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

Monday, March 17, 2008

Gym card useful at last

Two visits to local exercise facilities this weekend, but no running, and only reading about tai chi rather than doing it.

Along with doing fiddly painting jobs around the house, and sporadic bass-playing (both good for knotting up muscles) I managed to get two uses out of my scandalously expensive gym membership card.

To the local leisure centre for some weights/rowing/treadmill on Saturday. Pretty good, but no heroic achievements.

Yesterday evening, I went along to Alton Leisure centre's weekly naturist swim (handy for sauna, steam room and jacuzzi too). (Every Sunday, 730 - 930 pm, GU34 1ST, Tel: 01420 540040). Both these leisure centres are run by the same company, so I got a little discount on entry to Alton, which offset the travel costs.

I've been meaning to go along to this session for some time. To date, I've been a naturist on beaches (UK and foreign) and open spaces only, and haven't been to clubs or swims. I'm glad I did, but regret not being able to persuade Mrs. Monkey on this occasion. It was relatively quiet by all accounts, less than twenty users I'd guess, and only a couple of women. Because it was uncrowded, and people seemed to know each other, there was a nice village pump vibe.

In my ideal world, every swimming pool would be clothing optional, all the time, not to mention all the beaches. As it is, it's increasingly hard, i.e. they are being discontinued, to find an open (not club-based) session in the UK (Netherlands, Germany, Austria are more like the ideal) so this session is worth supporting.

I put in about half an hour of solid swimming, and a few iterations of the hot stuff. Result: Mentally energised by the occasion of being an official UK naturist facility user for the first time, and bodily de-knotted.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Really don't know what's going on

It could be a sign of increasing awareness, or it could be a sign of stagnation or regression, but I get the feeling often that the meaning of a conversation, in Chinese that is, can slip by me completely. Despite the grammar and vocabulary being in theory known to me. The same could be said for many things other than Mandarin, truth be known. Could be me just rattling around the conscious/competent matrix.

So, in our class, I could be struggling to pick an "easy" word like 那 (nà, there) out of my head. I know I know it but what is it? Or in skype chat with a language partner (I've got a couple of those now), to fail to read a critical 就。 Or watching a movie in Mandarin for an hour and have no idea what's going on. It was Shuzhou River – a bit David Lynch-ey, so maybe no suprise.

I reckon words are leaving my vocabulary as quick as they enter.

Also, I thought I was confused with the new "v3" Chinesepod. They've suppressed the lesson numbering system for example. But I think I've worked it out now. They have provided personalised feeds, which can put the lesson transcript straight into my itunes. And I finally grokked the whole calendar business. Wheee!

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Naah, there's no such thing as chee ... is there?

An account of a skeptic/hostile's encounter with reiki, when he was the young Luke Skywalker. As the slightly older version, he reflects:
about five minutes later, I felt really tired. Two minutes after that, I sort of slumped in my chair and the taiji teacher asked me what I was feeling. I said that I could still feel the pain but it’s like it was a thousand miles away. The throbbing was like hearing a drum in the distance. I also felt totally relaxed and calm, like after a total body massage.

He stopped and said that was the power of reiki, and I remember feeling a bit sheepish. Not only did the treatment work to alleviate the pain, but it worked DESPITE me thinking that it wouldn’t. That really surprised me. There was no hypnotic suggestion or chalking that experience up to the power of belief, etc.

I didn’t know what to do with that experience for many years, and, to some extent, I still don’t even today.
In the blogging tradition, I've stolen the punchline, right? If this sort of thing interests you (the boundary between what you know, and what works, and the fractal nature of that boundary) read the full post from Formosa Neijia.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Who are those madmen? ... and subconcious development.

When I go to one of my departments for a meeting, I often bump into Peter, who bumps back with his xing yi, or more likely his ba gua. We had a nice meeting room with a bit of space today, so indulged in a bit of three-quarter speed sparring/push hands after the meeting. Hence the what-are-they-doing-mummy noises from new members of the admin team.

Regular readers will know that I'm feeling under the weather, so I deliberately wanted to keep things low key. Peter is much more practiced at his favoured styles than I am with my taiji, so it's usually a struggle for me to properly resist his attacks. And pointless to try and use strength anyway. I found that my being not "up for it" I was better defended. By not resisting (Grrrr!), but calmly moving around (OK then let's see what you do next) and keeping some sort of contact and letting the tactics flow from the form, I was able to maintain more of a viable position. Occasionally I could unsettle Peter's root (bastard keeps walking around!) or plant a token strike or kick. Calmly, as if doing something mundane yet tricky like folding an envelope in a strong wind, rather than fighting as if it were important for life or honour. At present that seems to be the way for me to keep proper attention to root and form over the natural (yet flawed) reflexes associated with someone else invading my space.

This was a great improvement on last time, six weeks ago. It's not that I've been doing masses of tactical work or push hands (though I've done a bit). It's more that the subconcious has been working away, doing its thing: processing little inputs from past lessons, putting pieces together, speeding up transitions, making new connections.

I think this is such an important component of learning, and highly underrated or disregarded by Western teachers in many fields. At the said university department, one of the agenda items has been proposal (not from any of us I should add) to shorten 10-week courses to 5 weeks, but doubling the intensity. There were allegedly some good administrative reasons for this, but the basic premise seems to rest on a false equation. The number of hours formally studying is one parameter, but the number of times the head hits the pillow during a course is another very important one.

Brains have to simmer sometime, they can't always be boiled.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

He tried meditating

He doesn't say why, but he tried it. He writes about it, and being tossed about by the choppy waves of his monkey-mind.

Next time it may be gentle ripples.

10 days later, he's learnt a lot and is trying to divide his conciousness into levels. The you that does the clicking, the you that does the reading, the you that does the thinking, and the you that notices all that. Are they really all there inside, or are you making it all up, with mirrors?


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.


Saturday, April 17, 2004


Here on the hill, which has not yet been planted with crops, I can see all around: the Hog's Back, bits of Guildford and its Downs, St. Martha's and Munstead Heath.

Doing the form, gazing out, I notice how my gaze does not connect with the horizon. My eyes scan the weeds, distracting me.

Am I usually so down-cast in practice? Not any more, I vow!

From now on: Up!!

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Friday, March 12, 2004

Hmmm. Munky scratches head. Different styles abound. Tai Chi is open source though isn't it, no real Authority and many forks in the road ha ha! Here's a sample of the diverging style dialogue, amongst two close relatives. Thanks to Peter B.

At the end of the day though, as is pointed out beings of greater sageliness than me, the Forms are merely the scales to a large extent, and what matters is playing the tune: living, moving, fighting, loving and all that jazz. Hip hop, away I go!

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Thursday, March 11, 2004

I missed practice this week because it was my birthday, and I spent it doing seated raising the glass exercise.

Last week, however, we did some long, for us anyway, standing exercises. After about 10 mins in the lower embracing position I could swear that my palms seemed to be springing together and/or apart! Is this the strange "dodgy etheric field" that Peter warned us not to think about (post has now been deleted), or the reality of Kong Jin, or just an illusion caused by aching muscles and re-calibrated motor nerves?

Randomness: Before I started poisoning yesterday, D. and I went through what we knew of the Chen style (little). Later, back from being freshly Dr'd. Jon and L. seemed interested in the ideas, but probably think I'm a nutter. "How do you square your scientific mind with concepts of etc." I also told the Dr. he had a monkey-mind, a phrase I've stolen from somewhere (see second ever post).

Still, I'm beginning to feel radically better, which Monkey says is a Good Thing. Onward!

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Tuesday, March 02, 2004


The essence of the withdrawing step is that awareness, root, and spirit must be maintained; a distinct contrast to the way an untrained person “backs up,” losing power and reducing his/her capacity to counterattack with any potency. In the philosophical sense, it is about yielding ground or space without losing one’s root, calmness, well-being, and power. It is a Yin movement (sinking and withdrawing) which maintains a powerful Yang potential inside.

[October 2008: Rotten Link!] excerpted from "Don Millers secrets of Repulse Monkey".

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Walking backwards, but with eyes open.

It's a mini-manifesto! No no no I'm not going to write haiku!!

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