Cedar Tree Institute Tai Chi Marquette
CEDAR TREE INSTITUTE TAI CHI
With Instructors Jon and Diana Magnuson
BEGINNERS WELCOME, NO EXPERIENCE NEEDED. FIRST CLASS IS PRO BONO.
WHEN AND WHERE:
Wednesdays, September-May at the Marquette Hope Connection Center at 927 West Fair Avenue in Marquette. The parking lot faces the NMU campus.
We build Qigong and Tai Chi form and body structure one movement at a time. For each movement, we first demonstrate it. Then we lead the movement with the class following. Members then practice that movement. Areas needing clarification will be noted, reviewed and re-lead.
THE WEDNESDAY CLASSES
5p-5:30p: Informal Pre-Class Review Option: Yang Sword &Yang 108. Opt: Yang 10 and Staff
OPENING: Get connected
5:30-5:55: QiGong Exercises. All participate. Warm-up and stretching with QiGong Exercises
5:55-6:05: Tea break discussing mind/body experiences during the week
6:05-6:30: Class is split between Continuing and First Level Students. Review what each group has learned. Teach new material
OUR MONTHLY SATURDAY WORKSHOP
9a: Informal Pre-Class Review Option: Yang Sword &Yang 108.
10:30-11: A light light organic brunch including one vegan dish.
11-Noon: Varies: visiting instructors, reviewing forms,
The monthly cost is $55. It includes the workshop.
Drop-in classes are $10 each and $27 for the workshop.
PRO BONO SWORD CLASS AT THE NMU DOME
5-5:45: The first Monday of the month unless there are schedule conflict or the NMU Dome is closed. Then a different Monday will be chosen.
RETREAT JANUARY 19TH-20TH, 2018
Mid January: Carpools leave Friday at 4p from Marquette for Fortune Lake Retreat Center (1.5 hour drive). We leave 4p on Saturday.
Retreat includes an invited speaker, review of forms, QiGong, meals, private or shared rooms and a movie. Cost TBA
TAI CHI FORMS TAUGHT
FIRST LEVEL: Yang 10: (Gao Jiamin) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4Z4sQNQtJM
SECOND LEVEL: Yang 108 Form (MasterYang Jun, grandson of Master Yang Zhenduo) Available online
THIRD LEVEL: Traditional Style Yang Sword Form (Master Jesse Tsao) Available online
FOURTH LEVEL: Traditional Yang Family Short Staff/Part one (Sifu Jiang Jian-ye) Available online
ALL LEVELS: QiGong: Various series includes ZiChuan (Han), Hunyang Qigong (Master Chen Zonghua)
Applications of taiji to daily life are discussed and shared via weekly emails and class discussions.
JON MAGNUSON, MDiv., MSW: has been studying and practicing Tai Chi Since 1985. Director of the The Cedar Tree Institute, a nonprofit organization, provides services in mental health, religion and the environment, he is a Licensed Masters in Social Work in the State Michigan with a graduate degree in theology.
Teachers: John Leong, Master Yang Zhenduo, and son Yang Jun, Grandmaster William C. C. Chen, Master Wei-Chung Lin, Disciple Rick Pietila, Larry Wall (Student of Master Gabriel Chin) John Leong, Master Yang Zhenduo, and son Yang Jun, Grandmaster William C. C. Chen, Master Wei-Chung Lin, Disciple Rick Pietila, Larry Wall (Student of Master Gabriel Chin)
DIANA MAGNUSON, BFA, MFA: studying since 1997
Teachers: Yang Jun, William Chen, Master Wei-Chung Lin, Rick Pietila, (Disciple of Chen Zhonghua), Larry Wall (Student of Master Gabriel Chin), Renxin Yang. She is an illustrator of 100 children’s books and painter of allegorical, mystical art relating to Nature, especially Climate.
If you have any questions about our Tai Chi classes, the Saturday workshops, yearly retreat, or how to register for classes, please feel free to contact Jon Magnuson at: cedarinstitute.org, 906-228-5494 or 906-360-5072
WHAT IS TAI CHI?
ESSENTIAL TAI CHI PRINCIPLES: OUTWARD MOVEMENTS, BODY STRUCTURE AND INTERNAL COMPONENTS –partly based on Master Paul Lam’s book “Teaching Tai Chi Effectively”
GENTLE, FLOWING, UNINTERRUPTED OUTWARD MOVEMENT: balance, coordination and building internal strength –your ‘inner core.’ A health practice since ancient times. Practiced in a calm, peaceful manner, it can work for all regardless of age.
BODY STRUCTURE: Bending knees and relaxing your hip/tail bone area while keeping upright allows energy (qi) to flow –a river flowing to reduce and relax tension. Moving as if in taffy (some resistance) or in water to build that core. You will become aware of every part of your body from rooting your feet by sinking your weight up to your head —as if your head were a helium balloon on a string. Apply structure learned to daily life; from getting up from a chair to walking to pushing to lifting.
TO TURN, MOVEMENT FROM THE PELVIS: We stress by raising our shoulders and turning from the waist resulting in tension. If you bend and lift with this movement you can damage your lower back. The Shoulders stay ‘packed down,’ and the chest relaxes just a bit inward. Turning comes from the feet up through the legs and navel and nose stay lined up so the hips can do their work. It’s one movement with energy coming out through the hand and fingers (Watch where the movement begins when a basketball player shoots or a batter hits the baseball.)
WRIST, HAND AND FINGERS. Keep the wrist lined up from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger allows the energy coming from the rooted feet go flow.
INTERNAL: The focus of our mind controls us. Tai Chi integrates the Mind with the Body. With ‘Song’and ‘Jing’ it becomes a moving meditation that teaches relaxation in the midst of activity. We learn to stay centered and relaxed during tai chi movements. Tai chi is very appropriate and helpful today’s stressful environments.
JING IS MENTAL QUIETNESS OR SERENITY. Focus on one structure at a time until through practice, your body awareness develops. Your body will remember. With Jing you are quiet on the inside but also very aware of your environment. Relax isn’t just going limp. No ‘hanging on your ligaments.’ Your body weight is balanced. Bend your knees and relax your hip/tail bone area while maintaining and upright axle in your body’s interior allows energy (qi) to flow –a river flowing to reduce and relax tension. Move in the exercises and forms as if moving in taffy (some resistance) or walking in water to build that core. Let your weight sink deep into the ground. You will become aware of every part of your body with this rooting. Your head is as if it were a helium balloon on a string. Apply structure learned to daily life; from getting up from a chair to walking to pushing to lifting.
Song is Chinese for relax/loosen, but also loosening joints and stretching out. Controlled relaxation. Movement of the joints is the only way to move synovial fluid. With gentle flowing movements you are a string of pearls with no knots. In Tai Chi, weight flows from one leg to the other. One leg fills with weight while the other empties. This takes a lot of physical and mental focus. But, with practice, you get better balance, ease and flow of movement.
CHEN: BREATHING. Exhaling brings qi energy to your dan tien –the area below and in from the navel. Breathe in and store energy, breathe out and deliver. You can advance to awareness of gathering and delivering energy –yang and yin with continued practice.
HUO IS AGILITY. Move nimbly with regular practice to lessen falls; incorporate strong internal body and mind strength.
MUSHIN is a zen concept. Relax the ‘monkey brain. The mind is cleared of all distractions
DAILY PRACTICE IS IMPORTANT: even ten minutes a day.
TAI CHI IS LAYERS OF LEARNING. It never gets boring. There is always another level.
MOTIVATION: With health dollars diminishing, it is increasingly up to each of us to maintain our own health –especially as we age. It is easier to stay motivated within a group of like-minded folks. We work together to support each other in achievement, success, belonging and enjoyment. Students may form buddy systems as needed.
Our class receives a structure poster. It is best to work on one structure at a time
CEDAR TREE INSTITUTE TAI CHI
Tai Chi is the mother of all martial arts. However, in our classes we focus on Mind/Body health. Marital arts applications are occasionally noted where applicable to understand of a movement. Present day personal and work life easily brings stress, which damages our mental health and physical health. Electronic media and expectations have disconnected us from ourselves, from listening, our human nature, body awareness, intuition, even from each other. Breathing, body structure and balanced whole-body movement are skills taught to help us with modern life
We emphasize connecting with your own body to progress in a way beneficial to you. In our lessons, we begin with slow movements as we incorporate all of the above. Students are encouraged to progress at their own rate. In order to build a strong connection to our selves (be “centered”) you begin practice with an awareness of your own limitations. Simply put, you begin where you are. It is not a competition. Now and then we enjoy laughing at ourselves
MEDICAL & HEALTH BENEFITS OF TAI CHI
MEDICAL RESEARCH LIBRARY – FROM WORLD TAI CHI & QIGONG DAY
Search nearly 100 common health issues, from Aches to Weight Loss, for articles on medical research & how Tai Chi or Qigong can help.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF T’AI CHI
From: Harvard Women’s Health Watch, May 2009
T’ai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medication in motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren’t in top shape or the best of health. Read more…
COMPARISON OF THE BENEFITS OF TAI CHI & YOGA
Unlike a traditional workout, yoga and t’ai chi focus on precise movements that allow the body to slowly transition from one position to the next. Both practices attempt to coordinate the muscles, bones, heart and mind with the positive energy that surrounds the body. Although both have similar goals, a comparison of the benefits of t’ai chi and yoga reveals interesting differences. Read more…
TAI CHI MAY BE GOOD FOR HEART PATIENTS—BUT THAT’S JUST FOR STARTERS
From: The Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2010
The benefits of t’ai chi, with origins as a Chinese martial art, seem to be adding up. Evidence that the exercise might help people with heart failure feel less depressed and more energized is but the latest in a string of positive findings about t’ai chi’s health effects. Read more…
STUDY SHOWS TAI CHI IMPROVES FIBROMYALGIA
From: The New England Journal of Medicine, August 19, 2010
A small but important study published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that t’ai chi may help relieve symptoms of fibromyalgia. The study found that t’ai chi, a mind-body practice that combines meditation with gentle, flowing poses, may significantly reduce the spectrum of physical and mental problems associated with fibromyalgia. After 12 weeks, the t’ai chi group had a greater reduction in pain and more improvement in mood, quality of life, sleep, confidence in their abilities and ability to exercise than the control group. People in the t’ai chi group were encouraged to continue their t’ai chi practice after the classes ended using an instructional DVD, and they were still feeling better 24 weeks after the study began. Read more…
TAI CHI INCREASES BALANCE IN PARKINSON’S PATIENTs
From: NIH Research Matters, February 27, 2012
People with Parkinson’s disease often have problems with balance and can suffer life-threatening falls. For patients with mild to moderate cases, a new study suggests that the ancient art of t’ai chi may significantly improve balance and reduce falls. Read more
TAI CHI IMPROVES DIABETES CONTROL
From: Medical News Today, April 1, 2008
According to two small studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in April 2008, t’ai chi exercises can improve blood glucose levels and improve the control of type 2 diabetes and immune system response. Read More….
TAI CHI: A GENTLE WAY TO FIGHT STRESS
From: Mayoclinic.com/ -wellbeingjournal.com
Fitness researches have determined that regular T’ai Chi practice gives us the same cardiovascular benefits as high-intensity aerobics, but without the dangers of high-impact exercise. Its stress-reducing approach can help improve muscle tone and assist with weight loss. Tai Chi practice can improve coordination and balance. The American Medical Association recommends it for all people over 65 as a way of reducing falls =a leading cause of early mortality. T’ai Chi has been shown to reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis, lower blood pressure, stabilize the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, normalize insulin levels for diabetes patients, reduce chronic low back pain, and increase the immune response, especially important for cancer patient recovery. Its practice improves mood, mitigates depression and helps stop anxiety attacks.
SOME BASIC PRINCIPLES OF TAIJI PRACTICE
© Larry Wall, Hancock, MI Tai Chi
You can practice some of the basic taiji principles of movement without a formal lesson. Here’s how to get started:
IMAGINE YOUR HEAD IS A BALLOON FILLED WITH HELIUM
This encourages you to “float” your head above your neck and promotes proper upper-body alignment and tension release. It is the basis for the postural alignment discipline called the Alexander Technique —to point out a connection to Western disciplines.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE 4 INTERNAL FORCES: FALL, COMPRESS, FLOAT, & FLING
Taiji is based on four feelings we experience continuously while walking but usually never notice. As we step forward, our foot “falls” towards the ground and then “compresses,” prompting a “rebound” or “float” of force that goes up through the body and out of the top of the head. If you relax while naturally swinging your arms, like a pendulum, “fling”, you can feel the weight of your arms travel down into your hands. All taiji moves are elaborations and developments of these four “forces.”
Pay more attention to these internal “feelings” than how you look.
Taiji primarily involves the feet and legs. The illusion is that the arms and hands are the main points of focus.
ALL MOVEMENT COMES FROM THE FEET, GOES UP THROUGH THE BODY AND THEN TRAVELS OUT THE HANDS
This feels very foreign for most people who begin learning taiji. You will probably need to be coached at first to experience this. Once you get the hang of the feeling, however, it becomes very natural.
ThE INSTANT YOU COMPRESS INTO YOUR PARTNER, FEEL YOUR BACK OR FORWARD FOOT COMPRESS INTO THE GROUND
This activates your bodily structure and provides you with a full-body connection between your hand (or hands) and the ground. Most of the time you’ll compress your back foot into the ground as you compress your hand or fist into your partner for a push or a strike but occasionally you’ll compress into your front foot for particular techniques. In the absence of a partner, you can practice using a wall to experience the whole-body connection between your foot and your hand. A variation of this activation also applies to pulls. (This also works in many daily tasks. Example: pushing a loaded wheelbarrow. –Diana)
BREATHE FROM YOUR LOWER ABDOMEN (DIAPHRAGM)
This is how you breathe when you sleep. Most people, however, breathe from their chest when they’re awake. If you have ever played a wind instrument, sang in a choir or engaged in public speaking, you already know how to do this.
BEND YOUR KNEES IN LINE WITH YOUR THIRD TOE. NEVER REACH PAST THE VERTICAL PLANE OF YOUR FORWARD TOES.
Bending your knee in the direction of your third toe protects you from knee damage, as does never bending your knee past the vertical plane of your toes. Never reaching with your hands past the vertical plane of your forward toes protects you from losing balance by overextending yourself.
Larry Wall instructing at CTI’s February taiji retreat
THE FIVE STAGES OF TAIJI DEVELOPMENT –Larry Wall
TAIJI AT FIRST IS THE SUPREME ULTIMATE EXERCISE:
A gentle exercise, which stretches the limbs, loosens the spine and rejuvenates one’s sense of balance and bodily kinesthetics. Taiji enhances one’s breathing and is vigorous enough when practiced correctly to raise a good sweat while being gentle enough that one can continue to practice it well into old age. Most people who begin to practice taiji remain at this level; no matter how many years they practice the art, which is perfectly all right. Most people either have no desire to progress to the next level or else they lack a competent teacher who can help them go further
NEXT, TAIJI BECOMES A SUPREME ULTIMATE DANCE.
Only a few people begin to sense the inner rhythm and flow of taiji to the point where they experience taiji as a dance form. For these people, taiji becomes a delightful way to turn on one’s inner happiness and radiance at will. Most people who experience taiji as a dance are content to remain at this level.
AT THE THIRD LEVEL TAIJI BECOMES A SUPREME ULTIMATE MARTIAL ART.
The full name of taiji is tàijíquán (太極拳). The word quán (pronounced “chwen”) most directly translates as “fist.” As the martial art of taijiquan relies on a degree of body “rectification” as well as satisfaction by the teacher that one is of “decent character,” going through the Exercise and Dance progressions are absolutely necessary prerequisites before one learns taiji as a means of self defense.
VERY, VERY FEW TAIJI PRACTITIONERS ARRIVE AT THE MARTIAL ARTS LEVEL AND FOR THOSE WHO DO, THIS LEVEL IS A MAJOR TRAP.
The goal of taiji at this level is not at all to become a “martial arts bad ass” or to “learn how to kick butt,” even though taiji martial art is extraordinarily comprehensive and allows one to respond to an attack with anything from a no-touch evasion, to a light push or pull, all the way to a killing technique if everything else has failed. The goal of taiji as a martial art—oddly enough for most people—is stress management. The idea is that if one can remain physically, emotionally and mentally relaxed while someone is trying to grab, hit or otherwise hurt you, you can probably remain relaxed in the normal hassles of everyday life.
THIS IS THE INTERESTING PART: THE VARIOUS JÌNS OF TAIJI DON’T WORK IF YOU TENSE UP AND TRY TO USE MUSCLE STRENGTH.
Tensing up both slows you down and drastically reduces the power you can produce. Trying to muscle one’s way to a “victory” in the exercise known as “push hands,” for instance, will only result in your resorting to wrestling rather than taiji. Tensing up while someone is trying to hit you probably means you’ll find yourself getting hit.
THE OTHER INTERESTING THING ABOUT PRACTICING TAIJI AS A MARTIAL ART (AS WELL AS RELATED DISCIPLINES SUCH AS AIKIDO AND SYSTEMA) IS THAT SKILLED PRACTITIONERS USUALLY COME ACROSS AS VERY CASUAL AND NON-AGGRESSIVE.
It turns out that much of the “tough guy” posturing and “woofing” found in the bars and on television is understood as an expression of underlying fear, which these arts teach you to resolve, just as these arts help one to resolve the intense fear of injury seen in those who cower and tremble in the face of any expressed or implied aggression.
THE MAIN GOAL OF TAIJI AS A MARITAL ART IS TO LEARN HOW TO LISTEN AND RESPOND TO ANOTHER PERSON’S PROJECTION OF ENERGY.
Many of the jìns that are important to develop if one wants to master taijiquan cannot be developed if one only practices solo taiji. It is vital for students to practice cooperatively if they are to understand and develop the higher levels. One of the most popular methods of joint taiji practice is called tuī shǒu (推手) or “push hands.” It’s variations begin at the simple and evolve into the complicated and free style.
THE FOURTH LEVEL OF TAIJI IS THAT OF THE SUPREME ULTIMATE MEDITATION.
If you recall, I mentioned that the word quán directly translated into “fist.” But take a second: what is a fist? A fist is a “concentrated hand.” In the same way, the word quán can serve as a poetic reference to meditation as a “concentrated mind.” In practicing taiji as a meditation, it is necessary to have approximately mastered the prior three levels of taijiquan. In the meditative level, one focuses on one of the many aspects of taiji practice: the shifting of one’s weight from one foot to the other, the expression of force as it develops in the feet, travels up one leg into the torso and from there travels down one arm and out the hand; one focuses on one’s breathing to further refine the physiology of the inhale and the coordination of movement with the exhale, the feeling of one’s entire body as it moves through space—the possibilities of what to focus on are endless. This is one of the things that make taiji fascinating: when done correctly, taiji is never boring. One can still be a student after fifty years of practice and into one’s 70’s and older.
AT THE FIFTH AND FINAL LEVEL, TAIJI BECOMES ITSELF. The taiji practitioner at this level easily shifts from levels one through four and also is able to consciously slip into a form of high level non-verbal awareness the Chinese Daoists call wú xīn (無心) or “no mind” and a high level of behavioral responsiveness known as wú wéi (無為) or “no action,” better translated as “not forcing.” The taiji practitioner at this point can defend himself or herself with complete spontaneity, responding to an attacker’s moves in the same effortless fashion that a skilled jazz saxophonist can improvise music in perfect synchrony with the pianist and the trumpet player. This ability transfers into every area of the practitioner’s life and is said to have penetrated “into the bones” to the point where the taiji practitioner is performing taiji in everything he or she does, whether it’s driving a car, engaging in self-defense, talking with the boss or washing the dishes. © Larry Wall