I wanted to share with you a short ebook on Aikido titled “Reflections on Friday Morning” written by my good friend Richard Morrison.
Rich is a 4th Dan Aikido instructor at Center Island Aikido Lake Grove, Long Island NY.
Some people think it is incredible and love it. Some people don’t think much of it at all. I personally loved it and with Rich’s permission wanted to share it with you. If you practice Aikido, Tai Chi, Zen or any similar practice I think you will enjoy it too.
Click here to download the pdf.
My form usually consists of paying attention to quite a few points and working on them for a week or more. This morning’s practice my attention happened to be on my feet. The foot is neither the beginning nor the end but it starts the momentum the rest of the body follows. Each step as I shift into the substantial foot, I am feeling the Chi travel through my body. It starts below the ground up through the bottom of my substantial foot and passes through my body and out to infinity. Then new chi energy travels back down through my head, through my body and back through the substantial foot deep into the earth. Each movement flowing from one to the next as smoothly as possible.
After years of study, paying attention to posture, alignment, breathing etc. the body has learned and knows what to do. Allow the chi to flow without thinking.
When I have read a book more than once I might take it out and just open it in the middle and begin reading. Next time I pick it up I will open it again and read a different section. I have read the book Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on Tai Chi by Cheng Man Ching probably three times. This time I picked it up and opened it randomly and read. I came across a few paragraphs about The Beginning Posture which by the way was in the middle of the book. Cheng Man Ching wrote “The Main Purpose of this movement is to begin opening and relaxing the wrists. The wrists change six times.”
The next time I practiced the form which was almost immediately after reading this, I paid more attention to my wrists. Not only in the beginning but throughout the form. It was like I was hearing this for the first time. Suddenly my wrists and fingers seemed alive throughout the form.
I took a ride to visit my cousin who lives in Brooklyn. She lives close to Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge and I thought it would be cool if she took a video of me practicing my Yang Tai Chi form. Although I have been practicing Tai Chi for many years this was the first Tai Chi video of my form. I thought it would be nice if one day I could look back on it and see how I have progressed. Since the park is so close to her house we took a walk over. The weather was so nice that day, it was one of the last really nice days before winter.
The quality of the Tai Chi video is pretty good considering we used my HTC Incredible phone and my cousin held it in her hand while recording. Even though the sun was shining that day you can begin to see the leaves falling from the trees. Practicing Tai Chi in Brooklyn was fun and I would like to do it again. Usually you will find me practicing Tai Chi on Long Island.
The Tai Chi music in the background is from the CD Relaxing Orient. The song is called Jade Forest.
LISTENING TO MUSIC WHEN PRACTICING TAI CHI
Whenever I do my form inside or outside I listen to music. It is true that music can really excite or relax you. I like to use relaxing music while I practice my form it puts me in a relaxed state. Sometimes I keep the music loud enough so that I cannot hear external sounds, other times low enough that the music is only the background noise. One day I forgot my earbuds and played the music very low through my phone. This time I paid attention to the sounds around me. I had almost forgotten about the sounds of nature and life going on all around me.
Through the years I have purchased many Asian Music CD’s for the purpose of accompanying my form. So far the best for me has been these three CD’s I highly recommend all three: RELAXING ORIENT Lifescapes THE WORLD TRAVELER, Lifescapes: Just Relax – The Orient and T’ai Chi.
Tai Chi is an internal art, however you must also be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Why is it that while practicing Tai Chi I can feel tension in my body? Is my alignment off? I would often try to fix my posture so I don’t feel tension. Am I not doing something correctly?
Tai Chi is supposed to be like swimming on land. The imaginary water around me should be able to freely pass through me. Air should feel like it can pass through me unblocked. How can this be achieved?
The answer is in the Tai Chi Symbol. Imitate the Yin and Yang Symbol. As you practice the form be smooth, balanced, circular, equally Yin and Yang throughout the form. Be aware of your front, back, sides, top and bottom. If you move one way move the opposite way at the same time. Fill the spaces all around you.
Try it and you will feel the difference.
Practicing the Tai Chi form outside is really good training to keep you in your center. When I first started practicing outdoors I was a little embarrassed, what would others think? Often I am in the midst of the form when I notice someone in the distance observing me. What if I forget the next move? What if I stumble and don’t have perfect balance? Someone might think I don’t know what I am doing. A mix of thoughts go through my head. I am no longer able to keep in my center.
Now when I practice the form I still have those thoughts but I pay much less attention to them. Train with external distractions, be aware of them but don’t let them hold your attention. It is good training to keep you centered.
Last week in push hands class I was frustrated. My teacher and some Tai Chi classmates were telling me how stiff I was and how I was moving like a block. How could this be I said, I feel so relaxed in the inside. One of my friends mimicked my movements and said you are not creasing your hips. I was blown away thinking he was right. For years my teacher would tell me how the tendons, ligaments and sinews play such an important role in generating power in Tai Chi. I never really understood it until now. Creasing the hips actually separates them and increases your range of motion. As you are being pushed you are supporting your weight with tendons, ligament and tendons. My thigh muscles are no longer the main weight bearing muscles. Now I am more aware of doing this all over the body and how extreme power can be generated with little use of muscle power.
When I first started learning the breath I would imagine filling and deflating like a inflatable raft, or the ballon at the water gun balloon game at the carnival. The top of my head and finger tips would be the outer edge of the inflated balloon. This visualization really helped me to understand the relaxation and the path of chi. Breathe in as the balloon inflates and exhale as the balloon deflates. In the beginning of my training I did not realize that the breath should ever stop at my head. As I practiced more I would imagine the breath passing through my head, feet, finger tips and body into infinity. At first it was difficult to visualize. One day in meditation class I listened to how the bell rang and I followed the sound until it disappeared. I began to practice with my breathing the same way.
This morning I was practicing and was paying attention to remaining in my hips, legs and waist. As I breathed in I imagined the top of the Tai Chi ball was at my sternum and the bottom was at my feet. When my breath filled the ball it would pass gently through its imagined edge and extend up my back, out the top of my head, through my arms, fingers, legs, feet etc. This really helped me to keep my attention in my center.