Friday, October 23, 2020

MMTCA November Newsletter 2020


"Then calm your mind and breathe slowly and deeply without holding your breath."

-Master T.T. Liang

Happy Holiday Season! And we have snow for them all, oh joy! Well, the outdoor practice season is officially over, I'm really going to miss it in about two weeks...

Two lessons for the cold weather, one is to use empty steps when walking outside, take out insurance against slippery under-footing. Also, even though it is uncomfortable, relax when you feel cold. If you tense up when you feel cold, you will block your circulation, and feel uncomfortable anyway. Try to relax, breath smoothly and deeply, and let your body heat up. Nose breathing is a must!

Book suggestion = City of Lingering Splendor by John Blofeld

I will be posting from Asheville, and Duluth ,with lessons and updates. Stay safe, keep calm, relax, be hopeful, and try to up your sitting meditation game. Thank you for all your support and encouragement. Your feedback on my posts, books, and lessons sustain me in ways big and small. Namaste!

A bow from the waist,


"It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom

you have studied.

I want to know what sustains you,

from the inside,

when all else falls away."

-from The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

contact info:

my phone (new)- 12183419894

address= 1721 Jefferson St, Duluth, MN 55812




facebook= Mindful Motion Tai-Chi Academy

                Ray Hayward Enterprises

Youtube= Ray Hayward, the Inspired Teacher

                 Mindful Motion Tai-Chi Academy

my books at Lulu=

my books on Amazon=

my Patreon page=

Instagram= Ray Hayward, or, ataoistsufitemplardruidviking

Friday, October 16, 2020

MMTCA Mid-month Check In, October 2020

 "This world is so filled with tension, noise, politics, danger. It seems half the population in the big cities has become half crazed by it all. Have you ever tried to avoid these things? How?"

-Master T.T. Liang writing in 1977, his answer...TAI-CHI!

Where has the time gone? It's already halfway through October! What a lovely month of Fall colors. As I write this, we are supposed to get snow tomorrow. I will go to the park tomorrow, the 17th, and next week the 24th. After that, we are done for the season. Thank you for joining me for such relaxing and beautiful practices by the river.

I filmed lesson 7 for the Small Heavenly Circle meditations. I will now make a few lessons for practicing inside. I have archival movies to send to you and have other lesson ideas. I will do a zoom class sometime in the next few months.

Netflix has two documentaries I think you will find educational, entertaining, and filled with hope. Kiss The Ground, and My Teacher The Octopus, check them out!

I will be going to North Carolina at the end of the month to visit the Monkey King, Big Brother Paul Gallagher. I will still post on Patreon and Youtube while I'm gone.

Thank you so much for your support. If you want to subscribe to my Patreon page go to:

Book suggestion= A Magical Journey with Carlos Castaneda by Margaret Runyan Castaneda

A got my new wooden Taiji sword from Little Raven studio. It is exceptional craft and work, the balance is perfect, and it looks beautiful! I got the Ching Jian with purpleheart handles.

Stay safe, healthy, and try to disconnect from the tension of the election. Vote, but let it go after. Your health and sanity are far more valuable than fighting on Facebook!! I'll write the November newsletter in the Eastern Mountains, over the hills, where the spirits fly....


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

MMTCA October Newsletter 2020


"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."

-Victor Frankl

Happy October! The days are getting shorter, the leaves are changing, and the air is cooler. Get out and take a bunch of walks and embrace change! It's a good time to start scoping out your indoor practice space. Weapons are always a challenge, and now without the physical academy, we need to be creative with our home practice. I have a few video lessons coming on training inside, which will be on Youtube and Julie will also send them to you by email.

The "Double Nine" was a huge success! I now have my online teaching up and running. I want to thank David Brewster for making the intro movie for our Academy, and Dan Polsfuss for making the intro movie for my Patreon page. Thank you Sirs!

I'm excited to have my next guest blogger, Rondi Atkin, give us some insights into her Taiji training and teaching in Chicago. Her teacher, Elizabeth Wenscott, learned from one of Master Liang's classmates and practice partners, Master Hsu Fun-yuen.

A huge thank you to Julie Cisler, who worked for days on end to get two of my books ready for publication. (I'm putting her to work on our new t-shirts next!) A huge thank you to Sharon Nyberg for her excellent editing. Thank you to John Stitely, Jeannie Li, David Choi, Matt Barrett, Rick Moekel, and Grandmaster Choi for all their help with my books!

Speaking of books, you can find Real Gold on Lulu, and Jook Lum Southern Praying Mantis on Amazon. Please write a review for any and all of my books you have purchased. Thank you so much!

Book Suggestion= Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions by John Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes

Our very own Margo Bock has put up a Youtube channel where she shows how to draw various animals from Taiji and Chinese culture. Margo gives ideas on how to draw the animals while telling great stories about them. Although it's geared for children and new artists, I found it so relaxing and welcoming, while being educated and entertained. Check it out! Margo Zi Yan Youtube Channel:

Thank you for all your support in the form of tuition and my Patreon page. I am feeling very appreciated and cared for, THANK YOU! Covid19 will end and we will go back to classes and pushing-hands and socializing. For now, stay safe, practice at home as much as you can, and look to the cyber academy for more lessons and information.


"The Toltec is wise, they are an illuminary, a torch, a great smokeless torch. They imprint wisdom on other people's faces. They help people take heart. They never miss anything. They stop, observe, and reflect."


my phone (new) = 12183419894

address= 1721 Jefferson St, Duluth, MN 55812




facebook= Mindful Motion Tai-Chi Academy

                Ray Hayward Enterprises

Youtube= Ray Hayward, the Inspired Teacher

                 Mindful Motion Tai-Chi Academy

my books on Lulu=

my books on Amazon=

my Patreon page=

Instagram= Ray Hayward, or, ataoistsufitemplardruidviking

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

MMTCA mid month check-in September 2020

"Always fall in with what you're asked to accept.

Take what is given, and make it over your way.

My aim in life has always been to hold my own

with whatever's going. Not against: with."

-Robert Frost

I hope this blog finds you healthy, safe, and secure. Just north of Hinkley, the leaves are changing and Autumn is beginning to change the landscape from green to multi colored. And, as I write this, we up North are supposed to get our first frost tonight!

I will continue to meet with you in the park Friday nights and Saturday mornings for the rest of the month. Then I will try to meet for as many Saturdays in October as the weather and temperatures permit. Try now to prepare for your Winter/ indoor training. I will post about how to train indoors, "jailhouse Taiji," and how to scope out places for weapons training. Remember, Winter and cold weather is a great time to meditate, go inside yourself, and wear nice warm clothes and drink nice warm drinks!

I bombarded you with all my cyber/media news, so I'll give you a break, for now!

Thank you again for all your amazing kindness, support, care, concern, and best wishes. I am truly blessed!

Let me or Julie know if you are not receiving the instructional videos and archival movies. We have tons!

I'll keep this short, you'll get more news and updates in October. For now, relax, sink, unify, and enjoy.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

My book is available again!

I read some of the old reviews, and many were disappointed it was not a "how to" book. This book is a part of the legacy, history, and teachings of one the great masters of our times, Grandmaster Gin Foon Mark.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Prof. Cheng Man-ch'ing 1966 Demonstration at Springfield College


                                 Prof Cheng and Mr. Liang at Springfield College. 

Professor Cheng Man-ch"ing, assisted by his senior student and translator T.T. Liang, gave a demonstration of Chinese painting and Tai-Chi at Springfield College in 1966. The Professor had just  arrived in New York to officially introduce Tai-Chi and Chinese culture to the U.N. Professor Cheng had also been invited to the White House to present two paintings to President Johnson, both of which hung in the White House on display. Professor Cheng also opened a school for painting, calligraphy, herbal healing, and Tai-Chi in New York City.

At Springfield College, the Professor showed some of his paintings and calligraphy, and then show some solo form. He then went on to give the majority of the demonstration, which was Tai-Chi as a martial art. The majority of the audience was martial artists and they wanted to see how Tai-Chi was used for self-defense.  The Professor demonstrated grab escapes, slipping punches, sticky hands,rooting, neutralizing, and Fa-Jing. Master Liang was in the role of M.C. and translator.

One of the amazing things is that the Professor simply called people out of the audience to grab, punch, and strike him! No rehearsing, no students making the master look good, no jumping, nothing! How many Tai-Chi demos have you seen with long parts of the form done, maybe some weapons or pushing-hands, and all done "in house." All very safe and clean. Not this one! It's one reason for the lack of polish, the lack of clean technique,yet it's all real.

When we see a technique demonstrated and it is clean and correct, that is to show the effectiveness of  that technique. When we see someone demonstrating with a compliant, passive uke or opponent, that shows ideas, possibilities, follow-ups, and counters. When we see someone defend themselves in an unscripted, free-style situation, with a resisting, changing, thinking, reacting, adapting partner, that shows skill. Many times we confuse the effectiveness of the technique demonstrated with the skill of the demonstrator. Then we are surprised and disappointed when a "master" is easily defeated in a live-time, free-style situation. For this reason, Master Liang had me and my classmates spar in our private classes.

I remember one demonstration where Master T.T. Liang was demonstration Rooting, Receiving Energy, and Pushing-Hands with a student. A man came out of the audience and said it was fake and that Liang's student wasn't pushing very hard. Master Liang said "Come on, try to push me over." That guy tried with all his might to move Liang. He failed miserably. Later Master Liang said, "That man pushed me like hell! Oh so strong, he really tried to knock me down. But I have a root!"

My big brother, Master Paul Gallagher was at that Springfield demo and told me a few amazing things. Paul told me that everyone in the audience was some kind of martial artist and many were high ranking black belts. He said everyone was talking in groups when suddenly everyone turned to the door as Prof Cheng was walking in the room. Paul said Cheng's presence was palpable and drew everybody towards him. He said when he shook the Professor's hand it was completely empty, absent of all tension or feeling. He also said when the people were punching at Cheng, they were trying to hit him in the head! And the guys pushing were really pushing hard. He also remembered how dapper and polite Mr. Liang was to everyone.

How I came to having a copy of the movie is pretty amazing. I was introduced to Sensei Anthony  Mirakian, then an 8th degree black belt in Goju Ryu Karate, back in the early 1980s. He had his own dojo in Watertown MA and had studied in Okinawa. He also checked out lots of Chinese martial arts and knew about Professor Cheng Man-ch'ing from a trip to Taiwan in the 1950s.  In the Summer of 1984, right before I moved from Boston to Minneapolis, Sensei Mirakian invited me to his dojo and gave me three unbelievable gifts.

The first gift "Tony" gave me was to have his senior students assembled there, and treated me to a demonstration of his complete style of Goju Ryu Karate! He showed forms, fighting, training, everything from white belt to black belt and beyond! And he answered any and all of my questions. That lasted about four hours. The second gift he gave me was a copy of the Springfield College demo movie, in Super 8! He told me that the man who was pushing Professor Cheng was his first black belt. The third gift he gave me was the enormous respect he showed me then and always. Pretty good for a "wet behind the ears kid!"

I have only shared this movie with my disciples and with the late Robert W. Smith, my pen pal big brother. Now, on the launch day of my Patreon page, I'm sharing it with the world. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Sept 9th, "Double 9," two of my books will be available

 On September 9th two of my books will be available. Real Gold Does Not Fear The Fire, the Teachings of Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi, revised and expanded 2nd edition will be available from Lulu books.

My other book, Kwongsai Jook Lum Southern Praying Mantis Kung-Fu will be availabale from Amazon at:

Youtube, Patreon, and Instagram will have more info!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

MMTCA September Newsletter 2020


"As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

-Marianne Williamson

I hope you've had a good Summer and continue to enjoy good health, and being outside. Practices in the park have been really enjoyable on many levels. Keep your health, mentally, spiritually, and physically in good shape. Your strong immune system, relaxed body, and calm mind will go a long way to preventing illness' and sickness. Eat a little less, walk a little more, worry a little less, do Tai-Chi a little more, and keep reading!

Speaking of reading, I have two books ready for publication this month. The first is the revised, expanded edition of Real Gold, my book about the teachings of Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi. It has many new articles, notes, photos, and a new biography with many new details about the master's life.The second is a re-release of my book I wrote for the late Grandmaster Gin Foon Mark on his style, Kwongsai Jook Lum Southern Praying Mantis kung-fu. You will find my books a both and Amazon. I'll provide an extensive info list at the end of this newsletter.

I'm also working on my pushing-hands book, a project that has on my mind for years. I have a rough draft and will keep you posted about its progress and publication.

A big THANK YOU to Fred and Leo Sparks, who cleaned out the Academy and stored lots of equipment for our next space!

Another THANK YOU, a really big one, to Julie Cisler! Julie is working on two books for me, a t-shirt, mails out the newsletter, sends out the videos, and keeps so many aspects of the Academy alive and well. I am so blessed to have her running things and keeping us all informed. Namaste!

And yet a third THANK YOU to Margo, Julie, and Jane for filming and sharing. I will finish the Small Heavenly Circle series, and do a few lessons on "Jailhouse" practices for Tai-Chi, Pa-Kua, Hsing-Yi, and weapons. Sword and Saber with names, a knife throwing tutorial, and a few more changes for Pa-Kua sword.

This month I am launching my Youtube page, Patreon page,and I'm now on Instagram. I'll be launching 9/9/2020. Look for an email as well as a few blogs as reminders. Covid19 has been a curse, and also a blessing in disguise. It gave me the chance to slow down from in-person classes, and get my online teaching up and running. When this passes, I will be again teaching all your favorite subjects, and lots of partner work, and will have my online lesson and materials as an addition to help you progress on your Tai-Chi journey.

Book suggestion= The Study of Bagua Sword by Sun Lutang trans by Franklin Fick

With my immersion into the world of cyber teaching, social media, and how to use a smart phone, I'd be lost without Matt B, Diane, Matt C, Bryan, Jane, Julie, Paul Gallagher! Thank you all for your help and patience!

I'm looking for a room (or couch) to stay at one night a week, near the cities. Let me know if you can put me up,or put up with me.

Each month, as your tuition checks, personal notes, and support comes to my house, I am humbled by your care, gratitude, manners, concern, appreciation, and generosity. I hope you will continue to support me and this amazing art. Patreon will make that a little easier. I just want to say that whether you are supporting me now or in the past, if you can continue or not, or at what capacity, I appreciate the energy, care, and love you have shown me. Thank you seems so small compared to the emotions I'm feeling right now, but it's what I have. Thank you. I bow from the waist...

-Sifu Ray

"Small minded people habitually reproach others for their own misfortunes. Average people reproach themselves. Those who are dedicated to a life of wisdom understand that the impulse to blame something or someone is foolishness, that there is nothing to be gained in blaming, whether it be others or oneself."


OK, here is a lot of contact info:

my phone (new)- 12183419894

address= 1721 Jefferson St, Duluth, MN 55812




facebook= Mindful Motion Tai-Chi Academy

                Ray Hayward Enterprises

Youtube= Ray Hayward, the Inspired Teacher

                 Mindful Motion Tai-Chi Academy

my books at Lulu=

my books on Amazon=

my Patreon page=

Instagram= Ray Hayward, or, ataoistsufitemplardruidviking

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Mid-month Check-in, August 2020

 "People are thrifty in guarding their private property, but as soon as it comes to wasting time, they are most extravagant with the one commodity for which it's respectable to be greedy."


I hope this check-in finds you and yours health, safe, and fed. We now have practices at East River Flats Park:

 Friday night -6-7:30

Saturday -9-11:30

And Mondays- 11:30-1:00 at Thomas Lowry Park with Julie Cisler

Come and practice outside, keeping socially apart and masking up at your discretion, and do Tai-Chi together by the river!

Check out the guest blog by Master Paul Gallagher, on studying with Master B.P. Chan. Master Chan was my first Hsing-Yi and Pa-Kua teacher.

I'm launching my Patreon page Sept 9th, that's only 28 days away!! To kick off my launch, I plan on having the 2nd edition of my book, Real Gold Does Not Fear The Fire, the Teachings of Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi, available for purchase. I'm also re-releasing the book I wrote with the late Grandmaster Gin Foon Mark about his style of kung-fu, Kwongsai Jook Lum Southern Praying Mantis. More later!

Speaking of books, check out my authors page on Amazon

Thank you Matt Barrett for all your help!

I'm making a new t-shirt and will take orders soon. In the Sept newsletter I'll unveil the new look and take orders. Stay tuned. I'm looking into hoodies and sweatshirts next.

Book suggestion= Art of Living by Epictetus,trans by Sharon Lebell  ( thank you Mark!)

FYI I have a new phone number, and a smart phone! 1-218-341-9894

Thank you all so much for your continued support. Your tuition and gifts are supporting me and my life. I will have lessons for you on my upcoming youtube page, and Julie will continue to send out newsletters, videos, and notices. I am adapting to new ways to teach and share. Some day we will get back to studying and practicing together, when it's safe. Feeling huge gratitude attitude towards my patrons!

In my vocation and role as a Sifu and teacher, I am called upon to not only teach, but give advise and guidance. I saw Master Liang listening, advising, counseling, and guiding students before and after class. I knew that was part of it, and as soon as I started teaching, I was also called upon to guide, help when I could, sometimes just listen, and to silently help bear burdens.  Well, I'm still in that role and with CoViD19, I'm hearing some sad stories. 

People are losing their jobs, some their sobriety, and some are losing their houses and homes. Families are under great stress, problems are multiplying, and the country and world are bearing huge loads of stress, worry, and tension. There is nothing I can do except this, ask you to be a little more patient with those around you. We don't know what burdens people are going through, and maybe their anger, bad manners, or temper is not really about you. 

I ask you to be more patient with yourself.  You really don't know what levels of stress, worry, fear, tension, and anger you are carrying, or working through.These are extraordinary times and we need extraordinary internal power to remain calm, patient, and centered. If you need to talk, or to be heard, or are feeling alone, I am here for you. Never forget that!

With every good wish for you and yours,


"What you aim at determines what you see."

-Jordan Peterson

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Guest Blogger, my big brother Master Paul Gallagher, enjoy!!!


How I Finally “Got” B.P. Chan’s Real Teaching

B.P. Chan was a remarkable and memorable teacher.  I was blessed to have private lessons in Bagua with him for 4 ½ years, which required my driving from Massachusetts to New York City every Sunday morning. I would rise at 4 AM, leave the house around 4:45, and arrive in NYC just before our scheduled class at 9 AM. Then, after my private class, I would stay at his studio for most of the day attending public classes in Bagua and T’ai Chi Ruler.

Chan was an extremely demanding teacher, correcting every little flaw in my form over and over until I “got it.” Initially, I studied with him for almost 2 years just to learn 8 moves!  Not the eight application palms which one often sees in videos or demonstrations, but eight inner cultivation palms in which I walked the circle for an hour holding each of eight static postures. Chan insisted I learn these thoroughly before I could start on the eight application palms.

Notwithstanding his strictness as a teacher, Chan was also a “warrior with heart.”  Years after I stopped formally studying with him, he would often call me late at night, usually around  1 AM just to ask how I was and how my life was going. He never failed to give me some invaluable training tips during those calls.  And he never failed to send me cards for Chinese New Year and other holidays. He was truly a “gentleman of the Tao.” There are a few anecdotes of my study with him here

But it wasn’t until many years after I had stopped formal study that I finally understood the real core of Chan’s teaching---at least for me.

This came about during a private coaching session with one of my prosperity mentors, Robert Kiyosaki. 

He was relating a story about his experiences in the US Marine Corps.  After graduation from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kiyosaki joined the Marine Corps. He went to basic flight school training in Pensacola to become a helicopter pilot. After he got his wings, he was transferred to San Diego for his combat flight training.

Kiyosaki, now a newly commissioned Lieutenant with his shiny pilot’s wings was somewhat full of himself, as were his fellow flyers. But combat flight training was an entirely different experience from basic flight training. There Kiyosaki and his fellow fledgling flyers met their new flight instructor, Major Denny. Denny was a fanatical disciplinarian who would let no infraction or moment of carelessness go unnoticed or unpunished. Almost immediately all of his trainees hated him and called him numerous vile names behind his back. But on the very last day of flight school, just before they would be sent to Vietnam, he told the students that he was such an “evil SOB” because he saw his real task as "taking the Loser out” of his students.

He said, “in combat there is no 2nd place; You are either a winner, and you live to fight another day, or a Loser; and you are dead. There is no ‘consolation prize.’  That’s why my whole job here is to take the Loser out of you. I want to see you return after your combat tour is completed.”

 When I heard Kiyosaki's story I was reminded of a few of my experiences with Master Chan. Suddenly they took on a whole new meaning. 

Lesson #1

One Sunday, in the dead of winter I awoke with a terrible case of "flu."  I was nauseous and feverish with my body in total pain. Obviously, there was no way I could drive 4+ hours, and then take a grueling day of classes, followed by another 4+ hour drive home.  So I called the Master around 8:30, explained my devastated condition and apologized for missing my class. I thought I might get a few words of sympathy:  "take it easy , rest,  just take good care of yourself until you are better...."

To my amazement, he started reprimanding me for not practicing hard enough!  "If you really trained the way you were supposed to, you would never get sick. You have not been practicing hard enough.  Now get up and start training---and don't ever call me again to tell me you are sick!"  And the phone went....CLICK!  

Lesson #2  

I awoke at 4:15 AM. There had been a forecast of snow the previous evening, but no specific amount of snowfall had been announced. Now when I turned on the radio, the forecast was for a 14 inch snowfall in MA and CT. It would be quite impossible to drive the 225 miles through such a snow and over the hilly terrain of western New England to NYC.

So I again called Chan at 8:30 AM and told him I could not make it to my scheduled class. I was in a bit of trepidation after my previous call described above. This time I didn’t expect any kind words, but at least hoped he would understand my predicament and realize that there was a good reason for my canceling the session. 

            Instantly, he began upbraiding me:  “ You are supposed to be a martial artist. Are you going to be defeated by a little bit of snow? If you are a real and devoted student of the arts, you would let NOTHING stop you from reaching your goal.”   


These were the only times I ever missed a class with Master Chan.

             Lesson #3:

After taking morning classes and having a break of an hour or so, I would usually get back to the Master's studio toward the end of his noontime class to warm up a bit before the afternoon sessions

On this particular day, I was standing in the corner doing some warm-ups rather casually, and watching the final moments of the previous class. All of a sudden the Master came charging across the room with the eyes of a tiger, yelling at me and criticizing one of the moves in my warm up exercise. He demanded to know WHY I was doing it incorrectly.  I said, it was "just" a warm-up and I didn't think it was that important.

That really set the Master off..."EVERYTHING I teach you is important!  There is NOTHING I teach you that is unimportant. Do you understand??"  “Yes, sir,”  I mumbled... He went on, "Nothing in LIFE is unimportant. If you are a true martial artist, you will realize that EVERYTHING is important. Always remember that!"

And indeed, I have remembered to this day...


              Lesson #4:

My private lessons were grueling; the Master let no mistake go by unnoticed, and compelled me to practice the moves over and over again. There was no time or allowance for resting. One morning, after an hour of training, I was feeling exhausted and sweating profusely. The Master indicated that I could pause for a few moments.  A welcome relief, I thought.....

But, to my surprise, he came right in front of my face, looked into my eyes and said, "I will take your money, but I will never take your life."

I had no clue what he meant and just stood there.

He repeated what he had just said, a bit louder this time.  I still drew a complete blank and my face must have revealed my confusion. After a few tense moments he said, "I teach you only the very best that I know. I hold nothing back. I know that these techniques, if applied correctly, can save your life in an emergency. I will teach you only what is correct and what really works---that's why I will never teach anything that can 'take your life.' And you can only get it by practicing as intensely and honestly as I teach."

" Since I have a family to support, I will take your money for the classes."

Years after I had stopped studying formally with Chan I finally understood that the real core of his teaching was “taking the Loser out.”

Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Murder of Crows

A Murder of Crows
( seen or heard )
One crow ( or caw) for malice,
Two for mirth,
Three for a funeral,
Four for a birth.
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a story
That should never be told.
Eight for the Summer-lands,
Nine for Healing Hands,
Ten for the Goddess
Who blesses our lands.

I didn't write this. I merely reworked a few lines to fit my ideas and experiences of crows.

Monday, July 27, 2020

How do I know if my Tai-Ch Solo Form is correct?

With all the free time, and worry and stress, of the CoViD lockdown, many people have had more time and impetus to practice Taiji. Much more than when they were busy with their old lives. I have been getting asked a lot, "How do I know if I'm doing it right? Without coming to class to get corrections and lessons, am I  moving away from the correct path?"

The first few years of my study, I was very concerned with knowing if I was doing it right, "getting it", and asked my teacher, Master T.T. Liang about this many times.Unlike weight-lifting or running, I had no increase on the barbell, or better time for running a mile, or a black belt to measure my progress. Here is what Master Liang told me, with some additional ideas from Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi.

Right from the beginning, Master Liang always used the Taiji Classics, writings from ancient masters, to be a rule and guide for how to learn, practice, and master Taiji. He told us that his teacher, Prof. Cheng Man-ch'ing always taught that if your Taiji followed the classsics it was correct. If it didn't, you would stray from the path and gradually lose all the benefits. So, one way to see if you are doing it correctly is to see if you are doing Taiji as the Classics instruct. Here is one example:

"Take steps like a cat walking"

Check your steps and landings while doing the solo form. Are they soft, silent, and in balance? Do you have control over when and where you place your foot? Do your steps keep your breathing calm and smooth, originating in your lower abdomen? If you answer yes to these questions, you are following that classic.

If your steps are hard, loud, uncontrolled, and cause your breath to rise up into your chest and speed up, you are not following that classic. There are many classics to help you get the principles and theories which you can put directly into your practice.

Another time Master Liang said, "When you finish your solo form, you should feel more comfortable than when you started." After one round your circulation should be free flowing, your breath deep and smooth, and you mind just a little bit more clearer and calm. I paraphrased it to, when you finish, you should be more comfortable owning a body, or having a body.

One time Master Liang told us about a most profound example of if "it's correct." His 150 Posture Solo Form takes between 17 and 20  minutes to perform. During this time you can experience various depths of meditation and focus. This form begins with the heels together and the toes to the corners, a Natural stance. It ends with the feet shoulder-width and feet parallel, a Wuji stance.

Master Liang told us that one time he did the form, he didn't know if he did it or not. He couldn't remember if he was starting or finishing. He had no recollection of any postures. He looked down and saw his feet were parallel! He was at the ending position! He told us this was " complete emptiness of mind and body for 20 minutes." Like being on automatic pilot, with no distraction from outside, or inside. He ended by saying, "Can you do like that?"

You can check your own level of meditation by seeing if you are swallowing or blinking. See if your are using your rational mind to keep the sequence, or your intuitive mind, your spirit.The Classics say, "All the movements are to be directed by the consciousness within, rather than by the appearance without."

Of course, one way to see if you are progressing is to go to class, either group or private, and get corrections.  When I would get a correction and thank him, Liang would say, "No one can see the dirt on their own back!" CoViD will end, or become less dangerous, sooner or later. When it does, go to your teacher and have them take a look at your form. It doesn't need to be the whole form, they can help you after seeing only a few postures.

Gradually with enough corrections and practice, you will be able to "self correct." An old practice method was to do the solo form three times in a row. The first time just do it for fun and joy. The second time look for mistakes and postures that need correction. The third time, correct and fine-tune those movements.I also heard to do the investigating first, corrections second, then enjoy the third.

With all the technology available, you can film yourself and correct your postures from the outside. Imagine that is a stranger you are watching, and write down what you see that needs refining, tuning, or correcting. Maybe your teacher can Zoom, Skype, or remotely give a lesson or corrections.

My teacher, Grandmaster Wai-lun Choi taught that we have a gauge, an internal thermometer, or indicator, that shows us whats going on in our posture. It's our breath. His main teaching is summed up in his oft repeated axiom, "Don't bother the breathing." When your breath is deep, meaning low in your body, and smooth, meaning relaxed, that shows you your movements are correct.

If you align your bones with gravity, your muscles will relax. When your muscles relax, your oxygen need is reduced and your breath will become deep and smooth. When your breath is deep and smooth, your mind will calm down and you will get all the benefits for your body, mind, and spirit.

Incorrect alignment, tense muscles, disjointed movement or independent actions will show up in your breath.If you find your breathing is high in your chest, mouth open, shoulders up, panting, short breaths, or you are running out of energy, Master Choi would say you are bothering your breathing.

Another way to know if your practice is correct is if your are getting the full, or many of, the benefits. Master Choi would ask us, "Do you want to work for eight hours and get paid for four?" He would say that if you practice correctly you will get all the benefits. So what are some of the benefits?

-Good health
-Clear mind
-Deep, smooth, slow breath
-Loud ( if you want it ) voice
-Shiny, bright eyes
-Soft, sure, firm, steps
-Healthy appetites for food, sex, learning, sleep, life

If you are experiencing many of these your practice is correct. If you are practicing for self-defense and martial arts, can you defend softly, control inexplicably, and attack suddenly? Then your practice is correct.

For weapons, if your shoulder, elbow, wrist or all three get tired and sore, you are not using your whole body and your practice is incorrect.  Using your whole body to wield your sword, saber, or spear, is the correct method from the classics. If you can  move your weapons easily, without strain or bothering your breathing, your weapons forms and practices are correct.

I hope this helps you, clarifies your practice, puts your mind at rest, and inspires you to continue. I leave you with a lesson I received over 30 years ago, in Boston, at the feet of the Master.

"Don't be concerned with being as good as Yang Lu-Ch'an. Don't try to reach his level. Just practice."
-Master T.T. Liang

Thursday, July 23, 2020

MMTCA Newsletter August 2020

"Dreams shed light on the dim places where reason itself has yet to voyage."
-Jordan Peterson

I hope this newsletter finds you all healthy and safe. All in my circle are fine and I'm grateful for that. If you haven't heard, the Ivy Building, where our Academy resides, will be closed for the rest of the year, possibly longer. The repairs to the roof and structure are extensive. I will not be renewing my lease. I have a few leads for a space for the Fall, but the virus will determine my next steps for a school. For now, practicing in the park feels safe so we will be outside. I will add Friday night to the practices starting August 7th.

9-10 = Tai-Chi
10-11 = Weapons
11-12 = 5 Elements, 8 Palms, Pa-Kua Sword, 12 Animals Linking Form

6-730 = Tai-Chi, Karambit, Man Chiang Hung Sword, Hsing-Yi Spear

Book Suggestion- The Study Havamal by Carrie Overton

Where to find videos of forms and practices:

- MMTCA website
-MMTCA Facebook Page
- MMTCA youtube page
- your e-mail, let me know if you are not receiving videos in your e-mail.

I did receive my Kult Of Athena Tai-Chi sword. My quick review is that the blade is excellent! However, the handle is too small, short, and light to accurately balance the wonderful blade. My friend is going to construct a new handle. Would I buy it again? No. Here is a reliable, affordable Tai- Chi sword:

I have ordered another wooden practice sword from Little Raven and will give you a review when it arrives.

And as far as reviews go, I just got a fantastic knife from Ragweed Forge! It is a Sami inspired belt knife. For $49.00 plus shipping, the craftsmanship and detail are amazing! Tell Redbeard I sent you! Here it is:

This is the ax I recommend, the Viking Belt Axe. Great for throwing, and camping, and Orcs...

I will be launching both my Patreon and youtube pages on September 9th. I'll give you a reminder closer to the date. With all the support, and time due to CoViD and the RIOTS and FIRE, I have been at work making Tai-Chi more accessible through videos and books, as well as my blog. I hope to share this art with people outside of the upper mid-West. More later, but for now, thank you for all your support, encouragement, knowledge, inspiration, and appreciation. I am truly blessed and will continue my teaching in many more forms and mediums besides classes and seminars.

Thank you so much for your tuition, support, gifts,and especially your letters. To hear how Tai-Chi is helping you through this difficult and uncertain time makes me feel good, knowing you are practicing, and getting centered. Not to mention, stress relief. I keep all your notes and letters and read them when I need a boost, so thank you!

A bow from the waist to you and yours,
-Sifu Ray

"We have different voices, different perspectives, different worldviews, and we are all united through a love of nature ."
-Eimer Burke, Chosen Chief of OBOD

New Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids

On Saturday, June 6th, the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, OBOD for short, initiated a new Chosen Chief, Eimer Burke, to lead the Order. In the presence of the then current chief, Philip Carr-Gomm, the scribe Stephanie Carr-Gomm and the pendragon Damh the Bard, Eimer traveled from west to east, stood under the sign of the awen, and took an oath to assume the leadership of the Order, swearing upon the sword of truth.

Sitting on the couch, with a few Druids in Colorado, we all entered into the ceremony in meditation. As soon as the first opening words were spoken, I slipped into another world.

After an opening rite, and before the handover part of the ceremony began, Philip read his last address as Chosen Chief. One part that stood out to me was:

" So it never occurred to me that I would be giving this farewell message over the internet. But on reflection there are advantages to doing it this way: far more of us now have the opportunity to be together in this moment, since distance is no object to everyone's participation in the event."

'After Eimer Burke was initiated as the new Chosen Chief, she gave an opening address. One part in her speech stuck out as well:

"One of the gifts and strengths of the Order which stands out for me is its diversity. The Order allows each one of us to hold our own perspectives and to travel our own paths as we see fit. We are guided without any dogma or fundamentalist notion of what it means to be a Druid. There is an expression in Irish-  aontacht in iliocht- which means "Unity in Diversity."

As I sat listening to the ritual, I felt as if I was right there. I felt the weight of the moment and the history as it was happening. As a Druid in the Order, I sent a silent prayer of support, a pledge of allegiance, and a few awens of gratitude.

When the ritual came to a close, I returned to my body. I felt so awake and energized! A passage about the Goddess popped out of my memory and held me for a while:

"You have looked for me so long I was frightened you would destroy me in your searching. You sent rockets to the stars and built huge buildings just for me. But we never met. I was told to hide. I have been told to hide no longer, or you will destroy this world in your search. I stand here waiting for you to approach."
- The Druid Way by Philip Carr-Gomm page 78

Congratulations Eimer, Philip, and the Order. Well done! A class act all around! Of course, what did I expect from this most amazing Druid Order!!

Past Chosen Chiefs

John Toland 1717-1722

William Stukeley 1722-1765

Edward Finch Hatton 1765-1771

David Samwell 1771-1799

William Blake 1799-1827

Godfrey Higgins 1827-1833

William Carpenter 1833-1874

Edward Vaughn Keneally 1874-1880

Gerald Massey 1880-1906

John Barry O'Callaghan 1906-1909

George Watson MacGregor-Reid 1909-1946

Robert A.F. MacGregor-Reid 1946-1964

Philip Peter Ross Nichols 1964-1975

John Brant ( in custodial capacity) 1975-1988

Philip Carr-Gomm  1988-2020

Eimer Burke  2020-