Saturday, May 30, 2020

MMTCA June Newsletter 2020

"The sensation of overcoming the worrisome mind and controlling it is unmistakable. To be able to feel united in body and mind, and not alienated from nature is a powerful thing."
-Wim Hof

The old saying, "It can't get any worse" is so untrue, just multiply your problems by two! Pandemic, police brutality, recession/depression, riots, looting, etc and it seems no break in sight. So what do we do? There is lots to think about, lots to talk about, lots to emote about, but what to do? And before I go further, I have no answers to the big questions, my concerns are about you.

For your health, take some time to be quiet, away from news and such, and do some breath work, solo form, or any other practice. It may feel all wrong, but it may feel a little bit good. Take a walk if it's safe to do so. Read a little, listen to music, sing, play music. Even a short break can give some rest and recharge. I'll continue sending lessons so take one and learn something new, just for the fun of it.

For the Academy's health, I am keeping it closed, both in the physical space and in general, for June. If Covid news changes, we can entertain the idea of outside classes, but there is no hurry. As for our space, I'm assessing the damage and the atmosphere. A good guess is that we will relocate, for too many reasons to list here. I will give more info in the mid-June update.

For Minneapolis' health, send light, healing, love, understanding, justice, and calm. Never underestimate the power of your thoughts, intentions, and prayers. If you have a realty good round of practice and you feel great, send some of that energy out into the world, need will distribute it for you!

I have no words to express my gratitude for your cards, letters, tuition, and support these last months. I am paying some good-will rent and will continue to do so with your generosity and support. Your notes telling me how much tai-chi helps you through all this are priceless gems and treasures. To see the practical applications of this art is encouraging and humbling. Thank you.

Book suggestion- The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown (I've been doing this work for some time and it is directly parallel to Master Liang's and Master Choi's breathwork, complete with all the science.)

Sword review- I got my sword from Kult of Athena, a jian or double edged Taiji sword. For the money, it is not anywhere near the quality of the old Kris Cutlery swords. The blade is exceptional, but the handle is not, making it not the best to wield. My suggestion is, spend a bit more and get the Arms and Armor replica of my antique sword, or spend less and get the Han Wei Practical Tai-Chi sword. Now, if I could get paid to review swords, and given examples for my collection, I would embrace a whole new career!

You should continue to get Videos and lessons for the foreseeable future. I have many already filmed and tons of material for you. I will also schedule a zoom class for the Academy in July and share some other on-line ideas I have for you all.

 A quick shout out to the "recon teams" who checked out the Ivy Building and the Academy. Thank you Fred, Robbie, Bob M, Nic, and our landlord Josh.

With this newsletter, I'll be adding a message to you from Julie Cisler, my right-hand woman, who helps me run the Academy and who is a teacher with her own practice.

Take care of yourself, mentally, physically, and spiritually. I'm here for you in any way I can. Bless you all.


"If you are hoping to develop a relationship with someone, a good first step is to find a place to meet. When that "someone" is a god, begin with an altar."
-Diana L. Paxson

My address-1721 Jefferson St, Duluth, MN 55812
cell- 612-404-7320

From My Notebooks

Hello from social distancing to all of you, my Tai-Chi friends and family! I miss all of you very much. I look forward to the day that I get to see you in person again.

We are truly living in "interesting times." I'm glad that my past experience allowed me to quickly switch most of my teaching to Zoom. It saved my income. But, even more than financial survival, this strange situation has benefited me in far-reaching and unexpected ways. I suddenly had to push myself to creatively solve problems I would not have anticipated. I can't tell you how many times I've heard from people who tried to learn Tai-Chi from a video and gave up in frustration. How could I appeal to students who were skeptical about trying to practice and learn on a video conferencing app?

Once again, when facing a challenge or difficulty, I turned to the Classics, the principles, and to the treasures in my notebooks, lessons from Sifu Ray and Master Choi. Master Choi says, "The basics are advanced; you must practice." What a gem! Returning to the "basics" isn't a sign of failure, it's an opportunity to see everything with new eyes. I see it as an opportunity for further refinement, for my teaching, for my practice and for myself.

I remember an anecdote a former classmate told me about her second hip replacement. The surgery did not go well, and she had to endure the entire procedure twice. As a result, her recovery was maddeningly slow. She had persistent weakness in that hip, and was frustrated that she couldn't practice her Tai-Chi form. So she tried every other therapy she could find: physical therapy, Pilates, water aerobics, massage therapy, acupuncture, even other Tai-Chi teachers. Nothing seemed to help at all.

Finally, one day she spotted Master Liang's book T'ai-Chi Ch'uan for Health and Self Defense on her bookshelf. She was idly paging through the book, and started to re-read his beautiful translations of the Classics. She started to wonder if she'd really been adhering to the principles she was reading. If not, maybe carefully practicing these basic principles would allow her to at least practice more of her form. She started practicing, very slowly at first, taking great care to include new insights she learned from re-reading his book. Her patience and willingness to go "back to the basics" paid off. She recovered her strength and stability in three months!

We all must face difficulties and frustrations at times. I can't say that they can all be overcome. But practicing and analyzing the basics has helped me through a difficulty many times. I hope that you will also benefit from this important idea. Until we can say hello in person, I wish you and your families safety and peace. See you on the other side!

-Julie Cisler

Sunday, May 17, 2020

MMTCA Mid May check in

 "When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on."
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

I hope this mid-month check in finds you safe, healthy, hopeful, and practicing Tai-Chi and related arts, especially RELAXED arts! It's been over 60 days since I taught class in person, but who's counting.

As it stands, we will be closed for the rest of May. The guidelines not only warn of six feet of separation, but they caution about duration in other's presence. That means class indoors is out of the question for now. Unless there is a major breakthrough, I will stay closed for June as well. With that being said, I have filmed a bunch of lessons, have more outlined and ready, and you will be receiving them in your e-mail. I will plan a Zoom lesson for June. and do some live-time lessons with you.

Julie is now sending out the videos and lessons. Let her or I know if you aren't getting them. She is doing a great job of maintaining contact and teaching Zoom lessons. Thank You Julie! Julie, Margo, and Robert have been incredible help in filming ,and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. Let me know if there are any forms or practices you'd like to see.

Book suggestion= I don't know how I missed this one, it was published in 2012, and it's awesome!

The Cheng School Gao Style Baguazhang Manual by Liu Fengcai

Speaking of books, my second edition of Real Gold is SO CLOSE!!!! I have lots of additions, photos and more in this edition. Master Choi is also involved, which is so exciting. Stay tuned!

A shameless plug for Ragweed Forge, where I get my throwing axes and such. E-mail Redbeard and see what he has!

I'll be incommunicado for a few weeks in both May and June. If you need to get in touch, have a Tai-Chi emergency, or just need to talk, please contact Julie, Margo, Fred, or John S.

Once again, I am humbled and in awe of your generosity, care, support, concern, and respect! The tuition, notes, cards, and e-mails make me feel totally connected to you all. Thank you!

A bow from the waist,

"The most important word in the English language is hope."
-Eleanor Roosevelt

 What to Remember When Waking

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, movable and frighteningly honest world

where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

-- David Whyte

Sunday, May 10, 2020

A Brief Hstory of Hsing-Yi Ch'uan

The legendary and historical founder of Hsing-Yi Ch'uan, or "Shape of the Will Fist," is Yueh Fei, a general of the Song Dynasty. Yueh Fei was taught martial arts as a boy by the village Shao-Lin monk, Jow Tong. Jow taught Yueh archery, spear fencing, un-armed combat, meditation, and literary skills.

Later in life, when Yueh Fei was already a famous general, he would go to the grave of Jow Tong, put an egg on the headstone, and shoot it off. Each year Yueh Fei would go back and shoot an egg farther away. In this way, he showed his master that he was improving the art and skills he was taught.

Yueh Fei developed his own style of spear fighting, and taught his troops 108 Locking Hands. He is also credited with creating the 8 Brocades Qi-gong. He developed five fists derived from spear techniques which could be used even when in full armor. which form the foundation of Hsing-Yi. Yueh Fei was famous for his "double pushing palms" which is mentioned in the Shao-Lin classics, and shows up in the Tiger Style of Hsing-Yi, Liu He Ba Fa, and XinYi Liu He Quan.

The legend has it that Ji Longfeng found Yueh Fei's secret training manuals in a cave near Hua Shan and became a famous martial arts teacher and practitioner. Ji transmitted Hsing-Yi and Yueh's spear method throughout northern China.

Eventually the style was passed to Li Nengran, a bodyguard who ran a bodyguard and caravan escort service protecting stagecoaches and money. Li taught a style consisting of 5 Elements and 12 Animals, plus various weapons. Li Nengran was known as one of four "marvelous martial arts masters" in Beijing and was know as "Divine Fist Li". The other three were, Yang Luchan of the Taiji Quan school, Dong Haichuan of the BaGua Zhang school, and Liu Shi Jun of the Fan-Tze Eagle Claw school, another lineage of Yueh Fei.

Li Nengran taught many students, many who worked for him. Others were martial artists attracted to his simple yet effective style. Some of his more famous students were Guo Yunshen, Che Yizhai, and Liu Qilan.

Liu Qilan also had many famous students who went on to become masters and teachers. Two were Li Cunyi and Zhang Zhaodong, both who taught together in Tianjin and taught over five thousand students.

Zhang Zhaodong had a disciple, Jiang Rongqiao, who also studied with Li Cunyi. Jiang Ronqiao not only taught martial arts, but was instrumental in publishing many books by contemporary masters to help spread their arts and to have workbooks for the Central Kuo Shu Academy, where Jiang also taught.

Jiang Rongqiao authored:

Xingyi Mu Quan (Xingyi Mother Fists);
Baguazhang Lianxifa (Bagua Palms Practice Method);
Xingyi Za Si Chui and Ba Shi Quan;
Xingyi Lianhuan Quan;
Bagua Mysterious Spear;
Qingping Sword;
Tiger Tail Whip.

Jiang co-wrote a book on Taiji with Yao Fuchun. Jiang also wrote the foreword to his student, Chan Yikan's, book on the Main Form of Liu He Ba Fa. Through his intensive study, Jiang Rongqiao got the essence of the three internal styles and the sword. Later in life, Jiang went blind. Master Choi said Jing's sensitivity got even better when he only relied on his sense of touch.

Chan Yik-yan learned the complete system of Hsing-Yi Chuan from Jiang Rongqiao, including some forms and practices not see in the public. Chan also, learned Hsing-Yi from Chu Kuei-ting, a student of the famous Li Cunyi. Chan Yik-yan taught Hsing-Yi to his student and successor, Wai-lun Choi.

Awakening Osiris

Well, I just finished Awakening Osiris by Normandi Ellis. It took me over two years! No, I'm not a slow reader, nor was it a major tome. It was just one of the deepest, most rewarding reads I've had in a good long time.

I saw this book on my friend Rob's coffee table. I had read some quotes and my Druid Course from OBOD had suggested it, but I never got around to reading it. I had read a rather dry and scholarly Egytian Book of the Dead, and when I finished, I never looked back. This time it was different.

When I picked up Ellis' version, the first thing I read was ,

"I am the sojourner destined to walk a thousand years until I arrive at myself."

That struck such a deep chord in my heart. It spoke to a feeling deep inside me. I read here and there and each passage spoke directly to me and my life so far. I ordered the book and dug in, but it was a slow slog. I tried to breeze through but I was stopped all along the way with insights, confirmations, and guidance. Here is one that both taught and confirmed so much for me at this time,

"The god you seek is within. The truth you chase lies between your own eyebrows. Look again with a different eye."

Reading I found the roots of all the Western Mysteries like Alchemy, Astral Projection, Kabbalah, Knights Templar, and Freemasonry. I saw the foundations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I found my Golden Egg meditation as well as many that coincide with the Taoist Small Heavenly Circle meditation. Shape-shifting, animal lore, and elemental lessons were revealed in those pages.

I have immense gratitude to the translator, Normandi Ellis, who channeled more than translated these ancient lessons and ideas. Her spiritual approach made the lesson come alive and be present for me at a time where my own exploration and work are all inward directed.

If you've read this, read it again. If you haven't, you are in for a spiritual treat!