Monthly Archives: April 2011

Re-evaluating René


I’m working my way through various yiquan standing positions, gradually working up to shi li exercises as and when I feel I’ve understood the essence of each zhan zhuang pose. It’s incredible how even a small shift in the position of the hands loads different muscles, ligaments, etc all the way up the arms and into the shoulders…

This morning was rather chillier than it’s been of late, but no problem. I was trying to incorporate mindfulness into my routine, with limited success. I observed the patch of sunlight on the grass grower larger as the sun rose. Pigeons launched themselves from trees and rooftops with a heavy thwack of their wings. A pair of blackbirds foraged for nesting materials. I’m not sure where exactly their nest is, but it’s close by; I’ve seen them mobbing a magpie; they obviously don’t want him knowing where the nest is either, for fear that he’ll raid the eggs later on…
The mature cherry tree has been shedding its leaves for a few days now; whenever there’s been a breeze the petals fall like snow, and form banks among the grass. As of this morning, though, it’s shedding whole blossoms instead of just petals. They’ll all be gone soon. The apple trees flowered for a couple of weeks, but have now lost pretty much all of their blossom as well.

This too will pass…

I’m still tangled up in the house move; pretty much down to cleaning now. Soon it’ll all be over. I can’t wait .

In addition to the yiquan, I’ve been reviewing my ZMQ-37 taijiquan, and my bagua lately. I’ll practise for a few more weeks and then try to take it out of the garden. There’s a “hippy shop” in town, so I’ll stick a notice up to see if anyone is interested in taiji in the park on weekend mornings… That’ll encourage me to get up out of bed, hehehehe.

There was an interesting article in the paper this weekend: How meditation might ward off the effects of ageing. I linked recently to a study showing that meditation restructures the brain; now we find that it also affects the chromosomes. What is odd about the article is how apologetic the author is about meditation, and about how the researchers are also meditators etc etc. I suspect it reflects a certain cognitive dissonance in which the author is struggling to overcome the belief that this is ‘Asian nonsense’, ‘hippy mysticism’, etc and therefore undeserving of ‘serious’ scientific consideration. After all, this kind of research surely undermines the Cartesian separation of body and mind; if that happens then a certain re-evaluation of Western thought, science and medicine has to take place. It also opens the possibility that TCM theories – derided as being ‘unscientific’ – may also be valid after all… Of course, these thoughts won’t be new to readers of this blog, but to the ‘ordinary’ Westerner, unaware of the cultural limitations of their knowledge, this could be rather threatening…

If it isn’t clear already, I rather think that such a re-evaluation is long-overdue!

There was another article, on a totally different topic, which I also thought relevant: Economics is far too important to be left in the care of academics… I mention this as it’s rather close to home; it seems to me to embody many of the current problems of western thought…

Winser Zhao: Chen style taijiquan


This is my friend Winser Zhao, performing an 83-movement Chen-style taijiquan set. I’m told it’s a fairly rare variant of the Chen style. Winser’s a great bloke, really into traditional Chinese culture. He teaches taijiquan, traditional calligraphy, and Mandarin. He also runs China Travel 2.0: if anyone is travelling to China, drop him a line – he organises cheap travel, local experiences, that sort of thing.

Some thoughts on a skill set

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These are some ideas that have been buzzing through my mind recently… To be changed/developed/abandoned as appropriate… Feedback welcome!

Element 1: meditation Meditation to calm and clear the mind is a fundamental first step. Body scanning to build awareness of physical sensations. Mindfulness.
Element 2: zhan zhuangBuild body awareness, correct posture and alignment. Strength and endurance. Addressing health issues and old energies.
Element 3: Voice training, public speaking, acting techniques. Better to avoid a fight through persuasion, psychology, use of correct tone. Defuse, rather than fight or flight. Six healing sounds. Leading eventually to use of kiai.
Element 4: shi li and stepping Increased body awareness. Mind-body unity in movement.
Element 5: tui na for everyday health issues Basic treatments for self and others.
Element 6: tui shou
Element 7: san shou

There are other things that could be included, but that’s a rough idea. Any comments? Does this sound like anything that’s already being used but I don’t know about?

Further yiquan resources


I’ve mentioned J.P. Lau’s PDF guide to yiquan a few times; it’s an excellent resource that I often refer to. He’s now added images, and made available as either a downloadable PDF or print-on-demand book at Lulu.

He’s also put together a basic yiquan training routine that looks very interesting; I’ll give it a go, as it’s not too dissimilar to what I’ve been working on lately.

I got quite a bit of training in over the weekend, and had glorious weather for it. Last night’s session was just amazing, with a golden full moon shining down as bats looped around overhead….

T.K. Lam also has some really good articles on his website, which I’ve been taking a look at. In particular, the following pieces discuss some of the elements I’ve recently been focussing on in my own practice:

I’ve decided not to go for the Anatomy and Physiology course run by Maria Mercati; it’s a little too soon, and clashes with work commitments. I’ll study the basics at home, and look for a course to take a qualification at a later date, perhaps next year.

White clouds online

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Going back a couple of years, I posted about trailers I’d seen for a documentary called Amongst White Clouds. It tied up with the books I’d been reading then by Red Pine, about Chinese hermits. Coincidentally, I’ve been re-reading his books recently, just as one of my old MBA fellow-students posted a link on Facebook to this site. Amongst White Clouds has been put online in segments. I haven’t had time to watch it yet, but hopefully I’ll get around to doing so soon. It reminds me of a post on ‘Hollow Men’ that I’ve been meaning to write for at least a year! Anyway, I have no idea what the copyright situation is with these clips, so I’d better hurry to watch them in case they get taken down!

Standing still, not standing still


I am still here, I just haven’t been in to mood to post much.

London was great. I was lucky, and the weather was beautiful – blue skies, and hot sunshine, mmmm! There seemed to be cherry trees in bloom everywhere, and the scent at night was heavy and soporific. Of course, the main thing was that I caught up with S again. It was wonderful; we just picked up our friendship as if we’d seen each other last week, not seven months ago. We practised zhan zhuang together in Earl’s Court, went to see Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seeds exhibit at the Tate Modern, and generally had a good time hanging out.

Speaking of zhan zhuang, I did quite a bit, in parks or the gardens of the Youth Hostel where I stayed. Got a few funny looks, but that’s only to be expected!

I’ve been working a lot on the standing recently, getting a fair bit done most days. I’ve been working mostly on the basic health stances, working on opening up the kua to take the pressure off my knees, and working on loosening up the achilles tendons. I’m about ready to go on to more of the shi li stances, and also practising some of the more advanced health postures. I’m finding Lam Kam Chuen’s books very useful as guides for the time being. (S and I almost wandered over to Hercules Street from the Tate Modern to check out the Lam Association offices but decided that it was too hot and a bit too far, so we went to Covent Garden instead).

One of the pleasures of the standing has been the reconnection to nature as I practice in the garden. In the early mornings I have ducks and wild geese flying low over my head. A little later, I can enjoy the songs of the blackbirds, and the hoarse calls of the crows. In early evening, the birds are all settling back down into their roosts, and I slowly hear them all go quiet, until at last the final holdouts cease their lonely songs. This is also when the bats emerge, flittering overhead in the dying light. Then, at late night practice, I listen to the owls hunt, calling each other through the darkness. Something snuffles and crunches in the darkness – a hedgehog, perhaps?

Of course, I don’t do all of these slots every day! It just depends when I have time. But it’s nice.

In the garden, the trees I’ve planted are starting to bloom. The pear tree has the most; it’s very vigorous, and has put out a lot of flowers. The cherry tree is also doing well. The apple trees may bloom later this year, or it may be that they need to establish themselves, in which case I’ll see the results next year. The first five that I planted are all already much taller; they’re prospering, it seems. Good job I put a few handfuls of concentrated manure in the hole… Tomatos, chilis, and sunflowers are all germinating… Need to get a rambling rose planted soon, and to look at getting sweetcorn, rocket, beetroots and climbing beans underway…

The house move is in progress; hopefully all will be completed soon. I need to get deposits off for the anatomy course, and for the meditation leadership course. I’ve made contact with the local group of Thich Nhat Tran’s Order of Interbeing; they should have a meeting soon, but it seems they don’t get together very frequently. There’s also a branch of the Western Chan association nearby, who meet several times a month, so I’ll get in touch with them too.

Life goes on!