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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Si Xiang : The four aspects of the spiritual path


Training of the four spiritual aspects is a traditional method of explaining the Kan-Li Accomplishment, one of the three stages of Taoist spiritual enlightenment.

The four aspects are :

Initiation Purification Rebirth Accomplishment

Training implies the presence of  Nei Gong (internal training) or a « Weapons Path » (a serious combat practice, not ritual) as part of any practitioner's practice.

This training comes after working on Nei Dan (Internal Alchemy), the final stage of developing the qualities of the mind.

In the reality of training, it is often more practical to incorporate everything at once, time being a pressing factor.

The stage of the Shadow Warrior


This is the moment of becoming aware of the Way or of a need to follow a path.  A contact, or meeting, anything could potentially generate this need to go further, to understand one's life.

But having realized the need, few among us will go on to practice: we are stuck in our prejudices and our habits, our confidence and the size of our ego.

It is the start of a battle, a fight between your desire to go through with it and the refusal to become a « student », to accept learning. 

We are going to fight against the shadows, the most restless and  heaviest aspects of our being. There are high chances of losing oneself, of staying in our comfort and our illusion of satisfaction.

This aspect of the practice is under the sign of the Black Tortoise, sign of the land and of our morbid calculations.

Only one thing can get us out of this state : passing through the Door, the start of a Way, the Initiation.

After practicing for some time, it will be possible to go further by truly committing oneself to a chosen tradition. It is not an obligation, the Way is also a path to health and a martial path which do not require an opening into the spiritual.

The purification brought by the White Tiger


The problem with our mind, is that it is restless and has long since escaped from our control: the tool has become the master and the master now takes orders from the tool.

Even the idea of the origin of all things, the Wu Ji, is stillness and the perfect availability towards creative manifestation.

To have access to this stillness, to this particular quality which is at the center of our profound nature, we must clarify and align our day to day life.

Somewhat like a device which no longer functions properly, and of which we are unable to understand the dysfunction, it is preferable to take everything apart, clean everything and put it all back in place.

We are there at the stage of dissecting our life : our actions, our thoughts and our emotions are going to have to bathe in the benevolent luminosity of our attention.

The White Tiger appears only in the face of perfection, therefore we are going to clean everything, reformat everything, study everything to head towards this perfection.

It is really written to examine oneself and to make corrections of oneself, not to become the little judge of the world around you, to give your opinion about everything and criticize others.

In destroying our habits and in observing our behavior, we clarify our life.

Immobility and tranquility will be able to transform us.

Riding the azure Dragon to be Reborn


Thanks to the preceding efforts, an availability and a tranquility set in, which will allow the energy from Heaven into our life.

This exposure to the « Way of the Heavens » will gradually transform us and allow us to dissolve the remnants of our old way of functioning.

Through this training, we will experience on a regular basis states which unify us with the Greater, that transcend our humanity.

Riding the Dragon, we move towards the Heavens, but always come back to the mundane. after having glimpsed superior states, pulled back toward the Earth by our habits and our beliefs to which we cling so much.

Incapable of renouncing my self-importance and accepting another way of seeing the world, it is impossible for me to be reborn without first dying.

That is the catch to riding the Dragon, that to be reborn as something else, one must first overcome this way of living.

The trouble of being reborn, is that one must die.

Accomplishment : Glory of the Vermilion Phoenix


In the case that I accept death and that my exposure to my maintained awareness is continued, due to bathing in and sensing constant energy, it will be possible to live in a new way.

Rising up from my ashes, in an availability to a balanced energy, with a water – fire balance in my body/mind, there is the Kan – Li realization .

At that point we live in a different state, permanently, but without being absent from the world.

There we are, present for our loved ones and working with others, yet conscious of the different aspects of the world unified with the way of the Heavens.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Punch

Punch!


Let's see the details that will allow to develop maximum impact.

We're talking here about "obvious" power, the raw force of a rear fist hitting linearly, from the back to the front.

It is important not to confuse the force of impact with physical force.

Often enough, a heavy puncher is pretty strongly built, but it is not necessary.
In my tradition, it is recommended to work the body structure, flexibility and coordination before attempting to work pure strength.

The whole work on the structure goes in the direction of the force of impact.

Before anything else, we have to understand the mechanics of the move before thinking about hitting something.

See details from the bottom to the top:

- The feet are rooted to the ground, the weight being on their center, the rest of the body depends on this foundation.
- The rear foot will push the weight slightly forward, initiating the move.
- The front knee bends slightly, remaining in the alignment of the toes.
- The push is passed on to the hips moving the waist, acting as the base for the connection of the shoulders and the latissimus dorsi.
- The trunk rotation will propel the striking shoulder straight forward, remaining low and connected to the latissimus dorsi.

The whole movement allows to let the arm go forward, including these details:

- No tension in the arm and forearm,
- Aligning the striking part of the fist, the wrist and the tip of the shoulder,
- Letting the elbow down and the shoulder connected to the latissimus dorsi,
- Looking at where you strike.

At the impact, the elbow must not be bent, but it should not be stretched ... the striking distance is therefore essential for a truly devastating strikes.
The fist should be held, but not tense. If the fist is really clenched tightly, it will be possible to make "brutish" strikes, but not the most subtle ones.

The fist will have more power when aligned with the opposite shoulder.

Much of the force of impact may be annihilated if we hold our breath, if we stuck our diaphragm. In addition, striking while holding the breath will make us tired much more than when striking with a relaxed breath.

We just have to strike the air first, seeking to feel, slowly and remaining relaxed ... we should not rush to train with speed (and it's not really necessary).

The more the move is direct, the less there will be "force leaks".

So, even slowly, you have to go from total immobility to a decisive move.

It is advised not to put attention on the striking hand or arm (it will create tensions), but rather on the rotation and mobilization of the back.

Once the move is loose enough, and without parasiting movements (or at least, as little as possible), we will strike stuff (rather a soft bag, but quite heavy, for example).

Traditionally, in our school, we hit a wooden post. 

We start from pushing, rubbing and then violently hitting the post. The work bag comes later.

We will see specific exercises that develop the impact force in another text (working with weights, targets, iron rings ...).

We are not talking here about the work of precision, speed or structure which will obviously determine the effectiveness of the strike.

Punching can be done with open hand...with even more efficient result !

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Practicing for one's pleasure

When you enter into a serious practice, normally as soon as the 2nd month you have too much exercises to perform. The teacher must have the means to confront you to the work you have to do in many forms. The accumulation of exercises allows to check for yourself your evolution. It is important to keep practicing all these exercises for some time.

The key is to train without searching for a logic in the exercises. At each period of one's evolution in the Way, you should be going in the direction of the exercises. You can, at times, discuss the Way and what is researched, but at other times one must know how to be in the practice, and nothing but the practice.


Quickly, you need to install in your practice an equal share of the three facets of the Way:


- A physical aspect, for the body,

 - A energetic facet that nourishes the Qi (energy),
 - A meditative component that seeks to know the Shen (spirit).


Without this equal distribution between the three elements of the human being, we create an imbalance. It is obvious that when starting the practice, this imbalance is already present, which is why it is important to correct it as soon as possible, before going further. Most of the time, the pains and weaknesses of the body require a more physical start. Our mind, foggy  
and overflowing with sticky stigma for most of us, requires Shen gong exercises (work of the mind). Loss of desire and enthusiasm, unfortunately common in our soft society with a depressive tendency, demands to awaken the energy in us.

After a year of training, we must be able to introduce two phases in our time of practice: learning (which we add stuff, refine and think) and the practice itself (which is in the "feeling" without thinking). Indeed, without continuity in education, without a constant relationship with the Way and the discovery of what it is, we can regress or even forget it. Thus it is good 
to refine one's practice by always going deeper into learning.

On the other hand, it is necessary to have a phase of free action, melting into the feeling of what is best known. At first, a simple gesture that one understands is sufficient. But without this time where the focus is placed on what is sensed, forgetting the imperfections of what is known, the Way does not exist.


If the training is only an apprenticeship, you end up correcting yourself for decades without making progress on the Way. It's like inspecting one's car before a long trip, arranging the interior and checking the tire pressure for 20 years ... and in the end, not having made any trip. There are modern ways all the training time (group or individual) is based on a maniacal correction of everything that goes wrong. In neurotic focus, there is no practice, there is no evolution, it is a waste of time.


If in the illusion of practice, you get lost in the movements then the learning is not sufficiently respected and that this false practice is useless. It is possible to claim to be in the "feeling" immersed in 
astral limbo, but the truth is that one is lost in the welter of one's mind. Feeling, simple presence to the body and energy, but presence still, enables us to be in the right gesture, in the known. If one fails to do so, it is that the learning is not enough, that the work is incomplete, as one does not work in the right spirit. Under no circumstances should the "feeling" make us lose sight of the form of the movements.  On the contrary, it is an integral part of them. 

If you do not have this problem, then  you have to begin to "sort" the practice. In an effort to balance the three phases of practice, and a good time management of learning and practice, we must go further: it must be fun, we must have fun. 


Only those who plan to teach must know all the aspects of education. The practitioner only needs a path that suits him and that is in line with his needs. Learning must remain learning, however the practice, to be considered as such, must sooner or later,take  a pleasant form.Across everything that is known, with the agreement of the teacher so as to not do anything stupid, we must shape the practice in order to have fun. The qualities work, the substance, can be expressed in different forms. It is therefore possible to articulate the practice, while respecting the Way, in an expression that we like, that is pleasant.


Whether you choose one style over another (Taijiquan, Baguazhang, xingyiquan ....), whether you prefer working on the basics rather than advanced forms (simple qi gong, nei gong ...), whether we decided to do everything with the same form rather than various forms, and vice versa ... Everything is good from the point where the bases are met (this is why the approval of the teacher is important and that you must not indulge in 
selective creativity ).

"The teaching is broad enough to express the Way in pleasant forms"

It is useless to have a 
"painful" practice, the "no pain, no gain" is useless.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Enjoy Summer Outside !


Clearly, summer is characterized by heat.  Under its effects, the body functions better in general, as everything is more open and circulates better.
Be cautious to avoid restlessness and excessive movement, they result in a hyperactive and overheated system.
If we are peaceful and calm, summer will benefit us.  If we are upset and overworked, it will be harmful.

Openness and Communion With Nature

Summer is the time where we don’t have to protect ourselves from the cold.  However we must still protect ourselves from the sun because too much exposure harms the skin (skin cancers are caused by repetitive and excessive sun exposure).

“In summer, take care to regulate activities and limit strong emotions.”

Summer is a special time in the year during which we can spend time in nature with a minimum of clothing, almost none at all.  Strolls in nature, where we are lightly dressed in simple apparel, allow us to feel the forces of the earth.  We feel more in harmony with nature, and have a greater sense of belonging.

Take care of Fatigue

An excess of heat makes energy rise up, into our heads.  We can feel easily overwhelmed by our enthusiasm, and at risk of ‘spreading ourselves too thin’.  This tendency towards dispersion can dissolve our vitality, leaving us feeling fatigued.
To avoid this fatigue, we must treat summer heat with respect and make efforts to regulate our temperature during this period.
We must conduct ourselves similarly with regard to the emotions and the internal heat they can generate.  The heat will feel oppressive if we are worked up or bothered by strong emotions.

“A good diet, the right breathing exercises, 
and a moderate level of physical activity will allow us to best cope with the heat of summer.”

In summer, we must take care of our heart and circulatory system.  We can fast for a few days, or stop drinking for a few hours, hold our breath for a few minutes…but we cannot stop the beating of our heart.
The heat is not an ally for our hearts, for it oppresses and fatigues.
Summer is the period when our cardiovascular functions are most stressed and our circulatory system is most stimulated by environmental heat.
We must ‘tidy’ up our heart, be selective in our efforts and not tire the body out for no reason.
Caution – inactivity and apathy wear on the heart just as much as over activity. 

Take Care of Your Heart!

In summer, when we are at rest, the heat allows our circulating blood to be more fluid and flow easier, because all the blood vessels are more dilated.
However, if we are too worked up, there is too much pressure on this system, leading to over-exhaustion, especially for the heart.
We must be active but not overly so.  If we have plans to carry out made in the spring, we must not allow ourselves to get sidetracked by tiring distractions.  We do what we have committed to, without adding fluff to it.
We often have trouble feeling alive, and often need to be busy enough to avoid boredom.
Enthusiasm can lead us to undertaking too many things because of the illusion we have that putting the pedal to the metal is how to live fully.
When we are engaging in physical activity, we must hydrate much more than often, and eating lighter than usual.

Blockages and Heaviness

If we are not in good shape, summer heat leaves us with blockages and heaviness inside.  These are the result of all the physical tensions and inactivity that accumulate over the year.  This heaviness, the blockages and tiredness paralyze us and must be dissolved; summer is the perfect time to eliminate them with a daily practice.
In order to circulate what is stagnant - whether it be the blood, the energy, or the breath – one must practice simple activities, such as taking a walk three or four times a day, swimming regularly, or going for a jog at an easy pace.
In a week or two, the chosen moderate physical activity will help with restoring good health, as it aligns with the rhythm of the season.

Gaining without disturbing

“Summer: the season where one takes their time.  Fall: the season for man and nature to travel together.  Winter: the season where we count the days.  Spring: the season of illusions; nature is rejuvenated and we believe the same happens to us.”  Aristotle

This is the paradox of summer: we must do without overdoing.  The balance is tricky to grasp for those who are not in tune with the energy of the seasons.
The strength of summer is such that we only have to channel the enthusiasm and natural energy of the season to realize our goals, rather than getting all worked up.
In order to do this, we must have already made concrete plans in the spring in order to follow them through clearly in the summer.
One of the secrets for acting well here is to understand the balance between work and rest.  This truth applies to the entire year, but it is most important during the hot months where the body is already feeling excess.

Take advantage of the heat, but at a slower pace

The heat has an automatic effect on the circulation.  Take advantage on the proper functioning of our systems by not overdoing it.
Avoid bustling about all day.  Rather, do the minimum essential.  Engage in light physical activity, eat lightly and stay protected from the heat.
Summer is also the time for holidays, where relaxation reigns.
We take advantage of the heat by letting our bodies unwind a bit.
Accepting to do nothing is not easy, as most of us feel extreme guilt whenever we are inactive.
We often feel the need to define ourselves by our activity or how much we bustle about…
Doing a lot gives the impression of being, and it satisfied the ego and mind.  However, it is also possible to just take life as it comes, watching it go by.
This is not an excuse for laziness, rather an appeal to just being without the need to hustle.

Rediscovering the ‘Simple’

Summer allows us to feel the joy for life and of having a body more easily.  We are more aware of our perceptions.
The natural relaxation that accompanies summer allows us to contemplate the world around us, to accept life and commit to living simply.
It is a great thing to have access to our senses of breathing, watching, living.


“Summer is a good time to contemplate the joy of being alive.”

"Il faut toujours un Hiver pour bercer un Printemps"


 Many of us have trouble accepting the fact that we ought to decrease our activities during winter, as we live in a society where working less is equivalent to being weak.  Also, professional and societal rhythms and demands do not slow down during winter.
However, if we learn to respect our own rhythms of rest and work, we will be more productive.  Many people spend long hours working at their desk, but a decent portion of those hours is unproductive and would be better spent resting, thus allowing for more to be done later.
Winter is the time of the year for letting go and withdrawing.  It represents the irrepressible need for rest, as per the annual cycle.  In our daily lives, we must respect the interplay of work and rest, along with the rhythms of the year’s activities.
Consider these two fates: that of a military commander, the strategic genius, versus the kamikaze.  The first wins their battles with the least loss of human life, while the second gives their life up by crashing into a target.

Studying, reading, learning

Winter is traditionally the time for studying subjects that are interesting, reading, self-cultivation and developing knowledge.
Often, we do not devote enough time to our interests in our daily routine.  Winter is the perfect time for dedicating time to this.  During the rest of the year, take note of subjects you find interesting, books that attract you, and put them aside until winter comes.
Compile all the things that interest you into a list at the end of autumn and the start of winter in order to develop a syllabus for learning and discovery.

“Doing less in winter does not mean doing nothing.  It is the time for learning.”

Going out less, receiving more

Winter is neither the time for going out a lot, nor for meeting new people.  The season is best for spending time with our closest relationships, whether family or friends.  Invite them to come over, converse with them about any and every thing, and take advantage of the long winter nights to get to know these loved ones better.

“Winter is not the season for going out, but that for having close friends in our homes.”

Getting ready for spring

During this active hibernation, think back over the year that is about to come to a close, and make sure what we did lines up with what we wanted to do.
This analysis prepares the ground for spring, and therefore the coming year, by making sure we are on the right track to becoming who we want to be.  By examining ourselves thusly, we can track our evolution and our expectations with regard to our lives.
By adapting our vision of things and ourselves to the coming year, we prepare for the right kind of self-development and daily routine.
If we have trouble reflecting on these things objectively, turn to others you trust and ask them for their advice and help.
You can also seek out a mentor or teacher that has already guided you, to get help with your research.
The strength of our personal development lies in our efforts that we actually undertake.

“The retreat that comes with winter is not a dead period, but a time of active preparation for the year to come.”


Choosing a different rhythm

The creative force from the beginning of the year feeds off the energy that accumulates during the calm winter.  The more we take this period seriously, the more we successfully shape our choices for the coming year.
To ensure that we make the right choices, we must know which direction we seek to go in, in addition to how much intensity to put into each effort.
By conserving our strength in order to avoid exhaustion, and by searching profoundly for what we need, we can really prepare for a productive and intelligent new year.
Like a sprinter preparing for a big race, we must rest and concentrate our will on the action to come.
These preparations are often more important than the actions themselves.  Many athletes, especially fighters, speak of how much harder the training and conditioning is than the competitions themselves.
This preparatory period is demanding, but without it, the athletes would not be primed for competition.

Working more at home

If possible, winter is a great time for work as much as we can at home.  Our work will benefit from the peace of our own home, or another location where we feel at ease.
Winter is not a good time for brainstorming in groups.  Instead, we must make decision by ourselves.  Our work will also be better if we do it alone.
For solo working and thinking, stay at home or disengage from your environment.
It is possible to become isolated and focused on yourself and your thoughts amidst a hurricane: this all depends on your state of mind.
If you are focused on your work and the problems that need to be solved, the external ambiance becomes a white noise, a murmur that no longer distracts.

“Isolated but not alone, we work actively, just like the energy of winter.”

Meeting and sharing

If we need to work alone, we must also meet with those close to us.  We can plan gatherings or regular meet ups which allow us to connect a bit with those who are important to us.

“In order not to suffocate, we must condition and motivate ourselves, uncover our goals and create a strategy for the coming year.”

Our introspection can extend to include our circle of family and closest friends.  This sharing helps balance the retreat from the world.  Do not turn to the people outside of your circle, unlike in spring; focus on your intimate relations.

“In spring, energy expands outwards towards the new, so we can test and discover.  In winter everything contracts, to enhance and share.”

Doing, but not excessively

End of year parties give plenty of excuses for excess.  However, these do not align with the spirit of winter, as it is the time of year when we are most fragile.  We must instead pay close attention to what we eat, and arrange our lives to be free of excess.
In this introspective and reflective period, our awareness must be free so that we can be efficient.  Our diet must be adapted to the season, full of vigorous vitality.
We must thus enter a ‘saving’ mode, and respect our body abused by the cold.  We must sleep enough, by going to bed at a reasonable time.  The time we spend doing things must be useful and deliberate.  By doing what needs to be done in our daily routine, all the while sparing our strength, we conserve the important energy that is precious to our health.

Enjoy the end of Winter and be ready for an incredible learning year of Ding You !

Learn Something in 2017 !!!