Doug Gauld

I guess it’s a bit weird that I consider myself lucky. I am a 67-year-old that has been struggling with the disability known as Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS, spinal arthritis) for several decades. AS all but robbed me of my life. Pain became the main focus of my life. I had to go on disability and became extremely socially isolated, which BTW was great prep for the Covid shutdowns. Rx medications and their side effects, as well as other western medical interventions only made things worse. Then about 5 yrs ago I hobbled into the Practical Method Taiji studio in Edmonton and my world began to change. That one act began a change process which continues today. I started to actually heal the damage AS does to my body through the diligent daily practice of Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method (PM) as taught to me by Master Allan Belsheim and GM Zhonghua Chen.
This Mondays Musing is also a review of the second workshop given by GM Zhonghua Chen in Edmonton since the re-opening of the studio post-Covid shutdowns. I often say to friends that I learned to love learning. If I won the lottery I used to think I’d go back to Uni to finish my Masters and do a Ph.D. GM Chen’s workshop on Saturday helped me to re-frame that attitude. It turns out I am already attending an institution of higher learning and my meagre pension is all I need. The workshop’s content helped me to see that my daily study of PM is the only advanced degree I am interested in. My AS forced me to swallow my ego and become a beginner in the study of this complex and devastating martial art.
GM Chen took us through, what was for me, a very advanced seminar in Taoist theory as it applies to Taijiquan. The beauty of PM is that it offers opportunities for growth and change of my substantial/physical and insubstantial/intellectual self. The workshop began with physical exercises focused on helping the body begin to rotate around a single point such as the dantien or the centre of the breastbone. You can catch GM Chen’s stick drill on the PM website or a teaser on YouTube.
I learned more about the cultural differences between the west and China as it applies to understanding martial arts and life. GM Chen exposed us to many new concepts and Mandarin words/phrases that are central to the study of PM Taijiquan. One of them was Xun-Miao or the Secrets of the Heavens. Please excuse me as I am likely going to make some errors in my explanations due to my beginner-level understanding of PM, Mandarin and of Taoist thought.
The upshot of the entire day is that to seriously study and advance in the art of PM we need to exercise our bodies and our minds. One of the embodied learnings for myself came after I had received multiple corrections of Yilu from GM Chen. He mentioned that I had improved my PM ability significantly and that my AS had and continues to make progress challenging. It helped me re-frame my daily struggles in my practice where I get frustrated as my spinal adhesions/fusions make it impossible to complete certain movements correctly.
He guided us through some very interesting history of PM and taught me about knowledge transmission within internal martial arts in China; fascinating all on its own. My takeaway is that although I will never get to the ‘shirt’ level I am so lucky that GM Chen allows us to touch his body to feel or get ‘fed’ biofeedback as a reference guide. His ability to only use the amount of internal force necessary without breaking my poor old arthritic spine is amazing. If you get a chance to ‘feel’ his body when he does a move you ought to grab it.
I always feel inadequate in the task of reviewing GM Chen’s workshops. I often think that I only ‘get’ a small portion of what he offers us at each workshop. My metaphor for receiving instruction from him is that it’s like trying to take a sip of water from an opened fire hydrant. However, this struggle is central to what he tried to tell us on Saturday. Daily practice is so necessary as some of the things he told me in my first workshop years ago are just starting to make sense. This in part is because my body and mind were not ready yet. A lot of being a beginner in PM is prep, getting ready. I am working to get ready for the next workshop which he says will likely be in September or October this year; can hardly wait. Thank you to Master Allan Belsheim and GM Zhonghua Chen for this past Saturday, revelatory for this old man.
I am, as always, learning to live, a breath at a time. Read more

…learning about adaptation vs. action…screwdrivers only engage one way…

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…GM gives Roy opportunities to try to use PM to move him in push hands…very focused session…

RoySept22-20 v2

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…one of the messages I hear, daily, from GM Zhonghua Chen is that he wants us to use our head as much as we use our body…

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…I am seeing PM, everywhere…making lunch today and…

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25.4x60cm 200张-出照片文件

…in my experience, great teachers are the ones that do certain things…

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…focused on Yilu corrections and body mechanics…make sure you view the video of this class…

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…during the Sept 23 Zoom class GM got that gleam in his eye, we’ve all come to know, “Little sparrow wags its tail…” and he went on to share a story about developing the skill of intention and about the skill of not telegraphing intent through micro-level somatic signals…

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…what is the essential nature of Peng?  …is there room for creativity in training processes as a PM beginner?  …could be that how we answer these questions will affect the speed of our learning and our ability in PM over time, maybe…this is a speculative piece…

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… I have been telling Anton and Eric that my review of their lesson with GM, above date, was already submitted to the PM website, but I can’t find it anywhere, must have made an error in saving or posting or forgot to rub my magic ring, no really guys the dog ate my homework, anyway here it is, though I suspect the original version contained some absolutely brilliant insights that would have improved your training immeasurably, c’est la vie… Read more

…class was a part of the online Zoom ‘Make it Real’ series of lessons, focusing on the double-positive circle…be sure to check out the posted video this review relates to…

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GM reviews specific elements of  ‘6 sealing, 4 closing’ movement…or Roy’s body get’s adjusted, again, some more.. Read more

Feng Zhiqiang Teaching Chen Zhonghua Sword 冯志强教陈中华剑

…double-positive circles and the journey towards correct movement…

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Observations, insights, anecdotes, and some bad jokes about the content and process of  GM’s Zoom lesson on the above date.

 

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GM asked for 3 paragraphs on a part of the Zoom lesson, specifically, the topic of  ‘do the movement as required by GM, let everything else go’.

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– just after Roy’s 2nd private lesson with GM, it was suggested that I record his impressions about his experiences in this learning process
– I’m no journalist so bear with me here Read more

– I am beginning to understand some of the challenges in trying to describe, discuss, even think about PM in ways that pass along that information, in digestible bites to other people Read more

-so it was just myself, in back of a digital camera, watching GM teach a Zoom class, at 7:30 AM and I thought to myself, ‘Man I have to be careful of what I wish for because sometimes the fates are listening’ Read more

twisting towel

twisting towel

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-two things I have been thinking about my practice in the past couple of days: 1. the new task of ‘resetting’ my body, given me by GM, is more profound than it seems, 2. the process of how you learn is as at least as important as what you learn
1.
-the task GM has given me may be the most difficult one I’ve ever been given
-not only does it encompass a complete re-working, re-tooling, re-creation of my entire physical self it implicitly tasks me to begin to practice PM all-day long, not jibengong all day long, but finding ways to subtly inject elements of training into every action
-my body awareness and sensitivity will have to go up more than a notch, a quantum leap would be more descriptive, and my ability to accept and work with my cognitive-emotional states will have to ratchet up a notch also
-the task is to ‘re-set’ my body so that it produces expanding Peng (redundant?) energy without any observable or perhaps measurable tension in any body tissues, esp. the contractile muscles, ligaments and tendons
-this is proving to be extremely challenging and is of course affected by my psycho-emotional states, try relaxing contractile tissues while in pain (emotional or physical)
2.
-in keeping with working on my assigned task I noticed that the class last night at the Edmonton studio was remarkable in a couple of ways
-firstly, we had a visitor, GM’s newest disciple Sooyeon Zachrias, who was a most delightful addition to our practice group
-secondly, I found myself fondly remembering my experiences at TigerClaw Gung Fu School in the ’70’s when I trained & and competed in kickboxing, we had a pretty informal competition class atmosphere and we regularly teased and joked with each other and the teachers/coaches
-our group last night was ‘playing’ with each other, there was joking, and teasing and relaxed informality
– we were all laughing out loud, but respectful, nothing out of line or intended to be anything but supportive
– Sooyeon Zachrias mentioned how she was enjoying the training experience with others as mostly she only attends workshops in MapleRidge, thank you Sooyeon for reminding me that the time I share with my brothers and sisters in this art gives me something different from the hrs and hrs I spend working on PM alone
-not saying every class has to be a stand up session or that no laughter means its not a good class, I am trying to say that the moments we share in class are precious
– we all have the physical pains of trying to grind away the rough parts of our joints and the psychological pain of removing from our souls anything that fails to make room for Peng
-hope this is an okay subject to post on PM website
-learning to live a breath at a time

– just before class began on Friday evening GM held another instructional session at the Edmonton studio
– he instructed on several topics, I am mindful of trying not to add or delete any of his words intentionally
– he observed part of my first section Yilu and commented that I was still tensing, flexing, using my deltoid muscles when I was doing the form
– he then demonstrated how he could open his hand, create Peng energy in his hand, forearm and upper arm, entire body, while not creating any tension or flexion in the internal contractile tissues; he was totally in control of what was locked and what was moving, down to the tendon & ligament level of his body
– he further demonstrated as he asked me to grasp his forearm firmly, he moved his Kua and his arm, still with no observable tension pulled me off balance, I scrambled to my notebook to begin writing
– the main message was that I need to work towards ‘re-setting’ my entire body so that I only create expansion or Peng energy in it
– he spoke about how Taoist theory holds that for Taiji to work, for our bodies to be ready to create the conditions necessary for Peng, we need to create a centre point, a still point inside our bodies like a black hole, a kind of gyro-scope that creates a centre point around which rotations, stretches, elongations, etc. can happen properly
– I think he said that each body part, joint, fascial connection, all have to have a centre point around which I can learn to open and rotate
– he said that the act of creating Peng energy in the body must become continuous while practising, eventually
– am still not sure of the exact mechanics of how to begin to try to manifest this expanding energy within my body without engaging any of the surrounding musculatures, or even ligs/tendons that are superfluous, it seems I must take what I experienced when GM demo’d on me and try to replicate this within my body as best I can at my skill & understanding level
– a big part of this, it seems, has to do with releasing my anxiety & mental tension during practice to facilitate my ‘listening’ skill, to be able to feel the body dynamics of push hands partners I need to develop sensitivity within my own body, realizing that it is not a direct correlation, my body creating tensionless Peng expansion energy will sometimes likely outstrip my ability to feel/detect movement cues from my push hands partners
– he also demonstrated the footwork skill of using the leading leg to pull your body in the desired direction, rather than pushing off the trailing leg, using the ligaments on the inside of the legs, finishing the movement by using the trailing legs recontacting the floor to create a brake for the momentum, movement
– any errors, omissions, or plain mistakes are due to me, my old man memory, and my beginners understanding of what GM was trying to teach

Wed Sept 9, Edmonton, Alberta; approx 8 PM local time
Impromptu training with GM…how to move…

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Notes from Grandmaster Zhonghua Chen Workshop on Sept. 14 & 15, 2019, Edmonton, PM Studio

埃德蒙顿2019.09.14讲座合影。本文作者是右四(后)。 Read more

DougGauld

I am 64 years old and have been on long-term disability for over 10 years due to a form of arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). I previously studied and practiced several external martial arts and they all eventually made my AS symptoms worse. I have had the disease my whole life but only diagnosed in the ’80’s. It became so bad at one point I was bed ridden for almost 2 years. It causes difficult symptoms in multiple body systems. I have had to get steroids injected into my eyes a few times to bring down inflammation. The disease primarily fuses the spinal vertebrae together, which of course reduces, restricts and eventually collapses the vertebral separations so they cannot move normally, or at all. I have tried physio, multiple drug therapies, meditation and exercise all with no or next to no improvement in my symptoms.
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