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MARTIAL ARTS AND YOGA

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MARTIAL ARTS AND YOGA

Martial Arts and Yoga are dynamic tools that reveal the underlying psychology of the practitioner. Wisdom develops quickly when people learn the meaning behind the movements, whether they are experienced or newbies at martial arts or yoga. Not just the physical component, this system also involves the spiritual component. While this is by no means complete, and if I’ve left out something, there was no slight intended.

At first glance, Martial Arts and Yoga seem like opposing forces and philosophies, but these two health maintenance systems have more in common than meets the eye.  Consider the similarities between Tai Chi and Hatha Yoga. Within the warm up, you notice very similar movement, philosophy, and principles.

In yoga systems, the practitioners do asanas or body postures and breathing exercises while seated, especially in a lotus position. Martial arts consists of more standing, walking and physical activity. This activates the lower energy system or the lower chakras, which are important for practicality, physical strength and good health.

The difference between the yogis of India and the martial artists of China, Korea, Okinawa or the Philippines is the fact that these practitioners are always standing. They are always moving, including dynamic movement, which is a meditation in itself. T’ai chi is an example of this type of martial arts. It brings more balance of spiritual powers with material powers. It grounds ideas faster by activating the centres of energy responsible for manifestation, including the base of the spine and navel chakras.

Martial Arts and Yoga include sitting postures, standing meditations and more advanced hand positions or mudras to circulate energy through the whole system and the energy bodies. Alchemized energy results from the mixture of divine light with the inner fires or kundalini. The circulation of power and energy – especially the alchemized circulation – flows more efficiently when practicing a standing posture because it involves the lower centres, including the legs.

What makes Martial Arts and Yoga dynamic are the systematic, sequenced designs of bio-mechanical movements synchronized with breathing techniques that maximize circulation and energies the whole body system. The result is tremendously powerful than normal martial arts or yoga alone. It’s like combining the best Japanese martial arts style with the best of Tibetan, Nepalese and Indian yoga systems – all in one package.

Martial Arts and Yoga is divided into seven levels that integrate the development of greater physical acumen along with the development of life skills, higher virtues and values. Each level can be mastered in 3-6 months, depending on how disciplined the practitioner is.

Benefits – Practitioners report that doing physical exercises and breathing practices daily, they are able to beat their fatigue and stress faster, including jet lag. They sleep better and their concentration improves. Many find practicing Martial Arts and Yoga twice weekly becomes a highlight of life rather than simply an exercise regime.

Traditional martial arts practitioners specialize in hard or soft style. The gentle hearted may not be interested in martial arts designed to enhance fighting skills or self-defense. They often enjoy softer practices like T’ai chi for developing will-power and life skills through resilience, speed and adaptability. Hard styles like those found in Japan, Okinawa and Korea are also very popular.

Martial Arts and Yoga integrates hard fighting styles with softer techniques for a more complete system so its practitioners benefit from the best of both the styles.

One of the contributions especially of hard styles is development of will-power and constant focus. Children and adults with attention issues find their ability to focus improves after practicing martial arts. For adults who face ever increasing workloads, martial arts upgrades their energy and stamina as well as their focus so it is easier to meet complex challenges and deadlines.

Martial Arts-Yoga is a powerful tool and hence precautions are important. People with back pain, herniated discs, joint replacements, heart diseases, high blood pressure, cancer or other serious conditions should consult their health care providers before starting.

Pregnant women should not practice these techniques, especially in the third trimester because the energy boost could over-stimulate the baby and over-awaken the mother at the same time. However, after the baby is born, the increase in energy and vitality that result from Martial Arts and Yoga may be helpful in dealing with postpartum issues. It not only increases stamina, but makes it easier to lose weight and slim down after pregnancy, helping the new mothers regain their previous shape faster and increase their self-esteem. There is also more energy to proactively manage their families, to cope with their babies and take steps for their families.

For those who find it’s hard to maintain a practical approach to life after practicing yoga, this multi-faceted practice becomes a dynamic meditation that increases awareness on physical, mental and spiritual levels while aligning the will, heart and creative intelligence.

Whether you are in business, managing a family or pursuing education, Martial Arts and Yoga enables you to align your spirit and purpose to make a world of difference, both materially and spiritually.

Tai Chi is an Asian martial art practiced for many reasons including defense training, its health benefits such as balance and core strengthening. The chi in Tai Chi means qi or ki, “life energy.” The concept of Tai Chi appears in Taoist philosophy, where it represents the fusion of Ying and Yang into a single ultimate.

In Dahn Yoga, you can learn basic form of Tai Chi through DahnMuDo.   Dahn yoga is a Korean physical exercise system. In Korean, dahn means “primal, vital energy,” and hak means “study of a particular theory or philosophy.” This form of yoga has been thought of as “a blend of yoga, tai chi, and martial arts exercises.”

DahnMuDo is a comprehensive system of movement that is derived from the ancient tradition of Korean healing and martial arts forms. It includes principles and practices for the enhancement of life energy and for the development of the ability to use energy. It can be literally translated as “the art of being limitless.” The word dahn means “energy”; mu means “limitless”; and do means “the way.” Thus, it is a discipline designed to develop power and to uncover endless creative energy.

In this non-combative, healing martial art, you learn how to use your body to enhance your mental and spiritual strength while gaining a sense of personal integrity. The ultimate goal of DahnMuDo is to develop a complete human being who has full mastership of body, mind, and spirit.

While many DahnMuDo forms can be physically challenging, it is gentle enough to be practiced by anyone of any age. The speed, strength, intensity, and height of particular moves might be different for each individual practitioner, but the forms are deliberately designed to benefit every person, regardless of their physical or mental state.

Traditionally, the discipline of yoga has been used to help people meditate. Dahn Yoga meditation helps the practitioner develop healthy balance of relaxation in body and mind. As practitioners develop greater body awareness and ability to relax, their level of concentration deepens. Dahn Yoga meditation accelerates this process by shifting the focus away from busy thoughts to the physical sensations of the body.

When you focus your awareness as you move your body, you can clear your mind and connect with a deeper part of yourself—the part that gives you the power to make the changes you want. Dahn Yoga meditation addresses the connection of the mind and the body by way of the natural energy, Ki, or Qi (Chi).

Qigong is a powerful system of healing and energy medicine from Asia. It is the art and science of using breathing techniques, gentle movement, and meditation to cleanse, strengthen, and circulate the life energy, qi.

Qi is the animating power that flows through all living things. Gong is translated as cultivation or work, and definitions include practice, skill, mastery, and achievement. The two words are combined to describe systems to cultivate and balance life energy.

 Kathy Kiefer

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MARTIAL ARTS

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MARTIAL ARTS

Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practiced for a variety of reasons: self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, entertainment, as well as mental, physical, and spiritual development.

Although the term martial art has become heavily associated with the fighting arts of eastern Asia, it was originally used in regard to the combat systems of Europe as early as the 1550s. The term is ultimately derived from Latin, and means “arts of Mars,” where Mars is the Roman god of war. Some authors have argued that fighting arts or fighting systems would be more appropriate on the basis that many martial arts were never “martial” in the sense of being used or created by professional warriors.

Martial arts may be categorized along a variety of criteria, including: (a) Traditional or historical arts and contemporary styles of folk wrestling vs. modern hybrid martial arts; (b) Regional origin, especially Eastern Martial Arts vs. Western Martial Arts; (c) Techniques taught: Armed vs. unarmed, and within these groups by type of weapon (swordsmanship, stick fighting, etc.) and by type of combat (grappling vs. striking; stand-up fighting vs. ground fighting); (d) By application or intent: self-defense, combat sport, choreography or demonstration of forms, physical fitness, meditation, etc.; and (e) Within Chinese tradition: “external” vs. “internal” styles.

Those traditional martial arts which train armed combat often encompass a wide spectrum of mele weapons, including bladed weapons and polearms. Such traditions include eskrima, silat, kalaripayat, kobudo, and historical European martial arts, especially those of the German Renaissance. Many Chinese martial arts also feature weapons as part of their curriculum.

Sometimes, training with one specific weapon will be considered a style of martial arts in its own right, which is especially the case in Japanese martial arts with disciplines such as kenjutsu and kendo (sword), bojutsu (staff), and archery. Similarly, modern Western martial arts and sports include modern fencing, stick-fighting systems like canne de combat or singlestick, and modern competitive archery.

Many martial arts, especially those from Asia, also teach side disciplines which pertain to medicinal practices. This is particularly prevalent in traditional Indian martial arts which may teach bone-setting and other aspects of traditional Indian medicine.

Spirituality-oriented.   Martial arts can also be linked with religion and spirituality. Numerous systems are reputed to have been founded, disseminated, or practiced by monks or nuns. Throughout Asia, meditation may be incorporated as part of training. In those countries influenced by Hindu-Buddhist philosophy, the art itself may be used as an aid to attaining enlightenment.

Japanese styles, when concerning non-physical qualities of the combat, are often strongly influenced by Buddhist philosophy. Concepts like “empty mind” and “beginner’s mind” are recurrent. Aikido can have a strong philosophical belief of the flow of energy and peace fostering.   Traditional Korean martial arts place emphasis on the development of the practitioner’s spiritual and philosophical development. A common theme in most Korean styles, such as taekkyeon and taekwondo, is the value of “inner peace” in a practitioner, which is stressed to be only achieved through individual meditation and training. The Koreans believe that the use of physical force is only justified through defense.

Systema draws upon breathing and relaxation techniques, as well as elements of Russian Orthodox thought, to foster self-conscience and calmness, and to benefit the practitioner in different levels: the physical, the psychological and the spiritual.

Some martial arts in various cultures can be performed in dance-like settings for various reasons, such as for evoking ferocity in preparation for battle or showing off skill in a more stylized manner. Many such martial arts incorporate music, especially strong percussive rhythms.

Chinese martial arts originated during the Xia Dynasty more than 4000 years ago. The foundation of modern Asian martial arts is likely a blend of early Chinese and Indian martial arts. In Europe, the earliest sources of martial arts traditions date to Ancient Greece. Boxing, wrestling, and pankration were represented in the Ancient Olympic Games. The Romans produced gladiatorial combat as a public spectacle.

A number of historical combat manuals have survived from the European Middle Ages. This includes such styles as sword and shield, two-handed sword fighting and other types of melee weapons besides unarmed combat. Asian martial arts become well-documented during the medieval period, Japanese martial arts beginning with the establishment of the samurai nobility in the 12th century, Chinese martial arts with Ming era treatises such as Ji Xiao Xin Shu, Indian martial arts in medieval texts such as the Agni Purana and the Malla Purana, and Korean martial arts from the Joseon era and texts such as Muyejebo (1598). “Historical martial arts” in both Asia and Europe are mostly based on such records of the late medieval to early modern period.

Europe’s colonization of Asian countries also brought about a decline in local martial arts, especially with the introduction of firearms. This can clearly be seen in India after the full establishment of British Raj in the 19th century. Similar phenomena occurred in Southeast Asian colonies such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines.

Certain traditional combat sports and fighting styles exist all over the world, rooted in local culture and folklore. The most common of these are styles of folk wrestling, some of which have been practiced since antiquity, and are found in the most remote areas. Other examples include forms of stick fighting and boxing. While these arts are based on historical traditions of folklore, they are not “historical” in the sense that they reconstruct or preserve a historical system from a specific era. They are rather contemporary regional sports that coexist with the modern forms of martial arts sports as they have developed since the 19th century, often including cross-fertilization between sports and folk styles; thus, the traditional Thai art of muay boran developed into the modern national sport of muay Thai, which in turn came to be practiced worldwide and contributed significantly to modern hybrid styles like kick boxing and mixed martial arts.

The mid to late 19th century marks the beginning of the history of martial arts as modern sports developed out of earlier traditional fighting systems. In Europe, this concerns the developments of boxing and fencing as sports. In Japan, the same period marks the formation of the modern forms of judo, jujutso, karate and kendo (among others) based on revivals of mold schools of Edo period martial arts which had been suppressed during the Meiji Restoration. Modern muay Thai rules date to the 1920s.  Western interest in Asian martial arts arises towards the end of the 19th century, due to the increase in trade between the United States with China and Japan. Relatively few Westerners actually practiced the arts, considering it to be mere performance.

As Western influence grew in Asia a greater number of military personnel spent time in China, Japan and South Korea during World War II and the Korean War and were exposed to local fighting styles. Jujutsu, judo and karate first became popular among the mainstream from the 1950s-60s. Due in part to Asian and Hollywood martial arts movies, most modern American martial arts are either Asian-derived or Asian influenced. The term kick-boxing was created by the Japanese for a variant of muay Thai and karate that was created in the 1950s. American kickboxing was developed in the 1970s, as a combination of boxing and karate. Taekwondo was developed in the context of the Korean War in the 1950s.

Various forms and sparring are commonly used in martial art exhibitions and tournaments. Some competitions pit practitioners of different disciplines against each other using a common set of rules, these are referred to as mixed martial arts competitions. Rules for sparring vary between art and organization but can generally be divided into light-contact, medium-contact, and full-contact variants, reflecting the amount of force that should be used on an opponent.

In some styles (such as fencing and some styles of Taekwondo sparring), competitors score points based on the landing of a single technique or strike as judged by the referee, whereupon the referee will briefly stop the match, award a point, then restart the match. Alternatively, sparring may continue with the point noted by the judges. Some critics of point sparring feel that this method of training teaches habits that result in lower combat effectiveness. Lighter-contact sparring may be used exclusively, for children or in other situations when heavy contact would be inappropriate (such as beginners), medium-contact sparring is often used as training for full contact.   Full-contact sparring or competition, where strikes are not pulled but thrown with full force as the name implies, has a number of tactical differences from light and medium-contact sparring. It is considered by some to be requisite in learning realistic unarmed combat.

Martial arts have crossed over into sports when forms of sparring become competitive, becoming a sport in its own right that is dissociated from the original combative origin, such as with western fencing. The Summer Olympic Games includes judo, taekwondo, western archery, boxing, javelin, wrestling and fencing as events, while Chinese wushu recently failed in its bid to be included, but is still actively performed in tournaments across the world. Practitioners in some arts such as kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu often train for sport matches, whereas those in other arts such as aikido and Wing Chun generally spurn such competitions. Some schools believe that competition breeds better and more efficient practitioners, and gives a sense of good sportsmanship. Others believe that the rules under which competition takes place have diminished the combat effectiveness of martial arts or encourage a kind of practice which focuses on winning trophies rather than a focus such as cultivating a particular moral character.

Some martial artists compete in non-sparring competitions such as breaking or choreographed routines of techniques such as poomse, kata and aka, or modern variations of the martial arts which include dance-influenced competitions such as tricking. Martial traditions have been influenced by governments to become more sport-like for political purposes; the central impetus for the attempt by the People’s Republic of China in transforming Chinese martial arts into the committee-regulated sport of wushu was suppressing what they saw as the potentially subversive aspects of martial training, especially under the traditional system of family lineages.

Martial arts training aims to result in several benefits to trainees, such as their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Through systematic practice in the martial arts a person’s physical fitness may be boosted (strength, stamina, flexibility, movement coordination, etc.) as the whole body is exercised and the entire muscular system is activated. Beyond contributing to physical fitness, martial arts training also has benefits for mental health, contributing to self-esteem, self-control, emotional and spiritual well-being. For this reason, a number of martial arts schools have focused purely on therapeutic aspects, de-emphasizing the historical aspect of self-defense or combat completely.

Some traditional martial concepts have seen new use within modern military training. Perhaps the most recent example of this is point shooting which relies on muscle memory to more effectively utilize a firearm in a variety of awkward situations, much the way an iaikoka would master movements with their sword.

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide practice some form of martial arts. Martial arts equipment can include that used for conditioning, protection and weapons. Specialized conditioning equipment can include breaking boards, dummy partners such as the wooden dummy, and targets such as punching bags and the makiwara. Protective equipment for sparring and competition includes boxing gloves and headgear.

Kathy Kiefer

TAI CHI

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TAI CHI

What is Tai Chi all about?

Can it possibly be incorporated with meditation and yoga?

practicando-tai-chiIf you’re looking for a way to reduce stress, consider tai chi.  Originally developed for self-defense, tai chi has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that’s now used for stress reduction and a variety of other health conditions.   Often described as meditation in motion, tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements.

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that, today, is practiced as a graceful form of exercise.  It involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing.

Tai chi, also called tai chi chuan, is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion.   Tai chi has many different styles. Each style may have its own subtle emphasis on various tai chi principles and methods. There are also variations within each style. Some may focus on health maintenance, while others focus on the martial arts aspect of tai chi.   Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. In fact, because tai chi is low impact, it may be especially suitable if you’re an older adult who otherwise may not exercise. You may also find tai chi appealing because it’s inexpensive, requires no special equipment and can be done indoors or out, either alone or in a group.

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Although tai chi is generally safe, women who are pregnant or people with joint problems, back pain, fractures, severe osteoporosis or a hernia
should consult their health care provider before trying tai chi. Modification or avoidance of certain postures may be recommended.

Tai Chi is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. It is also typically practiced for a variety of other personal reasons: its hard and soft martial art technique, demonstration competitions, and longevity.  As a result, a multitude of training forms exist, both traditional and modern, which correspond to those aims. Some of t’ai chi ch’uan’s training forms are especially known for being practiced with what most people would categorize as slow movement.

Today, t’ai chi ch’uan has spread worldwide. Most modern styles of t’ai chi ch’uan trace their development to at least one of the five traditional schools:  Chen, Yang, Wu (Hao), Wu and Sun.

Medical research has found evidence that t’ai chi is helpful for improving balance and for general psychological health, and that it is associated with general health benefits in older people.

The term “t’ai chi ch’uan” translates as “supreme ultimate fist”, “boundless fist”, “supreme ultimate boxing” or “great extremes boxing”. The chi in this instance is the Wade-Giles transliteration of the Pinyin, and is distinct from “life energy”. The concept of the taiji (“supreme ultimate”), in contrast with wuji (“without ultimate”), appears in both Taoist and Confucian Chinese philosophy, where it represents the fusion of Yin and Yang into a single ultimate, represented by the taijitu symbol . T’ai chi ch’uan theory and practice evolved in agreement with many Chinese philosophical principles, including those of Taoism and Confucianism.

qigong-womenTai chi ch’uan training involves five elements, solo hand and weapons routines/forms, breathing, movement and awareness exercises and meditations,   response drills and self- defense techniques). While t’ai chi ch’uan is typified by some for its slow movements, many t’ai chi styles (including the three most popular –Yang, Wu and Chen) – have secondary forms with faster pace. Some traditional schools of t’ai chi teach partner exercises known as “pushing hands”, and martial applications of the forms’ postures.

In China, t’ai chi ch’uan is categorized under the Wudang grouping of Chinese martial arts – that is, the arts applied with internal power. Although the Wudang name falsely suggests these arts originated at the so-called Wudang Mountain, it is simply used to distinguish the skills, theories and applications of neijia (“internal arts”) from those of the Shaolin grouping, waijia (“hard” or “external”) martial art styles.

Since the first widespread promotion of t’ai chi ch’uan’s health benefits, it has developed a worldwide following among people with little or no interest in martial training, for its benefit to health and health maintenance.  Medical studies of tai chi support its effectiveness as an alternative exercise and a form of martial arts therap.

It is purported that focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity. Besides131007tai-chi general health benefits and stress management attributed to t’ai chi ch’uan training, aspects of traditional Chinese medicine are taught as well.  Some other forms of martial arts require students to wear a uniform during practice. In general, t’ai chi ch’uan schools do not require a uniform, but both traditional and modern teachers often advocate loose, comfortable clothing and flat-soled shoes.

The physical techniques of t’ai chi ch’uan are described in the “Tai chi classics,”  a set of writings by traditional masters, as being characterized by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination and relaxation, rather than muscular tension, in order to neutralize, yield, or initiate attacks. The slow, repetitive work involved in the process of learning how that leverage is generated gently and measurably increases, opens the internal circulation (breath, body heat, blood, lymph, peristalsis, etc).

tai-chiIn modern usage, the term is now commonly understood, both in the West and in mainland China, to refer to the martial art and exercise system. However, the term has its origins in Chinese philosophy.  The word taiji translates to “great pole/goal” or “supreme ultimate”, and is believed to be a pivotal, spiraling, or coiling force that transforms the neutrality of wuji to a state of polarity depicted by the taijitu.  T’ai chi / taiji is thus symbolically represented by a state between wuji and the polar “yin and yang”, not by the actual yin and yang symbol, as is frequently misinterpreted.   The combination of the term taiji and quan (“fist”) produces the martial art’s name taijiquan or “taiji fist”, showing the close link and use of the taiji concept in the martial art. Taijiquan does not directly refer to the use of qi as is commonly assumed.  The practice of taijiquan is meant to be in harmony with taiji philosophy, utilizing and manipulating qi via taiji, to produce great effect with minimal effort.

There are now dozens of new styles, hybrid styles, and offshoots of the main styles, but the five family schools are the groups recognized by the international community as being the orthodox styles. Other important styles are Zhaobao t’ai chi ch’uan, a close cousin of Chen-style, which has been newly recognized by Western practitioners as a distinct style, and the Fu style, created by Fu Chen Sung, which evolved from Chen, Sun and Yang styles, and also incorporates movements from Baguazhang (Pa Kua Chang).

In the last twenty years or so, t’ai chi ch’uan classes that purely emphasize health have become popular in hospitals, clinics, as well as community and senior centres. This has occurred as the baby boomers generation has aged and the art’s reputation as a low-stress training method for seniors has become better known.

As a result of this popularity, there has been some divergence between those that say they practice t’ai chi ch’uan primarily for self-defense, those that practice it for its aesthetic appeal, and those that are more interested in its benefits to physical and mental health. The wushu aspect is primarily for show; the forms taught for those purposes are designed to earn points in competition and are mostly unconcerned with either health maintenance or martial ability. More traditional stylists believe the two aspects of health and martial arts are equally necessary: the yin and yang of t’ai chi ch’uan. The t’ai chi ch’uan “family” schools, therefore, still present their teachings in a martial art context, whatever the intention of their students in studying the art.tai-chi-2

The philosophy of t’ai chi ch’uan is that, if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certainly to be injured at least to some degree. Such injury, according to t’ai chi ch’uan theory, is a natural consequence of meeting brute force with brute force. Instead, students are taught not to directly fight or resist an incoming force, but to meet it in softness and follow its motion while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, meeting yang with yin. When done correctly, this yin/yang or yang/yin balance in combat, or in a broader philosophical sense, is a primary goal of t’ai chi ch’uan training.

Alessandro Sicuro  wrote:    …”Tai Chi is the best gift that you can do to your body, to your mind and your spirit …”

Kathy Kiefer