Kung-fu and Tai Chi training is a progressive experience in health, fitness and self-awareness resulting in a more positive, relaxed and confident individual. These timeless arts offer sound information about the functions of the human body and how it may be naturally improved. They deal with the principles of postures (stances), the mechanics of moving the body (forms), and relaxation (stretching and meditation) for efficiency in work and play.
Learning how to use the muscles, joints and levers in the body in tandem with the mind helps to accomplish maximum results with minimum expenditure of effort. From kung-fu and Tai Chi, one can become physically educated; knowing how to alleviate your own exercise requirements when such needs occur. As one progresses, so does the ability to reduce nervousness and muscular tension, induce sleep and relaxation, correct faulty body alignment, control body weight and increase tone and/or strength and size of specific muscle groups.
Kung-fu and Tai Chi training improves mental concentration and alertness. An individual can develop an extraordinary sense of visual and auditory perception because calmness and relaxation can be maintained, thus eliminating fear and other neurotic tendencies. The communication link between the mind and body allows us to direct and focus energies of the mind to any point on the body for greater power, strength, agility and speed.
Correct practice with weaponry further enhances precision, control, grace and the focusing of energy. Energies projected beyond one's hands into weapons result in the flow of energy through ones' own hands and feet that much easier. Thus, movements, punches and kicks become more powerful.
The Association teaches Northern styles of kung-fu and Internal systems (e.g. - Tai Chi, Hsing-I, etc.). The Northern approach to training is quite different from most other styles and systems. It stresses extension, dynamic movement, and relaxed, circular techniques. Southern kung-fu styles tend to be more rigid and rely more on hand techniques executed from comparatively stationary positions.
Because Northern styles are known for high kicks and swift footwork, it is sometimes believed that hand techniques are not emphasized. This is not the case, as the hand techniques of the Northern styles are just as varied - if not more so - as those in the Southern systems. Reduction of tension is the rational approach to training. Any training that advocates strain, or the "no-pain-no-gain" philosophy, and erroneously equates this as strength is unhealthy and harmful. Such practices cause injuries and premature aging and should be avoided. Rigidity and tension place unnecessary pressure on blood flow, inhibit muscular reactions and slows the body's ability to rid itself of waste products. Kung-fu and Tai Chi training emphasizes coordinated, flowing movement for every part of the body. Every joint and muscle of the body becomes involved and exercised.
Karate, Jujutsu and Tae Kwon Do, all offshoots of kung-fu, incorporate many linear and ballistic movements that can produce unnecessary physical tension and create stress in the body. The movements of kung-fu and Tai Chi are not static, but natural, diverse and fluidic. Kung-fu and Tai Chi do not advocate general "force-on-force" techniques that traumatize the body. In training, tense, jerky and artificial movements should be substituted with smooth, effortless action. Awkward movement or using brute strength as a surrogate for skill is a waste of energy resulting in tension; accomplishing nothing. Kung-fu is a total way of life in which personal combat is the least significant part of it. Self-defense is learned, but as a by-product of total development of health, fitness, and self-awareness. All self-defense techniques are practiced in a safe, non-competitive, non-aggressive manner. All students will participate in one-, two-, and three-step sparring exercises when they are ready.
Free-sparring, whether it is done with or without weaponry, is generally practiced with minimal or no protection at all (i.e. - without pads or gloves) to facilitate the full range of applications and techniques featured throughout the system. Sparring without protection also provides the most reality-based conditions for self-defense. For this reason, free-sparring is not introduced until later levels of advancement, when the student has exhibited good control and proficiency in his/her training. It should be noted that free-sparring for anyone under the age of 18 is not allowed without the permission of the child's parent or legal guardian, and is conducted with all participants wearing appropriate protection.
Free-sparring is a mandatory requirement for eligible students seeking certification. It is optional for all other students.
"A Shaolin priest can walk through walls.
Listened for…... He cannot be heard.
Looked for…... He cannot be seen.
Felt…... He cannot be touched."
~ an old Shaolin proverb
(Also quoted several times on T.V.'s original KUNG FU series)
The kung-fu group class is about 2 or 2 1/2 hours long, with classes normally consisting of four segments:
Yogic stretching exercises
Punching and blocking combinations
Kicking and leg techniques/conditioning
Kung-fu form instruction/practice and application
The Grasshoppers classes are 60 minutes in length, but usually consist of the same segments as the adult classes.
The Tai Chi group class is about 1 hour long, with classes normally consisting of two segments:
Chi kung exercises
Tai Chi form instruction/practice and application
All students should supplement their time in class with home practice, or training at the school during non-class times. There is no set time for one to become proficient. The time varies with each student's natural abilities, but more importantly, their devotion and consistent practice. There is nothing supernatural about the training process. There are no mystical secrets, magical techniques, formulas, super-powers, overnight "enlightenments" or revelations. Kung-fu and Tai Chi training develop those forces and potentials which are already within us. There are no shortcuts to becoming proficient. There are four basic, elemental keys to success, and they are quite simply: desire, determination, discipline, and PRACTICE.
Be sure to bring a stretching mat and plenty of your own personal drinking water to class. You should keep yourself regularly hydrated with water during exercise.
Flexibility exercises are of two types: ballistic (or phasic) and static. Ballistic stretching typically involves bobbing or bouncing action, whereas static stretching involves gently stretching the muscle in question until a resistance is reached. Ballistic stretching may produce a quicker increase of flexibility in the beginning, but it also produces more discomfort, fatigue, and risk of muscle tear. Static stretching yields the same results with less discomfort, next-day soreness, risk, and effort to maintain the stretch. The Association advocates and teaches static stretching techniques. Some isometric exercises are included in the stretching routine as well, including abdominal conditioning exercises.
Stretching should always precede any kung-fu or aerobic-type of exercise, and should be always be done at least 2 hours before or after eating. Ideally, stretching should be done in a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere - free from disturbances and distractions.
Always have a mat, carpet, or thick blanket upon which to stretch. Avoid stretching on a bare floor. Do not stretch outdoors in harsh sunlight, or if the weather is particularly cold or drafty.
If your body starts to tremor during a stretch, stop, slowly come out of the stretch, relax, and begin again. Never stretch until you feel pain or force yourself beyond your limitations. Always try to look forward (or in the direction you are stretching) to promote a better stretch and proper body alignment. Visualize stretching past your current limit.
Expectant mothers should only do light stretching after the third month of pregnancy.
Tai Chi Training
Tai Chi Chuan can best be described as serenity in motion, exemplifying the Internal style better than any other popular system of Chinese martial arts. In practice, Tai Chi is a blend of physical movement, relaxation, sensitivity, visualization and breathing techniques. It should be performed in a gentle, relaxed and fluid manner. Its movements are rounded and flowing, with no perceptible hesitation between movements and postures. Moving with the center of gravity under the body generates a feeling of strength and graceful motion, ensuring good balance and proper distribution of weight and energy.
The beneficial effects of Tai Chi Chuan have much to do with its characteristic features, namely: 1) the exercises require a high degree of concentration, with the mind free from distractions; 2) the movements are generally slow yet uninterrupted, like a flowing stream; 3) the breathing is natural, involving deep respiration, and is performed in rhythmic harmony with body movements.
From the viewpoint of Chinese Medicine (and many sports medicine experts), these characteristics are important factors contributing to the prevention and treatment of many illnesses. The high degree of concentration required in Tai Chi exercises also benefits the functions of the cerebral nervous system. These exercises stimulate the cerebral cortex, causing excitation in certain regions and protective inhibition in others. This enables the cerebrum to rest and relieves the cerebral cortex of the pathological excitation caused by ailments, helping to alleviate certain nervous and mental diseases.
In regard to cardiovascular efficiency, Tai Chi can enhance the supply of blood to the coronary arteries, causing stronger heart contractions and improved hemodynamic processes. The exercises ensure adequate supplies of blood and oxygen travel to the tissues of the various organs of the body. Tai Chi can help to reduce the rate of hypertension and arteriosclerosis among those who engage in its regular practice. Routine practice of Tai Chi can increase the elasticity of the lung tissues, the ventilation capacity of the lungs, and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Likewise, systematic practice of Tai Chi can also strengthen the bones, muscles and joints with little or no risk of injury, due to its placid, non-ballistic movements. Unlike purely physical forms of exercise, Tai Chi can be enjoyed for the rest of your life.
The Fundamentals Of Chi
Accepting the existence of "Chi" (essentially, "energy" or "life breath") is important to having a holistic view of health. When you practice Tai Chi or Chi Kung, you are exerting influence on your Chi. Chi is not "magic", supernatural, or based on any religious ideology. Chi circulates throughout the body in pathways called meridians. There are "main meridians", which branch off into "smaller meridians". The larger meridians connect and nourish the organs of the body. The key to Internal health is to keep this Chi flowing smoothly through the meridians.
Chi flow is similar the way water flows through a system of hoses. When muscles tighten or the bones lose alignment, these hoses - or meridians - become "pinched". Before long, Chi "clogs" up and a blockage occurs, causing the surrounding areas of the body or an associated internal organ to become imbalanced and weakened. Such blockages can usually be "unclogged" by a healer (i.e. - an Acupuncturist or Acupressurist), or with the practice of Tai Chi and/or Chi Kung. Tai Chi conditions and relaxes the muscles, helping to releasing tension and Chi blockages. The postures align the body's skeletal system, keeping meridians clear. The joints of the body "open up", easing Chi circulation. Tai Chi and Chi Kung promote circulation in the meridian pathways, while also helping to cultivate, distribute, and regenerate Chi.
Though the philosophy and movements of Tai Chi and Chi Kung contain concepts that often appear abstract, esoteric or metaphysical, ongoing practice will further the student's understanding of Internal systems, which are both natural
health-giving exercises and a means of very practical self-defense.