Thursday, July 27, 2017

MMTCA August Newsletter 2017

“Honor the space between no longer and not yet.”
-Nancy Levin

The heat is waning and we keep on training! Thank you Sharon and Fred for the loan of the fans.

Our schedule remain the same until Sept. 15th, when we will unveil our new Fall schedule. For August, there will be no Hsing-Yi classes on August 23rd and 30th

If you've noticed a lot of extra activity in our space, that is because a theater troop is rehearsing for the Fringe. Look for the play “Plan B.”

Book suggestion- (back by popular demand) The Joy Of Less by Francine Jay

I have some exciting changes to the solo form, and am working to make Tai-Chi even more accessible. I am also working with Master Choi and will be sharing the “Choi Method” in class as well. Plus, I am am making preparations for another in-house retreat for the Fall, stay tuned.

As we close in on the first year anniversary of the Academy, I want to thank you all for your support, enthusiasm, appreciation, and study. You rock, you just rock slowly!


“Love people and use things. The opposite doesn't seem to be working.”
-Joshua Fields Millburn

My Blog: The Inspired Teacher (
Facebook: Ray Hayward, Ray Hayward Enterprises, Mindful Motion Tai-Chi Academy

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My 40th Tai-Chi Anniversary

"It was twenty years ago today..."
-The Beatles

Actually, it will be forty years ago this July 31st that I met Master T.T. Liang and began my Tai-Chi odyssey. I am planning on having a quiet celebration in Duluth and would like to share with you the story of how I met Master Liang and my current and future plans for Tai-Chi at the Academy.

During the winter of 1977, I was studying Kenpo Karate, Jiu-Jitsu, and Wu-Cho Kung-Fu from Sensei John Duncan in Lynn, Massachusetts. I was scheduled to take my black belt test and during a training session, kicking with ankle weights on, I injured my knee. I was sidelined for a few weeks, and each time I tried to get back into training, I would re-injure myself. I thought my martial arts studies were over. It was then that I heard that Tai-Chi, a gentle martial art, could heal my knee.

                                                            Sensei John Duncan

I went to a school called the Hwa Yu Tai Chi Institute. The master there was John Chung-li and I learned from his student. I'll call Mister H. What I didn't know was that I was not learning Tai-Chi, I was learning Liu Ho Pa Fa. Two things happened during the few months I studied there. One, my knee started to heal and become strong again. Two, I heard about a Tai-Chi teacher, Master T.T. Liang, who was teaching my Hwa Yu teacher.

I had read about T.T. Liang in the chapter on Prof. Cheng Man-ch'ing in Robert W. Smith's book, Chinese Boxing, Masters and Methods.  When I was looking for Tai-Chi, and T.T. Liang, I couldn't find him. Liang didn't openly advertise his classes at that time, and I ended up at the Hwa Yu Institute. At one point, my teacher, Mister H, lent me a thin, red book, Liang's first edition of his seminal work, Tai-Chi Chuan for Health and Self-Defense, published by Redwing Books in Boston.

                                                          Master T.T. Liang

There were a few photos, classics, and stories of the Yang's Family. I was hooked! I asked about Liang, but Mister H said Liang didn't do Tai-Chi correctly. He practiced to music and hung tassles on his weapons. I didn't pursue it further and continued my studies there. Then, one day Mister H said that summer was coming and that he needed three months of tuition in advance to cover the rent. Of course I paid, and the next week I went to class and the door was locked. I waited for a long time, then went home. I went to class again and the door was locked, and Mister H did not answer his phone. I guess I was done.

I floundered for a few months,tried to go back to Karate, but I was fascinated with internal martial arts, reading everything I could get my hands on, and wanting to pursue them.  Then one day I was walking in downtown Boston with my friend.  We were walking from the Boston Common on Boylston street to Copley Square.  I noticed a man approaching us and as he walked by I recognized him.  It was T.T. Liang!  We made eye contact and I wanted to say something but I just froze.  Half a block later I said to my friend,"that was that Tai-Chi master."

After hanging out for few hours around Copley Square,and I headed back on Boylston street to the subway.  I'll never forget this. As we passed by a closed Pier One Imports store-front, there was T.T. Liang, standing there looking in the window!  I wasn't going to miss this opportunity so I stopped and said "hey, are you that Tai-Chi teacher T.T. Liang?"  He turned and said "what do you want?"  I said I wanted to study with him.  He said  to come back next Saturday at 2:00 and watch class.  He gave me the address and then left without a good bye or anything.  I didn't know it at that time, but he was actually going to teach class and could have said to come along with him. I know now that he was thinking I was some street punk and would never show up.  Boy was he wrong, at least about the showing up part.

That week I was on edge, nervous, excited, and giddy and I couldn't wait for Saturday.  In true karate fashion, I showed up at 1:30 on the dot and sat bolt upright on a chair at Liang's school which was above an ice cream shop on Boylston street.  He just looked at me and said "oh, you come."  I said, "yes I'm here to watch class." He said "OK you sit there," and that was the last thing he said to me for almost 3 hours!  Gradually people came in and I got to see Master Liang teach a solo form class, weapons, two person forms, and ending with an advanced class. They were doing pushing hands against mattress' hung on the wall.  I saw Liang pushing people effortlessly into the mattress'. Some were almost twice his size. I also saw his students laugh and become frustrated at not being able to push this little Chinese gentleman into the mattress.

Gradually all the students left except one who was tidying up, and he looked over and saw me still sitting there.  I heard him tell Liang that there was still a person waiting to talk to him.  The student called me over and Liang spoke to me from behind the newspaper he was reading.  He said "what do you want?"  I said "would you sign my book and can I study with you?"  He said "you want to become Yang Lu-chan.  Don't worry about being good or becoming famous, just practice."  He signed my book and said I could come back next week and join the beginner's class.  I was head over heels in love!

Next week when I promptly arrived 45 minutes before my class, I knocked on the door and Master Liang answered.  He was wearing a tank top tee shirt, boxer shorts, socks and slippers.  All he said was," too early, comeback in half an hour."  I saw one of the advanced students on my way out and he told me that the latest addition of Master Liang's book was in the bookstores. I quickly when out and bought one.  I sat on the stairs leading up to Liang's school and read until I heard the door open.  And then I had my first Tai-Chi class.

I had the great fortune of being exposed to so many wonderful people, histories, experiences, and insights.  Too many to recall here but I would like to give you a few examples from my formal studies with Master T.T. Liang.

At first, I only studied with Master Liang's senior students, and in group classes.  There were times when either the seniors couldn't teach the class or they were overwhelmed with how many people were in class. It was then I got a chance to study with the Master himself.  He only taught advanced group classes and private classes, both of which I was not eligible for.

After I completed the solo form and was beginning to study pushing-hands, my pushing-hands partner Dinah, called me and told me that she had gotten into a private class of six people and that Master Liang was capping it at eight.  She didn't even ask if I wanted to join. She told me to call him immediately, which I did, and that began my private study.

That group was composed of six black belts, my partner Dinah who was an artist and acupuncturist, and myself.  The black belts were just beginning the solo form so I was able to relearn the whole solo form in great detail from Master Liang without the worry or anxiety of finishing the sequence.  Not only did I relearn the solo form sequence with that group, I also learned one side of the San-Shou, and the sword form.

At some point, the black belts left and Dinah and I continued to learn almost the whole system from Master Liang.  At different times, we let other classmates come in, and eventually even Dinah left.  But I never saw stopped going to that 6:00 Friday night private class.  Sometimes we practiced for 45 minutes and then Master Liang would call for tea.  As I put the kettle on and got out the teabags, Master Liang would get out notes or books and start telling stories about the histories, teachings, and techniques from the past masters.  After half an hour, we would get back to work and Master Liang would say, "Oh, I've wasted your time, we need to do another hour!"  There were many Friday's that my 1 hour private class stretched to over 3 hours.  I was not complaining!

I also studied privately with Master Liang in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and stayed for a whole week of private classes in Tampa, Florida.  I even spent a long weekend in Los Angeles studying privately with Master Liang and filling pages in my notebook on forms, corrections, principals, and my experiences.

  In 1979, I was asked to travel to upstate New York and be Master Liang's assistant for one week at the Omega Institute.  This was actually the first paid vacation I had after graduating from high school and spending a week with Master Liang was beyond belief.  We were scheduled to do a five day, followed by a two day, seminar on Tai-Chi and the solo form.

                                                        Omega Institute 1979

I picked up Master Liang at his apartment and we drove from Boston towards Albany.  The route we took was scenic and the drive was most pleasant.  At that one point Master Liang pulled out a bottle of Tawny Port wine from his China Airlines bag and took a big long drink.  I was shocked.  I had heard the story many times of Master Liang's alcoholism, cirrhosis of the liver, and his remarkable recovery through Tai-Chi.  Now I saw him drinking again.  I was crushed.

At Omega Institute I helped Master Liang teach 6 hours a day.  I also ate three meals a day with him and spent the early evening chatting with him until he was ready to go bed.  It was at Omega that I met my senior classmate, the editor of Master Liang's book, and a teacher in his own right, Paul Gallagher. Paul was teaching a week long seminar of his own on Taoist practices.

Master Paul would come by and get me after Master Liang retired for the night.  Paul and I would talk the whole night discussing martial arts, Taoism, and all things Chinese.  He shared what it was like to learn from Master Liang in the early days. ( Paul, along with Alice Crooks and Emil Beaulieu, were Master Liang's first three students in Boston in the early 70's.) I gave him all the updates from my classes.  We also had another teacher in common, Master B.P. Chan from New York. Paul shared with me many of Chan's teachings.

                                  San-Shou with Paul Gallagher at Wu-Ming Valley house

 That week was filled with Tai-Chi and so much more.  I averaged about 4 hours of sleep and couldn't have been any more energized, happy, or content.  Except for the food.  It was totally vegetarian and for a 19 year old, I was seriously into meat.  At the end of the week as we packed up, Master Liang informed me that he needed to refill his Tawny Port bottle.  I said there wasn't a liquor store around for miles but we could try to find one.  He said," not wine, tea." He had been drinking tea out of that bottle!

When I first learned from Master T.T. Liang, he wouldn't allow me to do pushing hands right away because of my weak lungs due to a childhood of asthma, allergies, and pneumonia. I spent a lot of time learning forms and studying theory until Liang said I was healthy enough to do partner work.

At one demonstration I was asked to assist Master Liang. In the middle of the demonstration Master Liang said to the audience" No one can push my student over.  Does anybody want to try"? Immediately a very athletic person jumped out and said that they'd like to try to push me over. Master Liang said that my root would be so strong this person could not move me. I would be rooted like an oak tree. This person walked right up to me, and pushed me over with no problem.  He pushed again, I was pushed back again.  He pushed a third time, and I was pushed as easily as a small baby. Master Liang scowled at me and then stood in my place and said" come on". As hard as that man tried to push, he couldn't move Master Liang.   When that man cleverly changed the angle, Master Liang turned his waist to neutralize and the man stumbled. Driving home, I turned to Master Liang to apologize, but he spoke first saying, "you made me lose face today." It was one of the most shameful times of my life.

I knew a lot about pushing hands in theory, and in conversation, but when the time came to put it to practical use I fell far short .My pushing-hands was a “bounced check.” From that time on, I practiced hard, concentrating on pushing hands and sensitivity in my private classes with Master Liang. I suffered many losses and defeats and was pushed around quite easily, but I learned.

Master Liang always said "small loss-small gain, big loss-big gain". I started to pay attention and began to learn the art of pushing hands. Many times Master Liang would remind me of my defeat which I know now was to intimidate me, to humble me, and fight against my pride and ego.  I gradually improved and even got to the point where Master Liang would have me spar with my classmates during our private classes. One day, however, when we were practicing pushing hands he asked me" Remember that man that pushed you so easily?”  I said "yes " with a red face. Master Liang said," I don't think he can push you now. You are quite strong, and have learned a lot, but you still have a long way to go."

  One of the highlights of my pushing hands experience was at another demonstration, which was attended by most of my senior classmates. Master Liang called for a partner to come out and demonstrate the pushing hands. After two of my senior classmates demonstrated with him, Master Liang dismissed them quickly, then called out to the audience," Where is Ray? He is my student. I will demonstrate with him". After that time, I became his main demonstration partner.

One time I was practicing pushing hands and I was in a bad position. My partner pushed, and I just turned a little and issued. He easily went flying ten feet away. The look of shock on his face told me he was as surprised as I was. My next class I related to Master Liang what had happened using the word “effortless” to describe my push. Master Liang said’ “I’ve been waiting to hear this from you”.

I also learned Tai-Chi from other teachers as well:

Master Paul Gallagher-Old Yang Style

Dr. Leung Kay-chi- Old Yang Style and Chen Style

Master William C.C. Chen- Yang Style

Dr. Wen Zee-Wu Style

Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi-Yang Style (Choi method)

                                                            Dr. Leung Kay-chi

To mark my 40th year, I am doing two things. One, I am having a relaxed celebration and retreat up north around Duluth. Here is the schedule:

730-900AM Practice on Park Point ( meet at the beach house grounds)
Breakfast at Sarah's Table
Drive/Carpool North to Hike Carleton Peak
Dinner TBA

730-900 Practice at Enger Tower
Breakfast at Duluth Grill
Hike Lester Creek and Chester Bowl in Duluth
Lunch TBA

The second thing I am doing is making the art of Tai-Chi and the system more accessible. I am shortening the solo form sequence, deleting some of the practices and requirements, and embracing the Choi Method. I will fill you in with a blog completely devoted to the changes and updates to the system and the academy curriculum.

Looking back on 40 years, I can say that Tai-Chi not only saved my life, it changed my life for the very best. You who read this are part of my amazing journey in this time-less art of relaxed power and awareness. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

An Introduction to the Three Centers

Oxford Dictionary;

Style= particular procedure by which something is done; a manner or way.
‘different styles of management’
Method=A particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one.
‘a method for software maintenance’ 

Master B.P. Chan, my first teacher of Hsing-Yi and Pa-Kua.


There is a training phrase in internal martial arts which states, "Hsing-yi goes through the center, Pa-Kua goes around the center, Tai-Chi maintains the center."I first heard this from Master  B.P. Chan in New York City in 1979, when I was began learning Hsing-Yi and Pa-Kua. Master Chan  gave me my first lessons in these arts When I return to Boston my teacher, Master T.T. Liang, gave me further explanation:

" There is a training theory recalled the Three Centers.  The center can be looked at as if it is the opponent, or the opponent's center line, or center of gravity, or where the action is happening.  Basically it is three strategies defining attacker and offender.  Hsing-Yi emphasizes going through the center, where the opponent is standing.  Pa-Kua emphasizes going around the center, going around the opponent. Tai-Chi emphasizes maintaining, or being, the center. Tai-Chi is in the middle, following, neutralizing, and attacking with invisible circles.  Every style utilizes the Three Centers."

Master T.T. Liang, my first, and sweetest, teacher of Tai-Chi.

 This is to give an idea what the relationship with each style is to their opponent. Hsing-Yi goes through the center means that in Hsing-Yi we are always stepping in, attacking, trying to occupy the place where opponent is standing. Pa-Kua goes around the center means that in Pa-Kua we are always circling and avoiding the opponent's strength, trying to keep them in the middle, looking to strike their "no support angle." Tai-Chi maintaining the center means that Tai-Chi stands in the middle, "using invisible lines and circles to attack and defend." Here is a quote from the first Western writer of Internal Martial Arts, the late Robert W. Smith:

"Wrong ideas can put the student on the wrong track-examples are numerous.  Some divide the internal into hard, soft, and change, equating the hard to hsing-i, the soft to tai-chi, and the change to pa-kua. Some also say that hsing-yi is for youngsters,pa-kua for the middle aged, and tai-chi for oldsters.  How absurd!  Internal experts used to say that the three had the same end, yet employ different means.  The statement must not be interpreted as a relay race but rather like three links in the chain of command to attain an end."
-Robert W. Smith
Pa-Kua: Chinese Boxing for Fitness and Self-Defense

Studying with Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi and his method, we avoid talking about styles.  The old argument about which style is best cannot be answered.  For example, Hsing-Yi also uses the circle walk and sensitivity.  Pa-Kua has a straight-line method and  Tai-Chi has follow steps, circular footwork, and active footwork.  Principals, training methods, and the actual practitioners and their skills are the only true items up for argument and debate.

Master Choi teaches the three centers, and all the internal styles, as strategies.  Indeed, he teaches that the internal martial arts are the strategy for fighting against the external martial arts.  In some martial arts the strategy is to be faster, stronger, younger, and have better conditioning and endurance.  Outside of weight divisions, and sanctioned competitions, we may be faced with an opponent who possesses the aforementioned advantages.  We simply have no time to try to train to catch up, or surpass, say a bigger and stronger opponent!

Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi, my last, my current, my most amazing teacher of internal martial arts.

If we look at the three centers as strategies, when your opponent is smaller than you, you can use the Hsing-Yi idea of going straight in to attack.  If your opponent is bigger than you, you can use the Pa-Kua idea of sidestepping and changing the angle to avoid their strength.  I also teach this idea for practicing pushing hands.  If my partner is more sensitive than I am, I worked on my defense and avoid their strength, I "go around their center." If my partner is less sensitive than I am, I work on my offense, and " go through their center." If my partner and I are at the same level of skill and sensitivity, I  mirror my partner, "maintain my center," and work on controlling them.

Dr. Leung Kay-chi, second teacher of Hsing-Yi, Pa-Kua, and Tai-Chi.

I'll leave you with the oft-quoted teachings of my teacher, Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi,

"Don't talk about style! There is only one style: the Human Style!"

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Master Choi's return

"It takes the extraordinary to see the ordinary."
-Mark Twain

In April my teacher, Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi, returned to Minnesota to teach a weekend workshop at my Academy.  The last time Master Choi was here was in 2009 for a combination birthday party, seminar, and book-signing. Although I have studied with him in Chicago after that, this was the first time he came back, and out of retirement, to teach a weekend workshop featuring Hsing-Yi, Pa-Kua, Chase-Hands, and an introduction to the Liu Ho Pa Fa Main Form. Students came from as far away as Northfield, Grand Rapids, and Mankato to be with the master again.

When I picked Master Choi up at the airport, he immediately stared teaching! He caught me up on his current practice and research, outlined the seminars for the weekend, and told me about his research into some of the oldest writings on Liu Ho Pa Fa. What I didn't know when I picked him up, was that he was bringing his three main teachers with him : Nature, Gravity, and Physics! And a fourth, the standards set by the ancient masters, also made many appearances! After breakfast at Colossal in St Paul, I took Master Choi to my new academy. He loved how big and open it is, and walked over to the altar and said,"I feel calm looking at the altar, I really like this place."

The first day was for travel and social time, but Master Choi filled my head, body, and notebook! I was able to fill in lots of gaps I had in Master Choi's biography, and updated many more details from his extraordinary life. I have been practicing the Wim Hof Method for a few months, and showed Master Choi some videos of the breathing method and cold exposure techniques. This opened Pandora's Box! Sifu Choi discussed his breath holding practices that he used at the bottom of the pool at the YMCA. He also went into great detail about his breath practices and methods.

At one point, he was talking about the Small Heavenly Circle, when he said, "I didn't believe it was real. I thought it was for focusing the mind during Standing Meditation. But once I felt it, I knew it was real." He then reviewed with me his technique, which I had learned, and have been practicing since the 90's. Choi then said, "Do you want to feel my ch'i going around my body?" ( Umm, yeees...) I said yes and he put one of my hands on his forehead and one on his abdomen. He started to breathe and I felt an electric current running and moving along his torso! There was actual pressure expanding out from his skin, as well as tingling and heat! I could feel it going around in a circle like a Ferris Wheel, or a snake writhing under his skin.

I had a ton of questions that I accumulated from my practice, and we spent the rest of the night answering and discussing them. All his answers were to the point, succinct, yet deep and insightful. We also discussed the difference between style and method. For many years I heard "don't talk about style." We made a rough outline of Master Choi's method, and made plans to catalogue and share it through seminars, workshops, and a book.Then it was off to bed and get ready for the next day and the beginning of the Seminar.

The first session was on the 5 Fists of Hsing-Yi and the 5 Element Linking Form. Right from the start Master Choi taught about the martial arts standards and his methods to achieve them. I put up huge post-it notes and wrote out many of the principles he discussed. This also helped people acclimate to Master Choi's heavy accent. He taught that your alignment in forms, which he calls balance, and your alignment for fighting and application, which he calls structure, are the same, but the angles need to be changed to meet the situation of another person's body and technique.

Lots of great ideas and confirmations on how to train 9 Joint Harmony and achieve the standard of "start together, stop together." Many questions were answered and the students finished the session inspired by what they learned, and Master Choi's demonstration of the speed and power of his Hsing-Yi, at the tender age of 78!! He "walked the walk" for those who had not witnessed his energy and power in person.

A break and lunch at my house with a few students was anything but a rest for Master Choi. We had all finished eating when I said he needed to stop teaching and eat! We all had a big laugh at that, but people saw that he does not just teach at classes or seminars, his whole being and life is teaching, even over lunch. Students were genuinely amazed at the amount of energy and stamina Master Choi possesses, at age 78.

The afternoon session was on the first two movements from the Liu Ho Pa Fa Main Form. Here Master Choi went over in great detail the principles of relaxation, alignment, breath, harmony, and feeling. He not only taught the principles and standards, he got everyone to experience them as well. There was so much detail and feeling, not to mention applications, in those two movements, that we all left with our heads and bodies full.

Saturday night a group joined Master Choi for a banquet at Peking Garden. So many good dishes were ordered and shared. Master Choi shined, telling stories and going around the tables to personally thank each one for being there and for attending his seminar. We went back to my house and Sifu Choi continued with many stories from his early days living and training in Hong Kong. At one point I got out a bottle of scotch and we all had a wee dram. At 11:00 I had to get everyone out and drive Master Choi back to his hotel (I was sober by then). My joke was, everyone under 78 has to go to bed now! Choi was on fire and said the scotch was a "cup of ch'i!"

At lunch the second day, Master Choi talked about the article he wrote for the Illinois Martial Arts Hall of Fame dinner he attended. He was inducted last year and his acceptance speech was so well received , that he was asked back to address the group again. Sifu Choi asked me to read it aloud to the group of students present, and he watched their understanding and reactions as I read it aloud. He said it was from his experience and insights from over 60 years of martial arts practice, especially the internal. He then told me to make it available for everyone.  Here it is, study and enjoy!


Martial arts practice is not just for self-defense. It also has great value in promoting and maintaining our health as we grow older.

It is well known that from birth until about age 30, the body is generally strong and vibrant. After 30 years of age the body naturally starts to slow down. After 30 one's overall energy starts to go down and many people easily become tired from vigorous physical activities. While this natural change with aging affects many people, some individuals are able to avoid these negative affects. One of the reasons many people have low energy as they age is that when doing physical activities they only use hand power, and do not use whole body mechanics. The old masters identified that using only hand or muscle power in this manner, in martial arts training, is described as external style martial arts.

In 1971 at the age of 31, I challenged myself in order to test my courage, and signed up to compete in the all Southeast Asian hand to hand tournament. After this tournament, as I began getting older, I started to feel my energy and endurance begin to lessen. It was at this time that I began to analyze and study the internal style training principles and methods in more detail. In studying the classic writings of the old masters I noticed that the founders of the internal martial arts were also interested in understanding this problem of decreasing energy that occurs as we age. The masters figured out that by using whole body mechanics, leverage, comfortable breathing and gravity they were able to prevent the fatigue, low energy, and weakness often associated with aging.

The masters of the internal martial arts realized that the first thing one has to learn is to completely relax the whole body. They also understood that one has to learn how to get the whole body united as "one piece". A united body structure and proper body mechanics allows you to move as a single unit. This principle was later described by Newton in his second law of motion, which states that "force equals weight times speed". Based on this law of physics, when one moves with the whole body connected as one piece, greater amounts of force can be generated. An example of this type of whole body power is illustrated in the power generated by a battering ram used to break through a strong door. The internal methods that the old masters developed and practiced involve using mind and whole body mechanics, not using muscle power alone. If you only use muscle power, you just use your hand and muscles, and do not use your whole body weight. The masters of old also understood that in addition to getting the body structure to be united as one piece, it is also important to develop harmony of motion. When we talk about harmony of motion we are referring to the coordinated opening and closing of the nine main joints in the body.

Returning to the topic of whole body relaxation, the reason why it is so important to relax completely is that when you're relaxed, your breathing will be natural and comfortable. We all know that we breathe in order to get oxygen into our bodies, and to circulate the oxygen through the body, so we can have the energy we need to move. When one is not relaxed one's breathing is shortened and delivers less oxygen into the body. This will cause fatigue to occur. Not being able to relax can create other problems as well. First there is the problem of mental pressure, which will create tension in the body and affect one's energy and speed. In addition, if you are tense in the body for too long. this depletes the oxygen in your body quickly, and you become tired and thus slower in movement. Excessive mental and physical tenseness can also lead to damage of one's nervous system, musculoskeletal system, circulatory system, and can potentially cause damage to the heart as well. When we understand the effects of this type of tenseness, it should motivate us to practice relaxation exercises in order to prevent these negative health effects. One of the most effective ways to develop whole body relaxation is through standing meditation practice. This kind of meditative relaxation exercise can be called a "natural medicine". Relaxation practice of this type has many health benefits and costs no money at all. Standing meditation relaxation practice can help reduce and prevent much of the illness, sickness and suffering that frequently occurs as people age. However, we should also remind ourselves that proper nutrition, healthy eating as well as regular aerobic exercise are important for maintaining good health as we age. In addition, regular check ups with one's health care provider is recommended for the overall prevention of illness and medical problems associated with aging.

In closing, let me say that although we know that one day we will all have to leave this world, it's very important for us to do what we can to maintain our health and energy as well as to limit our sickness and suffering as we age. When eventually it is our time to pass on, the best we can hope for is to leave this world naturally and peacefully, and if possible, with a minimum of sickness, illness and suffering.

Thank you,

Wai-lun Choi

 The second day started with the 64 Mother Palms of Pa-Kua. He said the Pa-Kua forms teach you to change your structure for defense and to find the "no-support angle" of your opponent, the place where their structure is weak. He took the principle of 9 Joint Harmony and showed how it was used in a circle, both for movement and for application.

The last session was on Tai-Chi Sensitivity, which Master Choi calls "Chase-Hands." He says to use the term sticky hands implies you are stuck, but chasing is like when one animal chases another. You have to be fast, sensitive, and changeable to chase, or not get caught. This was the best attended session with 48 people of various levels and Choi was impressed that over 40% of the class were women. He feels that chase-hands is the safest, most fun way to get people started in the martial aspects of his method. Choi also taught the sensitivities in a new way. He taught all three ways, straight circle, flat circle, and coiling circle, as solo drills. Then he put people together and had them try to simply touch each other, or keep the other person out, using each method. He went around the room correcting and practicing with each and everyone there.

During some applications, Master Choi fired off some lightning fast front kicks. There were a half dozen black belts there and their jaws dropped. From my experience, those were the fastest kicks I'd ever seen in over 40 years of martial arts. Not to mention he is 78 years young! I reminded him his master, Chan Yik-yan gave him the nickname, pao-choi or cannon hand. Now me, his student, is giving him another nickname, sim dim toi, the lightning kick!

At the end, Master Choi thanked everyone and said it was the best and most successful seminar he ever taught. He was impressed with the interest, appreciation, and dedication of all present. I noticed he not only watched people practice, but he watched them when he taught and explained. After the group thanked Master Choi and bowed, he thanked them, and then launched into another lesson!! We made plans for him to come back in the Fall, and a possible road-trip this Summer. Can you say semi retired?

Sunday night we had a small dinner for Master Choi at Hong Kong Noodle in Stadium Village. The best thing to do when eating with Choi is to let him order, I'm never disappointed! Steamed fish, amazing BBQ and sharing with everyone as Sifu Choi again told stories and talked with everyone. One student, Rick, a math professor at the U of M, had a lively discussion with Master Choi about physics and Choi's teaching of "human physics". Afterward, Choi asked me to have Rick write a foreword for the next edition of my Real Gold book which he wants me to re-publish. Some one on one time at my house, then we called it a day. Master Choi was pleased with the whole weekend and let me know many times.

 Monday was reserved for private students. One thing they asked, and Master Choi was asked this all weekend, was how do we know when what we are doing is correct? Choi answered, "If you are following the principle, or the standard, like being in balance with smooth deep breathing, then you are doing it correctly. It is right." However, one time he said, "I'll make it easy for you. Trust yourself, don't worry about right or wrong. It will only make you tense. If you feel comfortable, then you are correct."

During one private class my student Bruce, a black belt instructor, very respectfully asked Master Choi if he could try some sensitivity with him. It is no disrespect to Bruce to say that Choi easily handled the over 200 pound, younger guy, and gave him a lesson on speed, power and softness that he will never forget. Bruce couldn't land a punch! Master Choi struck, controlled, chin-na, and defended with ease. Master Choi walked the walk!

Then Choi pulled out all his demo favorites. He had them punch him in the stomach with full power. He pushed them into the mattress with ease. He let them feel his tan-tien while he moved through martial arts techniques,all the time breathing calmly and smoothly. Students coming in for the day class were amazed to see huge guys punching Master Choi as he smiled and talked!!

Before I knew it, Master Choi was ready to get on the plane back home, and my head was spinning! So much energy, information, and pure fun. We discussed and made plans to catalogue his method and make it available to the public. As I looked over the seminar notes, one page jumped out. It was like a poem of Master Choi's teachings. I showed it to him and he said yes, he wrote us a poem.

All defenses are closed

Everything in physics says round is strong

Lean to use gravity

Run like a monkey

Alertness, not just in spirit, but also in the body

The old masters are the engineers, we are the builders 

Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi


Here are some of the notes I took that weekend:

Any tension uses up your oxygen, stillness saves oxygen.

Under-use, you loose the skill, over-use, you weaken the body, you must balance your time and training.

The reason little kids jump up and down when they are happy or excited, and stamp their feet when they are mad, is because they have not lost the whole body connection yet. They naturally have the outside harmony, and inner and outer harmonies together. We have to train to get that connected-ness again. 

Pain in the body mostly comes from wrong eating or wrong exercise.

Relaxation is the first level to clean yourself up.

Deep breathing exercises your internal organs.

Any contact you have to have structure and support. You can't see it. It's by feeling the body automatically adjusts.

Time is not speed, distance is speed.

Long distance only one foot or hand can hit. Close distance all four can hit. 

When you Tai-gong, point your tail bone at your heels.

When the Classics say "plumb," that is the invisible center-line, not the external position.

Do forms by feeling, not application.

Everyone dies. try to have no suffering while you live. 

I look forward to bringing Master Choi back to the Academy and continuing the next stage of his teaching career.