Excerpt from my book and Taiji instructor training
In this blogpost I have decided to give you a few random excerpt from my big book on Taiji, Qi Gong and standing meditation which should have been out this Summer, but is delayed to February 2018. In the bottom of the post I do also write a little about my new Taiji instructor/Taiji intensive training which takes place in Denmark from March 2018 and is open for everyone. I also advice you to sign up for my newsletter which comes out 6 times a year. It normally contains an article on a relevant subject as well as a list of upcoming workshops including the
Summer camp in July 2018.
I have written quite a few books in Danish and when I did my latest one in 2015, I set myself the challenge of writing a book both to the beginner, the intermediate and the advanced student. The book have clear divisions, so the reader is free to choose the sections that may have the greatest interest and related to the level of the individual on the time of reading. There is of course a common thread throughout the book and it do therefore makes sense to read from AZ.
On a personal level, it was a long walk down memory road to write the book … Old letters and notebooks was pulled out from the bookshelves, as well as photos and video clips. Among other things, I re-read close to 50 letters from my late Chen Style teacher – master He Gong De – dealing with advices and guidance on training, containing copies of his own diaries from training with master Chen Zhaokui, master Feng Zhigiang and Yang Style master and author of some of Yang Chengfu’s books – Chen Weiming.
Letters from Patrick Kelly and master Yek Sing Ong with advice and guidance towards my training – and of course lots of old material especially in the form of videos from my eight years period as a private and close student of Wee Kee Jin. Notes from studying in Taiwan with masters Jeng, Wu, Shu, Shen Shen Yuan, and notes from my experiences with Peter Ralston and others – and of course my diaries from my many trips to my teacher since 2005 – master Sam Tam.
Diaries and notes are amazing, and I’m grateful that I have written and saved them. I have always had great confidence in my memory, but by re-reading these things, I must admit that part of it would have been forgotten if it were not written down. On the emotional level, I have had my ups and downs by revisiting all these things. Wistful, when I saw the old rainy video clips from my first period with my Chen Style teacher master He Gong De in which he strenuously tried to convey his teaching to a young Northerners … Filled with warmth and joy when I watched the clip from my study and training trips to Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, US to mention some of the important places, and of course my many trips to New Zealand to study with Wee Kee Jin in the “old days”, when you were “housetrained” and maximum two students were living and staying in his home at the same time …
Video clips from my first trips to master Sam Tam – including when I went there first time together with Wee Kee Jin – and was completely amazed to see how easily master Sam Tam could uproote and throw Wee Kee Jin around. Wee Kee jin being among one of those I knew of at the time who had the best grounding and stability.
And how I had to change my whole way of thinking and looking at Taiji and internal martial art in general, after master Sam Tam convincingly had demonstrated that it was a wrong path to be too concerned of taking the force into the ground – but only to tantien instead.
At that time it gave me a few sleepless nights, starting up a new way of seeing things, practice and develop – and a goodbye to old ways of doing it. Emptying the cup once again …
You can probably relate to this yourself in a personal context – a scent, a picture, an old letter – the reunion makes us remember exactly how we felt back then, how we thought, what was important in life, etc. I was in this process and mode for as long as it took me to write the book. So the book – when it is published in February 2018 – will be a very personal book with a lot of my own experiences. The following part is just a random passage in the book:
Release the chest
When you train your Taiji form or stand in your standing meditation, you should be aware whether or not you are relaxing your chest. Once again, the value of a good and attentive teacher cannot be stressed enough. At two different occasions I became aware that I did not let go of the chest. First, during one of my stays in master Sam Tam’ s home, and later during a training session in Taipei, Taiwan. Both master Sam Tam and the teacher in Taiwan placed their hands on the side of my chest and guided me to relax more deeply. Subsequently, they asked me to put my hands on the sides of their ribcage and feel, so I could feel what I was supposed to look for. It gave me a direction to work in, which obviously took some time for me to fully integrate in my body. Hands on teaching at its best! If you have just the slightest tension in the muscles of the chest you won´t be breathing freely, which makes it difficult for you to sink the qi. Try to get a training partner or friend to touch the sides of your chest and visualize that you are breathing out into their hands. It is important that your partner doesn’t press your chest – just touch – so you have room to move.
To hold your balance or finding your balance
Our language is of great importance for our approach to things. And as a teacher, we must pay extra attention to it. In Taiji, we have positions where we stand on one leg. I have often been told that “I’m good at keeping my balance” to which I always reply, I do not keep the balance – I find it. There is a big difference between keeping or holding and finding. Keeping give messages and associations, consciously or unconsciously, to tighten up the muscles to take one or another position. You need to do the exact opposite. You must take the position – and then let go of all unnecessary tensions. Just like in standing meditation. When I teach, we often practice some of the positions in the form, where we stand on one leg, and students are told to stay in them for half a minute or 1 minute. I ask them to try to find the balance, and not keep it. Find the center of the position and stable the skeleton appropriate on top of each other from the feet all the way up to the top of the head. If they lose their balance, it is ok to go out of the position and try once again. But they should never hold the balance and thereby use more muscle activity than what is needed for, and by doing that, shutting down on their sensitivity.
Sinking the qi and reverse breathing
A deep, relaxed breathing has been linked to good health ever since the first systematic exercise programs were invented. Making breathing more complicated than it is at the expense of the natural and relaxed, is of course an error – that has been around just as long as the first exercises were introduced. Breathing is a natural process set in motion by the muscles in the diaphragm and your ribcage. In natural breathing the abdomen will expand on inhalation followed by a lift of the ribcage. In Taiji we sometimes use reverse breathing – that is, the abdomen moves towards the spine when we breathe in and expands when we exhale. Reversed breathing contributes to a deeper relaxation and is used to release relaxed force – fajing. Natural and reverse breathing is directly related to and complement each other. Where natural breathing focuses on the development of qi and circulation of same – reverse breathing focuses on converting the energy to be used for self-defense purposes, and to direct and project it. Few things are probably surrounded by more mysticism and fairytales as how to sink the qi. Reverse breathing and sinking the qi is considered to be one of the great “secrets” in the internal martial arts, and within several types of qi gong. But it is not nearly as difficult as it is to get the qi up again once you have learned how to sink it! The energy should be sunk to tantien – your center. But it must be done so unforced – i.e., naturally and relaxed. You always sink on a exhalation! When you sink your qi to tantien and at the same time relax your neck and push your head slightly upwards, opposing forces will be created and the spine will be stretched. When you issue or release relaxed force in push hands or fajing in a self defense situation, you do it while you exhale and sink the qi. Where there are different exercises that train it separately, you will gradually develop it in and from your taiji form and standing meditation. If relaxation of the mind is the primary task, then natural breathing may be preferable.
Taij instructor training/ taiji intensive:
In a couple of weeks we will start up on module two of the above. Once again it will be demanding and intense for the participants. One of the participants have quitted – it was to be expected. An intensive course requires an investment and effort that the individual naturally can only understand the full picture of along the way. I will do only two of this kind of courses all together. The next course, where complete newcomers can enrol, is expected to start at the end of February or early March 2018. The maximum number of participants will be 10. There are 8 modules in the course. The first six are taught to the whole group, the last two in smaller groups of two at a time. Those who complete all modules will, after the course, be at a level that few would think was possible in such a relatively short period of time. But remember that my own development has taken me 30 years – a journey with many detours and dead ends. I have invested passion and the courage to go deep, a willingness to practice and train, travelling around the world to where my teachers lived and accepted the terms under which they have taught me. Luckily, I have had teachers who were willing to teach me and have truly accepted me as their student. If you would like to be part of the next – and last – course like this, please email me or give me a call. After the course, you will be more than qualified to teach and gain the ability to develop further from there – being able to distinguish clearly between what is good and what is bad or false in the world of internal training. It’s definitely not a requirement that you teach later – it’s up to you. Perhaps you just want to do it out of your desire to learn Taiji, Qi Gong and internal training on a deeper level. You also do not commit yourself for more than one module at a time. There are 5-6 months to the start of the next course, but not many spots available. So do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested.
This year’s Summer camp once again took place in my home and garden. It was intense for both body and mind, and some students experienced a crisis along the way. It is natural – and necessary. If development really has to take place, we must dare to look inside. As I mentioned when we had a talk about crises: “Believe me, I’ve had them all and then some. And there will certainly be more out there waiting for me.”
In a course like this Summer camp, with great focus on the internal aspects, challenges will arise. To go from using physical strength to trying to use qi and maybe experiencing that it is not yet possible for one to do so – is something of a hurdle to pass. But again – a necessary one. I am grateful for having the opportunity to teach at this level and privileged to have students that give me this possibility. When I teach less demanding workshops, I aim to give everyone a feel good experience, and therefore do not make the same demands or challenge the participants in the same way that I do during a 9-day intensive course. I have already dates in place for next year’s summer, so all who might be interested in participating, write the dates in your calendar now: June 30-July 8 2018. There will be several registration possibilities like in the previous camps – from one-day only visits to stays for the duration of the whole camp.
Workshops / courses autumn / winter 2017:
9th – 10th of September 10.00 – 17.00: Tai Chi instructor/intensive (fully booked)
16th September 10.00. – 14.00: Taijiruler and standing
September 23, 10.00. – 14.00: Grounding and sensitivity
September 24, 10.00. – 13.00: Introduction to Taiji 30
September 30, 10.00. – 14.00: Shoulder/shoulder girdle workshop
7th – 8th of October: Qi Gong education (fully booked)
October 14, 10.00. – 13.00: Qi Gong workshop (Emei Qi Gong)
October 15, – 14.00: Fan Form workshop (taught by Huong)
21 – 22 October 10.00. – 17.00: Tai Chi instructor/intensive (fully booked)
October 26, 15.00. – 16.30: Training Fan Form (Taught by Huong)
October 28, 10.00. – 14.00: Workshop on the pelvis, lower back and hip – special focus on iliopsoas
October 29, 10.00 – 14.00: Stick form workshop with partner exercises
November 4, 10.00. – 14.00: Meditation workshop
November 5, 10.00. – 14.00: healthy feet workshop
November 18, 10.00. – 17.00: Tai Chi instructor/intensive (fully booked)
November 19, 10th. – 14.00: Standing meditation and breathing. Special focus on Qi – building and sinking.
2 – 3 December 10.00. – 17.00: Tuina massage course
December 16, 10.00. – 17.00: Tai Chi instructor/intensive (fully booked)