Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, August 07, 2023

Taijiquan Master William CC Chen Interview

While Ben Lo was Cheng Man Ching's first student on Taiwan, William CC Chen was his youngest student and he is still alive.

To celebrate Master William CC Chen's 90th birthday this year, Taiji Forum published a four part interview that took place back in the 90's. Below is an excerpt. The four parts of the interview, which includes videos may be found here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

At the beginning of the video, you will see Master Chen’s characteristic collection of visual teaching aids, which nowadays have been complemented with an electronic teaching aid (yes, the one with the incomplete fruit on it).

Tai Chi for Health – Advantages and mechanisms

The first question touches the topic of Tai Chi practice for health.

The following advantages of Tai Chi as a practical system are touched upon:

  • Relaxing the mind
  • Slow motion in continuation: According to Master Chen at least 10 minutes of slow and continuous movement help us to unwind and relax. The slow motion’s effects on the brain/nervous system lead to a mind and body harmonization. It is the physical slow action itself that leads the mind to being relaxed.
  • Reducing stress
  • Furthering circulation by loosening up: Tai Chi improves the (blood) circulation without added heating up of the body as in intensive exercise.
  • Rehabilitation after/ during infections: e.g. having a cold leads to a tensing up of the muscles under the lower ribs. Practicing Tai Chi allows us to relax those muscles and helps us to release excessive tension induced by the infection.

Tai Chi’s general effect of wellbeing

Tai Chi Chuan therefore has a general effect on wellbeing. Master Chen clearly states that doing certain exercises for certain specific organs do not match any knowledge from his experience. Tai Chi Chan is thus solely but decisively a wholistic systemic approach – „as far as I know“.

How long should I practice when I have got a cold?
If you have got a cold, but are fit enough to exercise, the recommended time is 35-40 minutes. Short single exercises and 5-minute-programs of any kind (today one would probably say „quick 5-minute body hacks“) are not sufficient (see above).

How should I teach students with anxiety?

The question was how the teacher could react if learning / practicing Tai Chi adds to the anxiety of a student (heart rate goes further up etc.) According to Master Chen this could be a case of too much anxiety in the process itself. – He points out that this might be concerning both sides: While the student might be too anxious to get it right, the teacher might also be too anxious to teach right and to provide instant relieve for the student. Master Chen’s tip: bear in mind that relaxation requires experience – even more so for anxious people. Instead of correcting and adding more and more information, a suggestion would be to walk away and let them try on their own for a change.

Another suggestion for anxious students whose anxiety circles around not being able to memorize the Tai Chi choreography would be to devise exercises that are easier to reproduce.

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