Thursday, April 21, 2016
The three lessons that Master Liang received from the Taoist Yang consisted of physical, mental, and energetic techniques.
The first lesson involved practicing the steps in the solo form in a particular manner. The practice is to step with a perfectly empty step, fully relaxing the insubstantial leg, and then trying to maintain as much of that relaxed feeling as you gradually transfer the weight into that leg and make it the substantial leg. Think of a relaxation scale from 0 to 10. Zero representing collapsed and 10 representing tense. Depending on the action, relaxation is going to be a one, two, or three on that scale. That scale looks like this'
0 = Collapsed 1,2,3 = Relaxed 5 = Dynamic Tension 10 = Tense
As you shift, you try to keep the numbers down, or from jumping dramatically.This is why Master Liang used to always say, "To get a root, you must pay particular attention to the gradual shifting of the weight from one foot to the other." This is the physical technique.
The second lesson is to put the mind on the Bubbling Well Point/K1 of the substantial foot. This is done during standing meditation,while holding solo form postures, then moving through the postures, and also in the willow exercise of pushing hands. It uses a combination of mind, weight, and gravity to achieve "sink." This is the mental technique.
The third lesson is to use the mind intent, the Yi or will, to direct the ch'i to the Bubbling Well Point. This is done in sitting and standing meditation as well as the solo form. Using mind and breath to guide the energy down the leg meridians, the ch'i would bring with it not only the intentions and thoughts, but energy, breath, and tension. This is the energetic technique.
Master Liang not only incorporated these teachings into his personal practice, he use them in his teaching methods. Not only in his classes, but in his writings you will find references either directly or indirectly to these three methods of how to "relax and sink." Those are the secrets. Now, are you disappointed, or inspired?
If you are interested in a movie of the various ways to practice Golden Rooster, and more in depth explanation and demonstration of Three Methods, e-mail me for information.
And the answer to the mysterious number "72." Here it is from Mike Cain;
"The number of daily iterations was chosen based on some simple, but important criteria, and then confirmed by philosophy and practice.
The first and foremost requirement was a number that resulted in at least 10,000 repetitions in a year. This (whole) number is 28.
The second requirement was to practice 10,000 repetitions on each side - left and right. This results in 56.
There was a keen desire to have a number that represented multiples of 9. Historically the number 9 is associated with the attributes of harmony, long lasting, and to have enough.
The number 56 is not divisible by 9 so another, larger number is needed. How about 63? Unfortunately, an even number is required for balance.
How about 72! It is greater than 56, it is divisible by 9 and it is even. Furthermore, 72 divided by 9 is 8, another even number. And 8 is associated with prosperity, wealth and luck.
In practice, 72 iterations provides plenty of opportunity to explore, learn, adapt and really feel the changes - all attributes of Tai Chi."
I hope you have enjoyed, learned from, and been inspired from this series of blogs. I will begin posting a series on pushing hands, stay tuned!
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
In March I had the great honor and pleasure of being knighted and initiated into two Knights Templar lineages. At one of the meetings we were told that there are two ways to make a knight, one is from a king or queen, the other from another knight, which they called a peer to peer knighting.
My first knighting ceremony was from Grandmaster Tau Sendivogius, whose lineage comes from both the Knights Templar and the Cathars. I was initiated into the Saint Ordre des Chevaliers Faydits de la Colombe du Paraclet. That solemn and dramatic ritual had the feeling of a beginning , or opening of doors.
( Success - Prosperity - Fortune - Time - Business - Blessing of the family, the home, the wife and children.)
The knighting ceremony which I received just before leaving was an initiation into O.S.T.I or l’Ordre Souverain du Temple Initiatique. The Grandmaster, Timothy Hogan, performed the ceremony which had the feel of accomplishment, fulfillment, completion, and graduation. At the end of the ceremony the two grandmasters healed a centuries old rift and brought our Templar orders into harmony and union.
For me personally, many of my questions and speculations about the Knights Templar were confirmed. My own spiritual path was given a huge boost and some of the work I have been doing for years now became clear. At one lecture Grandmaster Tau said a Templar is three things, a priest, a knight, and an alchemist. That pretty much sums up my life to the present moment.
I'm truly grateful for this amazing opportunity and look forward to my future work.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
The second installation of Golden Rooster features a story told by Master T.T. Liang. He told the story many times, sometimes with great detail, other times in passing reference. For Master Liang and his own personal learning and quest for the highest levels of Tai Chi, this was the epitome. It shaped how he practiced,taught, and looked at the amazing art of Tai Chi. And it all boils down to one posture, golden rooster.
Going back over my notes, searching my memory, and including experiences I've had practicing and teaching, I am here reconstructing what I feel is the fullest and most complete telling of this story about my teacher, and my teacher's teacher. It takes place in the mountains outside of Taipei, Taiwan in the late 1950s.
In Boston, in the late 1970s as a young Tai Chi student, Master Liang told me about his various teachers, and his study and practice of Tai Chi. During tea breaks, he would recall many amazing teachers and lessons.One day he told me the story about meeting and studying with a mysterious Taoist who lived in the mountains above Taipei. Master Liang said,
" Through some connections with fellow martial artists I heard stories of a certain Taoist monk, named Yang, I forget his other name,living in the mountains outside of the city. Rumor had it that he was an immortal who had fully mastered Tai Chi Chuan. I learned that he was a retired customs official, like myself, and found out the name of his wife, the only person who knew exactly where he lived. She lived in the city and I got her address from the customs records. On several occasions I went to question her about her husband's whereabouts. But each time she acted as if she knew nothing. For about one year thereafter I brought her gifts, clothes and jewelry, trying to win her favor. Finally one day she told me her husband agreed to meet me and told me to come to the house the next day.
When I went back to the house the wife met me, and introduced me to a young boy about 14 years old. She said this is my husband's only disciple and he will take you to him. He led me out the back of the house and we wandered through neighborhoods gradually leaving the city and hiking up into the mountains. Arriving at our destination, there I saw the Taoist sitting outside his cave. After introductions he asked me why I wanted to visit such a simple person. I answered that I wanted to learn Tai Chi from him and he said no need. After some back and forth, me trying to intimidate him, he finally said OK let me see you do some Tai Chi.
I performed some of the postures for him, which I felt were quite good, and he watched silently. He said very good you don't need to learn from me. Knowing that he would show me nothing unless I intimidated him, I've told him that my Tai Chi was the best and much better than his. His answer? He asked the 14 year old boy to do some Tai Chi, which was exceptionally good. His postures were low, rooted, and smooth, so much better than mine, or many of the teachers and classmates that I knew! Now I was hooked. I needed to learn from this master. So I tried intimidation again.
I said my Tai Chi is much better than this boy's, let me see you do some of the postures. The old hermit stepped out and began doing his form. It was the form he had learned from Yang Pan-hou and it was quite strong and low, using some energy, yet so soft. He was at a level that I've never seen before, and I really want to learn from him. So I resorted once again to intimidation.
I said I want to try pushing hands with you. The old Taoist said no need to challenge me, I'll show you my level with one posture. Then he asked me to stand in Golden Rooster. When I stood in Golden Rooster, he reached out and squeezed my leg. He stepped away, shook his head, and softly said one word, "wood."
He then stood on one leg in the posture of Golden Rooster and invited me to feel his leg. With great astonishment I discovered it felt soft, like cotton. When I touched his leg it was completely soft! I worked my way down and his calve and ankle were completely relaxed and soft! I was amazed! I said where's your energy, where is the tension? He said in my Bubbling Well Point in the bottom of my foot. He said when all the energy is concentrated at the Bubbling Well Point, you will have complete circulation of ch'i and blood throughout the entire body.This is the enlightenment of the founder of Tai Chi Chuan,Chang San-feng.
As I stood there in amazement, he said, push me. I've been practicing pushing hands many years with Professor Cheng. I pushed him a little bit and met resistance, and so immediately withdrew, using the t'i-fang techniques to unbalance him. But nothing happened. When I pushed again he was still rooted on one leg. This was incredible,unbelievable.
He said "you can always be more relaxed, otherwise there's still some tension in your body." I said how can you reach that stage? He said he learned from Yang Pan-hou ( no relation) for many years. Also that he practiced standing and sitting meditation for 40 years. He said the key is to use the mind intent to direct that ch'i to the Bubbling Well Point. That was the end of my first and most amazing lesson. He invited me to come back.
I went back to my teacher Professor Cheng and asked him to stand in Golden Rooster. When I felt his leg, his thigh was quite relaxed, but his calve, shin, and ankle were hard. Then I told him there's someone better, at a higher level than him. He asked who and when I mentioned the Taoist named Yang, he got angry and kicked me out of this school. Now I deeply regret my actions with my teacher. If I could do it over again, I would not have been so disrespectful in front of everybody.
I went back to the Taoist three more times and each time the old hermit gave me one lesson on how to circulate my energy down to the Bubbling Well Points. Then, the next time I went , the old Taoist had passed away.Gradually I went back to Professor Cheng, asking forgiveness and being accepted back as a student. I embraced the teachings of Taoist Yang, incorporating them into my own practice and teaching."
Master Liang showed me the three methods for relaxing down, and sinking the ch'i, to the Bubbling Well Point's. One is physical, one is mental, and one is energetic, but all have the same goal: acquiring the true meaning of Yang Style Tai Chi summed up in the words, relax and sank.
Next installment, part 3, I will share the three teachings of Taoist Yang, and some of the many ways I practice and exercise Golden Rooster. And the answer to the mystery of "72!"