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Posted September 9th, 2020 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

Ups and Downs…and Ups.

Posted August 6th, 2020 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

Tai Chi is an internal art and when one makes advancements in it brand new worlds open up. We could say with the closing down of incorrect practice and old habits, the truth opens up in our practice. It is important, now more than ever, to regularly consult the Tai Chi classics in your personal practice to keep in check that your Tai Chi is correct.

Words and books and even videos are helpful in our practice but they can never be a substitute for actual practice, which cumulatively, will reveal the secrets of the internal. A teacher is necessary to get you through the door of the internal but after that, you too must become your own teacher as well. Experience of your practice will directly help you understand what internal is and how it can be utilised for health, martial art and spiritual endeavours too.

As an example, sinking the qi down the front channel of the body to the Dan Tien (the centre of gravity in your body, detailed by internalists as about 3 finger widths beneath the navel and 3 finger widths inside the body), and then down to the feet causing it effortlessly to the rise up the back channels of the body out to the hands, may seem like an idea at first and nothing much more. However when you can experience the whole body act of this happening with the Yi (intention) guiding the wave of movement around the body, it becomes suddenly real and very tangible. It feels very pleasant and on achieving this major internal goal in our Tai Chi practice it teaches us exactly how can be used for health and martial art just because it exists. This is example is the description of the mind mobilising the internal force used within all martial applications and push hands. If used in a standing posture it becomes very pleasant and opens the body up making it lighter and pliable. It heightens the sensitivity so vital for listening and sticking methods in push hands.

Again these are merely words describing a level in Tai Chi that can be achieved. To actually experience it in your Tai Chi form and partner practice suddenly gives a whole new dynamic to your practice and sets the minds curiosity on an even higher level of adventure and development. However, with all realisations and movements from one level of Tai Chi to another it is common to feel (usually just before it) that our Tai Chi isn’t going anywhere and has become unsatisfactory. Here is where regular practice and consulting the classics can help us overcome any negative thinking that may impede progress to higher levels.

As is explicit with the Tai Chi diagram itself of the Yin and Yang, there cannot be progress without falling down first. Or, to be more motivational, practice can seem hard and of little benefit at times. We can go in and out of highs and lows in our personal development in Tai Chi until we come over the horizon and make big leaps in shifting evermore from outside to inside, external to internal. Remember it has always been viewed like peeling the layers of an onion in Tai Chi development until you reach the fresher and more original juice of the onion. So it is the same in our practice from external muscular strength, to softer yielding strength, to energetic modes (Jin, Qi and Yi). to mental levels and spirit level. Finally our Tai Chi becomes as natural as the seasons turning and night and day switching around.

SO never be disheartened when you take a low in your practice. Consult the classics, when the teacher is unavailable, and allow the words to be absorbed. The actual literal translation of the words into your experience will be useful on one level, but allow and expect their truth to reveal their deeper meaning in your regular practice. A down will always eventually provide an up, so stay true to that natural oncoming reward, and an up will always provide us with a down, which should always be an opportunity to learn more and release unnecessary obstacles.

Being at home…with the Tao

Posted June 5th, 2020 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

I wanted this third lockdown article to be more advisory as several months have passed since we’ve all been together in a class. I thought it might be best to remind us all of basic, and advanced, principles of practice. Whilst the local and international world around us has gone through a lot of change, our practice of the principles should remain even if we are spending most of days in our home.

If we forget a posture or even many of them in a form this is ok, because it is the principles of practice which are the core of our development, and even if we have one form or a hundred forms, principles are what develops whatever we have.

The Lower body: –

1) The feet and legs are like the base of a pyramid with the peak being the Dan Tien (centre of gravity just below the navel and above the hips). The feet and legs constantly flux between the Yin and Yang of Full and Empty, this is what makes the body travel and transport itself. The internal force we generate always comes from pushing off a full foot/leg, and like water through a garden hose transport our effort into the upper body.

2) Remember the waist is like a ball on water, frictionless and set in motion with the slightest of movement, so always keep it loose and pliable. It is the waist that gives us direction when it smoothly turns allowing the force generated below to enter the upper body and exit through the arms and hands.

The Upper body: –

1) The abdomen is full and relaxed allowing the force to transport its unbroken momentum up through the larger and lower vertebrae of the spine upwards.

2) The shoulders hang down through the joints open on the upper back, yet with the sternum and heart area soft and unobstructed. The armpits are open so the arms are distanced from the upper ribs, relaxed but not tightly held.

3) The arms are lengthened but not held tense so they feel lengthened and open at the joints. The internal force that travels up the spine, needs to pass through the ball and sockets of the shoulder joints to sink down the upper arm, and continue their journey filling out the arms as an application’s force exits at the wrist and hands.

The Mind: –

1) Yi/Intention is crisp and clear in initiating all movement from the feet but also in following the internal movement along the pathways above until discharged and the wrist and hands.

2) Shen/Spirit is the quality of mind and consciousness at all times which feels expansive yet still, calm yet ready, rooted internally yet perceiving externally. Shen is the quality of aliveness. The very act of consciously knowing just how alive you are indicates your Shen is healthy.

3) Qi and Jin are the form and function of the internal movement required to move the body internally. Qi is the substantial feeling of internal movement, the vehicle of internal force, and Jin is the mode or shape in how it manifests when moving. Qi can be likened to just internal movement, we could analogise it as a car. With that, Jin would then represent what make of car it is and how fast or slow it is going and in what direction. Jin is also the end product of where and why you wanted to take the car out for a drive in the first place. From a martial art point of view, because of their shape, all postures emit their own Jin in accordance to their shape. Qi is the wave of internal force moving in the body but it’s shape, function and discharge is the Jin.

Remember the body moves as one unit, not like in a rusted and semi-seized up robotic fashion but fluid like a cup of water. If one molecule of water changes its position in the cup, every other molecule must respond appropriately. If one part moves every part should move and if one part stops every part should stop.

Always remember that at all times the body is relaxed. However for Tai Chi we actually go a step further than that and we try to cultivate what is called Sung. This is a little more than just giving up of strength, yet at the same time it can only be achieved if you do anyway. A good way to describe it is everything in the body accords to gravity, and it feels like the muscles and organs almost hang downwards inside the body. Again this is not with force but actually through releasing tension. This allows us to have no obstructions for the upwards force of Qi and Jin when doing applications. Sung usually needs to be revisited often as tension can come back again in seconds after we feel we’ve released it. With practice we can maintain the feeling of Sung all day long, and internally our body will remain unobstructed from tension. This is the way we can do Tai Chi all day everyday and make our normal bodily movements our spontaneous Tai Chi forms. This is what Master Alan Peck referred to when he said make your every day life your Tai Chi; and your Tai Chi your everyday life. There should be no on and off switch between them, you should find they are the same way of living.

I will write more articles whilst we are away from each other, and the class room, and please remember you can ring or text me anytime to chat Tai Chi and non- Tai Chi, but remember, in truth they are the same 🙂

Persistence…

Posted May 16th, 2020 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

I hope you are all ok and that you are mainting good health practices both for yourselves and loved ones during thse unique times?

I thought I’d just say a few words about persistence to help encourage us all, as well as myself too as the duration of lock-down expands. Whenever it drops off, and in the full knowledge of it being safe to return to classes, we should rejoice that we have come through this pandemic and remind ourselves of living our lives no matter under what circumstances prevail.

Our Tai Chi practice is always about persistence and accumulative gain and insight. The gain I speak of is the benefits from regular practice which is a little hypocritical because I use the word gain, where I really mean we carve away and reduce all habits and practice which are not useful to us. What is left behind in our practice is pure and natural and it is that which we really benefit from even more. That which is correct and natural is the essence of the correct teachings, and without regular classes I do not wish you to feel that you will stray off into incorrect Tai Chi and miss the benefits. It took me many years to realise what I had from Master Alan Peck and to what further revealed itself in my personal practice after his passing.

The persistence in practice is the golden key to developing Tai Chi and unlocking it’s teachings to yourself. If in doubt go back to the basic principles, plus you can always chat with me too.

Over the years, myself and Chris, have relayed a lot of information on the website which has come from our study and realisation in Tai Chi. It has also been directly transmitted from Alan too through our time with him, so the website is a very good reference for your practice as well. Persistence is the foundation for forming habits. This extended time away from the class is also a good experience to solidify and build upon new expanded habits of practising not just more hours of Tai Chi a week, but deeper quality of practice for the time you do practice it.

I will be adding to the website more regularly from here onwards whilst we are parted from class gatherings to try and instil further information and references to how we can persist, be patient and keep developing our understanding of Tai Chi, whilst receiving more benefits from it.

Remember you can always give me a ring if you want to chat direct to me, or text me whenever.

Love to you all and I’ll be back on this site with more information for you to mull over very soon.

Phil.

Patience……

Posted April 2nd, 2020 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

For some, there may be no other time in their lives than tight now to experience this degree of enclosure and a lessening of liberty. When walls, floors and ceilings seem closer and tighter than ever, it is easy for the mind to follow that illusion and contract and shrink as well. The mind, in its natural state, should feel unaffected by parameters, but does and because of the limits we place on it, or the life experiences we’ve come through.

COVID – 19 is such a parameter, but is not an illusion that the mind should deny or ignore. It is a parameter because if held, conceptually, in a state of imbalance the mind will respond and emotions too can get out of balance.

It is important to follow the correct health guidelines in order to both prevent infection, and deal with it if one does catch the virus also. So preventative and distancing measures logical can show us how me must alter our lives, temporarily, in order to minimize catching it. However, there is an effect from the existence of this current illness that we can take full control of, and that is how it affects our mind state and emotions.

We all have experiences of past occurrences where our emotions have gone to excess in either positive and negative directions. These can be instigated internal and/or externally. When an emotion rears up it is like looking at an exotic and beautiful animal, we become completely absorbed and drawn into it’s existence and all else (in terms of awareness) shrinks away. This imbalance and fear always can get out of check when we are overcome in this way, and the natural empty clear mind state with a natural presence just vanishes….or so it would seem.

The natural empty state of mind of pure perception and real time experience is always there to be perceived and joined with. It is, with practice, of frequently visiting that state that it becomes our most easily accessible mode, yet illusive if infrequently visited. When the natural state of mind is rifled through and disturbed emotions are woken up and depending on our mental practice it may take a long time to settle them back again. This re-settling time can be reduced with regular meditation and/or Tai Chi practice.

I was once told development in Tai Ch/Meditation is like watching a glazier slowly melt. Drip, drip, drip….drip, drip it continues and then in time a huge chuck off ice falls away and crashed into the water. Patience in your regular practice is the secret to results, and diligence in practising correctly. Laziness, or the growth of disinterest in practice, can always come about to us all at different times. With this we must always remember why we are doing it the practice and analyse what we have at that time. The emotional feeling of not feeling like anything has occurred or no development has arrived is very common and every single Meditation/Tai Cho practitioner goes through this phase, sometimes several times. However having patience is what delivers us to the results.

For however long we remain isolated in our houses away from our loved ones, yet distancing ourselves from the virus as it makes it way through lives, be patient. The good things in life we can barely touch from a distance, or even not at all currently, will return and will feel richer and more valuable when we come back to them. Patience yields results, have patience in yourself and your own calm unafflicted nature. This is the way to practice.

Master Alan Peck

Posted March 3rd, 2020 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

12/01/1948 – 03/03/2010

Founder of Natural Way Tai Chi

Student of:

Master John Kells

Grand Master Dr Chi Chiang-tao

Grand Master Dr Shen Hongxun

Me and Alan hiding at the back in Tony William’s weekend energy/health seminar.

New (old) order

Posted November 10th, 2019 in 2019 by Phil Vickery

My favourite line from Lao Tzu’s book which initiated the whole school and thought of Taoism the Tao De Jing (translated as “Virtue, and it’s way”) is “The Sage does nothing, yet nothing is left undone”.

When I first started Tai Chi I dove into Taoism and read many translations of this book and other canonical texts and always considered that this line was of high mystical proportions. My Master, Alan Peck,  one day gave me a more pragmatic interpretation and said it meant the most powerful outcome came from the earliest intervention. He said a Sage intervenes at the earliest moment and makes the most subtle of inputs to a situation so their efforts literally go unnoticed when the result came to full bloom. It made better sense to me even it it was less theatrical or esoteric.

Taoism and Tai Chi are inextricably related, and a lot of Tai Chi masters often use Taoist references and quotes to highlight the meaning of Tai Chi principles when teaching. This line in particular though relates very well to Push Hands or in fact any two-person interchange in Tai Chi. My Master would often say when yielding for example in Push Hands you must turn your partners force as soon as possible after sticking and listening to the incoming force they presented. This of course is not done against your partners force but in alignment to it so as to lead it away and not to its target.

When it comes to issuing or attacking your partner we must also make the first move on the subtlest level so as to go undetected, or at least so when it is apparent it is just too late for your partner to neutralise or yield to it. There are 3 aspects to conider and in fact execute in order to successfully attack your partner in Tai Chi and when combined they can be issued very swiftly or slowly both with successful outcomes:

  1. Yi – mind/intent where we make a decision to initiate our idea to attack/issue;
  2. Qi – to make sure the idea translates into a whole body movement with the posture/application we choose to use in the attack both open, relaxed and aligned with co-ordinated movement;
  3. Jin – the act of the whole body force internally translating the idea into an action of postural attack

All movements in Tai Chi start with the Yi and a decision to initiate some kind of action internally. This can arise within a split second, if the training and conditions are correct, and feels like a loose yet concentrated direction of thought to initiate action internally in the body (which mostly always starts with the feet). This amplifies from the source ( again usually from the feet, but can be directed anywhere in the body) which creates a wave of whole body movement, the qi, to then be directed out through the limbs (or any part of the body’s surface area) which is recognised as jin, and then to have an effect on your partner. Very internal to internal to extenral. This is the order that correct Tai Chi goes through when executing applications. If we miss out the Yi level it is said our qi sits there dormant and has no hope of externalising the jin in attacking a partner. If the qi aspect is missing then our thoughts to attack maybe confused or too intense and we usually end up just using Li (external force of localised tense muscles and tendons) to perform the attack. Finally, if we leave out the final aspect of the jin manifesting to actually attack our partner then the qi remains inside the body and misses it’s opportunity to discharge and make the attack. This final scenario however is precisely what we do in qigong, so it does have its benefits in our Tai Chi practice but never manages to train the martial aspect of Tai Chi.

The same order occurs in yielding too. We use constantly our Yi in reference tofeeling the beginnings of our partners attack on us with what is referred to as Ting Jin (“Listening” force, a relaxed yet heightened sense of any incoming subtle movement). When the incoming force of the attack is clear the qi aspect of the whole body moves internally to sink and open to receive the incoming force, and then the jin aspect is to appropriately respond with a yielding action ( and quite possibly followed up quickly with a counterattack too) to neutralise your partners efforts.

Early in our Tai Chi studies it is all too easy to see yielding and attacking as two different things, when in fact they are the same thing. They follow the same internal order in their attempt to interact with a partner.  Yi, qi and jin are the correct order for both modes in two partner exercises. This order has always been recognised as the correct method for internal arts as it is considered an act of nature as a seed under the ground takes root to develop the stem and then the branches above the soil and finally produce fruit as a result.

So like the Sage we must make our first move at the subtlest level (the mind) if we are to set in motion (the qi and internal movement inside the body), to out of nowhere, deliver the most appropriate and successful result ( the jin discharging the internal wave of force to our target).

 

 

 

Tai Chi Autumn term start back date change.

Posted September 1st, 2019 in Courses, News, Newsletters and Notifications by Phil Vickery

I hope you all have been enjoying the sun aspects of the Summer break (Yang) and making do with the days that it has been rainy (Yin) constructively and leisurely.

I have made a change to our start back date by one week and the classes will recommence on Thursday 12th September and hope this isn’t an issue for anyone, as I’m sure everyone is eager to return? I will also send around a text notification to all in case it isn’t picked up on the website here.

We will continue the classes as we left them in Summer but will embark on the 3rd Da Lu in partner work learning and assessing the movements with a partner and solo to understand the form and applications this term.

We will also, as we have done so before, run through the short form every week and re-examine the applications, hopefully 2 postures a week both for extra partner work and to remind and galvanise posture applications from the martial art point of view too.

There will also be an overarching aspect of deeper internal work in every class whether it is partner work, form or qigong to deepen the practice and gain further insight into the internal dynamic of Tai Chi principles as a whole. This will be with particular emphasis on Yi (Intention) and how the mind is the primary developer/enabler of all Tai Chi movement.

So again, the first class back will be:

Thursday

12th September

7:00pm

I hope you’ve all enjoyed the Summer break and will see you then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter break in classes

Posted April 1st, 2019 in Holidays 2019, News, Newsletters and Notifications by Phil Vickery

Just as a reminder the last class before we break up will be Thursday 5th April and we will be coming back to classes on Thursday 26th April.

I will remind all students in class this week and contact those who are absent of the dates.

I will also send a message round to all before we come back as a reminder too.

 

Phil.

 

Can you stand it?

Posted March 18th, 2019 in 2019, Long Form, Push Hands, San Sou, Short Form, Sword Form by Phil Vickery

In the Tai Chi tradition, apart from breathing exercises, there are 3 main types of movement exercises which facilitate development:

  1. Form: Solo/Partner/weapons work
  2. Qigong
  3. Standing Postures

Form is very important in developing all aspects of Tai Chi and can encompass all the teachings of Tai Chi. Qigong has specific function towards both health and developing the internal for mind, body and even spirit too. However Standing postures can produce a love/hate relationship in as much as they can be demanding yet require no real movement externally and really does ask a lot of the internal workings as well as the mind.

In every posture of the form the requirement is to learn the physical shapes and order of postures so we can string them along into an elongated set of movements as practice to make the body healthier and stronger and also to examine the internal function to help us understand the function of postures (again for health but also for martial application). However the principle of internal : rooting in the feet; directing the force up the legs to the base of the spine; ascending the spine and separating between the shoulder so as to direct the whole body force out the arms to discharge through the hands, is exactly the same for Standing postures too. The single exception is that one is done with the application of external movement and the other is done with the application of  internal  movement.

The effects of Standing postures at first may seem small and time consuming by just standing there apparently doing nothing however the results of it are to unblock the stagnation and closed body habits of posture so the whole body force can consistently flow freely and unobstructed. Standing postures may be seen in this way as a foundation to the form, and a good method to return the body back to its original open state maybe after injuries or illness. This aspect shows that standing postures are a powerful yet simple Qigong exercise to aid health.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the simple idea is that good robust health is obtained by balancing all systems in the body by maintaining a smooth and consistent even flow of whole body force. This same condition is what we employ every time we do form or partner work, so again it is the foundation of all of Tai Chi.

One of Yang Cheng-fu’s 10 essential points of Tai Chi is “Stillness within movement and movement within stillness” which is explicit in terms of Standing postures in that the external is still whilst the internal beavers away unblocking stagnation and allowing the infrastructure of our body to adjust and improve. The quote also is referring to whilst the external is moving we should have no tension but an even flow which is devoid of dense strength from the muscles thus creating internal stillness. The same movements that occur in standing postures occur in all form work too. This is why the form is considered a high level and complex qigong in its self.

Therefore good practice is when we relate to different modes of exercise within the Tai Chi portfolio, we can carry the same thread of practice through them all and gain overall benefits which are the same (despite some exercises being stylised towards specific purposes e’g’ health, martial art, meditation etc).

When we see some exercises of Tai Chi practice less favourable than others we are in effect denying all of the components of Tai Chi as they all lead to the same goal. Standing postures are simple in practice but demanding in patience usually because the muscles wear out quickly and start to ache. This is only a phase as the body recognises stagnation in the muscles and old habits in posture and seeks to correct them with alignment and opening the joints of the body. When the walls of obstruction gradually wear away and crumble the effects of standing posture and their practice can be quite powerful and satisfying. The results of them can be immediately injected into our form work to speed up our development.

If you find yourself standing in a queue for a period of time always try to employ the principles of relaxing the whole body, “stretching out the bones” more commonly known as not allowing the joint to close tight, and sinking the heavy down in the body to allow the light to rise up. Externally it looks like nothing is happening but if you can stand it you’ll find a whole world of curiosity waiting to be discovered inside.