Category Archives: Tai Chi Practice

When Do You Turn Your Tai Chi Off?

While practicing, you are relaxed, aligned, your movements are smooth, deliberate. In other words, you are actively maintaining your tai chi composure.

The question is, when do you stop?

Do you turn your tai chi on when you practice the form, and turn it off when you stop? Do you turn it off when class is over? Or when you get interrupted or distracted?

Why turn it off deliberately at all? Why not at least try to keep it on all the time?

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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Tai Chi Practice


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Mirror Neurons

There is a certain subset of our motor neurons, called mirror neurons, that activates in response to the movements of others as if we were making identical movements. When you see another person, these neurons create an internal representation of that person’s posture, movements, sensations, and even their emotional state.

Normally these signals from our own nervous system are very subtle and faint, so that we are unaware of them, but they may be very strong at times, as when seeing another person become injured compels you to feel their injury in your body, and flinch as if to avoid it. They are also responsible for emotional contagion, the effect whereby moods are transferable.

In tai chi we train ourselves to be more sensitive to these signals, among other things. By stilling the body and quieting the mind, we become attuned to the subtle play of neurological impulses resonating within us, including those that link us to others, allowing us to both feel and follow their intent. The practice of mirroring is one way of directly exercising this capacity. Standing in front of a partner, take turns mirroring one another’s slow, gentle, continuous movements. At first there will need to be a leader and follower, but with practice and attunement you can eventually drop the roles and engage in free-form flowing together.

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Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Flow, Tai Chi Practice


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Practicing Tai Chi When You’re Sick

The general rule for tai chi practice is to work at 70% of your maximum capacity.  This applies to intensity, exertion, duration, and range of motion.  If you exhaust yourself your coordination will suffer, and you will also tax your body’s compensatory mechanisms, which is counterproductive from the perspective of tai chi.  The 70% rule allows for a gradual but continuous and sustainable trajectory of development.  We have all heard of “no pain no gain”, but by exercising consistently at 70% of your body’s capacity, you will see incremental improvement without the regression that inevitably follows over-exertion.

If you are recovering from injury or illness, however, the 70% rule changes to the 40% rule.  Working at this level of intensity is comfortable, and will stimulate your vital processes without taxing your body’s energy reserves, thereby giving you the maximum healing benefit.  This rule applies whenever your body or any part of it is in a weakened state, either from acute injury or overall illness.


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Posted by on October 13, 2013 in Health, Tai Chi Practice


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Benefits Of Push Hands

Form calls for two legs, function requires four. Push hands in tai chi is both a training ground and an experimental lab for the experiential development of the principles. This is a short list of some of the benefits that come from regular practice.

Adaptive Balance

Balance is one type of skill when you are stationary and free standing, and a whole different type when movement and external forces are involved. There is the type of balance required to be still when you are standing stationary on one leg, and then there’s the type of balance required to stand up without holding on while riding a moving bus. Adaptive balance is the ability to maintain structure and central equilibrium in the face of disruptive forces.


Push hands develops the ability to engage and to feel with the whole body. This kind of sensitivity means that when something changes in the wrist, the ankle changes to accommodate, and likewise throughout the whole body. It is the ability to maintain steady contact and pressure, to sense subtle changes in tension and alignment, and to feel impulses before they manifest as action.


Fluidity is a quality of connected suppleness throughout the body, a way of moving without excess friction or tension. It is the free flow of momentum throughout the body’s tissues and structures, allowing forces to pass through without being absorbed. It is allowing cause and effect to have free reign in an uninterrupted sequence. Fluidity is what allows us to move without stress and strain, increasing the efficiency of force we can exert and extending the mechanical durability of the body.


Push hands shows us that much greater effect comes from pushing at the right time, rather than from pushing harder at the wrong time. Rather than exerting a forceful effort of will, one only has to stay present and aware, and poised to fill the gap of opportunity.


Structure is the alignment of the bones that maintains a uniform distribution of force throughout the body. Stresses and strains that build up at a single point are indicative of structural deficiency. Good structure is completely egalitarian; when good structure is in place no joint or muscle bears more or less than its fair share of the burden.


Each action arises in the moment and is a response to momentary conditions. Spontaneity is action without expectation, continually holding open the full range of possibility. Spontaneous action is not necessarily original or unpredictable, it is simply unpremeditated.

Push hands teaches the resolution of conflict and the dissolution of paradox. It is a way to experiment with the reconciliation of apparent contradictions, such as how to yield without compromising, or surrender without capitulating. It allows us to perceive the reality that conflicts that appear external always originate internally. Its lessons adapt the way we move, think, and breathe, and spill over into every aspect of life.

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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in Tai Chi Practice


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Practice With Perfect Awareness

Rather practice once
And with perfect awareness
Than ten times without

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Posted by on September 6, 2013 in Tai Chi Practice



The Number One Reason (And Way) To Be Fit

…is to feel good moving.

The capacity for movement is freedom to move, and freedom is pleasure.

And not only is freedom pleasurable, so is the exploration itself. Pain does not equal gain. What truly builds us up feels good, and has its own innate draw.

Nor is it necessary to move “correctly” to enjoy the freedom of exploration. Correct movement ultimately comes from listening to and following the body’s innate wisdom and guidance, not from overlaying a template onto it. Many will study for years to learn patterns, only to then struggle for years more to unlearn them. Natural movement comes about naturally, and what is imposed is not natural.

If you pay attention, you will realize that your body wants to move. All you have to do is let it.

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Posted by on July 27, 2013 in Exercise, Health, Tai Chi Practice


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Sex Versus Push Hands

Given a choice between sex with a mediocre partner and push hands with a great partner…

I’d choose push hands.

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Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Exercise, Tai Chi Practice



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