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Tai Chi And Driving Your Car



Tai Chi is one thing, you just ‘do’ it.

Students often remark that on one hand we say this, but then we give them a list of things to remember when ‘doing it’ and they end up getting stressed trying to do all these things at once.

A list might be:
Stand straight and raise the crown of the head.
Put the tongue to the top palette.
Spiral the feet to the floor.
Release the ankles, knees and hips.
Release and lengthen the spine.
Sink the chest.
Open the lower back.
Move and breathe from the Dantien.
Flex the 5 bows…
And so on, as you progress, the list gets longer and longer.

So how do we relate working with this list  to just ‘doing’ Tai Chi?

It’s like driving your car, when you first start you have too many things to remember, accelerator, clutch, brake, gears, mirrors, steering, other cars, road signs and markings, pedestrians, other vehicles and so on – and yet you now just get in your car and  ‘drive’.

All the different aspects, that long list you were originally given by your driving instructor in the end meld into one thing – driving.

And so it is with Tai Chi, in the beginning you have a basic set of skills to remember, when you have been training for while you just ‘do’ Tai Chi and you notice anything that is not right and adjust as you go along.  This skill is important to stop you from going mad!

We practice Tai Chi to de-stress and get healthy, to improve our skill level and for the technical applications so it’s important to not lose sight of that purpose.  It’s one of the most magical, invigorating, calming forms of exercise possible – and yet some people manage to include it in their list of things that make them more stressful!

Once you develop that mindset of just ‘doing’ Tai Chi your alert, focused, sensitive and intense mind watches and enjoys the process.  It will automatically pick up the good and bad as you go along and adjust where necessary, along the way, this means that you will always want to train and when you do it is always a pleasure de-stressing and invigorating you daily.

There are times that you will pick parts of the form that you find particularly difficult and once again go through the ‘list’ process to get it right, there is nothing wrong with this, in coaching we call the just doing it and adjusting as you go along ‘shaping’ and working to that list ‘chaining’ – two methods of learning and both are essential at different times, but if you only ever work to the links on that chain and never join them up and also practice ‘shaping’, you will never make it!

You can drive (badly) with a dull, distracted mind but with Tai Chi it’s essential to use the posture and breathing to keep the mind aware, focused, sensitive and intense to increase both the pleasure and learning process – and of course it will also improve your driving!

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Sanchin – Harmonising Mind, Body & Breath



Sanchin (Saamchin) = The resolution of the conflict between mind, body & breath.

Sanchin is the internal training, the neigong and qigong of the Martial Arts.  It links the different level of breathing exercises to the different levels of physical co-ordination and mental awareness, sensitivity and intensity.  It exercises the internal connection from feet to hands and methods of utilising the spine and core for power.

Many Karateka use it for a more external ‘dynamic tension’ and forced valsavic style breathing, not realising that there’s far more power using it for it’s original purpose in deep internal training.

Without this going into a huge deep unreadable post, let me list the fundamental considerations in plain English in a way that most people can read and understand to improve your form and give you alternative ideas to what you already train:

The ‘Sanchin circle can be drawn around the outside of the feet.
The diameter of the circle is the width of the shoulders.
The head is the centre of the circle & should be ‘suspended’ from the crown – opening the occipital area.
The ‘plumb line’ of the body should go from the crown of the head, down through the ear lobes, the centre of the shoulder, the centre of the hips to the arches of the feet.
The tongue should lightly press to the top palette behind the front teeth.
The ankle, knee and hip joints should be unlocked.
The gentle outward spiral pressure of the feet to the floor should rotate the femur in the hip socket enough to open the inguinal crease in the hips and this alignment allows the bottom of the spine to drop, lengthening and loosening the spine.
The chest should be sunk by ‘letting go’ and not forced.

The softening and connection of the core goes from the head through the neck, down through the myofascia in the chest around the heart and lungs, in to the diaphragm, through the psoas, inside the hips through the pelvic floor, down the inside of the legs, around the back of the knees, down the calves into the plantar fascia in the feet to the arches.

Breathing is from the lower abdomen and back.

The ‘4 pumps of chi’ (ki) are the arches of the feet, the lower back, between the shoulder blades and the occipital area. These 4 pumps need to worked to manipulate the spine and core and energise the breath, body and mind.

The positioning and movement of the body dictates the breathing method and this alters at each of the 3 levels of the form. The 3 levels of co-ordination are:

One side moves whilst the other is fixed.
Both sides move together powerfully manipulating the spine and core.
Both sides move in opposite directions and open and close sharply.

The deep breathing from the lower abdomen and back draws the diaphragm down and fills the lungs fully with air.  This puts more oxygen into the blood and brings it to the brain making the mind more aware.  The qualities trained in the mind are:


It requires an aware and focused mind to utilise the sensitivity to read the body from the inside and increase the kinaesthesia (understanding where your body is in space and how it is aligned). The intensity is required to maintain that awareness, focus and sensitivity throughout the form.

The continuous good structure, aliveness and internal spiralling in the form maintains peng (ward off) and this can be tested by pressing against the practitioner in various places and differing angles and they should be able to resist without pushing back or leaning against the push. This is done by the internal spiral in the feet connecting to the core and out throughout the entire body.

Sanchin HAS to be taught by a knowledgable Instructor who can correct and test each posture, but learned well, provides everything you need to know about the internal system that is lacking in most martial arts these days and will provide infinitely more power as well as a form of meditation and vigorous health!


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Pain In The Martial Arts

hands up


“Sifu/Sensei, why don’t pressure points and locks work on you? Don’t you feel pain?”

The fact is that they hurt me just as much as they hurt you. The difference is that I choose not to yield to the pain. Pain and your reaction to it tells me a lot about you. The world is full of mentally weak people. The moment they get any discomfort they want to give up, run to their Mummy and want it kissed better and have a Mickey Mouse plaster put on it – and Im talking adults of all ages here.

There are 2 types of pain.  Good pain and bad pain. Good pain is not injurious and trains the mind and spirit to be far more durable in life and is an essential part of training, this is called ‘eating bitter’.  Bad pain is injurious and means that you should stop and allow it to repair unless you’re in a life threatening or more injurious situation.

If you can’t discern between good and bad pain you shouldn’t be training. A martial arts coach should teach the difference from day one and push a student with good pain and stop them to teach about recovery and rehabilitation with bad pain.

You must learn to not show pain as that reveals weakness to your opponent.  You shouldn’t show discomfort, you shouldn’t show anger, fear or any emotion that allows them to get to you. It should be made clear that the only way you’ll stop is if you’re killed – and you should mean it!

This is what makes you a true warrior.  You should take every opportunity to challenge life and walk towards what scares you. Face any fears and overcome them, each time you challenge them, each time you challenge discomfort, pain and suffering, you grow stronger.

Life will always continually throw you curve balls, you’ll always get what you didn’t ask for and didn’t want, but this is what sorts out the difference between the wimp and the warrior. If you bleed over your family, friends and social media you are just showing your weakness and are definitely not a martial artist.  It’s as if you are dropping your weapons and asking for a cuddle – your enemies will simply use the opportunity to stick the knife in or piss on you if they don’t consider you a threat and walk away.

Pain just is. It can be physical, mental or emotional and just exists as pain, if you take ownership of it you will start to suffer, I have a mental image of so many people stabbing themselves with the same bit of pain again and again because they can’t let go and then bleeding over everyone around them. Recognise it for what it is, only take the appropriate action if needed and then let it go.

Challenge it. Eat bitter. Make it your friend. Don’t own it. Don’t fear it.

Then you are a warrior.