Using Taiji and Qigong as a Tool for Inner Peace

by Ronnie Robinson

qigongHaving taught taiji and qigong for over 20 years, the last 10 of which have been as a professional instructor, I have worked with a wide range of people from many social backgrounds and, through this time I am slowly coming to believe that, despite our many differences, we all seek the same goal, inner peace, and contentment. This being the case I am becoming acutely aware that often the search takes us further away from ourselves and makes it harder to find this inner contentment.

One of the first things I do when starting work with a new group is to ask them why they have decided to come to the class, in one or two words. Around 80% of the reasons given include the words, relaxation or stress reduction. Of course, if we asked these good people to expand upon their single word responses, we would hear terms like increased energy, better health, less resistance to disease etc. All of us who teach or practice these arts would see these as potential benefits which can be gained from continued practice but, the main problem is in creating a place that allows students to experience the benefits as quickly as they can, so that they are suitably stimulated to devote the necessary time and commitment to the work of achieving their goal of becoming more relaxed, less stressed and ultimately at peace with themselves.

In my early days as a teacher, I would spend a lot of time checking for correct postures, looking out for the usual potential dangers that can result from over-doing things, as well as taking care to impart what information I had in a clear, methodical manner. Getting it right was my God. Show them how to perform the movements, let them make a few mistakes, but slowly work to put things right. I continually spoke to the group, advising them of where their arms should be, told them to relax their shoulders, go a little slower, feel the gentle opening up of the body and so on...

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Mental Strength

Mental-Strength-1In his book ‘Wado-Ryu’ karate, Hironori Otsuka tells us that there are three kinds of strength - Physical Strength, Technical Strength and Mental Strength - and if any of those is deficient it will be “ the downfall of the individual “. It’s a common misconception throughout the martial arts that ‘technique’ is the key; if we have good technique then we will be effective in combat. The fact is that technique is no more or less important than physical fitness or mental conditioning. Many martial artists dislike this idea as it infers that those with poor technique can defeat those with good technique (if they lack the required mental and physical condition). A labourer on a building site (physically conditioned) who regularly gets involved in bar fights (mentally used to combat) could easily defeat the martial artist who concentrates on technique to the exclusion of the other forms of strength.

If we are to be able to effectively defend ourselves then we need to ensure that our training also develops physical condition and mental strength in addition to technique. The key is to ensure that our training is intense enough to encourage growth in all three areas e.g. we drill our techniques with intensity and to the point of exhaustion (stimulates physical strength) and no matter how much we want to quit or ease off, we then drill them some more (stimulates mental strength).

We need at least two sessions a week that take us to our very limits. They key is not duration but intensity. We can train for hours and never break sweat or we can work flat out for around two minutes and be close to throwing up. Real fights are extremely intense and, if our training is to be valid, we also need to train in an intense way. This intensity in training has many benefits besides increased combative effectiveness.

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Hypnotherapy and NLP

Hypnotherapy and Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) are two practical tools that can really help you get more from your martial arts training. Martial arts has always stressed the link between the mind and body; knowing that it is more than just physical techniques that creates mastery. Therefore it makes sense that training your mind is going to enhance your physical performance.

What is Hypnosis?
Many people are surprised to learn that a hypnotic "trance" is a naturally occurring state that everyone is likely to go in an out of many times during a day. This can be for example, when we are engrossed in watching a movie or driving over a familiar route. The hypnotherapist uses techniques to lead you in to that normal state in which your level of consciousness is altered. In this state you will tend to have a narrower focus of attention, giving you the power to focus easily on the changes you desire.

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Mental Toughness And Resilience - High Frustration Tolerance

Here is an essential principle of Mental Toughness:

We all experience frustration when our needs, wants and demands are not met, or when we are faced with obstacles that impede our progress. Frustration is a fact of life; therefore our ability to tolerate frustration is crucial to the successful achievement of our long-term goals.

When we are easily frustrated and upset, we are said to have, Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT). If, on the other hand, we are less disturbed or upset by short-term frustrations, and persevere through difficulties, we are said to have High Frustration Tolerance (HFT). Developing High Frustration Tolerance is vital to good mental health and a key element of Mental Toughness.

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Finding Chi

by Aaron Hoopes

Chi is the prime moving force both within the human body and outside in the universe. Chi is not breath, it is the power that makes it possible for us to breathe. Chi is not simply “energy,” it is what gives energy the power to be energy. Chi is the power behind movement and thought…and it is everywhere. It is in the oxygen we breathe and the blood that flows through us.

m_chi_It is difficult to define chi concretely. It cannot be seen or measured, it cannot be touched or captured. It is everywhere yet we have no way to touch it, make it tangible, or even prove its existence. Therefore chi is a difficult concept to accept. The Western mind likes the tangible, the concrete, and the specific. It likes a scientific explanation that defines, dissects, and categorizes. Chi transcends explanation. It doesn’t fit easily into a strict biomedical framework. It is simply indefinable. If, however, we are able to take a leap of faith and try to believe in the idea of chi, then maybe we can open our spiritual eyes and envision what our physical eyes cannot see or open our mind to understandings we cannot normally comprehend.

The ancient Chinese believed chi flowed through the body along sacred channels called “meridians,” just as blood flows through arteries and veins. Traditional Chinese medicine considers blockage of chi, or even the incorrect movement of chi through the body, as the cause of both mental and physical disease. People with strong chi have a healthy and youthful appearance, a strong immune system, and are full of energy, while people with weak chi appear frail and haggard, tire quickly, and fall ill often.
Chi within the body is like power in a rechargeable battery. Occasionally it needs to be replenished. The chi of the universe is inexhaustible, yet the body needs fresh chi to maintain its vitality. You take in food, water, and air and convert them to energy within your body. During sleep, while your veins are relaxed and open and your brain is calm, you are able to take in a fresh supply of chi. If you are stressed or nervous, you become rigid and circulation is blocked, you have difficulty sleeping, and your reserves of chi dwindle. When you are exchanging the chi within you with the chi of the universe, you feel healthy and vigorous. By energizing the body with chi it is revitalized naturally, enabling it to fight off illness and maintain good health. The vitality chi gives to the physical body is generally obvious, but it also gives vitality to your mind. Chi is not only physical energy, it is also mental energy. Realization of this is a key to becoming aware of chi in your life.

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