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Moderation and Honesty is the key to good Tai Chi

Introducing the Seventy Percent Rule

When I started learning Tai Chi with Brian Cooper, and later also with Bruce Frantzis, one of the first lessons was to try and understand and implement the Seventy Percent Rule. Many years on when I am trying too hard ( and isn't it so easy to try too hard...) Brian will always take me back to the early days and remind me about this first principle. The problem is, we all want to succeed at anything we are attempting to learn, and this is not at all unreasonable; but can we really reap the benefits of our study if we have also picked up a parasitic tension in the process? That tension can actually end up making us totally dissatisfied with what we have learnt, and laying the blame at some randomly selected doorway, leave us feeling cheated, perhaps enough to abandon our study and seek something 'more to our liking'. It may be hard to perceive that this is what has happened, but I know from personal experience it's exactly what happens, whether you acknowledge it or not.

The 70% Rule is an essential component of learning Tai Chi and Qigong for health and longevity. It is at the heart of all Taoist practices. Put simply, when you exercise you should only operate within a range of around 70% (see below for exceptions) of your current maximum capacity. This will allow you to:

  • absorb what you learn more easily.
  • reduce your internal resistance & maintain the effort for longer.
  • be able to relax enough to be honest about what your limits are.
  • increase your capacity as you develop your practise, without stress.

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So what is Tai Chi?

Unless specified, all references to Taiji or Tai Chi infer the art of Taijiquan, not the philosophy behind the state of taiji.

For many years that dreadful moment has reared its ugly little head again and again. There you are relaxing with some acquaintances and they say "So what do you do, then?". I say I'm a Taiji teacher, and then, here it comes.. "Ah! I've always wondered about that. So what is Tie Chee then?" as they wave their arms listlessly in front of them.

Immediately the brain begins to spasm, and a mild panic sets in as I mentally start stringing together all the material required for a three hour lecture. Then I just sit there with my mouth open - "Well, it's.... um... a... errr... it's a kind of exercise. From China. Very good for you and quite good fun too." I watch carefully. Did I get away with it? Can I get back to my favourite tasty beverage and finish it in peace?

Now after many years of practice and teaching, it comes to mind that I really should do better than that. But the question is a difficult one, because Taijiquan a.k.a. Tai Chi can be so many things to so many people. Let's see if we can come to some kind of understanding of it.

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A discourse on Practice

A fascinating thread appeared on our Tai Chi Tribe group on Facebook recently regarding practice, and I thought I would not be able to explain the ups and downs of practising the art better than the comments made by all the contributors.

SN:
Has anyone gone through a period where they simply couldn't practise?

AG:
Yes. Realized the importance of digestion time and taking a break.

SN:
Any tips on ways to stay in tune with the vibrations and spirals? Do you practice other modes (yoga, feldenkreis, etc) or just relax into your being, so to speak? I feel like my body wants to vibe, but it hurts my lower back if I move too much.

But I'm thinking too much. AG, thanks. I just realized I never really let myself digest.

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Winter - The Dao of Storage

For the current blog we would like to post an article from our friend and fellow teacher Matthew Brewer, giving you guidance on how to sustain yourself over the Winter months.

Winter  - The Dao of Storage, by Dr Matthew Brewer

藏之道

The three months of winter are called closing and storing.

Water freezes, earth cracks. Do not disturb the yang at all.

Early to bed, late to rise. (You) must await the daylight.

Make that which is of the heart/mind as though hidden, as though concealed,
as though (you) have a secret intention, already obtained.
Leave the cold, seek warmth.

Do not leak the skin.

Urgently hold onto the qi.

This is the winter compliance of qi;

the cultivation of the Dao of storage.

To oppose these principles injures the kidneys.
(Consequently) spring will bring paralysis and fainting
(and) there will be little to offer (your) sprouting.1

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