For Beginners in Tai Chi: Tips from a Life Coach

For Beginners in Tai Chi: Tips from a Life Coach

Written by Telana Simpson

Tai Chi is an integral part of my life- but it hasn’t always been that way.  I had to make it part of my lifestyle.  From developing that routine and tweaking my attitude to how I practice this martial art, I have come to experience not only it’s benefits in health and chi, but also in a sense of balance in my life.

I am also a Courage Coach, and feel privileged to share time with my clients, and facilitate them to create courage and a life that they love.

Often, a key part of a life we love, is to have cornerstone practices which we routinely get to enjoy, as this brings moments of joy and peace into our lives.  It also helps us ease between the hectic work pace and busy family life, to time for ourselves to fill up too.

From a coaching perspective then, I share here some pointers to keep in mind, as you start to incorporate the practice of tai chi into your lifestyle.  These ideas come from my professional experience related to learning how to create habits that are useful and set us up for success, and also from my personal experience with tai chi.

Ten Tips to practicing Tai Chi

1. Be clear on your purpose

What is your reason for doing tai chi?  A good intention to have is one that is bigger than just learning tai chi.

  • What benefits of the practice of tai chi are you looking forward to experiencing?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years time with having tai chi as part of your lifestyle?
  • Is it the calm that comes from doing a moving meditation regularly that you seek?
  • Or do you want to develop your chi to experience more inner strength?
  • Do you just want to focus on being moving, with friends, in nice environments to keep flexible and healthy?

When we get in touch with our bigger Why for practicing tai chi, this will bring more meaning to our practice and keep us motivated.

2. Make a commitment

Plan your life around your class times, otherwise there will always be something else to do than attend class. Make it a priority and life will have a way of happening around your tai chi.

Remember, they say it takes 21 days to create a habit, and 90 days to create a lifestyle!

So in the beginning, make a firm commitment to yourself to attend for 3 months at least.  The benefits of tai chi are experienced the more regularly you practice it, and so you can only truly grasp the movements and gain the benefits by giving it a good chance and showing up regularly and often.

Also, once you have this as part of your routine for 1 to 2 months, it is much easier to keep it up.  It just takes a bit of extra effort in the early stages to stick to something you are learning, and also to create the routine and space to fit it into your life.

3. Embrace the beginners mind 

We all start somewhere.  A key part of tai chi is the beginners mind, Sho Shin as Sifu Leo explains – to be open to learning and not knowing.

And tai chi is a lifestyle practice, not a class you take once or twice and then you can tick it off.  To gain the full benefits, and the long-term benefits, stick to it and remember that anything takes time and practice to develop.  So embrace the beginning stages, remembering there is not one perfect way.  The more open and “empty” we are, and willing to show up and learn, the more we will enjoy ourselves and ultimately gain.

4. Don’t compare yourself to others

If we bring to the dojo a mindset around growth, we come ready to focus on our own development.  Instead of comparing ourselves to others, we place emphasis rather on if we have improved since last week, or last month.

It’s an unfair comparison to look to others, as we are all unique and at different places on our own paths of learning.  Your fellow students are just examples to observe to learn from, and it doesn’t motivate or help much if we compare ourselves to them and degrade ourselves for not measuring up.  So develop more of a growth mindset, and enjoy it’s many benefits.

5. Be open to ask for help

Another benefit of the growth mindset is we become more open to ask for help.  You’ve just started, and others can share what works for them to assist you on your journey.

Also, it helps others with their own learning when they get a chance to explain or show you a move. And Sifu Leo is always there too to answer any questions.

One day you’ll get to help someone else, and then gain the learning one gets from such a teaching opportunity. So ask for guidance and others will help, and one day you’ll get to pass it on.

6. Count what counts

Focus on the small improvements, on the peace you gain from being present, on the co-ordination that is growing, on the small moments of recalling the next movement.

Noticing your own growth and the development of your chi, this is what counts.  It’s not useful to have a competitive attitude or a striving to know all the forms as quickly as possible.  And if we don’t count the small improvements, and rather tend to discount them because we don’t know the bigger things (like the whole form), then we miss out on the beauty of tai chi, and on our most valuable learning moments.

7. Match, look for sameness

A good strategy to learning something new is to look first for what is similar to what you already know– not for what is missing or different.  There are patterns in tai chi and its basic moves, and these patterns are repeated often.  Notice them, and you will find the rhythm of tai chi, and you’ll notice your improvements more.

When we focus on what we are getting, rather than on what we are missing, we enjoy the process more and this adds to our motivation to keep with it.

8. Be gentle and lighthearted with yourself

When we get serious, we get silly – and we miss the purpose of what brought us to tai chi in the first place.  When we are flexible and gentle – yet strong – we can laugh more easily at ourselves, and enjoy the process of learning and growing.

Because tai chi is a journey more than a destination, each milestone should be just a mark along the way, and we can have fun while we grow on this never-ending journey.

9. Practice practicing

I have mentioned a few times now about practicing tai chi.  This concept of ‘practice’ is often misinterpreted, as it is seen as something is wrong with us if we need to ‘practice’ a skill.  We don’t have the skill, or are not ‘good enough’ or doing it well enough, and so we need to practice.  This is not a useful way of using the word.

If you look up the word in a dictionary, practice refers to the actual applying of a method or idea, and is about habit and routine.  So it is more useful to see tai chi as this kind of practice which you do often, because then the focus is not on getting the moves right, but on moving the moves.

The thing with tai chi, is there are endless levels to learn and develop, and you can only learn the next level once you have experienced fully the current level you are on.

And to experience something, you need to do it- to practice it.  So take on an attitude of experiential practice, rather than perfection.

10.  Keep your self-worth out the dojo

The level you are at for a specific skill is not a measure of your self-worth – it is only the level you are with that skill.

So to develop confidence in tai chi, and to get to the stages of feeling more graceful with the moves, you need to practice and develop the muscle memory of those moves.

Our self-worth or esteem is a very different aspect of ourselves to confidence, even though these concepts get mixed up and are not well understood.

When you make them distinct though, it is easier then to not link your worth to if you get the moves right or wrong, and to know that confidence only comes from active practice.  From this flows the growth mindset, where we are in the dojo to learn and develop, and not to prove anything

May these ideas help you to gain the many benefits of tai chi, and be steps towards creating a life you love!

To learn more about Tai Chi Classes in Parkview, Johannesburg, contact Sifu, Leo Low Ming on 0833780468.

About the Author:

Telana, Courage CoachTelana is a dynamic, transformational Courage Coach who helps talented people have no regrets in life by having the conversations that count.

Written by Telana Simpson Tai Chi is an integral part of my life- but it hasn’t always been that way.  I had to make it part of my lifestyle.  From developing that routine and tweaking my attitude to how I practice this martial art, I have come to experience not only it’s benefits in health …

Tai Chi Teacher in Joburg

Tai Chi Teacher in Joburg

Get to know your Sifu

Did you know that your Sifu, Leo Ming, first started learning tai chi when he was six years old?

CHiNA PLUS interviewed Sifu about his thoughts on the value of a practice like tai chi in our fast paced, technologically connected world, and some students share their views on tai chi too.

 

To get to know your Sifu, Leo Low Ming, and to learn more about his Tai Chi Classes in Parkview, Johannesburg, contact him on 0833780468.

Other blogs in our “Get to know your Sifu” Series:

Get to know your Sifu Did you know that your Sifu, Leo Ming, first started learning tai chi when he was six years old? CHiNA PLUS interviewed Sifu about his thoughts on the value of a practice like tai chi in our fast paced, technologically connected world, and some students share their views on tai …

Ethics in Karate

Ethics in Karate

Patience; discipline; respect; control; effort; etiquette.  These are some of the qualities student learn in our taiji or karate classes.

Karate fists and ethicsPart of the foundation of martial arts, is developing a high degree of ethics.  This is emphasised in kobujutsu karate training, due to the nature of the physical skills that karate teaches us.

Charles C. Goodin explains how integral ethics is in martial arts, by looking at a significant karate hand gesture:

“A clenched fist represents the destructive potential of Karate.  The open hand symbolises karate ethics and restraint. The open hand covers the fist, just as ethics restrain the karate practitioner’s actions. Many karate kata begin and end with the hands in this position.” – Charles C. Goodin.

An open hand symbolizes ’emptiness’ and being able to let go, while the fist is a universal language of combat.

“It is a combined version of the yin and yang,” suggests Sensei Leo.  “When we have studied the ability and the control to what we choose our hand to be for situations, we ourselves are much more aware and in better control of the self.”

What is Ethics in Karate?

“This is life-long work on the self” explains Sensei Leo Ming.  “It is very easy for the average person to recite and understand but very difficult to live by.  Displaying ethical behaviour challenges us.”

“It is about how we look at things in life, our attitude. It is how we are able to do right and if we miss an opportunity, to then ‘make right’. It is about our daily conduct. It is about what we say (especially to others). It is about consistency.  And it is about integrity.”

These lessons and qualities are ones that even Leo, for the past 43 years, has been working on in himself.  He sees his role in developing ethics in his students, as their Sense, as a very important one, where he needs to set the example.

“I think values such as these never change… the things around us may change, such as modern technologies and phones etc, but these values remain constant, and hence relate to modern day society too.”

Ethics and the Credo

Each system of martial arts may have variations on their credo. The credo is just simply theory if one only reads it. To be able to fully understand the Mings Martial Arts Credo, we must bring the points into practice.

“Therefore we have certain ‘rules‘ of entering and leaving the training place, the dojo,” clarifies Sensei.  “These are the ‘hidden’ understandings and methods for actual practice that students often overlook.”Ethics in karate

An example is when a karate or tai chi student bows at the door, he is not bowing to anyone in particular, but to himself.

“Students may think they ‘have to’ or that it is for me, the Sensei, but I don’t only see it that way. If they can understand, it is a training for their higher self,” wishes Sensei Leo.

Living Ethically

Students who train in karate and tai chi are encouraged to not only develop their physical abilities, but to conduct themselves in their daily life with ethics and integrity.

Knowing the difference between what we are capable of or have a right to do, and what is actually right to do, is a life skill that can lead us far in our own lives, and as a society as a whole.

Join us on this daily journey of living ethically.

 

For more information and to try a class out, contact your Sensei, Leo Low Ming, on 0833780468.

Patience; discipline; respect; control; effort; etiquette.  These are some of the qualities student learn in our taiji or karate classes. Part of the foundation of martial arts, is developing a high degree of ethics.  This is emphasised in kobujutsu karate training, due to the nature of the physical skills that karate teaches us. Charles C. …

Tai Chi Retreat – October 2018

Tai Chi Retreat – October 2018

For a weekend we practiced chi gong and tai chi under the pecan nut trees, listening to the arrow marked babblers and African grey hornbills chatter away to each other.

A mix of beginners, intermediate and advanced tai chi students from Johannesburg and as far as Cape Town, enjoyed the tranquil property of Melody Hills for the October 2018 tai chi retreat, led by Sifu Leo Ming.

“Retreats give us ‘time’ ” reflects Leo, when asked why he holds retreats for his students.

He shares further that “we often feel time is moving at a rapid pace. We ‘didn’t have time to do the task.’ We were ‘short’ of time to finish the job. Time went by so quickly and before we knew it, ‘it was over’. ‘What time is it because I have another appointment in 30 minutes’. ‘This time round I am going to do it differently/ properly.’”

“The retreat ‘gives’ us a different sense of time. We spend the day doing one thing- properly and thoroughly – and without rushing to make the next item on the list.”

“Here, at the retreat, there is no next item. The ‘next thing’ is actually the first thing, or the previous thing’, which become the present doing. We learn about being present; about bringing mindfulness into the present moment. And in this case with tai chi, the present movement or non-movement. We learn that non-action gives rise to action.”

“Getting away from our busy lives and having a renewed self perspective is important or else we tend to lose ourselves in the material world. What is important is self, and the breath. By self I don’t mean being selfish, but rather our true self. The natural grounded and stillness which embodies all of us. Returning to the one,” further explains Leo.

During this retreat we all learnt from each other, as we focused on the Yang straight sword traditional 55 form, and had theoretical and philosophical discussion sessions in between.

The laughter and story telling entertained us over scrumptious vegetarian meals and sitting around fires in the evenings.

We also explored the labyrinth maze as a walking meditation, as well as the options of a gong therapy session and kahuna massages for those wanting some extra elements.

“Each and every retreat is so different and so unique. I think they are all highlights in my academy. I think having students who share a commonality and have a desire to learn from me is a personal highlight” reveals Leo humbly.

Leo hopes that his students leave a retreat being emptied out, in a sense.

“If they are able to leave their baggage behind for that period of time, it would be a successful retreat. If they understood a philosophy that they could use in their daily life, it would be successful. If they could integrate this, it would be a success.”

We hope you will join us at next years’ Tai Chi Retreats in Johannesburg, and experience this kind of success with us.

To  join your Sifu Leo Low Ming for a complimentary introductory class and be invited to the next tai chi retreat, contact him on 0833780468.

For a weekend we practiced chi gong and tai chi under the pecan nut trees, listening to the arrow marked babblers and African grey hornbills chatter away to each other. A mix of beginners, intermediate and advanced tai chi students from Johannesburg and as far as Cape Town, enjoyed the tranquil property of Melody Hills …

Retreating back to the present moment

Retreating back to the present moment

By Brenda Ryan, Student of tai chi

Retreat (N) ‘An act of moving back or withdrawing’ is what one typically does when wanting to escape… and who among us can say we don’t want or need to escape from time to time?

This past weekend afforded a group of students just such an opportunity. I was fortunate enough to secure a place on the Taiji Retreat with Sifu Leo Ming held in the beautiful, tranquil setting of Melody Hills in Magaliesberg.

Our time there was spent practising the healing art forms of qigong and Taiiji. Reconnecting with Mother Earth, and being present in the moment, truly appreciating the beauty around us that in the course of our daily lives we so often take for granted.. And later, under a beautiful starry sky, we sat around the camp fire, tired but content, and grateful for all the blessings of the day.

On our last day we had the privilege of participating in a gong meditation session with our wonderful host, Tejbir and her lovely dog, Pono.

Our time on retreat was very special.. and it is with a greatful heart that I thank Sifu Leo Ming for bringing me, and I’m sure my fellow students, back to the moment… as Mother Theresa once said:

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

 

(Photos courtesy of Brenda Ryan)

To  join your Sifu Leo Low Ming for a complimentary introductory class and be invited to the next tai chi retreat, contact him on 0833780468.

By Brenda Ryan, Student of tai chi Retreat (N) ‘An act of moving back or withdrawing’ is what one typically does when wanting to escape… and who among us can say we don’t want or need to escape from time to time? This past weekend afforded a group of students just such an opportunity. I …

Tai Chi and Dogs

Tai Chi and Dogs

Tai Chi has many benefits, and one that we might not realise is that it helps us with our relationships to man’s best friend – the dog.

Interacting with animals as pets, and dogs are a common pet, can be a physical activity as well as an emotionally rewarding one.

To help care for our pets, we should be walking them often, and engaging them in exercise to keep them healthy.

“Falls, ankle sprains, back injuries and even broken bones are common when walking dogs who are boisterous and if the dog handler is not in tune with themselves and their body alignment and balance” explains Sifu Leo Ming.

“Tai chi is a discipline that helps the dog handler to develop more balance and strength, as well as the inner composure, to handle their dogs better.”

This wonderful article by Christine Green outlines a number of principles that we learn from tai chi, that help with interacting with our furry friends. These include:

  1. Using our waist for handling jumping dogs, by being flexible to move with the push of the dog, rather than being pushed over.
  2. Incorporating back muscles for bad leash manners, by developing the tai chi upper body posture which activates the right back muscles to keep our center of gravity more stable.
  1. Weight shifting for dogs who keep pulling the leash, so that we maintain our balance and strength.
  1. Rooting our weight and energy down, to handle those dogs with bad leash manners, or a dog jumping up, so that we are able to keep grounded and stay in control.
  1. Relaxation, gained from the meditative style of tai chi, is good for everything, but specially for improving reaction time to deal with animals.

 

Read more about how tai chi can help you enjoy your time with your dogs more, in the article.

To experience some of the techniques explained, join your Sifu Leo Low Ming for a complimentary introductory class. Contact him on 0833780468 to learn more about his Tai Chi Classes in Parkview, Johannesburg.

Tai Chi has many benefits, and one that we might not realise is that it helps us with our relationships to man’s best friend – the dog. Interacting with animals as pets, and dogs are a common pet, can be a physical activity as well as an emotionally rewarding one. To help care for our …

Zanta Hofmeyr: how tai chi helps her as a violinist

Zanta Hofmeyr: how tai chi helps her as a violinist

Here is Zanta Hofmeyr, one of our students, explaining the benefits she gains from tai chi and how she enjoyed her trip to China with Sifu Leo Ming.

We also get a peak into the world of a classical violinist:

 

 

Contact Sifu Leo Low Ming on 0833780468 to learn more about his Tai Chi Classes in Parkview, Johannesburg.

Here is Zanta Hofmeyr, one of our students, explaining the benefits she gains from tai chi and how she enjoyed her trip to China with Sifu Leo Ming. We also get a peak into the world of a classical violinist:     Contact Sifu Leo Low Ming on 0833780468 to learn more about his Tai Chi …

The Wealth of Taijiquan

The Wealth of Taijiquan

Tai chi may have very early roots in China, yet it has and still is spreading in popularity all over the world.  This is due to the many benefits it provides.

Here is a short clip that explains taijiquan and it’s wealth that we can enjoy.  It also has some interesting footage of Chen village– where we recently visited on our tour to China.

The video covers:

  • What is the link between Wújí  and taijí?  And tai chi and ying yang?
  • The history of tai chi from Chen Village
  • Benefits of practicing taijiquan for society and nature
  • The science of the effects of tai chi on our own bodies
  • The Chinese government’s plans of promoting taijiquan and martial arts

 

 

Contact Sifu Leo Low Ming on 0833780468 to learn more about his Tai Chi Classes in Parkview, Johannesburg.

Tai chi may have very early roots in China, yet it has and still is spreading in popularity all over the world.  This is due to the many benefits it provides. Here is a short clip that explains taijiquan and it’s wealth that we can enjoy.  It also has some interesting footage of Chen village– …

Push Hands in Tai Chi

Push Hands in Tai Chi

What is Push Hands?

There are various methods and techniques of push hands.  The main purpose of push hands is as a sensitivity taiji drill whereby two people connect by ‘push’ and by ‘yield’, using their hands.  The exercise is aimed to be done in a harmonious way.

Benefits of Push Hands

Initially one does this drill for developing physical balance and strength. It also improves the subtler internal aspects of co-ordination, timing, sensitivity, reflexes, groundedness and leverage.

As you practice it more, you move onto the other benefits where the exercise leads to internal harmonious synchronization of the energies.  You also learn about the body’s natural instinct to utilize and direct force, and to rather develop the martial arts style of developing the body’s ability to yield to and redirect a force.

Learning about Self and Others

In our tai chi classes in Johannesburg, we practice the forms, and these types of exercises.  When we do a solo tai chi form, our attention is on ourselves physically and internally.  We gain understanding of our internal energy flows, and any tensions too.  We’re asked to confront our thoughts, emotions and any possible internal struggles.

However, when we do a partner exercise with others in the class, like push hands, we can explore our techniques which we learnt in the tai chi form, together with the application of these moves on or with our partners.

We now not only have to deal with our own internal states, but also with external forces and the energies of our partner.  This brings awareness to how we interact with others.  We learn to listen to our partner, focusing on their intention in the direction and strength that they are moving their hands.

Thus we can, in the safe environment of a controlled martial arts class exercise, learn about neutralising forces coming at us, and at the same time, gain a sense of our own power to generate and carry out an action towards another.

Chi & Li

Push hands is also a method of utilizing and strengthening our other senses. One worth mentioning is our sense of Chi.  This can be likened to our vital force, or life energy.  Thus by focusing on this inner strength’s development, on increasing our Chi, we become stronger from the inside out.

The aim is also to be learning to use chi (our inner strength) and not li (our physical strength).

Push hands helps us to develop finer distinctions in sensing our chi and focusing more on our internal strengths, rather than external strengths.



For more about Tai Chi and Martial Arts classes in Johannesburg, contact your Sensei, Leo Low Ming, on 0833780468.

What is Push Hands? There are various methods and techniques of push hands.  The main purpose of push hands is as a sensitivity taiji drill whereby two people connect by ‘push’ and by ‘yield’, using their hands.  The exercise is aimed to be done in a harmonious way. Benefits of Push Hands Initially one does …

The Science behind why Martial Arts Meditation leads to Stress Free Living

The Science behind why Martial Arts Meditation leads to Stress Free Living

“In most if not all martial arts, there is some form of integrative meditation component that forms the building blocks of a balanced yet formidable martial artist… half the battle is won and lost in the mind,” says Nicholas Bruce in his in depth article in the Business Day, May 2018.

Standing meditation in Tai Chi

The article explains how martial arts like karate and tai chi can help us develop the ability to prevent ourselves going into the fight/flight response.  When we don’t have this ability, we can lose part of our logical thinking faculty and can make less healthy decisions, and we find it harder to manage our emotions.

One of the key ways that martial arts helps one to be stress free, is its meditation component.

We ask Sensei Leo Ming to give his input on this key element of martial arts training, and encourage you to learn more about the science and research into this aspect, in Bruce’s article.

 

Q: What is Beginners Mind and why is it important in martial arts training?

Leo:  Sho Shin…beginner mind… This is such an important concept in the martial arts. We always have the ego which gets in the way of the reason for doing our martial arts. We get side tracked, whether it be from something visual, something external that catches our eye, or from an internal thought. A simple example would be when we are trying too hard to impress others, or wanting to over achieve in class. Once this happens your ‘way’ (or dao) is lost. We need to always remember to keep our training pure and authentic.

There is a saying that in the beginners mind there are countless possibilities, but in the experts mind there is only one. Thus we get stuck because we think that something can only be done in a certain way, and that our way is the ‘correct’ way.

If we look at children, they are very spontaneous and have an open energy. It is free, uncluttered, and natural. They can absorb but they can also let go of. They cry with intensity, and then it’s all over. We want to train to attain our original mind, our spontaneous and empty mind – this is a good example of sho shin.

More often than not we bring our baggage wherever we go, in the dojo, onto the court, on the field, even into our homes.  This weight prevents us from flowing and feeling the moment.

Q: What are the benefits of this ‘beginners mind’ for life outside the dojo?

Leo: There are so many. A few benefits are:

  • learning confidence
  • learning about breath control – for anxiety and for focus
  • letting go of the ego – developing humility
  • growing your perseverance and overcoming obstacles,
  • and overcoming stress build up.

    Martial Arts meditation in Wudang Mountains, China

 

Q: What is meditation in Martial Arts?

Leo: It is essentially learning self introspection, being aware of self, being aware of breath, emptying the mind -having the beginner mind.

Q: What aspects of your teaching do you do to encourage this development?

Leo: Meditation is one of the teachings that I integrate into all my classes- to learn patience with the process. Mindfulness is learnt through meditation as well as through self perfection of techniques. One trains a single technique repetitively until it becomes part of you, or you become part of it, hundreds and thousands of times until you reach a state of ‘no-mind’  or mu-shin. Everything muscle and tendon is relaxed, flowing and natural, yet filled with chi. This is something which cannot be replicated through learning theory.  You need to experience it.

We welcome you to join us for a complimentary class, so you can experience a taste of Sho Shin, and the benefits of becoming a martial artist.

 

For more about Tai Chi and Kobujutso Karate classes in Johannesburg, contact your Sensei, Leo Low Ming, on 0833780468.

“In most if not all martial arts, there is some form of integrative meditation component that forms the building blocks of a balanced yet formidable martial artist… half the battle is won and lost in the mind,” says Nicholas Bruce in his in depth article in the Business Day, May 2018. The article explains how …