Uncategorized, Articles

Find Your Own Martial Art

Photo on 23-10-2017 at 17.52 #3 copy

Been training for a while and feel dissatisfied? Feel like you’re not learning the right things? The martial arts not meeting your expectations?

Meditate – ask yourself what you really want from your training, I don’t mean all the usual blanket answers but what do YOU want? What are YOUR individual expectations? This can lead to quite a few surprises because you’ve probably been taking on other people’s expectations without realising it and that’s why you have to go deep to discover what it is you REALLY need from your efforts.

Look at what you’re doing – having realised fully why you’re training, is your current path going to get you there? Look at the end result of what you’re training for and start to plot a path towards each bit. You will probably find that you will have take up separate aspects to get them to converge at the right point. I had to study philosophy, Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, and my own culture of Wicca and paganism, the healing arts of reiki and massage and the softer and more internal side of traditional Tai Chi to match the Kickboxing, Karate, Ju Jitsu, Judo along with the Chinese and Japanese weapons arts of Iaido, Jodo, Broadsword, Double Edge sword and Spear to reach the standard that I wanted and had to learn from the top Coaches in each field of study.

Be yourself – Everyone wants you to become what they want. Masters want soldiers and blind followers, students and family want you become what suits them. They will put their expectations on you. DON’T LET THEM! Be yourself! Don’t let anyone else put you in a box you are an individual and to be who you really are – and unlike them you have worked it out and plotted a path!

Be discerning – Can these people do what they say? How many top level practitioners and coaches have they produced? people lie, they exaggerate, they don’t put in the work themselves, they try and hide their lack of skill with mystique, secrecy and lineages – don’t fall for it!

Find balance – work at a pace that you can sustain. Become emotionally intelligent. Any path is only as strong as it’s weakest point, so know what your strong and weak points are – discover them for yourself, don’t wait for others to tell you! Other people always have an agenda know yourself inside out and find that essential level of balance.

Stick to your guns – have resolve, determination, courage, patience, tolerance, kindness and compassion and simply don’t give up. This is a lifelong quest! Fall down 7 times and get up 8. That’s the rule of thumb for life. That 1 step forwards through all the trials and tribulations is worth it’s weight in gold – it’s the winning step, it’s what sorts out the winners from the losers.

Do it – do it now – don’t put it off. Get your arse in that chair or on that cushion NOW, sit straight, breathe deep, calm your mind down and focus your attention – then ask yourself “what do I REALLY want?”

 

 

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Articles, Uncategorized

The ‘Empty Force’ Of Tai Chi

 

Photo on 23-10-2017 at 17.52 #3

‘Empty force’ sounds nebulous and difficult to understand, but it isn’t. The body is a spring, when the posture is correct and the joints unlocked, when the soft tissue carries no unnecessary tension – the compression and release of a combination of the joints, including the spine, bodycore and soft tissue is a skill that can be trained in a multitude of ways.

The first level of skill is to unlock the body and keep it unlocked, start with good posture and then unlock the ankles, knees, hips, back and chest with the mantra ‘soften and connect’ when you can drop your bodyweight into the arches of your feet and feel them spread to the floor with the weight you’re ready to pump.

If you were to then jump in the air you would bend the joints and spring upwards, making the body ‘float’ upwards with an emptiness – and that’s what we’re looking for. Then try it without leaving the ground making the arms raise and float upwards with the Tai Chi technique at the beginning of the form called ‘raise hands’ although the hands float up they should still be connected to the feet so it they contacted the opponent at any point, the power would still come directly from the feet.

Then practice a series of exercises, (the Yang Family qigong is specifically designed for this purpose) making each part of the body float in every range of movement with that ’empty but connected to the feet’ sensation constantly unlocking and springing through the joints and soft tissue.

The next stage is the Tai Chi form with every technique practised in the same way so that you ‘float’ through the form with that characteristic soft, smooth, spiralling but still powerfully connected manner where at any point you can repel an opponent and also send an additional pulse in the same manner of a dynamic ‘pinball’ of energy into an opponent without overextending into them or collapsing from their pressure or your own technical failure.

This can then be applied to push hands and application work in a variety of skillsets.

The idea is simple. The action takes considerable training, but the skill is layered in at each stage. The purpose of this blog is to give you the vision of where to go and be able to recognise the training plan to get you there.

In Karate you may recognise the same process as ‘sink, swallow, float and spit’.

It’s an old internal skill that is rapidly getting lost as martial artists move from principles to technique only and a gym style of muscular development, throwing the baby out with the bathwater as they do so.

It wasn’t called ‘Soft Cotton Boxing’ and ‘Deceptive Boxing’ for nothing!

 

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Direct Knowledge Is Different

steve profile books

 

I used to get my knowledge and wisdom from others at lectures, in books and lecture tapes.  I would meditate for ages on the wisdom of the Buddha, Lao Tsu, Ajhan’s Chah and Sumedho, Alan Watts, Kahil Gibran and many others, I studied Buddhism, Zen, Chan, Taoism, Wicca, Paganism, Ritual Magik, Spiritualism and all their associated arts, but when the breakthrough occurred, I stopped.

No longer did I need to refer to others, because I was able to look inside and find my own ‘wisdom mind’. When I sat or stood still, I could access the part of me that I never could before and I found the true purpose of meditation.

Before, I knew a lot about these subjects and could quote a host of others and what they thought about them, but I didn’t really know what I was talking about because I didn’t have the direct experience. I thought I had because I had the knowledge, but it hadn’t changed me as a person. A big difference!

When a Buddhist monk lectured, they would sit quietly first and when they spoke it was like something spoke through them, they could answer questions with frightening honesty and humility but I never quite got what they were doing until it happened to me. In the Martial Arts I would see true mastery when a teacher could just respond with whatever someone threw at them with ease and never have to bully to impress. Eventually I realised that when you had absorbed the knowledge properly with the right kind of mind – you became it.

Meditation became my study instead of reading, instead of acting the part I became it.  My martial arts training became a meditation. Whenever I needed help or advice, instead of going to a book, I sat still, when I had a problem, in that stillness I always found the answer.

I could teach and lecture without notes, all I had to do was go to that place in my mind and everything came out in a well structured approach sensitive to the audience and students needs.

I had found the difference between knowing about something and actually knowing it.

There are many that know ‘about’ various subjects and can quote just about everyone, but those that really ‘know’ directly and are it, live it every day.

And they truly are like diamonds on a beach of pebbles.

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If I die tonight

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Dedicated to my good friend the late Graham Wendes.

If I die tonight will the universe stop?
If I return to the Tao it will be like a wave returning to the sea;
No more ‘being human’ and only ‘sensing’ the infinite;
From whence I came, I will return and be it once more.
My ‘place of refuge’ becomes my home again.

In the infinite, all time exists all of the time, the theatre of life exists because the pot is stirred;
When stirred, one plays off against the other in a binary fashion, simple appears complicated as the picture of life is created;
Pulsing continuously into an ever changing picture like a TV signal;
With each part not realising that that they are all joined, made from the same binary code that itself joins to form the unrecognisable infinite.

The universe creates the unfolding drama to satisfy itself, we unwittingly keep recreating a similar drama for our amusement with theatre, films and TV –
When we wake up, we see it.

By Steve Rowe

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Teaching Older People

Ted

 

Many of us these days teach people in their 70’s and above and it’s important for us to understand that even if their memory and body is breaking down, they are still a senior citizen and should command respect.

Don’t talk to them like they are a child, don’t get frustrated with them, be courteous, polite and break technique down until you find that which they are comfortable with.

They deserve dignity, they have often served their country, bought up families and paid their dues. Don’t put your ambitions and expectations on them, often they only want to stay alive, keep moving and mix comfortably with people of all age groups instead of sitting in an old people’s home singing ‘if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands’.

Have patience, kindness, tolerance, compassion, courtesy and respect. Inside that arthritic, aged body and forgetful mind is often a person still as sharp as a razor with more to teach you than you can teach them.

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I Should Be Dead

Dead

I know it, the reaper came, hovered and left. I stood between the worlds for months after a collapse with a second serious infection, 5 life saving and crippling surgeries on top of the 9 I’d already had and a second round of months of a cocktail of life saving, gut wrenching, antibiotics and hallucinogenic pain killers left me in serious doubt as to whether I was still meant to be here.

But here I am… still feeling ‘out of place’ and on borrowed time. Pain is a constant reminder and fatigue is always pulling at the back of my eyes and keeping the handbrake on my body. Everything has to be done slowly and carefully, teaching me ‘mindfulness’ in a most unexpected way, death always feels like it could it come with the next breath.

But this is not bad. It gives me perspective and vision that was not available to me before. Other people have a ‘bucket list’ when on borrowed time and try to fit everything into whatever time they have left, frantically running round like headless chickens trying to be distracted from their future demise having lost all perspective due to fear. I’m lucky because a lifetime of meditation and study allows me to sit in the ‘Tao’ and to see my finite life from an infinite mind.

What is important? It’s important to be ‘at ease’ with what and who you are and what part you have to play in this theatre of life. You are born out of this world and not into it. You are a part of everything in this theatre and have always been here in one way or another since the ‘big bang’.

My disability slows me down, this makes me pay attention to everything I rushed past before, ‘paying attention’ to everything, time, places, things, people, their characteristics, actions, words and this opens doors that I never saw before. Sitting still and in constant pain allows me to find that ‘place of refuge’ in my mind where the infinite me that holds all wisdom exists and pain is put into perspective.

I stopped contacting people that didn’t contact me and I let them go. I stopped talking to people that only contacted me when I was ‘useful’ and I let them go. I stopped taking part in the circus of ego feeding, back slapping events that only fed the negativity of needing to be an accepted part of it and fear of being excluded.  I stopped worrying about people, things and places because everything eventually turns to dust, all matter is impermanent. I learned that sometimes anxiety, depression, pain and suffering just arises, but it will pass if you let it be and don’t hang your hat on it. Nothing belongs to me – it’s all transitory.

If I smile with my face I immediately feel better, if I smile from the heart, I feel content and at peace, ‘letting go’ is the capacity to just watch everything as it passes, pay it attention but see it for what it is. If you know the names of your demons, they can’t touch you. Helping people is better than harming them, allowing them to be what they are, without imposing your wishes on them creates a healthy relationship. Building bridges is better than blowing them up, food parcels work better than bombs, inclusion works better than exclusion, ‘spreading the load’ in society makes ‘being human’ turn into humankind.

I don’t need to go anywhere, I don’t need to do anything, I don’t need to become anything, on the contrary, the best me is when I let go of all that desire and then intelligently engage with life from the right perspective and let it all happen naturally.

The more you stir the pot, the more trouble you create, the more you try to ‘make your mark’ and impose yourself and your views over others, the more they will reject you. When you create harmony in yourself, when you spread that into your environment, when you support all the building bricks of life on this planet – then you’ve really got the right perspective.

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Standing Neigong

standing

Standing Neigong

Several people have today messaged me asking questions about neigong and to explain the benefits and basics of how we do it in our training system.

The benefits of Standing neigong are as follows:

Good posture
Good balance
Good rooting
An understanding of left/right and upper/lower body harmony
Good breathing
An aware, focused sensitive and intense mind
Emotional intelligence
An intuitive understanding of yin and yang

The 5 basic postures are:

Neutral
Upper Yin
Upper Yang
Lower Yin
Lower Yang

There is an excellent set of videos called ‘stand still – be fit’ that can be seen here:

 

The basic way that we teach at Shi Kon is as follows:

Neutral
Stand with the feet pointing to the front and under the line of the shoulders.
Straighten the body and raise the head ‘as if suspended by a rope from above’.
Place the tongue to the top palette with the eyes looking straight ahead.
Loosen ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows and wrists.
Lightly and actively stretch the myofascia up through the crown of the head and out through the fingertips .
Gently spiral the myofascia outwards from both feet upwards not affecting the ankles or knees and gently opening the hips, releasing the buttocks and lower back to allow the spine to lengthen and to stabilise the core into the diaphragm.
Turn the palms of the hands to face backwards returning them to the inwards position from the wrists only.
Gently pull the PC muscle until it engages the tailbone.
Find your natural breathing rhythm as taught in class breathing from the dantien.
Ensure left and right harmony in feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows,wrists and hands.
Ensure upper and lower harmony of feet to hands, ankles to wrists, knees to elbows and hips to shoulders.
These basics are maintained at all times and then:

Upper Yin
Bring the arms up and rest their weight onto your core.
Gently bow and connect the 3 bows of legs, spine and arms.
Connect with the energy and rest the mind and emotions on:
Patience
Kindness
Tolerance 
Compassion

Lower Yin
Is the same apart from the arms being down in the same frame in front of the Dantien.

Upper Yang
In upper yin turn the hands over at the wrists and slightly cup them bowing the 3 bows more intensely connecting with the energy and resting the mind and emotions on:
Resolve
Determination 
Courage
Power

Lower Yang
Is the same apart from the arms being down with the same frame until the thumbs point to the middle of your legs.

Apart from the occasional fist, crane beak and needle hand the entire Tai Chi form is the transitioning of these hands, therefore essential learning for any Tai Chi practitioner. In Shi Kon we don’t hold any position for too long but transition from one to the other learning how to switch polarity and mindset at will.

This is only the basics and a reminder for those training in the Shi Kon system, IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU ARE TAUGHT BY A PROPERLY REGISTERED SHI KON INSTRUCTOR.

 

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