Beginners Welcome

Posted May 22nd, 2011 in News by Chris Hill

Beginners, family and friends are welcome to join us for our one day course held in Lam Rim Wales on the Saturday 23rd July 2011.  It is a great opportunity to try out Tai Chi and investigate intelligent relaxation to see if it is for you.  We have a begiinners class starting in Bristol, September 2011.  On the day course we will begin to teach short form,  preperations,  Da Lu and partner exercises.  Feel free to contact for more information and  car sharing.

Tai Chi One-day course: The 3 Gates – Course Notes

Posted May 16th, 2011 in Course Material, Reference Material by Chris Hill


The 3 gates refer to 3 core areas on the spine of significance in Tai Chi and internal arts. In simple terms they refer to: 1) lower gate of the lower back around the area of the lumbar vertebrae, 2) the middle gate in-between the shoulders blades and 3) the upper gate of the base of the skull (the occiput).

Opening all three and maintaining that openness can bring about all kinds of benefits and help us improve our Tai Chi. In Tai Chi they cover the spectrum from the physical to the energetic in their functions and the benefits they can bring us.

There are other gates too which are considered of high importance in Tai Chi namely the feet as Cheng Man-ching once stated ” Yong Quan (specific point behind the balls of the feet) must have roots (openness), otherwise the Yao (waist and hips area) will no have confidence”. Tai Chi is about opening the whole of the body so we can move in a whole unified manner with the minimum of effort. The feet and the 3 gates are major areas of work, and like unblocking a dam sometimes the force of it can open up and clear away other blockages without any extra effort. Gates in Chinese martial arts are simply areas of alignment in the body which through incorrect posture and body habit can close and be the root of skeletal and bodily bad health.

Standing postures (Zhan Zhuang):

Standing postures are a pure qigong and can be found in most if not all styles of Tai Chi and internal martial arts. The purpose of standing postures is:
1) to practice correct alignment, so as to-
2) develop body as one unit, to enable us to-
3) increase internal force.

It is a basic but profound meditation too that can heighten and development our sensitivity skills by “listening” to what’s going on inside our bodies and developing better body awareness. When you have good alignment qi can naturally flow around the body unobstructed. It is this natural free movement of qi in the body which can develop advanced Tai Chi functions. Qi is considered to naturally know its own way around the body because Taoist thought is that anything that is alive contains qi and that qi in itself is a natural element in life. So by opening up the body through Standing Postures we observe the natural movement of qi.

Qi is considered to have a circular path in the body and one particular natural phenomenon is that it can spiral around and through a body that is open with good alignment. This is considered a natural phenomenon and in recognising it is good evidence that 1) the body and its major gates are open and 2) our sensitivity is increasing to feeling qi and 3) our qi is developing and becoming stronger.


Basic meditation for even up to 10 minutes daily can provide the following:

1) Training of attention and lengthening its span.
2) Increases control over thought processes.
3) Increases the ability to handle emotions.
4) Aids physical relaxation.

In simple terms we can see meditation as a tool to clearing the mind of obstructive thought and patterns to make way for clarity of consciousness and a relaxed mind. It is not particular to any single religion or system of development, yet it is present in most traditions, and its basic methods are similar.

Meditation is not about “spacing out”, day-dreaming, sleepy trance-like states or a quest in search of bliss. It is also not about sitting in certain postures or certain places of holiness or sacred buildings. It is a state of mind which we can practice anywhere, although the best results usually come from when we have quiet surroundings.

Meditation is about transforming the mind.

As an aid to our Tai Chi concentrative Meditation can help develop and advance our ability.

Basic Meditation:
Although in certain traditions seated postures like half or full Lotus (where the legs fold/cross and the ankles rest on the inner thigh of the leg), seated meditation on a chair is just as valuable. A seated posture can help by-pass pains and numbness in the legs which will only seek to distract the mind and reduce relaxation.

Once sat (preferably forward in the chair so the back is unsupported and upright), allow the front and back of the body to relax but to keep the spine upright (to keep the lower gate open) but not tense. The arms relax and hang down (to keep the middle gate open) and gather into the lap palms upwards back of the right hand on top of the left palm.
The head is just like in Tai Chi slightly suspended (to keep the upper gate open) with the jaw relaxed but the mouth gently closed with the tongue behind the front teeth touching the palate of the mouth.
The eyes are kept half open looking downwards along the angle of the nose so as to rest on the ground several feet in front of you.

Once in the basic posture (which allows the body to stay open and the 3 gates to remain relaxed) just take a minute or 2 to just become aware of the body and its sensations. Then take your attention to your breath and try to witness its natural action of in and out. Concentrating too much on the breath can alter it and make it unnatural; too little concentration and you could become sleepy or distracted. Just imagine you are a bystander watching an incident from a safe distance with curiosity, but without intent to unbalance the situation. Don’t make the breath go in and out in any fashion just calmly abide by the breath and allow your mind to watch it without allowing your self to drift off into other thoughts.
Naturally the mind will try to do just that but each time you recognise that has happened accept it and peacefully bring your mind back to the breath.
With regular practice you will be able to keep your mind unbroken and unwavering yet relaxed and spaciously calm on the in and out breath for extended periods of time.
Counting the amount of in and out breaths can be an aid too. If the mind breaks then go back to breath number 1 again. And don’t worry if your mind breaks so much that initially you don’t get any further than 1! A good measure is if you can reach 10 in and out breaths without the mind breaking. This is a good benchmark to extending your practice.

When finishing meditation mentally try to remain calm and gently arouse your mind to come back into the rest of your body. Maybe perform some gentle stretching exercises as you arise.

3 Dan Tian:

The 3 Dan Tian from Taoist philosophy and internal martial arts are 3 areas in the body which align with the 3 gates but are considered to be in the core of the body and have an energetic function. We do alignment work with the body physically to address the 3 gates but we can also do work internally with the 3 Dan Tian too. Their approximate locations are:

Upper Dan Tian – in the centre of the brain in line and going back from the centre of the eyebrows. It is called Hsuan Kuan (Mysterious Pass) and is also referred to as the Third Eye in other energy systems. It relates energetically to pure and refined perception and to higher mental states of consciousness.

Middle Dan Tian – it is called Chiang Kung (Bright Palace) and located between found in the middle of the chest plate in a slight depression and the bottom of the chest plate onto the Solar plexus. This relates to our outward intentions and projection of intent. When you think of the phrase “My heart went out him/her” it denotes the heart energy as travelling out to connect and meet with something being propelled outward. This connecting function is what is developed in Push Hands to “reach out” with one’s sensitivity to appreciate your partner’s changes in position and intent.

Lower Dan Tian – called Qi Hai (Sea/Ocean of Qi) this is located approximately beneath the navel area on and in the Lower Abdomen and is considered the seat of the driving force and power within the body.

Just like with breath meditation we can lightly draw our attention on to the 3 Dan Tian to witness them. One however should NOT drive all one’s attention to these areas however. In our Tai Chi merely noticing can be enough, and in Tai Chi the emphasis is for our developed concentration not to attach to one area but to be holistic and be mindful of the whole body at all times.


(Phil Vickery 2011)