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United States Tai Chi Community News
Volume 11, Issue #4
In this issue:
- Letter from the Editor
- Letter from the USTCC President— by Christine Killeen
- Senior Trainer 101: Chen Workshop— by Becky Rahe and Alan Clayton
- Teacher’s Corner: Agility— by Eric Borreson
- Your Online Practice— by Arlene Faulk
- Poetry Corner: Dancer Warrior— by Dahlis Roy
- USTCC Community: Tidbits from the Community— by Becky Rahe
- Call for Marketing Committee Volunteers— by Ernie Hall
Welcome to the Winter issue of the United States Tai Chi Community newsletter. We have moved to an online newsletter. This is to make it easier for those people using mobile devices to read the newsletter.
In this month’s Letter from the USTCC President, Christine Killeen tells us about the people that work behind the scenes to help raise money for our Scholarship Fund and in this issue’s Senior Trainer 101, Becky Rahe and Alan Clayton tell us about a recent Chen workshop.
This issue’s Teacher’s Corner has some tips for teachers to help explain stepping and weight transference to their students. Arlene Faulk tells us how she uses her web page and blog to reach students. Dahlis Roy has contributed to this month’s Poetry Corner and Becky Rahe has given us some tidbits for navigating the USTCC web site.
The newsletter’s purpose is to keep members up to date with what is happening with the USTCC, to provide a forum for an exchange of ideas among members, and to provide education to members. Remember, this newsletter is a two-way link. Don’t just read it. Contribute to it. Tell me what you would like to see. Do you want to write an article but don’t know where to begin? Do you want to see more poetry? Send me an email. I can help develop your idea into an article that can help everyone.
I would like to share a message of “thanks-giving” by giving thanks to so many of you who have generously given to our scholarship fund by donating your time, energy, money and raffle prizes.
When I started to write this holiday message, I asked my fellow Board members to help me remember all those whose contributions have helped us to send qualified applicants to the June Workshop each year. While I know I can’t mention everyone, here are just a sample of those who cared enough to help others:
- Betty Scanloncreates beautiful Asian themed quilts that have been a staple of our raffle at the Annual Tai Chi Workshop held in June each year. She manages to create these works of art while working a full time job as a pediatric nurse and now as one of our newest M.T.s . Currently she is also chairing the USTCC Scholarship Fundraising Committee. Thank you Betty!
- Monika Forstnerhad beautiful silk tai chi outfits made in China. She brought them to the June Workshop, sold them, and donated proceeds from the sale to our Scholarship Fund. I know that I love my silks and deeply appreciate her level of commitment, work, and generosity. Thank you Monika!
- Marty Kidderhas been a tireless and generous contributor to our Scholarship Fund, creating and donating those marvelous pins that we all take home from the June Workshop for ourselves and as gifts to our classes. Those pins have raised a great deal of money for the Scholarship Fund over the years. Thank you Marty!
- Marsha Carr, one of the scholarship recipients at the June 2013 Workshop, brought 15 pairs of beautiful origami crane earrings to add to the wonderful prizes in our raffle. This was her way of giving back. Thank you Marsha!
- Richard Linkmade a gift to the raffle of a beautiful laser carved wood piece. Thank you Richard!
- To Rose Binger and the Members of Maureen Miller’s class in St. Mary’s Georgiawho raised money to donate to the Scholarship Fund in honor of the gift that Maureen’s teaching brings to them, we say thank you.
- To the Participants of the June workshopthis past June and so many years before this who raised monies in their June Workshop classes to honor the MTs they were fortunate to study with, we say to each and every one of you Thank you.
- To all the wonderful volunteerswho each year donate their spare time at the Conference to join Judy Naglein selling raffle tickets – Ernie Hall, Libby Hill, Anne Bower, Sherry Jones, and Maureen Caldwell among so many others– to all of you we say thank you ! We couldn’t do it without you.”
I have the feeling that if I had the time and space, this list of contributors over the years would easily fill our newsletter. However, as I can’t name every one of you, know that what I have to say is for all of you:. The gifts that you make to the USTCC Community Scholarship Fund, in whatever fashion you make them, provide the opportunity for many of our colleagues to expand and deepen their skills as well as tap into the spirit of our wonderful United States Tai Chi Community at the June Workshop. Thank you for helping to fund their dreams. Thank you for caring about this work!
One of Australia’s Best Kept Secrets Visits the United States
By Becky Rahe
Three months to plan…that was it. Daniel Baranowski accepted the invitation to come to the United States to teach two Chen 36 workshops. The first was a weekend workshop to be held in Perrysburg (Toledo), OH followed by a weekend in Boston, MA. Posting the workshops on USTCC Calendar, emails, and Dr. Paul Lam promoting it at his fall workshops allowed for 2 successful weekends.
Daniel is from Sydney, Australia, and teaches at Dr. Paul Lam’s non-profit school, Better Health Tai Chi Chuan in Sydney. He has trained closely with Dr. Paul Lam, Ian Etcell, and Janet Cromb. Daniel’s teaching style and wit captured the participants hearts.
The participants experience level ranged from first-time-ever students to those who had been studying Chen 36 for years. Here is what some of them had to share about the workshop.
“Enjoyed the workshop immensely. Please do it next year – 3 days would be great….”Linda Ebeling. Eagan, MN
“Loved what I learned.”Julie Werner, Paw Paw, MI
“The detailed instructions….Great Teacher!”Cheryl Bennett, Columbus, OH
What aspects did I enjoy most: “Daniel’s teaching style.”Denise Murray, MI
“Add another weekend to the workshop.”Dana Radford, Toledo, OH
“Daniel’s instruction was personable and focused. He really encourages retention…”Michelle Williams, Toledo, OH
“Daniel was clear in his teaching. He was able to give multiple examples to communicate the idea.”Viola Everett, Monroe, MI
Daniel will be back in 2014. He is scheduled in Toledo, OH August 1-3, 2014, and in Boston, MA, August 9-10, 2014. Save those dates on your calendar. Information will be listed on USTCC calendar.
Introduction to Chen 36
By Alan Clayton
I first saw a Chen Style 36 forms demonstration in 2006 at St. Mary of the Woods in Terre Haute, Indiana. I was mesmerized by the hard/soft and slow/quick form and knew I would one day learn Chen Style.
When Becky Rahe told me about the Intro to Chen 36 with Daniel Baranowski, I jumped at the chance. I watched the DVD and watch Daniel’s YouTube presentation and felt very inadequate to attend the workshop. Becky encouraged me to just show up and I would be fine.
With much trepidation on a very cold, rainy Saturday morning I entered the Phoenix Masonic Lodge in Perrysburg, Ohio. I stepped into the warmth of the room and the warmth of the Toledo ‘Tai Chi Gang’! You cannot feel uncomfortable when you are in the presence of that TC Gang, you are met with smiles and hugs and feel as if you have always been part of the family. Becky Rahe and Julie Oberhaus are experts at organizing workshops. Everything we possibly could want or need that weekend was available to us.
After the rest of the ‘family’ arrived we discovered Daniel was still en route from LA. As it turns out, his flight landed in LA a couple hours after a security incident closed the airport. When he was able to get off the plane, he was in queue for hours for a flight out.
Becky and Julie started the class until Daniel arrived two hours after the class was scheduled to begin. We took a break and without missing a beat Daniel continued our introduction to Chen 36. His teaching method is great for Chen beginners. He has a great smile/laugh, a humble demeanor, and is amazingly patient (and a bit naughty, which is great fun)!
Within minutes of Daniel’s arrival, I had an ‘ah ha!’ tai chi moment concerning the dan tien figure 8 movement. Of course I’ve heard of it for years but it is so pronounced in Chen Style. Amazing! And it has enhanced my Sun Style tai chi!
Daniel would show us movements, teach a while, and then ask us to ‘play with that a bit’. We’d gather in informal groups or work alone, focusing on what we had just learned. Daniel would come around and answer questions, give advice, or just observe until we had questions.
It was interesting to me that Daniel does not focus on the names of the 36 forms. You can do tai chi without knowing the names? He suggests we just learn the forms and the transitions between. How freeing that was to me!
It was an amazing weekend and who knows where we stopped in the form. It does not matter! By Sunday afternoon I was thinking “Look at me, I’m doing Chen style tai chi (sort of)”!
We plan to continue our study of Chen Style with Daniel in the future, possibly via Skype. Wow! Look at me I’m all technical (well sort of)! Daniel is coming back August 1-3, 2014 in Toledo, OH, and I have it on my calendar! He will be in Boston, MA the following weekend, August 9-10, 2014. Wouldn’t it be great to do both! Hope to see you there!
By Eric Borreson
Dr. Paul Lam uses the Chinese word “huo” to mean “agility.” He says, “Being strong, having powerful qi, and being in a good mental state are essential, and these attributes will be even more effective with better agility. Agility comes from regular practice with the proper body posture, weight transference, control of movements, loosened joints, and strong internal strength. Agility aids qi cultivation and improves flexibility.”
That’s a lot of information to digest at one time. For this article, let’s focus on the ideas of stepping and weight transference.
If you want to step forward with your left foot, you need to shift your entire weight to the right foot and leave no weight on the left foot, except a tiny bit for balance. Slowly pick up your left foot and place it where you want to step. If you are stepping forward, touch down with the heel, then the rest of your foot, and then slowly transfer your weight onto that foot.
This means that you want to have your stepping foot flat on the floor before you begin to shift your weight forward. When you step like this, the movement will be slow, yet light and agile. When you try to step forward with one foot while there is still some weight on both feet, the movement will be heavy and clumsy.
The same principle applies when stepping sideways. Transfer your weight to one foot, step out with the other, touch down, place your foot flat on the floor, and then slowly transfer your weight. When stepping sideways, you can touch first with the toe or the heel. If you are stepping backward, touch down with the ball of your foot. In either case, place you foot flat on the floor and then slowly transfer your weight onto that foot.
At all times, be mindful of where your weight is placed. This improves your mobility, coordination, and stability. This type of stepping has been shown to strengthen your legs and improve coordination. This is especially important for older people to help prevent falls.
I have come with a simple visual to improve your ability to be aware of your stepping and of shifting your weight. As you are practicing your tai chi forms, imagine that you are wearing tap dancing shoes and you are practicing on a hard surface floor. When you step, place your feet down as if you were trying to avoid making any noise from the tap shoes. This develops your ability to shift your weight and control your balance.
Eric teaches in the Bourbonnais, IL area.
The online tools I use in my tai chi practice seems commonplace today. Not so a decade ago when I first started teaching TCA. No website, no links, no blogs, no smartphone. To promote classes, I created flyers and posted them in grocery stores, coffee shops, and other local businesses.
Fast forward to now. My website and referrals bring 95% of my new students to classes, provide speaking engagements, special workshops, and opportunities to teach in high schools. Plus, it is an effective tool for promoting the wonderful principles and benefits of tai chi. I strive to have my website reflect my energy and overall aim – to inspire people to embrace change.
My blog page is where I share thoughts and insights I’ve learned through my tai chi experience. “I hope they may motivate you, enhance your energy and your quality of life in small and big ways,” I said to my readers in my first blog post.
So many have told me how inspirational my story is and that I need to share it with others. Faced with debilitating symptoms of MS, tai chi completely transformed my life. I tell vignettes of my story on the blog, including my joy at having the strength and stamina to attend Dr. Lam’s week-long workshop in Olive Branch, Mississippi. That was years in coming. What a milestone for me in my tai chi journey, in my health journey!
I also talk about tai chi principles and practices that can be applied to daily life. I offer a thought for the day, a reflection on change, on the flow of Tao, or on paying attention to the present moment. I tell stories from classes, from watching turtles, from the wisdom of the trees, and from the ebb and flow of nature’s seasons.
My blog seeks to
- Convey the good energy of tai chi concisely, through words, photos and videos – what tai chi is and does and what its benefits are – to a wide audience
- Show application of tai chi principles in daily life – alignment, balance, releasing tension, walking
- Inspire others through my story
- Draw people into my website to learn more about tai chi and to pique interest in trying it
- Offer my students opportunities to tell their experiences
- Interact and share with other tai chi teachers and students, across the country and world
I have not experienced any downsides with my website and blogs. It is extremely important to build a site that is easily updated and provides flexibility in usage. It is also important to have excellent and timely tech support when needed. I have that. I look forward to welcoming new readers and writing engaging blogs so the reader gets to the end and wants more.
Arlene teaches in the Chicago, IL area.
By Dahlis Roy
As I was learning tai chi years ago, one night words circled into my dreams. I pulled myself up and went sleepily into my art room. There I scribbled four pages of penciled notes and left them on my keyboard. In the morning I felt like a Zen artist tracing over invisible lines. Like music born of wind and clouds, from deafening silence and peace, I typed hastily:
Lightness and Power Combine
Flow, pause, circle, turn: slow motion
Elegance and Grace
Carry Tiger to Mountain
Wave Hands Like Clouds
Sweep Lotus with Foot?
Zen: Timeless in Time
THEN! Explosive Power
White Crane Spreading Wings
Yin/Yang wings circle: planets in the universe
Writing is a therapeutic journey, one word at a time. Shared words, like shared tai chi practice, bring joy, peace, healing, and pride of accomplishment. Tai chi sparks creativity and intuition. Have fun with your writing adventures! Tai chi enters the entire arena of my life!
Dahlis practices tai chi and writes from southwest Michigan.
Tidbits from The Community
By Becky Rahe, MemberCare
Have you had a chance to check out our website, www.tchc.info, lately? If you have, you may have noticed many new features.
Our home page makes it easy to join or renew memberships. Our Mission Statement is on the homepage, with a link to Tai Chi for Health Institute, located in the Mission Statement. There is even a download quick link of the USTCC Membership Brochure. These brochures are great for Master Trainers and Senior Trainers and local hosts to have at their workshops and skill builders.
Speaking of workshops and skill builders, you can move over to the “Upcoming Events” box. This will take you to the upcoming workshops and skill builders. It even gives you the option to view as a calendar or a list.
I could keep talking about all the features listed on the homepage, but I’d like you to check it out and explore it for yourself!
Becky is a teacher in the Toledo, OH area.
The United States Tai Chi Community represents a vibrant group of talented, dedicated individuals with common purpose. Membership has increased and so has the need to supply instructors, trainers and workshop leaders with materials to promote the many Community benefits to current and prospective members. As such, we are excited about forming a committee to create marketing informational pieces. If you have experience in copywriting, graphic design, layout or similar marketing background we want to hear from you!
Interested members are invited to contact Ernie Hall by email (email@example.com) prior to January 1, 2014. Please include the following information:
1) Name, contact email address, day and/or evening phone number.
2) Brief description of your marketing experience in print or display format, advertising or promotional campaigns and your preferred medium.
3) Sample copy/text promoting an original idea, 50 or fewer words. (Option to attach excerpt from recent article or promotional piece.)
4) Sample of original graphic design, if applicable, as an attachment.
5) Any other supportive information you wish to submit, i.e., publications, announcements, news briefs, advertisements, display photos, sample layout, etc. Tell us about it in a brief description or attachment.
Thank you for your continued involvement and interest in activities of USTCC. We anticipate having the Marketing Committee formed by mid-‐January. Watch for the announcement in February’s newsletter.
Ernie Hall, Marketing Committee Chair