Posts tagged Tai Chi

Last night in Kung Fu was the first time I did the full 2 hours lesson since the 3 Peaks, so I was hoping my legs had recovered enough. We started off with Tai Chi and after some Chi Kung to warm up moved onto a stretching routine for about 20 minutes which was just what I needed. It featured some very intense calf and hamstring stretches. We then did some of the White Crane Tai Chi form, which is really relaxing and meditative.

Moving on to Kung Fu we always warm up with about 20 minutes of static and dynamic stretching and today we did more than normal, including frog stretch, which really stretches the hip muscles like nothing else! With around 40 minutes of stretching done, my legs felt so good that I could see that it would be of real benefit to fit in more stretching.

We spent the rest of the lesson in preparation for the grading which is in about 5 weeks. Lots of going over combinations of techniques and the patterns we would grade on. I am on my forth pattern but am still nervous about the second which I have already graded twice. Along with the first it needs to show improvement and I seem to be finding it hard transitioning between stances. Practice, practice, practice! The Competition which was due to be the day before the grading has moved back a month, phew! Might have just been too much to prepare for.

Often with today’s busy lifes, fitting in training is a case of rushing back from work, quickly eating, then rushing out to class. This can be quite stressful and sometimes the last thing you want to do is train hard. My Kung Fu Club has recently extended the lesson by half an hour to include a session of White Crane Tai Chi and Chi Kung. 

Part of this often starts with some basic standing meditation. Standing with your feet at shoulder width and knees slightly bent till you can’t see your feet. Pelvis tucked slightly under and your chin slightly down, or like you have a piece of string pulling up the crown of your head. This has the effect of making your spine straight and relaxed. Then with your arms just hanging at the side totally relaxed, you concentrate on breathing in through the nose, and out slowly through the mouth. Be aware of breathing into your abdomen. After a while this becomes natural as this is how babies breathe. As all you are doing is concentrating on breathing you soon completely unwind. It also warms you internally as the deep controlled abdomen breathing massages your internal organs. Being relaxed in this way also helps to maintain focus and not use up unnecessary energy in being tense.

For the last part of this weeks lesson we spent a lot time practicing our Patterns or Forms. These are a series of predetermined movements combined in such a way as to train you in different techniques whilst also strengthening and improving flexibility. There are 20 core patterns in our syllabus. I have so far graded on the first three over a year and a half. 

My instructor asked me to run through my highest (4th) pattern on which I hope to grade soon. I hadn’t practiced it much but was pleased to remember it reasonably well. I need to show improvement in the previous 3 patterns which is the hardest thing in grading. As I run through the movements it is easy to try and make them martial and fast but this can lead to mistakes, so I try to think back to the meditation at the beginning and slow everything down and concentrate on breathing in the right places at the same time. All that exists in this moment is body, mind and breathe, the sweat drips off me but I feel that just maybe I may be good enough to grade, or even enter my first competition with a pattern or even open hand sparring. The competition is the day before grading! Better get practicing!

Over the last few months my White Crane Kung Fu club has been slowly growing. We used to have an hour lesson and we needed extra numbers for more. We recently had enough for another half hour, and after I recently attended a weekend tai chi camp the Chief Instructor, gave permission for our Instructor to do half hour of White Crane Tai Chi at the beginning which we started tonight and was such a great way to energise, warm up and focus before Kung Fu especially during the Chi Kung session at the very beginning.

In the summer heat it is easier to stretch the muscles so we did lots more dynamic stretching and 2 man stretching which is much more extreme.

The first of these was a butterfly stretch. Sitting on the floor with your soles together, pull your heels in as close to your body. The partner then kneels behind with knees touching to support the lower back and then leans over and presses you knees down further towards the floor. It is up to you to guide them so that you don’t overdo it.

The second was a round house kick stretch. The partner crouched down and you rested your foot on their shoulder in the position of a low round house kick. They slow stood up till you said stop. Then after a while pushed it further. We then did kicks on pads to see if we were getting higher and it was great to see improvement.

Having walked 20 miles over hills at the weekend these stretching exercises really make me feel floaty afterwards, so even if I don’t feel I am getting massively more flexible they are definitely doing me good.

We then practised our patterns and did some sparring which along with the heat has made me tired so will stop writing. Tomorrow evening will feature more Chi Kung and will squeeze in some weights and kettle bells too. But for now one of the most important parts of training. Sleep!

Anyone got any good tips on stretching and increasing flexibility?

After the tai camp it is always nice to do more outdoor training, and since it is almost the longest day, we made the most of the light last night and had our Kung Fu lesson in the local park.

One of the benefits of this is that unlike the hard wooden floor of the training hall we can use the softer grass to practice break rolls and throws which are particularly good fun, although still being careful, as if performed at speed could easily injure. We learnt how to break roll sideways and backwards in order to deal with different throws.

Afterwards I went through what I had learnt of the Tai chi form in order to practice the correct breathing, as getting this in harmony with the movements is key and encourages you to slow down.

I’m looking forward to a good cardio session tonight. Starting to push my fitness further and getting ready to get on the schedule preparing for my challenges later in the year. Time to reign in my diet and make sure my nutrition is as good as possible too!

This weekend flew by. It seems time really does fly when your having fun an even more so when doing an intense 2 days of White Crane Kung Fu. All Kung Fu styles need a soft Tai Chi form to stop them becoming to stiff and clunky. We are lucky that White Crane has it’s own Tai Chi form which is like the other side of the coin. 2 parts of the same whole.

I had learnt 2 or 3 postures in weekly lessons, but over the weekend added to this significantly, so that I now know 18 postures. Nearly a third of the 66 postures that there are in total.

This is a very rare form of Tai Chi and it is a privilege to be able to learn from our chief instructor. The soft and gentle movements don’t seem like they can contain any martial aspects, but in the second day we practice some applications and it is amazing to see what a devastating style it actually is.

Having learnt the equivalent of over 3 months worth of lessons in 2 days my brain was overloaded but I now have enough to be motivated to practice more and I am excited to learn more soon!

Brilliant lesson tonight. Didn’t make last weeks so had really been looking forward to it. Everybody was doing the extra half hour so we just went straight through for 90+ minutes.

After the warm up stretches etc we moved onto crescent kicks over a partners out held arms. Then some more advanced stretches to push things further.

Then straight onto pad work, doing 5 jabs followed by 5 jab punches then swapping so the partner could have a go. Then we did jab, punch, hook, uppercut 5 times on each side then swapped. This was then followed by push ups. We do push ups to mirror the movements of the punches. So, arms straight at the side elbows pointing back for straight punches. Push ups with elbows bent out with wider hands for hooks and hands reversed for uppercuts. Very hard. All should really be done on knuckles but this needs to be built up to.

We then put these punches into practice with some drills using different blocks including some interesting new ones. This was turning into quite an intense work out! We followed this with a bit of open hand sparring. Practicing foot work and blocking whilst trying to palm strike your opponents shoulders.

The final twenty minutes was devoted to pattern practice and White Crane Tai Chi. I am going to Tai Chi Camp this weekend which will be an amazing opportunity to learn with the groups chief instructor. Fingers crossed the weather brightens up!

I am still buzzing from last nights Kung Fu lesson. The club is growing which is great to see, and now means that the instructor can do an extra half hour for those that wish to stay on.

Having new members means sometimes going back to basics, but the fundamental punches and blocks are important to practice over and again. Performing this drill in what must have been one of the hottest evenings of the year was a satisfying work out too.

Having an hour and a half obviously means more time to practice skills and learn new things. We started this time going over the patterns we already knew, then we learnt the first part of the White Crane Tai Chi (Suang Yang) pattern. This “soft” form is actually the 20th pattern in the system, and is made up of many many parts, so I am excited to start learning it. There is a weekend Tai Chi camp soon so hopefully I can go along and learn a whole lot more under the Chief Instructor.

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