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My T’ai Chi Lesson on March 30, 2014

rootengineballoon

I had a lesson with my T’ai Chi teacher on Sunday, March 30, 2014. It was raining and my training partner was the one driving. He made a wrong turn, and we ended up being 30 minutes late. Chung-jen was kind enough not to count that against us, so we still had a full two hours for our lesson.

For about the first 40 minutes of the lesson, we did jibengong (basic exercises). In the past six months, I have been working more on specific skills and less on my physical conditioning. As a result, my legs gave out from exhaustion several times. This has only happened to me a few times before. I usually get to the brink of that each time, but I manage to hang on. This time, I could not. Though these are called basic exercises, they are grueling. Always, within about 10 minutes, I break out in a light, full body sweat, and I do not sweat easily. This time, Chung-jen added something new, something to help loosen the shins and ankles. It is a great exercise, but is extremely difficult for me. I will only be able to practice that with the help of someone else, though Chung-jen does it fine by himself. I also sought clarity on one of the exercises, and Chung-jen offered corrections on a few others. When we were done with the jibengong, my heart was pounding, my breathing was noticeable, my body was sweaty, my thighs felt thick and heavy, but I was ready for the rest of the lesson.

In general, there are 3 main things regarding trying to improve skill that are at the heart of every lesson I have with Chung-jen: 1) more emptiness; 2) better structure; and 3) less doing. Each of those topics are rather deep and are outside the scope of this article, so I will not be touching on those here. I only mention the list because this lesson was no different in that regard. However, the context in which those ideas are presented have varied among the lessons.

I mentioned in a recent article that I both wanted to and needed to get back to basics and work on my foundation. After all, the better one’s foundation, the easier it is to do things that depend on that foundation. One can know how to do high level things, but without an equally high level of foundation, the success rate of one’s techniques will be less than desired, particularly when one has an opponent or training partner that is not being direct with his power or purposely feeding his center.

The first thing I requested that we work on was root. I am still a bit baffled by Chung-jen’s root. I understand, at least on some level, how to root, and in training situations and with people of lesser skill, I appear to have root. However, when Chung-jen softly pushes on me, my root is not there, and my body cannot help but to resist. My mind does not appear to be pushing back, and I know that I neither want to nor intend to be pushing back, but I can clearly feel my legs and / or other parts of my body engaged in resistance, pushing back into him. He tells me that I am pushing back. I almost laughingly say that it is not me pushing back, it is my body doing it; I do not want to do it, but it is doing it anyway.

When I asked about root, he said, “Oh, that’s easy. Just drop off.” The “drop off” is an exercise that he gave us to do several years ago. Practicing that and getting some skill with that is responsible for quite a bit of the T’ai Chi martial application skill that I have. However, over time, because of using it in application, I got away from the original intent of the exercise and came to depend on at least a small amount of movement in order to start the process of the application. It is that small amount of movement that has been causing a reaction in my training partner or practice opponents, which I was then able to borrow and use to complete the application. It is that small amount of movement that someone song (relaxed) such as my teacher interprets as me pushing or moving. I now have a better sense of just how still I must be in order to actually be still. No external or visible movements means just that, not a tiny movement that people miss because of the larger movement that follows. So, I was using the drop off to move people instead of using the drop off to increase my root and level of song (relaxation). In those cases, my drop off, and therefore my root, only had to be good enough to be better than my opponent’s errors when engaged in a drill. Through my seeking clarity, Chung-jen mentioned that dropping off is the same as releasing or song(ing), and that it should be happening during both the “roll up” and the release. “Roll up” is what we call it when the intention of tailbone is causing the lower abdomen to sort of roll up on the inside. Release is when we let that go. However, in letting that go, things should still remain “rolled up.” All the while, dropping off is happening. It is a very subtle process and if one involves one’s conscious mind to keep track and check up on any one aspect, the whole thing gets messed up. As usual, Chung-jen said that to work on this skill, just practice the sequence; it is all in the sequence. Yes, it is all in the sequence if I do it the way he taught me. So, I must not forget that dropping off is root. When he demonstrated on me, Chung-jen was perfectly still, touching me, but not pushing into me at all, and off I went, simply from him dropping off. I have been aware of this phenomenon for some time, but in my haste, I started to jump ahead before fully developing it, depending upon other skills to make up for my lack of root.

Because the topic came up, I also wanted more clarity on this dropping off / releasing. I asked if dropping off / releasing was always done the same, regardless of where I was being touched or what I was trying to do, or if I change it based on those parameters. Chung-jen stated that I should always do it the same way. I had suspected that, based on my previous experience, but I just wanted to make sure. I started to get a sense for it again, and Chung-jen warned that I not wait too long before returning for another lesson, or I would lose the sense again and go off in another direction again: off by an inch, miss by a mile. I will state at this point that the roll up and release while dropping off is the specific “internal engine” used in the type of T’ai Chi on which I am working. There are other internal engines out there, and jin manipulations can be done without a specific type of engine; one need only have open and loose joints and a certain degree of song.

The rooting topic led nicely into and was intertwined with the roll up and release topic, two of the three topics I wanted to cover. I then brought up the third topic, how to move my arms around. He laughed and said that I have been all along, but that I just needed to get better at it. I told him that I did not want to keep practicing incorrectly, so he got serious again and went on to explain. Up until this point, I have been moving my arms in a way that allowed freedom of movement and conduction of forces. Basically, I have been keeping my joints open and loose and releasing tensions in my torso that would otherwise form due to changes in limb positions. It feels like they float around where I want them to be based on what I think in regards to where they should be. You could say that I was hua (neutralizing) my own limbs and their movements. If someone put hard force on one of my limbs, I just did the same thing. It was no different than if my limb weighed more; I treated it the same. The connections from the limbs to the rest of body were from the sinking and hua. From an application point of view, this method seems to work well until I practice with someone who has better internal skill. Then, they perceive it as me using force, the wrong kind of force. My teacher uses the word fake: “Your movement is fake;” or “Your touch is fake.” Basically, I was not completely whole, somewhat disconnected.

So, how I am supposed to be moving my limbs? Well, it is tied directly into the internal engine that I mentioned above. Chung-jen used the word balloon quite a bit during the explaining. He has mentioned to me before about the head being like a balloon, but this was more inclusive. Although I am not sure they are the same thing, it brought to mind something that I have read on various internal arts forums that Mike Sigman writes about: the balloon man. Admittedly, I have not read his more in-depth expositions on the balloon man found in his blog. I will, however, be reading that soon. Although the internal engine behind his balloon man is a little different than the internal engine that I am working on, I think the balloon man aspect is probably very similar to the balloon that Chung-jen mentioned. Mike provides solid information in a very readable way, so I look forward to it, and I recommend his blog to you as well.

Let me get back to my lesson with Chung-jen now. He stated that the roll up from the tailbone, which connects huiyin (Ren-1 acupuncture point at the perineum) to baihui (Du-20 acupuncture point at the crown of the head), starts the “inflation” process of the balloon. At this point let me say that I have no doubt about this connection from huiyin to baihui. When I roll up, especially with an inhale, I can feel a sensation at huiyin that almost simultaneously “hits” the top of my head. Chung-jen instructed that as the balloon inflates, my yi (mind intent) should connect that to my fingertips (in the case of moving my arms). This will raise them and my arms to where I intend. During the lesson, I was able to do this, and I must say, it felt very different than what I was used to doing. It felt even more like I was doing less. I was psyched from that new experience. I was even able to do it against his pressure on my arms. This got me thinking.

I know in T’ai Chi, we are supposed to hua (neutralize) our opponents. Because they are alive and have nervous systems, they can be manipulated in ways that inanimate objects (such as a heavy box) cannot. Would the balloon hold up against inanimate objects? I asked if the balloon could be trained to become a very strong balloon so that you could lift or move objects with it, and he said yes. I also asked if that strong balloon could then be used to move a person as if they were an inanimate object, just moving their mass away from you with raw balloon power, and he said yes. Of course, that is not how he approaches things, and that is not how he teaches me. Remember those 3 things I mentioned above: 1) more emptiness; 2) better structure; and 3) less doing. Emptiness and hua should be the focus.

Still, I am going to isolate this balloon thing so I can get used to moving my limbs that way. After I get comfortable with that, I will add inanimate resistance to the training in order to develop a stronger balloon. I will still be working on emptiness and hua, trying to be as soft and subtle as possible, but it is good to have a backup plan.

I did ask another question about the balloon feeling just for clarification, and I think it is important to mention here. I told him that when I am practicing and I inhale, I can feel a sensation in my limbs as if they are being filled, and that when I exhale, that sensation dissipates. I asked if this was related to the balloon thing. He said, “No. That is just your feeling of things.” I knew just what he had meant by that because he had told me that before in other situations. He was letting me know that what I was feeling was just my mind’s interpretation of the qi sensation in my body that I have linked with my breathing. Qi in this sense has to do with the kind of qi used in healing or the channel qi in acupuncture. That is different than the martial qi talked about in T’ai Chi.

Time was up for the 2 hour lesson. I wish we would have done more. As is usual for us, we three continued with discussion over lunch at a Chinese buffet. I overate, partially because I like the food so much, and it is “all you can eat,” and partially because Chung-jen is able to eat so much and he jokingly remarks, wondering why we cannot eat that much. After lunch, we hugged and said our goodbyes. Chung-jen told us to not wait too long for our next lesson because he did not want us to lose the sense of correctness that we obtained during that lesson. I understand and agree. I would see him weekly if I could. I think I will try to see him again in the first week of May.

Overall, I am pleased with the lesson I had. As usual, I left there feeling like a dummy, knowing how little I knew (in my body) and how much I needed to work. I do remind myself, though, that it is relative. I am certainly not a beginner, but I am far from Chung-jen’s level. I gained some good clarification on rooting and the internal engine that we use. I will work a lot on this, however, I know I will encounter problems. When I isolate an internal mechanism like that, I tend to lose sight of all of the other things that my body is supposed to be doing correctly in order for the engine to be able to be expressed. If the engine is working but there are tensions in the body and forces are not conducting well, then the effects of the engine do not come through. Likewise, if I am just open and loose like I used to be, conducting forces, but with no real engine, I will be lacking and not doing what I am supposed to be doing. I have to combine those, and it is going to take some time. Those things are not new to me, but my understanding is a little different. Each lesson, things make just a little bit more sense to me. I also must work on awareness of the balloon phenomenon in regards to moving my limbs, and I must work that and the engine into the T’ai Chi form sequence so that I have a vehicle for regular solo practice. As usual, I will continue with my training partner so that we may test one another and provide increasingly difficult challenges.

My T’ai Chi Journey and How I Met My Teacher, Chung-jen Chang

bca and cjc

Before telling the part of the tale involving my teacher, I have to start a little further back to put it all into context. It was 1990. I saw a flyer for a local kung fu school, and one of the styles that it offered was T’ai Chi. I already had previous martial arts experience, but I had always wanted to learn kung fu, and I was previously not aware of any local kung fu schools. This was great, I thought, and the fact that T’ai Chi was being offered made it even better.

About 2 years prior, I was at a friend’s house watching a martial arts documentary, The Warrior Within. Masters from various martial arts were showcased including a few from various styles of kung fu. Of particular interest to me was the demonstration by Eagle Claw Master Leung Shum. Rather than demonstrating Eagle Claw, however, he performed Wu Style T’ai Chi. I had not seen anything like that before, and that combined with the hypnotic 1970’s styled deep-voiced commentary had me hooked. I needed to study T’ai Chi.

Back to the flyer: there it was, T’ai Chi at a local kung fu school. I enthusiastically signed up and studied everything they offered including various external styles of kung fu, many traditional kung fu weapons, and, of course, T’ai Chi. The T’ai Chi classes had much less attendance than the external style classes. It was not everyone’s cup of tea. As time passed, I became an instructor at the school, teaching both the external style classes, including weapons, and the T’ai Chi classes. At first, I assisted in teaching the T’ai Chi classes, and then later, I completely led the classes.

During that time, I competed in various tournaments, competing in external styles, both empty hand and weapons, and in T’ai Chi, both forms divisions and pushing hands divisions. I placed in every tournament I every competed in without exception. I thought that I was good at T’ai Chi and that I knew what I was doing. Hey, I even read the Classics. My T’ai Chi seemed to work well even in sparring against external styles. Even though I was not able to duplicate the feats attributed to masters of the past, I assumed that if I continued to practice what I had been taught, that I would continue getting better at what I had been taught, and that it would all come together. Little did I know that I could not get there from where I was. Unfortunately, that is just how T’ai Chi is: off by an inch, miss by a mile. Without a proper foundation, you will never do more than an external representation of T’ai Chi. No matter how clever and sensitive your moves, no matter how effective your techniques, it will still not be T’ai Chi. I, however, was blissfully ignorant. How could I have known?

It is time to introduce an important character in this story: Bill. Bill had joined the same kung fu school after I had already become an instructor. Initially, he studied both the external styles offered and T’ai Chi, however, in time, he had settled in with just T’ai Chi. He was my most dedicated student and took it all very seriously. He eventually plateaued and made me aware of my own plateau. At this point, I had been with that kung fu school over 5 years. The head teacher of the school did not seem to have anything else to offer in regards to T’ai Chi. Bill asked me if I could recommend another teacher that he could study with. I did not know of anyone in the area, but I gave it some thought. I remembered that one of the friends that I made at the tournaments, Al Jean, was an instructor under Yang Jwing-Ming. Both Bill and I were familiar with Yang Jwing-Ming through some of his books and videos. Though Al Jean did live in Boston, I knew at the time that he had recently moved to the Baltimore, MD area. I knew Al always did well at the tournaments, and I assumed that if he was an instructor under Yang Jwing-Ming, then he must have a decent set of T’ai Chi knowledge and skill. So, I recommended that Bill get in touch with him. I cannot recall if it was I or Bill who had found his contact information, regardless, Bill contacted Al Jean and had a fateful conversation.

Bill explained to Al who he was, how he knew me, and what he was looking to learn. Al decided to steer Bill in another direction. Al was under instructions from his own teacher, Yang Jwing-Ming, to seek out instruction from Chung-jen Chang of Bowie, MD while Al was living in Baltimore. Yang Jwing-Ming would have Chung-jen Chang teach various workshops at his school in Boston and thought highly of him, so he thought his own advanced student / assistant Al would do well to study with Chung-jen while he had the chance. Bill contacted Chung-jen and started studying with him in 1995.

For about a year while he was taking private lessons with Chung-jen, Bill would still work out with me regularly. He would show me what he was learning, which was a lot of basic exercises, no work on the form. Considering the T’ai Chi background that I had, this seemed strange to me, and the basic exercises seemed similar to ones that I had already taught Bill. Of course, my eyes only saw the outer shell of things because I did not know any better. Bill insisted, however, that Chung-jen was very knowledgeable and skilled.

About a year later, June 1996, the kung fu school at which I taught was set to perform during the Masters’ Demonstration at the 3rd World Wushu Games held in Baltimore, MD. Bill informed me that Chung-jen would be there performing as well. I was excited about getting to meet Chung-jen. During the event (when I was not engaged in conversation with Cynthia Rothrock), Bill kindly introduced me to Chung-jen. He seemed friendly enough, but I did not know what to think. I was anxious to see him perform.

Wow! I sure did see him perform. Though I did not really know the depth involved in what I was seeing, I could plainly see that it was qualitatively different than any other T’ai Chi performance that I had ever seen. His movements seemed very precise, very together, and very flowing. His stances were low, but he looked very relaxed. In the Yang style sword form that he performed, the sword was clearly an extension of his body, a part of the whole. The Zhaobao small frame (Hulei Jia) form that he performed, showed me a coordination, flexibility, and type of strength that I had never seen.

I was seriously impressed. About a month later in July 1996, I started studying with Chung-jen. Bill and I were taking private lessons together in Yang style T’ai Chi at the rate of about 1 to 2 lessons per month. After about a year or so later, I started learning Chen style T’ai Chi with Chung-jen on Saturdays in a class setting rather than having private instruction. During that time, I continued the private lessons in Yang style T’ai Chi at the same rate. I did not mind the 2 hour drive each way at all. It was worth it. This went on until November 1999 when I moved to San Diego.

I learned much during that time period, but I was never quite able to pick up what Chung-jen was putting down when it came to internal power. I found a good training partner, Jim Hogg, while I was in San Diego, and we worked out for hours at a time, usually twice a week. I also visited the East coast twice and had more private lessons with Chung-jen. Then, one day, in mid 2001, I got sick.

To say I got sick is an understatement. This would end up being a chronic illness that wasted me away, literally dropping my weight down to 106 lbs at 5’ 5”, an illness that lasted a trying 9 years. I had some type of dysautonomia which was never fully diagnosed let alone adequately treated. I had to stop the workouts. It took all of my strength just to finish Chinese Medical School, which is why I was in San Diego. During 2004, my last year in San Diego, I had just enough strength to start training again, but only for very small periods of time. At first, I would work out literally for just one minute. I was determined.

I moved back to Delaware at the end of December 2004. A few months later, I had regained another small portion of strength, enough to get my Chinese medical practice up and running. I also decided to teach T’ai Chi and Qigong. Honestly, teaching those two classes was the only physical activity I was capable of doing. Somehow, I was able to teach and do those 2 things and mostly feel OK while doing them, but nothing else. Have me walk down the street or up a flight of steps or carry groceries into the house, and I was beat. It did help that my students were mostly there for the health benefits and not for martial arts training.

I knew my skill level was not what it should have been. I was, however, blessed with a good memory, and so I continued practicing all that Chung-jen had taught me and did get better at what I had been doing, but I had truly plateaued once more. I knew I wanted to study with Chung-jen again, but I was embarrassed. I was a weak shell of my former physically fit, strong, flexible self. Then, one day, I got a new training partner. This was in March 2010.

He would work out with me a few times a week. I slowly started to build up stamina and strength from the workouts, and luckily, some of that extended to my activities outside of T’ai Chi and Qigong. I tried to get him to understand the inner workings of what Chung-jen was trying to teach me, but it was futile being that I did not have a good grasp of it myself. We did, however, get very efficient at what we were doing, but in the end it was still mostly external.

A few months later, my training partner declared that he absolutely must start studying with Chung-jen and that I must go, too. Though I was still feeling embarrassed and inadequate, I called Chung-jen and set up a lesson. I had kept in touch with him over the years via Christmas cards and occasional letters, so it was not quite like I was just calling out of the blue. Still, he was glad to hear from me, and we set up a private lesson for July 2010.

We showed Chung-jen what we had been working on, and he seemed interested that we had discovered a few things. That lesson, he taught us some things that made a major difference in my T’ai Chi. The door had opened. Chung-jen stated to me, “You have been in high school long enough. It is time to graduate and go to college.” I was totally psyched.

As we continued with private lessons, I was finally catching on to what Chung-jen had been trying to teach me previously and what I had been working on for so long. There were times when Bill, who introduced me to Chung-jen, would attend the private lessons with us as well. My training partner and I worked out several times a week, a few hours at a time. Also, during this time period, my health situation changed for the better rather quickly, and though I am now still not 100%, and I still must avoid certain activities, I am doing much better. I completely credit the “new” T’ai Chi that I was learning from Chung-jen and practicing regularly with my training partner. We got what we thought was really good, really fast. However, each time we would go for another lesson, Chung-jen effortlessly showed us the great divide between our skill level and his. He did not do this explicitly. It would just become very obvious during the course of the lesson. This went on until September 2013 when it finally sunk in about how to judge myself and what it was I needed to do in order to continue to acquire more and more skill. I felt like a total dummy leaving that lesson, but within a week, I realized that in many ways, it was my best lesson yet.

It is now March 2014, and I have not had a lesson with Chung-jen since that September 2013 lesson. Worse yet, circumstances have changed, and my training partner and I do not have the same access to one another like we used to have. Workouts have been infrequent. During this time period, I have once again started focusing on basics. I have been trying to build a better root and work on being more song (relaxed). This is what Chung-jen kept trying to tell me. The “higher level” stuff, mostly involving yi (mind intend) that I was doing would fall apart against someone with skill because I did not have a good enough physical foundation behind it. I am, however, glad that Chung-jen answered all of my questions, humoring me, showing me how to do higher level skills. This kept me motivated; I felt like I was getting somewhere, having something to show for my efforts. It got me healthy.

Now, though, it is time to really get down to business. I have a lesson this coming Sunday with Chung-jen, a long overdue one. I really just want to work on zhan zhuang (standing), song (relaxing), and how to properly move my arms and legs. I cannot emphasize just how important those things are. The first 30 minutes of the lesson are going to be jibengong (basic exercises) as usual, and it scares me to think about it. Honestly, it is like you have to train to get into shape to just be able to make it through those exercises with him. Then, I am going to feel wasted for the next 30 minutes, as I try to get my body to behave after that initial gauntlet, if you will. It will be worth it though, because the rest of the lesson will be chock full of basics, just like I want, just like I need.

So, that is my T’ai Chi story, up until now. I hope you enjoyed it. I know I have.

OMHS’s New Intro Video Sequence

This is my new video introductory sequence. I will be using this at the beginning of my new videos.

My friend Jake Leach created this for me. Thanks Jake; I like it. I left all creativity up to him. I sent him a copy of the logo, and he did the rest.

If you want to see more of Jake’s work or to get in touch with him about doing something for you, see his YouTube channel here.

If you have not yet subscribed to my YouTube channel so that you never miss a new video of mine, please do so here.

Allow Me to Toot My Own Horn

Introduction

I know it is not quite proper to talk oneself up, but I am going to do it anyway. It is not just for my sake, though. I think you should know the truth so that you can be better informed about the state of affairs in these parts. I want you to know why I should be your ONLY choice when picking a Chinese medical practitioner or when seeking Qigong or T’ai Chi instruction. I am going to be polite about this; I am not going to name names. I just want to give you good information so that if for some reason you do look into seeing someone other than me for Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, Tuina Massage, Qigong, or T’ai Chi, you will be informed and will be able to ask the right kind of questions. Then, you can take those answers and compare them with what I have to say here. I know this is long, but bear with it. There is much valuable information here.

I am going to break this down into categories, making points regarding each of the services I offer here at Oriental Medicine and Health Services.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the main part of my business, and this will be the largest section, so I am going to cover this first. Keep in mind that there are things I will cover in this section that are applicable to other sections below as well.

  1. I graduated from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, considered to be the Harvard of Chinese medical schools in this country. To learn more specific information about my time there, see this blog post. The program at PCOM is large, comprehensive, and dwarfs many other programs found elsewhere in the country. The school is located in California which has licensure standards above those of any other state and issues its own licensing exam that is tougher than the National Board Exams. In California, acupuncturists are considered primary care physicians, are part of the insurance programs, have hospital privileges, etc. This is the type of training that I have. There are practitioners in this state who graduated from programs so many years ago that the programs are considered substandard and inadequate by today’s standards.

  2. There are practitioners that have been around here longer, and some say experience counts, but experience MUST be weighed against the foundation on which that experience is built. What good is having 20 years or more in the field if the training is relatively superficial, lacking, or even flawed? I am more than willing to discuss my training, and the foundation I have comes from the best in the country as mentioned above. Besides the strong foundation, I have been running my own Chinese medical practice since April 2005. So, I do have much experience in the field as well.

  3. I did not need to be grandfathered. When acupuncture legislation (which I helped to set up) was enacted in Delaware, all of the existing acupuncturists (about 25) in the state at that time were grandfathered into licensure. Of this group, only 3 actually met the standards that Delaware requires for new applicants. I was one of those 3. The other 2, though meeting Delaware’s standards (which are higher than any state’s other than California’s), only did so on a technicality. One of Delaware’s requirements is for applicants to have NCCAOM certification in Oriental Medicine, a Dipl. OM. (Read about that here). Those 2 got grandfathered into that certification because they already had the Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology certifications when the Oriental Medicine certification was introduced which encompassed those 2 certifications. However, the Oriental Medicine certification also contains a bio-medical module for which proper bio-medical education must be had in order to even sit for the exam, and of course, that bio-medical module must be passed in order to gain the Oriental Medicine certification. I had about 900 hours (more than a Registered Nurse) of western bio-medical training as part of my Chinese medical degree program. When the initial licenses were being given out (and I do mean given), I was the ONLY practitioner in the state to have taken and passed the NCCAOM Oriental Medicine certification examinations as required by Delaware for new applicants. Since that time several years ago, there have been a few new licensees who do meet those requirements, so I salute them and I salute Delaware for having high standards for new applicants. However, shame on you, Delaware, for completely looking the other way with the grandfathering.

    There is plenty I could say about the training and qualifications of specific practitioners that were grandfathered in, but I will not, as I think my own training and qualifications speak for themselves. If you spend the time to look into those things, you will see for yourselves who the best choice is. However, I do want to vent for a moment and write about one particular practitioner and the travesty involved with his licensure. This guy did not formally study acupuncture. He is married to a woman who received acupuncture training. He claims that he studied with her. Keep in mind that the NCCAOM did have a legitimate certification route for legitimate apprentices and yet he chose not to legitimize himself in that manner. Instead, we are supposed to not only take his word for it that he learned from his wife, but that what he learned from his wife was comprehensive enough to meet current standards of education in the field. This guy was on friendly terms with people on the Board of Medicine and got himself placed on the Acupuncture Advisory Council which is responsible for overseeing licensure of acupuncturists. Talk about conflict of interest! Can you imagine this happening in some other medical field? “Hello, I never went to school for physical therapy (or chiropractic, or whatever), but my wife is a physical therapist, and she taught me. Can I have my license now?”

    This was the worst case, and like I said, there are little bits and pieces about other practitioners that were grandfathered in that I will not mention here. My point in this is that you want to pick the best practitioner you can. Delaware has set the standards high for new applicants. Ask your practitioner if they took and passed the NCCAOM Oriental Medicine board exams or if they were grandfathered in or given a special exception. If they were grandfathered in or granted leniency and have not taken and passed those specific exams, save yourself further investigation into their background and find someone that meets the standards set forth in Delaware’s Acupuncture Legislation.

    There is one last thing related to this that I want to mention. There are other types of health care practitioners that are legally allowed to do acupuncture (what they call acupuncture) in Delaware even with no training, though some do take 100 hour courses. Compare that to the almost 4,000 hours that I have or the approximate 2,500 hours that is more the norm. MDs, DOs, and Chiropractors are allowed to do acupuncture even though they are not acupuncturists and have not been trained in Chinese medicine. That seems crazy! There is more to acupuncture than sticking a needle in someone. What is worse, there is now “dry needling” that is being practiced by physical therapists and others. Never, never, never get acupuncture from anyone that 1) does not have an Acupuncture specific license from their state, and 2) does not have Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine certification from the NCCAOM. No matter how nice they seem or whatever else they tell you, do yourself and your health a favor and find a genuine acupuncturist. They will be so much more qualified.

  4. My first language is English. I know that may seem like a harsh thing to say, but consider that good communication is of utmost importance when dealing with your health. I have been to more than one practitioner whose first language was not English. There were always communication problems, and I was never quite aware if I was being fully understood, nor could I get the practitioners to explain satisfactorily to me in English the answers to my questions. “You just lay there. This is good for you.” “You take these. This helps you.” You may have been there before. You talk and explain in depth what your issues are and you basically get the old smile and nod. You ask questions and get short non-satisfying answers. Sure, the practitioner may know some conversational English: hello, goodbye, do you want to schedule next Tuesday, etc.; but, what happens when it becomes complex and very specific? I want to know that everything I say is well understood, and when I ask questions, I want answers with the depth and articulation that I desire. This is not to say that the person is not a good acupuncturist or that they do not have the answers in their minds in another language, but without really good communication, how would you really know what is going on?I know this as a patient, but I also know this as a practitioner. I do get patients whose first language is not English. Not only do I have trouble getting the information out of them that I need to do my job well, but I see the blank look on their faces when I am explaining my findings or what I am going to be doing or what it is that I expect from them. The point is, clear, effective, and easy communication is extremely important in matters of your health and well-being.

  5. Besides acupuncture, I practice Chinese herbology and tuina massage, and I teach Qigong and T’ai Chi. I am very well versed in and well-rounded in Chinese medical / health practices. I am not limited to just acupuncture or to just acupuncture and herbs. I have more to offer and can combine modalities to give you the best healing opportunities that I can.

Chinese Herbs

Remember what I said about my foundation, experience, qualifications, communication, and other modalities that I offer because those same points apply throughout this blog post, so I will not be repeating those except where more specifics are required.

  1. My NCCAOM Oriental Medicine certification includes the NCCAOM Chinese Herbology certification. In Delaware, practicing Chinese herbology is explicitly written in the scope of practice for licensed acupuncturists. This means that any acupuncturist is legally allowed to prescribe you a Chinese herbal formula. However, most of the acupuncturists in the state (because of grandfathering) either have no herbal training or very superficial herbal training. There are a few, though, that are NCCAOM certified in Chinese herbology. Accept nothing less. Also, remember that Chinese herbology is different than Western herbology, and both are different than Ayurvedic herbology. At the risk of sounding repetitious, accept nothing less than a minimum of NCCAOM certification in Chinese herbology. Why take chances on someone who claims to know what they are doing without the very specific credentials to back it up?

  2. Herbal appointments with me are free.  I do not charge for my time if you are seeing me for herbs.  A new patient visit, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment plan all add up to a lot of time and effort on my part, but I have decided not to charge for this service.  If I have to design / write a custom formula for you, there will be a one time charge for that with no additional fees for modifications.  You will, however, have to pay for your herbs; the herbs are not free.  For more information about my fees, see this page.

  3. I use The Crane Herb Company and its prescription service for almost all of the herbal needs of my patients.  The Crane Herb Company maintains a stocked herbal pharmacy far more comprehensive than what any individual could offer.  The have over 5,000 products from various reputable, high quality brands.  They supply both ready made formulas and expertly compounded custom formulas via my prescription for you.  The service is very convenient for patients whom, after filling the prescription online from an emailed link, receive the herbs in 2-3 days in the mail, eliminating the need to drive to me for pickup.  Pills, tablets, caplets, capsules, tinctures, powders, teas, liniments, oils, pastes, ointments, plasters, and more are all available through this great service.  With Crane’s huge number of products from which to choose, I am able to prescribe the products that are best suited for you and your needs.

  4. Quality and safety are in the forefront of my consideration when choosing herbal products for my patients.  The Chinese herbal products that I offer all come from GMP certified factories. The companies do numerous testing procedures to make sure the products are pure and of excellent quality. There are inferior, counterfeit, and polluted products on the market, ready to be ordered on the internet from those that are not informed. This is never something that you have to worry about if you are getting your Chinese herbal products from me or my prescriptions because I have already done the important groundwork for you. I use and offer only the best quality products in my practice, and these are the same products that I use for myself and for my family.

Tuina Massage

  1. I practice Chinese medicine. Tuina is a very comprehensive system of therapeutic massage and one of the major branches of Chinese medicine. If you do not know what tuina is, you can learn more at this section of my website: http://omhs.biz/tuina/default.html .

    I bring up this point because tuina is the practice of the Chinese medicine. It is not just massage. In other words, someone can get 500 hours of instruction in a massage program and get licensed as a massage therapist. Then they can do a several hour long continuing education course that teaches them some of the manual techniques of tuina, and they will claim that they do tuina. However, they don’t. They do some of the manual techniques, and who knows how well they do them. They also need complete training in Chinese medicine, which includes evaluation and diagnosis, and also the ability to create suitable Chinese medical treatment protocols using those manual techniques. So, do not get tuina from someone who does not also have adequate training in Chinese medicine. It is more than just a massage.

  2. I have extensive training in tuina. I say this because most acupuncture degree programs include a basic tuina class or two so that the practitioner knows what tuina is, knows the basic techniques, and can get used to touching another human body in a clinical setting. My degree program required 2 tuina classes. I took those classes, but I took so many more.

    Besides the Oriental Medicine degree program, my school also had Asian bodywork programs. I took advantage of that and received 5 different bodywork certifications while also pursuing my Chinese medical degree. You can see those certifications here on my website: http://omhs.biz/tuina/training.html . Yes, there is also a link to the News Journal article about my tuina practice on that page. So, do not get tuina from an acupuncturist unless you know that they also had extensive tuina training and not just the required tuina course(s) offered in their degree program.

  3. I am a Chinese herbalist. The external application of Chinese herbs in the forms of liniments, pastes, plasters, etc. is also a part of tuina. I offer ready-made products, and I can make them myself. These external applications can help give a more complete and faster healing experience for you.

  4. I am a long-time martial artist, I practice t’ai chi, and I practice qigong. In China, one of the traditional requirements for practicing tuina is to also be a kung fu or t’ai chi practitioner. This is because tuina can be very physical and requires much strength and stamina. It is thought that a kung fu or t’ai chi practitioner has already learned how to use his body in an efficient way, building strength, stamina, and control when physically handling another person. Being a qigong practitioner is also very useful. There are some aspects of tuina where sensitivity to and subtle manipulations of the patient’s qi is required, and the right kind of qigong practice can aid in those abilities.

  5. I took additional coursework in pediatrics. Tuina is the main traditional treatment method for children in China. In the Chinese medical model, there are differences in physiology between children and adults that make the treatment of children different. You cannot apply the standard treatment methods that you would with an adult and get optimal results in a child because of those differences. Exposure to and training in those differences is very important for someone who is going to be working with children.

Qigong

  1. I have many years of experience in a variety of methods of qigong. I have studied many forms of qigong with many instructors since 1990. I combine my knowledge of qigong, Buddhist meditation, kung fu, t’ai chi, daoyin, and expertise in Chinese medicine to bring you the best of what qigong has to offer for health. My classes mix key components of medical, spiritual, and martial qigong making them unique among those in Delaware. I have met many people over the years that take a seminar or weekend workshop in a particular qigong set and obtain a certificate of completion. These people then go on to teach qigong. Because most of the public is not well informed about qigong, they believe that these people are really teaching qigong, rather than an outer shell.

  2. I am a Chinese medical physician. Qigong is one of the branches of traditional Chinese medicine. Therefore, it stands to reason that being well trained in Chinese medical theory and practices gives part of a solid foundation for a qigong practitioner, especially if the qigong relates to health specifically.

  3. The classes are more than just exercise classes. Qigong is not about moving your body around in a way that mimics your teacher’s movements as you would in a fitness class. I teach you a way to use your body that is quite different than what you are used to doing. I also help you to cultivate the awareness necessary for that to happen. The vehicles through which these lessons are taught are the actual exercises, postures, and movements that we do in class. That being said, in order for you to progress in understanding and in skill, you must dedicate yourself to regular practice. The benefits you receive will be a result of your regular practice, not just because you put your time in during class two times a week.

  4. The qigong that I teach addresses the entire body and the mind, and is safe to practice. There is a saying that where the mind goes the qi goes. However if the mind stays on one area, what about the rest of the body? Also, when the qi stays in one place, it stagnates. Yes, we need enough qi, but good flow is essential. There is another saying that if the mind is on one spot, then there is somewhere the qi will not be, but if the mind is nowhere, then there is nowhere that the qi will not be. The qigong that I teach focuses on emptiness, both of the body and of the mind. It is general, and therefore, it serves to open all the channels in the body, harmonizing and balancing the flow throughout. Cultivating awareness, we use real life feedback to determine our progress, so we do not rely on imagination.

    Practices that focus on certain areas of the body and / or those that rely on visualization or imagination can cause problems. If you imagine an acupuncture channel in your body, but you are off by just one millimeter, then what are you really doing to your body? I would not want to find out. Incorrect practices can affect not only your body, but also your mind. Qigong deviation syndrome is a real issue that can result from certain qigong practices. More about that can be read here and here. If you keep on track with what I teach you, there will be none of these dangers to worry about. By being general, we focus on everything, and by using awareness rather than imagination and visualization, we are not dabbling in delusion.

  5. The qigong that I teach helps to build your foundation for internal power. The material integrates with and is completely compatible with the t’ai chi that I teach, and without internal power, t’ai chi is not t’ai chi. Internal power may sound a bit odd, but you can think of it as using your body in a different, more efficient manner than you are used to. You will have increased usable strength and stamina which can serve to benefit all areas of your life. To get an idea about this, you can check out my YouTube channel here, and please subscribe to the channel while visiting there.

T’ai Chi

  1. Correctly done t’ai chi is also a type of qigong. Therefore, all that I wrote in the section on qigong would also apply here. Again, I have to mention that I am a Chinese medical physician. Generally, most students come to me to learn t’ai chi not as a martial art but as a type of exercise to maintain and / or increase their level of health. I definitely have the necessary foundation to address t’ai chi from this perspective. However, those interested in the martial aspects will find that as well from me.

  2. I have a long t’ai chi background. I have gone through much trial and error, and unfortunately, there was much more error than correctness, especially in the first 2 decades. In fact, the first 7 years I would completely discount were it not for that time period making it very clear that t’ai chi is not just slowed down smooth flowing external kung fu (I also have a long and varied external martial arts background). After that, I found a genuine t’ai chi practitioner willing to teach me. For many years, though, I did not catch on to the right way of doing things. I tried and practiced many different approaches to duplicate what my teacher was doing. None of them were correct. Finally, I started to understand a small part of it, and I realized just how wrong I had been. Since then, there has been no turning back, and I continue to learn more as time goes on. The point of all of this is that I have been down many wrong paths, and I understand the many types of mistakes and errors that one can make while trying to learn t’ai chi. I am sensitive to those issues and do my best to make sure my students do not make the same mistakes. Remember, as I mentioned in the qigong section above, this is a completely new way of using your body. Using your body conventionally to copy the external appearances of what I am doing will not be t’ai chi.

    I do not want to mention names of other t’ai chi teachers in this local area, but I do have a point to make about them. After my initial 7 years of “non” t’ai chi, I searched for a new teacher. Naturally, I checked out all of the local schools within a 30-minute drive. Instead of going to one of those schools, I chose to drive 2 hours away to a different state in order to study with my current teacher. He was that much better and well worth the extra efforts. I am not going to compare myself to my teacher; I have a long way to go to match his skill level. However, if someone in the area wants to study good t’ai chi, and for some reason they do not want to study with me, then I can only recommend that they take the 2 hour drive and study with my teacher, Chung-jen Chang, located in Bowie, MD.

  3. Without internal power, t’ai chi is not t’ai chi, and I will guide you in your development of that foundation. I really cannot emphasize this point enough. So many people practice and teach “t’ai chi,” but it is just the outer shell, and, unfortunately, many of these people are not even aware of the difference. If you want the most health benefits you can get, then you must practice t’ai chi with good inner workings and not just the outer shell. If you want the kind of martial power that t’ai chi is known for, then you must have that foundation of internal power, otherwise you are still doing external martial arts rather than internal martial arts. My classes really focus on this development. The t’ai chi form is used as a vehicle for learning and implementing internal power. Besides the form, there are many jibengong (basic exercises) that I present in class to help build your foundation. Once you have this foundation, you can use it not only in your t’ai chi, but in all areas of your life.

  4. I have a YouTube channel here. Please subscribe to it. Why do I mention this again? Well, there are several reasons. Firstly, I put myself out there for all to see. As far as I know, the other teachers in this area do not do this. I have no secrets about what I teach and what I have to offer. If you like what you see or if you are just plain curious, then come and study with me. I also post videos of t’ai chi and qigong content in order to serve as a reference. Especially as a beginner, it is easy to forget what you are supposed to be doing. I cover a lot of basics on my channel and continue to make and post new videos often. These videos can be very valuable to students in my classes, serving as good reminders of what it is they should be doing.

Conclusion

I know this was long, and if you have read through this whole thing, I thank you. I believe you will now be better armed in making an informed and intelligent decision regarding whom you chose as your Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist, Tuina massage therapist, Qigong teacher, and T’ai Chi teacher. I tried to be thorough, but if you have any questions about any of what I commented on in this article, please let me know.

My Taijiquan Lineage and the Zheng Manqing (Cheng Man Ch’ing) Form

I first want to discuss my lineage. My teacher is Chung-jen Chang, originally from Taiwan, now currently residing in Bowie, MD. He studied with several different teachers in Taiwan, but he considers Lin Ah Long, from whom he learned Yang style taiji and sword, to be his primary teacher. Chung-jen never speaks of his lineage unless I ask specific questions, and it has been very rare that he ever brings up one of his teachers other than the rare occasion that he mentions Lin Ah Long. His focus is on the teaching itself, and, by far, the most emphasized part of the teaching is “emptiness.”

I also almost never speak of lineage. I wrote this article to serve as a reference for my students and to serve as a reference for inquiries from the internet and elsewhere because the question of my lineage does comes up from time to time, and I do not have all of this information memorized. Now, I can just give people the link to this article when they ask me.

Here are the various lineages leading to Chung-jen Chang based on my own research regarding his own teachers. Any errors are not intentional, and if you have more accurate information, please bring it to my attention.

Yang Style Lineage:

Yang Banhou ⇒ Miao Lien ⇒ Li Shoujian ⇒ Xiong Wei ⇒ Lin Ah Long ⇒ Chung-jen Chang

-and-

Yang Shaohou ⇒ Li Shoujian ⇒ Xiong Wei ⇒ Lin Ah Long ⇒ Chung-jen Chang

Li Shoujian in the Yang style lineages above is a recognized disciple of Yang family taiji. He did not study the large frame method of Yang Chengfu. He learned from an earlier generation, studying a small frame method which emphasized tight movements, explosive power, and firm, deep stances. He studied directly with Yang Shaohou. He also studied with Miao Lien. Miao Lien studied both with Yang Banhou and some Daoist Wudang line of internal arts. I do not have any information about the Wudang line, but I do know that it had some influence on Li Shoujian’s taiji.

I have seen Lin Ah Long and some of his students play the Zheng Manqing form and part of another Yang form. Chung-jen Chang plays the form with a slightly smaller frame and with some minor variations in the specifics of the choreography.

Zhaobao Small Frame (Hulei Jia) Lineage:

Chen Qingping ⇒ Li Jingyan ⇒ Yang Hu ⇒ Chen Yingde ⇒ Wang Jinrang ⇒ Xiong Wei ⇒ Chung-jen Chang

There is a lot of controversy regarding this style of taiji. It is different than both traditional Chen style taiji and Zhaobao style taiji from Mainland China. To top it off, Xiong Wei plays the form much differently than his teacher. Xiong Wei has more obvious tight spirals that are very smooth and require much more relaxed flexibility and relaxed strength. The explosive power looks softer and reverberates in several fast successive waves out of the body. Additionally, Xiong Wei developed a set of 12 exercises known as Taiji Daoyin which were derived from the form itself. The set and the form develop full body connection with tight spirals, coordinated breathing, and a soft explosive power. Additionally, athletes and dancers from all over the world have traveled to Taiwan to study the Taiji Daoyin set to improve their flexibility, strength, and performance. Oddly, though the movements of the daoyin set are from the Zhaobao small frame form, the inspiration for the method behind the set came from Xiong Wei’s recognition of the power in the limb rotations of his Yang style teacher, Li Shoujian. The development of the daoyin set informed Xiong Wei’s changes in the Zhaobao taiji form.

Also, after my teacher moved from Taiwan, Lin Ah Long (his Yang style teacher) studied the Zhaobao small frame (hulei jia) method from Xiong Wei, from whom he also previously learned the Yang style. While residing in California, I was lucky enough to meet and visit with Tim Cartmell who also studied this form, though he studied it with Lin Ah Long rather than from Xiong Wei as my teacher did. Of note, Tim Cartmell spoke highly of Lin Ah Long’s fighting ability as an internal martial artist. My teacher, of course, seconds that.

I also want to mention that Xiong Wei studied Hao style taiji.

Hao Yueru ⇒ Zhou Zhenglin ⇒ Xiong Wei

My teacher did not learn Hao style from him, but I must note that the Hao style also uses a small frame method. I bring this up because of the large amount of small frame influences my teacher has had.

Chen Style (Laojia) Lineage:

Chen Fake ⇒ Pan Wing Chow (Pan Yongzhou) ⇒ Chung-jen Chang

-and-

Chen Yan-Xi ⇒ Du Yu Ze ⇒ Chung-jen Chang

My teacher studied Yilu with Pan Wing Chow. I have seen Pan Wing Chow do laojia yilu and my teacher’s version of the form is a bit different. My teacher plays the form with a bit smaller frame, deeper stance, and more obvious spiraling. My opinion is that this is from the Taiji Daoyin influence from Xiong Wei. I also want to note that Pan Wing Chow practiced and taught small frame Chen style also, but that it was the large frame method that Chung-jen had studied with him.

My teacher studied Erlu with Du Yu Ze. This was large frame Chen style laojia erlu. Of interest, Du Yu Zu’s teacher was Chen Fake’s father. Therefore, Du Yu Zu learned Chen style taiji before any of the changes were made to it attributable to Chen Fake. Du Yu Ze also practiced and taught hulei jia (see above in the Zhaobao section), but this is not what Chung-jen Chang learned from him. I bring this up to note that Du Yu Ze also practiced a small frame method. I have seen Du Yu Ze play laojia erlu. My teacher’s erlu frame looks similar to that of Du Yu Ze’s, however, my teacher moves more smoothly and has a slightly smaller and more obvious spiraling. Again, I think this is an influence from the Taiji Daoyin of Xiong Wei.

What did I study with Chung-jen Chang?

I have learned (and am still always learning more, of course) Yang style taiji via the Zheng Manqing form and Yang style taiji straight sword along with a very large body of jibengong and partner exercises. Where the Yang style sword form comes from will have to be a topic of another article. I have also learned Chen style yilu and erlu, though that is not the main focus of my practice. Additionally, I have learned part of the total set of Taiji Daoyin.

As previously mentioned, I do not talk much of lineage. I see the value in it, but I also know that good lineage does not guarantee that a student of that lineage will automatically acquire good skills. Also depending on the teaching abilities and disposition of the teachers in that lineage, some information might not even be taught due to secrecy or inability to articulate and transmit to a willing and apt student.

Also, I did not learn from anyone in my lineage except from my teacher, so in essence, my taiji comes from him, Chung-jen Chang style. I do experiment a lot with the things that I learn with my excellent training partner. I also have been exposed to a lot of taiji and other internal martial arts literature and videos. I have seen many live demonstrations and have been to some workshops. Therefore, though Chung-jen Chang is my teacher, ultimately, my taiji is just my taiji, for better or worse. I do work and will continue to work to try to get down all of the skills my teacher has to offer.

Why do I do the Zheng Manqing sequence?

Well, the short answer is that it was the form that I was taught. Goodnight.

Seriously, though, I have wondered this myself. Upon asking my teacher why his teacher taught that form, he stated that it was because the form was very popular in Taiwan. People liked the idea of a short form.

What are the implications of all of this, then? As you can see above, Zheng Manqing appears nowhere in my lineage, and I have never made claims to Zheng Manqing’s taiji lineage. Claiming such is not important to me, either.

So, can it really be said that I practice and teach his form? I do not know. Perhaps I should say that I teach the sequence. The form that I practice and teach is the same group of movements in the same sequence as the 37-Posture Zheng Manqing short form. I do know there are some stylistics differences in the choreography. My form looks different than my teachers form, also, though not for lack of trying to copy him. I am just not there yet. His form looks different than his teacher’s form, too, as I explained above. I think that it is probably more important what your body and your mind is doing on the inside that counts as long as the outside is not blatantly violating taiji principles. Especially for beginners, the outside shape is, of course, very important, but what makes it an internal art has to do with what the body and mind is doing while in those shapes and what the body and mind does in order to get those shapes to change.

I use the form as a vehicle to practice taiji. While practicing, my body has to be shaped like something, and then if I am doing moving practice, my body has to change into another shape, so a common sequence of movements, such as the Zheng Manqing 37-posture short form, makes for a convenient vehicle for practice.

I want to make it clear, though, that I am also NOT claiming that I am doing the same thing that Zheng Manqing is doing on the inside. I have no idea what he is doing on the inside. I never looked into it, and I never received instruction from him or any of his students. At this point in time, it is not important to me. I am, however, trying to duplicate what my teacher is teaching me to do, internally speaking. If I can get his skills down, I will be ecstatic. Chung-jen speaks very highly of his teacher, Lin Ah Long, and has recently stated that now Lin Ah Long is doing something different yet. I suppose that there are different internal engines that vary by differing degrees. At some point, I would like to study with Lin Ah Long in Taiwan, if only for a short time, but I still have a lot of work to do with my teacher here.

So, there it all is. I have stated my lineage to the best of my knowledge, and I have stated why I practice and teach the 37-posture Zheng Manqing short form. Now, enough of all of this, and let us get back to practice.

Testimonials

This post contains testimonials regarding my business and the many services that I offer.

I will continue to edit and add onto this post as I get more testimonials. If you want your testimonial to appear here, please email me at info@firstchoice-acupuncture.com with the information. You will remain anonymous, as only initials are used.

Thank you all for your support and for your kind words.

“I have had to take large doses of narcotics and muscle relaxers because of lingering or increasing sciatica for quite some time. One acupuncture treatment from Brian and a few days later the sciatica was gone! Amazing!” – S.W.

“If you are tired of taking pills with lots of side effects, you should contact Brian Allen for alternatives. I contacted him for several different things and the results were amazing. My legs were bothering me and with acupuncture and liniment, they have improved. My neck bothered me another time. On a scale of 1-10, pain was a 12 & with 2 acupuncture treatments, I felt much better & pain was gone. Hot flashes were severe and with Chinese medicine, they are a thing of the past. For results without a lot of pills, for a caring person that takes time to find out the problem instead of rushing you in & out, you only have to look to Brian. Brian has made a difference in the quality of my health that even coworkers have noticed. He can make a difference in yours too.” – C.W.

“At first I didn’t know what to expect because I’d never had any type of massage before. But the moment after Brian started working on my back,I just melted into the chair. It was wonderfully relaxing.” – J.F.

“I sought acupuncture out about 4 months ago to help with my infertility issues. I found Brian’s practice online and gave him a call…. After meeting Brian right away I felt comfortable. Before I would have never considered acupuncture…..kept thinking it is weird and it would hurt. Brian answered all my questions and always showed how much he cared. After a few sessions, I felt like a pro…. and I became more and more relax. I noticed benefits of the treatments right away; I would feel more relaxed throughout the day and found that tackling tasks would seem easier than before. In addition, I have not had cramps related to my period since treatments (wow were the cramps BAD!!)…. I would definitely recommend Brian to all my friends…. (don’t be afraid)… it works.”– K.M.

Joint Opening and Loosening Exercises – Upcoming DVD Release

I am currently working on a video project currently that will result in an instructional DVD for joint opening and loosening exercises as taught in my qìgōng (氣功) and tàijí (t’ai chi -太極) classes. I have finished all of the filming, almost 2 hours of footage, but still need to do much editing. The target price is set at $20. I want it to keep it inexpensive so that it is accessible to more people.

The DVD has its own Facebook page HERE.

It is Qìgōng.

The joint opening and loosening exercise set makes for an excellent daily qìgōng routine. It is relatively simple to perform and only takes between 10 to 15 minutes to complete depending on pace. By opening and loosening the joints, you are also helping to open the acupuncture channels in the body, thereby aiding in the circulation of your qì and blood. There is a saying in China that roughly translates to “a used door hinge never rots.” Regular practice of this set while working on becoming more correct in how you do the set will bring you many worthwhile benefits.

It is also Jīběngōng (基本功).

Jīběngōng translates roughly as basic exercises. This set of joint opening and loosening exercises serves as a set of basic training exercises for developing foundational skills in tàijí. Having open and loose joints is a requirement in tàijí, and in my opinion is an important part of the “sinking” that is also part of tàijí. Doing this set regularly and correctly will help build part of your martial arts foundation.

The DVD consists of 4 parts, not counting opening and closing remarks.

Part 1 of the DVD is a demonstration of the set of exercises for the purpose of following along in order to memorize the sequence or to serve as a reference. I have uploaded part 1 to YouTube as a freebie, and it can be found here:

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Part 2 of the DVD consists of a breakdown of how to do the individual movements. There is much more to it than meets the eye. Based on appearances, this is a simple set of range of motion exercises for the major joints of the body. If done conventionally, this set has value in that is keeps you moving and able to maintain range of motion into your old age if practiced carefully and daily. However, I do these movements in a specific manner driven by awareness. Done this way, this set is a vehicle for discovery of what it means for a joint to be open and how to maintain that openness. Having open joints, in my opinion, is not only a basic requirement for internal martial arts and for allowing forces to pass through the body, but it is also an important part of good qìgōng, allowing for better circulation of the and blood. I feel that if physical forces can get stuck in your body at certain points, then the and blood flow can be negatively affected at those points as well.

Learning the material in this part of the DVD is very important, otherwise you will not get beyond the conventional, and you will miss out on all the additional benefits to be had. It is difficult to explain in writing about the “how to,” but there are two general things to keep in mind while doing the set. 1) You must relaxedly extend outwards so it is as if the body is expanded in a non-forced manner. The wording is a bit weird when you consider that there are certain angles involved with some of the movements, but I hope you get the drift of that idea. It is much clearer in the video instruction. 2) Care must be taken to not involve any muscles / parts of the body that are not actually necessary for the movements. Use only enough to allow the movements to happen. You would be surprised at how much unnecessary movement you do all day long without even realizing it, much of which makes you very non efficient.

It is also important to note that you will be able to learn much of what I explain by watching, thoroughly contemplating, and practicing the movements as indicated in part 2. However, hands-on instruction is the best method for learning this type of material. If you do decide to practice this on your own, you can always schedule a private lesson with me for corrections and pointers for improvement.

Part 3 of the DVD is also very important for learning this set correctly. It contains methods for testing whether or not you are doing the movements correctly. This requires another person to administer light physical challenges for you to overcome while performing the movements of the set. If you become impeded by your tester, then you have become “stuck,” which indicates that the joint(s) being tested are not really open and loose. Having physical force get stuck in your body like this indicates that your flow has also stagnated. There are degrees of being stuck, and it is typical for beginners to be very stuck. As you improve, you may be partially stuck, but the goal is to not be stuck at all. Therefore, this testing is a very important part of gauging your progress. People can easily fool themselves with practices like this, so a testing method like this adds accountability to the process. The tests that I show in the DVD are not the only tests. You can come up with your own tests once you get the idea of the function of the tests and how they are done.

Part 4 of the DVD has me demonstrating what having open and loose joints could possibly do in self-defense situations. When a person comes at you using force, and you have trained yourself so those forces do not get stuck within you, then your movements are much freer than they would be without that training. This section is not meant to teach self-defense or to be comprehensive. It is only demonstrations of a few scenarios so you get the idea of the potential uses.

Overall, this will be a good DVD for beginners or for those who want to take a look at these practices of qìgōng and tàijí beyond the superficial and conventionally apparent. Also, you will be able to learn a good amount of what I am trying to teach just by your diligence. I know many think that learning internal practices from video is not possible, and I have kept that in mind. The basics that I show are within your grasp. A release date has not been set yet, but I will keep you updated with posts here about it. After the initial round of editing, I will soon be posting a sample trailer of the DVD so that you can get a sense of its content.