodies resulting in an incomplete circuit or a light switch set to “off”.  As we move outward toward an opponent, we breathe out through our mouths, releasing breath and completing the electrical circuit or setting the light switch to “on”, at the same time allowing the energy we have built up to release through our hands or feet depending on the particular type of movement e.g., an open handed strike, a block or a kick.

When we are standing still, not moving our arms, the yin and yang are integrated.  But, the minute we begin our first movement (Silk Reeling) we split the yin from the yang.  The yin and yang remain apart until we conclude the form and return to a resting posture.  Each yin part of the form contains a tiny aspect of yang and each yang part of the form contains a tiny attribute of yin.  This can be clearly seen in the Taiji diagram as shown below.

We can analyze the Yin and Yang portions of each movement in the following ways:

Yin

Circuit – incomplete (in relation to an inside-to-outside circuit)

Element – wood

Characteristic – inward

Activity – gathering

Ch’i conversion – ch’i to jing (vibrating ch’i)

`                 Contains – aspect of its opposite, Yang

      Yang

Circuit – complete (finishes the inside-to-outside the body circuit)

Element – metal

Characteristic – outward

Activity – releasing

Ch’i conversion – jing to li (vibrating ch’i sent outside of the body)

Contains – attribute of its opposite, Yin

Beginnings+Chart doc large 

24-Step Yang Style Form

 

Section One:

  • 1 – Silk reeling (12 o’clock)
  • 3 – Parting the Horse’s Mane (9 o’clock)
  • 1 – White crane spreads its wings (9 o’clock)
  • 3 – Brush knee step (9 o’clock)
  • 1 – Playing the lute (9 o’clock)

Section Two:

  • 4 – Ward off monkey (facing 9 o’clock but moving toward 3 o’clock)
  • 1 – Grasping the sparrow’s tail (9 o’clock)
  • 1 – Grasping the sparrow’s tail (3 o’clock)

Section Three:

  • 1 –Single whip (facing 12 o’clock)
  • 3 sets – Cloud hands (facing 12 o’clock, moving toward 9 o’clock)
  • 1 – Single whip (facing 12 o’clock)
  • 1 – Patting the horse’s head (facing 9 o’clock)
  • 1 – Kick with right heel (diagonal)
  • 1 – Double fist press (diagonal)

 

 

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LEARNING PROCESS

Photo and Video Page

Seated Tai Chi Class

Standard Yang Style T’ai Chi

Awarding of Certificates

 Videos – 24-Step Yang Style Form

 

An interesting and informative video regarding the value of chi development:

World Tai Chi and Qigong Day 2013, click on the link below to view:

Yang Style Tai Chi – 24-Step Form

…balancing mind, body and spirit

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 Benefits of T’ai Chi Practice:

Reduce Stress

Energize

Improve Lung Function

 Increase Circulation

Strengthen Bones

Lubricate Joints

Tone Muscles

Lower Blood Pressure

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Tips for Improving Your T’ai Chi Practice:

  • Posture – Straighten your back by pulling upwards on your abdomen with your hips “tucked in”.  Hold your head high and press your shoulders slightly forward without hunching.
  • Stride – Measure the proper length for your stride by lining up the heel of your front foot with the toes of your back foot.  The full spread of your stance should be the width of your shoulders.
  • Always breathe from your diaphragm.  Breathe slowly and evenly in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Don’t begin any movement until you have begun your inhalation or exhalation.  In other words, movement follows breath.
  • Time the length of each movement to the best of your ability with the length of your inhalation/exhalation.
  • Always keep your knees and elbows slightly bent even when extending them in a press, push or kick. Never allow your knees to bend past your toes.

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24 Posture Yang Form

Section One:

1 – Beginning posture – silk reeling (facing 12 o’clock)

3 – Parting the Horse’s Mane (left, right, left, moving toward 9 o’clock)

1 – White crane spreads its wings (left toe on the floor, sweep left & right, facing 9 o’clock)

3 – Brush knee step (left, right, left, moving toward 9 o’clock)

1 – Playing the lute (facing 9 o’clock, left heel on the floor)

Section Two:

4 – Fend off monkey (moving backward, right, left, right, left toward 3 o’clock)

1 – Grasping the sparrow’s tail (facing 9 o’clock – ward off, roll back, press, push)

1 – Grasping the sparrow’s tail (facing 3 o’clock – ward off, roll back, press, push)

Section Three:

1 – Single whip (facing 9 o’clock)

3 sets – Cloud hands (facing 12 o’clock, moving toward 9 o’clock)

1 – Single whip (facing 9 o’clock)

1 – Patting the horse’s neck (facing 9 o’clock)

1 – Kick with right heel (toward 9 o’clock)

1 – Double fist press (angling to the right)

Section Four:

1 – Turn around and kick with left heel

1 – Crooked whip (squat down or standing defensive posture), left leg straight out to side

1 – Crooked whip, right leg out to side

Section Five:

2 – Fair lady works with shuttles (right, left)

1 – Needle at the bottom of the sea

1 – Fanback

Section Six:

1 – Turn, hammer, ward off & punch

1 – Brush off opponent’s hand, ji, an

1 – Embrace tiger, return to mountain

Concluding posture

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Recommended Books, Videos and Music:

Music CDs: http://www.healingtaichi.com

Feng Shui: Music for Balanced Living – available at Bed, Bath and Beyond in Great Falls

Books:  Tai Chi Chuan & Qigong. Wolfgang Metzger & Peifang Zhou with Manfred Grosser, Ph.D. ISBN: #0-8069-5957-6

Tai Chi Chuan. Master Liang, Shou-Yu & Wu, Wen-Ching. ISBN-10: #1-886969-33-7, ISBN-13: #978-1-886969=33=9

Taijijuan, Classical Yang Style.Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming. ISBN: #1=886969-68-X

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View the 2 videos below to help you as you practice your form:

Contact Information:

Cynthia Quarta, Owner/Instructor

Phone number: 406.788.8938

Email address: http://healingtaichi@yahoo.com

Please visit my online store for Tai Chi, Qigong, Karate, Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Mixed Martial Arts, Reiki, Massage, Yoga Pilates, Feng Shui, and Acupressure/Acupuncture products at everyday low prices : http://www.healingtaichi.com

Other blogs: http://chairtaichi.wordpress.com

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