moving about. learning Chinese, practicing Tai Ji Quan, doing Qi Gong, or simply going out running. resisting the monkey impulses.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Computing in harmony

My eyes are dry, my wrists are sore, my legs are stiff from sitting. Clearly, I need to sort out my relationships with the machinery I use. Perhaps I should start at the centre, by getting one of these motherboards.


Saturday, July 24, 2004

18 steps - rewind and repeat

Our class has been studying an 18-movement Chen style form. Good literature on Chen style Taiji is not easy to come by, and the shapes of the form are strange to those schooled in the Yang style, but lately we have been helped by a DVD of the form featuring Wang Hai Jun (narrated by Aarvo Tucker, our teacher). Wang's teacher, Chen Zhenglei, developed this short Chen form from the old First Form (laojia yilu).

The Articles section of Wang's site contains much of interest, including of course the postures of the form.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

What's that man doing?

More on Hokum later, possibly, now that a more detailed posting has arrived at RSI-UK.

Our class has now completed the 18 move Chen style form. Now that our front brains know it, it is time to begin the work. My hips have certainly got to loosen up a bit for those kicks!

The Monday routine will change a little when it starts up again in September since Aarvo is preparing to move away to Canada (in January) and James Langcake will be taking over as the main teacher.

I feel I want to take things a little further now and will probably attend the monthly Saturday pushing-hands workshops. I may be on the lookout for other class-y things in London or the SE. Know any?

But for now I'm happy to let the summer go on with me practising what I already know.

The blogpost_title is what the kids say to their bewildered mums, now that I've started practising Tai Chi in parks. You see, I've got to do something other than running, when I'm out not running (this knee tendinitis thing wants to make me do fewer miles). Honestly, the kids have got more idea about life than grownups. Not only do they ask in the first place (adults pretend not to notice things that are wierd or disgusting), but also they can guess what it's about and can do the noises : hey yaaaHHH! ah so!! Chop! **"KICK"**

<cheesy lyric>
Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightning
But they did it with expert timing


Wednesday, July 07, 2004


I'm in this RSI email group, which by and large has been a Good Thing. There's a few in the group with more-or-less scientific backgrounds, which tends to be helpful in the health and medicine field. Because RSI people tend to come to the group in a desperate state, and are scrambling for "answers" there is a constant churn of suggestions and inquiries about alternative therapies. Some innocuous (hot baths); some, to me, odd (magnetic bracelets!). Within these conversations, attention often turns to things-that-are-not-therapies. Alexander technique, Feldenkrais method, (Feldenwhat?), and of course, t'ai chi.

If anyone cares, it's my voice software doing the romanisation for me today, and I'm going to go with the flow and not change it back to Pinyin.

Somebody, whom I normally regard as I holder of a sound mind -- and I believe, an Alexander teacher -- said that they went to a t'ai chi convention to see what was all about to try and decide whether it was (I paraphrase) a) some useful exercises exercises wrapped up in some mysticism b) [forgot] or c) hokum. for some reason, and I'm still waiting for the proper report, he said c).

I just had to reply, saying that t'ai chi is not just exercises, that it is mysticism but of the useful variety, theoretically deep, and so on.

Another eminence on the list, an ergonomist (a scientific profession?) didn't like my positive spin on mysticism at all, and in particular didn't like "theoretically deep".

I saw a chiropractor this morning, ostensibly about my knees. My knees have started hurting a lot lately so much so that I am contemplating giving up running. That would be a Bad Thing. Simon is a whole body kinda guy, and very quickly started talking about the balance, both in the external sense of weight and timing of the dynamics of my gait, but also internal balance of the postural and phasic musculature, especially of that lower abdomen and pelvis. His theory, and our observations (I was awake when he did them!) for that matter, is that for whatever reason this balance is not being achieved for me and consequently my leg action is being buggered up and of course it's the knee that complains first. If you know anything about knees at all this won't be a surprise.

Now all this is 20th century bio-mechanics, admittedly applied at a remarkable (if you take the average UK GP) level of holism.

However, I'll assert that most of this territory is already very deeply explored by mediaeval t'ai chi "theory" (with its energies (Internal: Qi/Chi, Jing, Shen) and external (Yi/I), meridians/energy centres, yin/yang, elements and the rest). Enormous amounts of the practice tradition, the main texts and the subsidiary texts (which you can go and buy on Amazon) abound with directives about dynamic and static postures, and the importance of constructing body movements from the core rather than the periphery. The classic, and there is a classic document "The Song of The Warrior" that contains this phrase, says, roughly: the move begins at the feet, is powered by the waist, directed by the mind, and expressed in the hands. Although that's very cryptic, it can be used to teach at a very much finer level than "hit him with your fist". Of course, training martial artists this way takes a lot longer (remember The Joke!). That's why neo-Taoist scholars/layabouts spend so much time on it. See works by the western authors Dan Docherty or BK Frantzis for more enlightenment on the role of the classics, and their attitudes to traditional descriptions of internal dynamics.

Do I believe Qi exists? I don't know. I think I would first have to define what I mean by "exists" in the sense of emergent properties in a complex system. Do I think it's helpful to think of sinking Qi to the Dantien during form practice and, ultimately, martial moves? Undoubtedly.

I've reflected before on my unease about certain sensations experienced during Qi Gong practice in relation to my supposedly scientific worldview. But please go to this longish article on a single Tai Chi Posture (one of 24 in the common "Short" Yang Form that most people do in the UK) Secrets of Repulse Monkey to see what I mean by theoretical depth.

I use the following questions in research generally.
1. What works?
2. Why does it work?
3. How is it said to work?

I take these to be independent questions.

I think I know what irritated me about the person saying "t'ai chi is hokum". Something along the lines of "I don't understand your explanations, therefore what you claim to demonstrate cannot possibly be occurring". However, I am saying this without yet having seen the person's full report, so I have yet to see whether this is indeed the nature of the ontological gap or whether there can be dialogue.