Saturday, February 22, 2014

Taiji - Sun Style (Sun Jianyun) 孫式太極 孫劍雲

Sun Lu Tang was the creator of Sun style tai chi. He had several children. One of them was a daughter, Sun JianYun. I am embedding a video here of Sun JianYun performing the family style of tai chi. This is the 97 form routine.

There are a few points here that I want to emphasize. First of all, she moves very quickly, but every step is precise. The follow steps are always placed in the same place. She barely touches her foot down before she is moving it again. This doesn't happen by accident. It takes years of practice to make this happen.

Second, she is very flexible and limber. She does a kick at about 5:00 into the video where her foot goes about chest height. I don't know exactly how old she was when this video was made, but she must be well into her 80s. That flexibility is what a lifetime of tai chi can do for you. It's not immortality, but it is great health into old age.

Third, she demonstrates the Sun sword forms beginning at about 6:20. Note the Bagua footwork here. There is a lot of "slicing", but not much "thrusting". I have never seen this before. Really interesting.

Starting at about 5:20, she demonstrates something else that I can't identify. Can someone help me out here and tell me what she is doing?

© 2014 Eric Borreson

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Three Simple Rules for Beginning a Tai Chi Life

Does it seem too complicated to learn tai chi with all those movements happening? One arm going one way and the other arm going another way, stepping somewhere else, all at once. It's not hard. There are three simple rules you should know as you begin a tai chi life.

1) Stop Worrying. Worry doesn't do any good, so let it go. When you worry, you can't calm down. When you can't calm down, you can't relax. When you can't relax, you can't do tai chi.

2) Don't think about too many things. You can't improve if you don't focus. Focus on one thing and let everything else go.

3) Enjoy your practice. You have to enjoy it to want to make the time for tai chi in your life. Think about how good it makes you feel after practice. Think about how you get mentally refreshed from your practice. Have fun with it.

That's enough to get you off to a great start.

© 2014 Eric Borreson

Here is another list that you may enjoy: What I Wish I Had Known at the Beginning

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I Have No Former Students

I have been thinking about my teaching quite a bit lately. I started some new classes at the beginning
Tai Chi Beginner
Tai Chi Beginner
of the year. That's the busiest time of year for new classes because of all those New Year's resolutions. Like all other tai chi teachers, most of my students only take a few sessions of a tai chi class before they disappear.

What are we to conclude from that? Am I a terrible teacher that drives students away? I don't think so. The students that do stay with me seem to enjoy class with me. I need to change my thinking about this.

Maybe the students are failing me. Is that the right way to think about it? Again, I don't think so.

Do I have a lot of "former students"? This seems to be the key question. I think a better way to think about this is to say that tai chi is only a small part of the life of most new students. They have work and family to balance. They have kids that need a ride to after-school activities. It's hard for a tai chi teacher to admit, but tai chi just isn't the most important thing in the lives of many people.

I occasionally meet a former student somewhere else in town. They remember me and want to talk about class. They often tell me that they loved learning tai chi, but they are too busy to continue. This is especially true for younger students. The most "reliable" students tend to be older. The children have moved out and they now have more time for themselves.

I am adopting a new motto. I have no former students. I have students that haven't made time in their lives yet for tai chi. In fact, some of them have come back to my classes lately.

© 2014 Eric Borreson

Saturday, February 1, 2014

It Takes Time -- The Hand Pump

Tai chi is not a 30-day medical cure. I often tell students that it takes time for changes from tai chi to
Hand Pump
Hand Pump
express themselves in our bodies. It typically takes 8 to 12 weeks of practice for changes to become noticeable. New students often have unrealistic expectations about what to expect from tai chi.

I've been searching for an analogy to help explain this. We need to reach way back for this one. Younger students may not recognize this one, but most of the older ones will. Tai chi is like one of those old-fashioned hand-operated water pumps. It takes many strokes of the handle before the water starts flowing. If you give up too soon, you don't get any water.

Tai chi works much the same way in the beginning. There are simple benefits, like calmness and relaxation, that appear fairly quickly. The long-term sustainable improvements take longer to achieve. Tai chi takes commitment to practice. The results are so worth it.

"It Takes Time" should be a mantra for all new students.

© 2014 Eric Borreson