Your page, a page for the reader to become the writer.
A page for your contributions.
Always welcome. Just use the contact page.
Here's a page for you, the reader, the student, the teacher. You can send your comments, ideas or questions to the E mail address on 'contact' page and I will post them here. (Only nice ones of course!) Please use it, don't be shy, your view is as valid as anyone else's. We can all learn, as you will too by joining in.
From now on, the last shall be first.
Aikido and awareness
By Mark Hardwick Lecturer in Health Sciences and Jee pai kung fu instructor
People begin their aikido careers for various reasons – some may want to keep fit, some may have been inspired by watching a film, others may have been dragged along to the class by a friend. Often, learning self defence is a factor involved in this decision.
To start with, one may view self defence as a sort of computer programme, where it works on the basis of 'if your attacker does this, then you do this'. This of course is fine to start with, while you are starting to accumulate a repertoire of techniques and discover what works for you and what doesn't. You will eventually develop a range of options for each eventuality. In reality though this approach has its problems, a situation in which self defence is required will be completely unpredictable, and it is unknown exactly what the attacker will do. Even if you can predict the attacks, they will not be applied in a predictable way. Therefore, while the rehearsed techniques must become an intrinsic part of the available repertoire, it could be a mistake to think that each one is a programmed response to a particular attack, and that it will work in exactly the way we expect. Therefore we might think about practicing aikido in a way which accepts the unpredictable nature of reality.
Self defence training may be developed so that, having learned techniques, they are applied in ever changing ways and situations, for example when it is dark, when it is cold, when the ground is slippery, when the attacker is drunk, when you are in a confined space, when you are injured, etc. All of these variations help to develop self defence application, but please be careful in training, because as you develop realism, things can get more dangerous.
Even after all this, an approach to self defence where the intention is to repel an attack, is still only one element of self defence. When practical self defence is needed, it could be considered that more suitable strategies of self defence have already failed. A preferable strategy would be to develop the ability to escape from a situation before the need for physical combat arises. This will require that a greater sense of awareness is developed. It would be even better to avoid being in that situation in the first place.
This is reminiscent of the 'recruitment' scene in the film 'Seven Samurai', where the prospective recruits must enter a room. The first is struck on the head by an attacker waiting behind the door. The second successfully repels this attack, which is better. However the third doesn't even go into the room – he anticipates the attack and so avoids the need for physical combat.
Bruce Lee named his martial arts style 'jeet kune do' ('the way of the intercepting fist') in recognition of the importance of this ability to anticipate. Progressing from responding to an attack, he then advocated responding to the attack before it had actually been initiated, by detecting the attacker's intent (possibly by noticing a barely perceptible movement). Ultimately it might be possible to respond to an attack even before the attacker had thought of making the attack! It would of course be very hard to argue this as a self defence case in a court of law: 'I defended myself even before the attacker knew that he was going to attack me'. It does though provide the opportunity to escape from a situation, or to avoid it.
In aikido training, as well as learning techniques, movements and discipline, one is also learning awareness, and attention to this is important. We might consider awareness as the first line of self defence in more ways than one. It might prevent us from being involved in an accident by allowing us to anticipate the careless actions of another person, or it might prevent us from experiencing an injury at work due to anticipation of hazards. Increased awareness of health status is of vital importance. Those people who recognise signs and symptoms of a serious disease early stand a much better chance of survival and recovery.
So how does it work? Viewed as a purely physical manifestation, awareness is a function of the nervous system. The nervous system is made up of the central nervous system (brain plus spinal cord), and the peripheral nervous system (all the other nerves). We are consciously aware of the operation of some nerves, for example when you feel pain, or move your muscles. These are generally known as somatic nerves. Other nerves – the autonomic nerves - operate subconsciously, for example you do not need to consciously calculate how much oxygen you need to inhale, or how much sugar you have in your bloodstream. Your nervous system works this all out without you knowing and makes sure that your physiology functions properly.
In the same way that we trust our autonomic nervous system to take care of all our internal physiological processes, we might also learn to trust it to initiate the correct responses to situations, and so rely on autonomic responses as well as somatic responses. This would mean that, as long as we have developed the natural ability to execute good aikido technique, we don't need to rely purely on conscious memory, and its list of 'if this…then this' responses. This frees us to respond much more naturally and in harmony with events.
This is not to discard the idea of conscious responses. Cultivation of the conscious calculative parts of the brain is important and this is developed through acts of memorisation, calculation and logic. However it can't do all the work on its own. For heightened awareness it must be used in combination with other less tangible areas of the central nervous system, such as the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the limbic system, which govern our interaction with the environment and our subconscious.
As martial artists we are constantly working towards developing abilities which seem to defy normality. In relation to awareness, we might consider those curious areas which lie slightly beyond physical sensation and perception. When strange things happen, can we simply explain them by referring to the physical and chemical mechanics of the nervous system…or is there something else happening which we, in the martial arts, might have access to? It is yours to discover.
Jee pai kung fu instructor
The earth turns
All is divine.
It is important when learning tai chi to co-ordinate the breath with each movement of the form. Breath is celestial and can be likened to the Moon. Like the Moon breath causes ebb and flow and regulates the unending flow of the great river within.
Movement with love
Every sense aware
Soft but sure
This is a poem written by Sue Valentine, the Tai Chi student is also a traveller, take inspiration from her work. Richard.
The Traveller’s Song
Out on the hills, the road behind,
the path in front where it will wind,
the soft green ground, and sky of grey,
and peace to find along the way.
Out in the wind, a gusty kiss,
there is no better time than this,
unless a summer’s soft embrace
is kinder to the travellers pace.
An open sky, and all around
such joy of spirit to be found,
and everywhere a new delight
to lift the soul to greater height.
The way is clear, and everything
is like a sip from some deep spring
out of the earth of long ago,
to cool the mind, and stroke the brow.
Some stay indoors, sit by the fire
and reading books they will aspire
to heath and moorland, hedge and trail
but surely not to much avail.
Put down your book, and come outside,
the road is thee, the world is wide.
Come with me friend, and pass some time,
the path to tread, the hill to climb,
I am new to Tai Chi and therefore feel unqualified to add comments to this website. However Richard has asked members of his Monday Class to contribute from ‘ a students point of view ’ So here goes : -
My first reaction to Tai Chi was - how can any one individual movement be so simple and yet so complicated. Looking at just the movements, ie: where to put one’s hands or feet is relatively simple - How to do it though …….. Where the energy or power to do it, comes from ? - Where the intention lies ? - How to be centred within the body and also focused outside ? - How to look beyond ? - How to move like a cat with the power of a madman ? - And as you can see, words get in the way and stop at theory.
I like my Monday Class. I like where Tai Chi takes me. I like the fact that you can never know it all - it’s never ending. And I like the fact that our teacher Richard is open about his journey and tries each week to bring us some insight or discovery to help open our minds to new ways of seeing.
Part of Nelson Mandela’s speech at his Inaugural Address in 1994 says : -
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that frightens us …………
The practice of Tai Chi I believe, allows us to embrace our innate strength and power, and switch on our light.
Words of a master, not of a student, it should be on the inspirations page. Richard.
Here's my comment for your page if you wish to include them:
"The sign of a great Tai Chi teacher is one that does not take himself too seriously, laughs a lot and makes the occasional mistake. You get all three of these qualities with Richard so he must be truly great teacher! ;-)
Joking aside Richard teaches and passes on many of the internal "secrets" of Tai Chi that one may go through many years without discovering for yourself or being shown. They are a short cut to better Tai Chi and sometimes can be a life enhancing "light bulb" moment when it all comes together.
Richard will humbly mention about his own journey through Tai Chi and that he still remains a student in many respects. He will also discuss some of the spiritual aspects of the practice. Many teachers will not do this for either fear of looking foolish or that they are plainly unaware themselves.
As the Tao Te Ching says:
The wise teach without telling,
allow without commanding
have without possessing
care without claiming
Richard will tell you "make your Tai Chi your own" so whether you are going to his lesson to get fitter, heal your mind or for relaxation you can make it whatever you want it to be, with no pressure attached.
On that basis of the above I can whole heartedly recommend Richards teaching and Tai Chi and look forward to many years of continued practice."
Here is my modest contribution to your reader's page.- hope you approve.
" An Oasis of Peace or a Wonderful Madman in charge - you decide!!
With a generosity of inspirational teachings, a kind heart and a wicked sense of humour.
We might be all luckier than we realise.
With his knowledge he shows us the way, but we have to walk it.
When one moves, we all move.
When one flies, we all fly - let's fly first class with Richard.
When someone so wise as William says it then it must be true! Richard
What a lovely class you have!! All seem very wise!
Include the following at your own risk!!
I have known Richard for 1 year now, and have travelled thousands of miles together (well to Beijing, and that coach journey to Handan felt like it!) got to know him well. He is a very modest man, and very humble about his great abilities! Taking with Richard is always such a pleasure, he always listens to what you are saying, he doesn't just hear you talk like many people do! He has a detailed knowledge of Taijiquan and is a excellent practitioner of the art, and im sure a wonderful teacher.
anyway, I must get back to my training ready for the European champs' in Sweden on Thursday!!
Prof. Hu Xiao Fei said to me in China;
Very fitting quote for you my friend.
Christian Flux (Longfei, Weymouth) & Amy Felstead
We shall not cease from exploration,
And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive
where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Taken from a poem by - T.S. Eliot - Little Gidding part 5 Four Quartets
A brahmin once asked the Buddha " Are you a God ?"
" No Brahmin " said the Buddha
" Are you a saint ? "
" No Brahmin " said the Buddha
" Are you a magician " ?
" No Brahmin " said the Buddha
" What are you then " ?
" I am awake "
A zen story tells of a young man who went deep into the mountains to ask a master to teach him swordsmanship. The young man asked how long this training would take. The master replied ' Ten years.' The young man said, ' My father is old, and I must care for him. If I work hard how long will it take. ?' The master replied. ' That way, thirty years.' The young man was alarmed, ' First you said ten years, now you say thirty years, I don't care how much hardship I have to bear, I must learn in the shortest amount of time.' The master replied. ' In that case, it will take seventy years. '
More inspiring content from Pam, well done and thanks, Richard
T S Elliot wrote also, 'we are where we are not'. ....... I had to have it explained!
In the exploration quote above, it is the same as in your Tai Chi .... you already have all the answers ... you just don't understand them yet ... keep exploring ! *******************
The article on your website "Martial prowess and self defence" makes interesting reading.
Tai chi, like the diamond, has many facets.
Hope you find this interesting:
Extremes are to be avoided since they are incompatible with balance, putting undue weight on one side or the other, whether religious, political or moral. Extremes are the sphere of the essentially ignorant and immature. All militancy is a mistake; being an extreme measure, it involves 'excess of strength' in which 'there exits regret' and from which it is difficult to retreat in the event of going too far - flexibilty and command of the situation are lost and over-balance and catastrophe become inevitable. All extremes contain a certain degree of pathological, and emotional or mental excess and imbalance: they defeat their own ends in arousing strong opposition and in giving rise to fanaticism and bigotry. Taoism, Confusianism and Buddhism all preach the Doctrine of the Mean. It is a difficult path to tread. "The knowing go beyond it, and the stupid do not come up to it, but 'the perfect man embodies the course of the Mean'. It is 'to show forbearance and gentleness in teaching others', and when 'the stakes of equilibrium and harmony exits in perfection, a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth and all things will be nourished and flourish but the path may not be left for an instant. If it could be left it would not be the path.'
Thanks to William for supporting the web site and sharing his wisdoms with us. Richard
Feel it flower.
On it dwell.
Here is a poem I wrote some time ago.
We arrive with love
We work and learn with love
And we leave with much love
For without love we are as
The candle waiting to be extinguished
But to act in pure love
We illuminate the world
Please include in your website if you approve.
Your friend on the path,
"Seeing's believing, but feeling's the truth" ;
who according to the group was destined via this synchronistic coincidence to be used as a channel for a higher being ... which is why that fortune cookie fell to him at the Tai Chi group's Christmas Chinese dinner.
Can you walk on water ? You have done no better than a straw.
Can you fly through the air ? You are no better than a gnat.
Conquer your heart - then you may become somebody
Khwaja Abdullah Ansari of Herat 1005 1090
' Before embarking on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.' - Confucius
( Sent in by Pam, well done for supporting the reader's page ... the very life blood of the Universe .
'When we frantically search for something in a desperation brought on by fear of running out of time - are we then inadvertently putting ourselves in a constant state of always being the Seeker, and consequently never the Finder? Could it be that it is only when we let go of the outcome, relax into a state of complete stillness, and arrive at the blissful everlasting state of 'now' - that the state of being we so desire, turns up?
Last week I was in Wales - such a fascinating place of contrasts... One day I went to Bodnant Gardens near Conwy, and walked in the rain amongst the tall trees and chattering brooks. It took me back to childhood - to the magic stories of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, to a time when I felt fully present and usually in my 'now' moment. It was easy to feel these familiar feelings in this beautiful place of calm, quiet and safety. I stopped to look at a beautiful milky white bloom, nodding at me from the hedgerow, so vibrant and fresh in the cleansing quality of the gentle Welsh rain. I bent forward to try to capture it's scent, and immediately felt what I can only describe as an embrace. The plant held me in such sweetness and gentleness as I can ever remember. It was wonderful and enlightening to me, and in that 'now' moment I really became aware of the character and personality of the plant. It had a childlike, innocent quality - pure, sweet and loving...
For a moment, me and the plant, in that beautiful Welsh garden, were one...
This, to me, is what we are surely always looking for... this to me, was a moment of pure bliss :'
Another great contribution from Mya, thank you.
You need to take out the stones and put in more provisions.
Matthew Ricard, Buddhist Monk From William
This is a wonderful analogy and I have used it to good effect already. I was worrying about a couple of things the other evening and I thought, ' Hey, I don't need these in my rucksack, I need something better, something worth carrying., So thanks William.
COME ON...... DON'T BE SHY ...... YOUR OPINION IS VALUABLE.
Some one must be reading this , so, if it is you, drop us a line and tell us what you think.
FEEL FREE ; FREEDOM IS WHAT WE SEEK IN TAI CHI; AND IT CAN BE YOURS ON THIS PAGE.
Your ideas, your opinions, suggestions, questions!
IF YOU SUBMIT SOMETHING YOU LATER DON'T LIKE .
I'LL REMOVE IT ON REQUEST
GET THAT TYPING FINGER AND YOUR NEURONS INTO GEAR.
BE NOT AFRAID.
FEAR ITSELF IS THE ENEMY.
IF YOU WAIT FOR PERFECTION YOU'LL BE IN THE QUEUE A LONG, LONG TIME !