March 12, 2018

Meditation - Another Approach

A follow up on mediation.

Another approach is to sense what it feels like to be alive - to breathe, feel, sense, and be aware.  Not thinking or trying to describe - rather feeling the immediacy of it.  The "now".  Whatever you are doing, pay attention to some small perceptible aspect of the activity.  For example, if you walking what does each step sound like?  Can you hear the sound of leaves in the breeze?  Can you see the many shades of green, brown, black - maybe even red, yellow and orange?  The shadows and light?  If you are washing dishes, what is the sound of the water splashing, or sound of made as you scrub each dish?  What are you hands doing?  What does it feel like to move your hands into different positions as you grasp, wash, dry, and put the dishes away?  This can be done with any of the many activities were perform everyday without giving thought to what we actually doing, what it feels like, or sounds like.  Instead, we are listening to the roar of thoughts, ideas, plans, regrets inside of our mind. 

June 28, 2016

Fortune Cookie II

"Life is a play and you have missed the dress rehearsal"

           Fortune Cookie - Quantus Airlines 1995

August 29, 2015

April 30, 2014

Friday Class: Empty Space

Four years.  Every Friday.  From 8:00PM unitl  ~.  Chinese language, art, history, science, philospohy - and Kung Fu/Tai Qi.

We would sit with tea at hand and Teacher would begin..."Does anyone have a question?"  And so our weekly lesson would begin.  The classes ended 7 1/2 years ago but the lessons have not stopped. 

I recently took a look at my notes - 2 completely full spiral notebooks - and I noticed something.  The notes have a pattern.  In the beginning, the notes are sparse and appear a bit rushed.  The Chinese  characters are very large and ill-formed (out of balance and often missing strokes) - like you might expect from a child struggling to absorb and make sense of the outside world.  Over time the notes filled in, became more and more organized and the characters began to look a bit more recognizable.  Eventually, the pages are absolutely packed.  Every inch of the page is crammed with verbatim notes, characters, stories, explanations and navigational instructions to guide you through the thicket of thoughts.  Then...the notes begin to lessen.  They are still very well organized but they are no longer verbatim.  The narrative fades into reference and interpretation.  The characters are generally well-formed but they are joined by small pictures - abstract doodles that somehow reflect the topics of the day.  The final lessons have almost no notes at all.  There is a date and perhaps a sentence or two, maybe a drawing and lots of empty space.  The last page of my notes is blank -

The notes, and the pattern reflect our forms.  We begin with the pattern - the specific set of movements that comprise the form.  At first, our movements are big, clumsy and uncoordinated.  Our mind struggles to remember the pattern as our body struggles to execute what little we can remember.  Over time, we refine our actions.  We add skills, develop strength and improve our coordination.  The form becomes more organized and structured as our mind is packed with the details of every action complete with navigational arrows.  Then, the arrows fade.  The form remains but it is no longer verbatim.  It is cleaner, smoother, less cluttered.  The actions are full, well-formed, and balanced but there is an additional element - an abstract intangible that is our own within the form.  And lots of empty space.


December 16, 2013

A Lesson From Taichung Teacher

The following thoughts from Taichung Teacher were made available by two of his students.  Many thanks to them for their contribution to this blog and for furthering the lessons from Taichung Teacher.

Stop counting how many forms you have.  It is how well you know your forms that counts.  Quality is always more important than quantity.

Stop counting the hours you are training.  It is not so important to train for so many hours, but rather to make the hours of training count.

Just spend a little time with the movement until you feel comfortable with it and the problems will solve themselves.  The movements are meant to be understood.  They are not meant to challenge you your entire life, but to add quality and knowledge to your life.  Try not to make it so complicated and understanding will come.

The breath should be coordinated with the speed of the movement.  If the breathing is not right, then the timing is not right, and the form loses its meaning.  When the breathing is right, and the timing is right, it brings the movements to life.  Do not force the breathing or the movement, but let them happen naturally.

Over Training
If you push yourself and overdo it and hurt yourself so that you are unable to train, it is useless.  Know your body and how much you can do.  It is not Kung Fu that makes you great, but what you can do that makes Kung Fu great.

July 15, 2013

In Memory of Taichung Teacher

The Stone 

Like a stone into uncertain waters
Sending ripples to every shore
And then returning from whence it came
Leaving stillness in its wake
With Respect, Gratitude and Love

May 14, 2013

Elements of Style

A Kung Fu form, like any other creative expression can be measured against a deceptively simple three-point standard.

First, it should be aesthetically pleasing.  It is said that beauty is in the eye  of the beholder but I think it is fair to say that beautiful works of creative expression possess certain core characteristics.  They have balance: a mix of familiarity and surprise, stability and instability, even-ness and irregularity all of which conveys a sense of solidity with an element of movement.  They have energy: expressed through the medium via color, contrast, texture, rhythm, melody, tone, pace (among others) to the five senses of taste, touch, sight, smell and sound.  Most of us can only appreciate a narrow range of this energy; but people who are trained in a given art form or those whose senses are sharp (either naturally or through training) can appreciate a wider or even the full range of a creative work of art - so a trained musician can appreciate not only the sound of music but the taste, smell and texture as well.  Lastly, creative expressions have depth: reflecting the range of energies expressed within and between the five senses as part of the whole.  So, the depth of painting reflects the range senses the work touches (sight, touch, taste etc.), the range within each sense (i.e. the number of colors) and sometimes the range within a range (i.e. shades of blue, or light/shade).

In Kung Fu, the instrument is your body, mind and spirit, the medium is movement, and the canvas is the space around you.  Each of the elements must balance and support the others to create a seamless mix.  The result is a form and the aesthetic is flow.  The form itself might be described as a river with some actions flowing slowly and seamlessly while others dance over shallow rocks or roar with explosive power.  It is the mix of these elements within a balanced whole that gives beauty (and purpose) to the form.

Second, it should have a practical purpose.  In other words, your form should be more than a well choreographed set of kicks, punches and rolls.  It needs to do something.  The what can vary - but in all cases where there is a real purpose - precision is the key.  The most obvious "purpose" for most people is the form's (or an individual action's) potential in a fight (or self-defense scenario).  This is an accurate, and valid point of view given the obvious visual evidence of the martial arts' application as a fighting (or self-defense) skill.  If the form or action is not performed with precision - its purpose is weakened.  Another purpose that is much less apparent, but no less important (perhaps even more important) is the internal physical impact of Kung Fu.  The movements of a kung fu form provides a "internal massage" by moving bone, muscle and sinew - but they also activate and facilitate various physical, electrical and chemical processes that are key to keeping the internal ecosystem of the body in balance.  Again, precision is the key for this purpose to be realized.

So...whether your focus is on the external aspects of fighting/self-defense or the internal aspects of the body, details matter.  Every form, every action must be performed with your full attention and precision every time - if not you are literally just going through the motions.

Third, it should come from the heart (it should be real).  When you practice your form, every ounce of your beings should be invested.  Your form should be a physical, mental, and spiritual expression of your being.  I once saw a movie about a young girl training to be a concert violinist.  She practiced, and practiced, and practiced until her technique was flawless.  When she performed for her teacher, he told her that it was the finest display of technical skill he had ever seen - but it had absolutely no heart.  It was flat and emotionless.  When you practice, when you perform, put everything you have into it and the result will be a work of art (errors included).