Tui Shou Test: A New Beginning

tuishou with Matt

This was my first tui shou (pushing hands) match (more like a test) in over 15 years. It was an non-compliant, yet friendly, freestyle match. Striking was not allowed. The gentleman in the video with me is Matt Stampe from Virginia. I met him for the first time just 2 days prior. This match took place on June 1, 2014. I have included video at the end of the article.

I practiced and competed in taiji and pushing hands in the 1990s when I was also an external stylist, but there was nothing internal about what I was doing then. It has only been the past 4 years that I have revisited a previous teacher of mine and started focusing on internal skills.

So, I took a much different approach with this match than I had done in the past. I had no idea what to expect because I know Matt has a lot of experience, both in taiji and in other arts. My main goal going in was not to try to beat Matt, but rather to see if I could adhere to the principles that I teach.

I wanted to remain upright and relaxed, avoid bracing the ground, and keep resistant tension out of my arms. I know I made some errors in those goals, but overall, I felt pretty good considering the circumstances.

Basically, I took almost no initiative with offense. I decided to just see what Matt was going to do and continue to try to neutralize and follow him. Overall, I was happy with how I managed. There were 3 good times when he took me by complete surprise and I could not neutralize. There were other times when I had him neutralized, and it seemed like he was giving up the attack, so I let up, and he would immediately take advantage with a fast push that would semi-get me, as seen with the occasional “heavy” back steps I had to take rather than me just stepping due to following. Lastly, at times I underestimated what Matt was doing, thinking that I could completely neutralize without turning or stepping and I held my ground a little too long at times, again making me take a heavy step back.

From this I learned several things:

  1. I should not let up. I should always stay “on” the opponent, even in a friendly match.
  2. I should pay attention to match the speed of the opponent even when the rest of the match seems to be kind of a steady speed. I was stuck in that slower mode and foolishly did not adjust when he did those faster attacks.
  3. I need to relax even more so that I can operate even more from awareness. Had I been more aware, I would not have overestimated my neutralizing abilities at times. That shows me that I was a little too much in my own head.
  4. I should definitely take initiative with offense at times.

Though the match was over 11 minutes long, my breathing felt good. I was not tired even though I had just previously finished attending a very physical 6 hour workshop. This is quite a contrast to my experiences from the 1990s when my tui shou was still externally based.

I thought that Matt did an excellent job in this match. He kept it friendly, but he was able to maintain an almost continuous offense, making me work at my skills the entire match. He was able to exploit my gaps and weaknesses fairly regularly throughout the match which shows both his experience and how much he was paying attention. Additionally, even though he tried to “get” me almost continuously, he did well at not exposing himself, giving me little to work with in that regard.

I have been avoiding tui shou in general because I am still working on my basic skills and getting my body proper for the internal work that I do. I did not want all of my “bad” external habits creeping in because of a competitive engagement.

However, I felt comfortable with my level of error in this match, and I want to work more on tui shou given what I have learned from my mistakes in strategy.

It is official. I have caught the tui shou bug.

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Upcoming Workshop on Joint Opening and Loosening Exercises, Saturday 6/28/14

For additional information, please visit the event page for this workshop, and indicate your plans for attendance.

Here Are the Basics:

Topic: Joint Opening and Loosening Exercises
Date: Saturday, June 28, 2014
Time: 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Location: Oriental Medicine and Health Services, 1201 Philadelphia Pike, Suite D, Wilmington, DE 19809
Cost: $65 for the workshop which includes my instructional DVD on the topic (for details on the DVD, click here)
Registration: You must be registered and paid by Thursday, June 19, 2014. Call me at 302-792-2831 or email me at info@omhs.biz for more information. Space is limited, so it is first come first served.

Workshop Content:

You will learning the set of Joint Opening and Loosening Exercises. Below is a video of me doing the set, but trust me, the movements are not as they appear. During the workshop, you will be given very detailed instructions on how to do the movements. You will find yourself learning a very different way of moving than what you are used to. In addition, you will learn how to pressure test the movements so that you can be certain that you are doing them correctly. Remember, you will also be given my instructional DVD on the topic to serve as a reference for your practice at home.

It is Qìgōng (氣功).

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 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.

Additional Benefits

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. Therefore, not only will regular correct practice of this set help bring about many health benefits including more freedom of movement, but it can also improve your practice of ANY martial art.

A FREE Bonus

Though the workshop ends at 1:00 pm, we will be breaking for lunch and returning at 2:00 pm to watch a kung fu movie. I have not yet decided which movie to show, but as a workshop attendee, you are welcome to watch the movie with me. If you are a kung fu movie fan, then you know it will be fun.

The Flyer

Click on the flyer for a larger, printable version.

JOLE workshop 140621

Click this link for a PDF file of the flyer.

Video of the Set of Joint Opening and Loosening Exercises

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Thanks for taking to the time to look at all of this. I hope to see you there.

Soft Does Not Mean Weak

soft

In martial arts there are two very different types of systems: soft, internal styles and hard, external styles. There are others as well and those that purport to mix, but I want to focus on those two, and in particular, the soft, internal styles as a contrast to the hard, external styles. The words “soft” and “hard,” as commonly used in English, are opposites, polar opposites in fact, representing a continuum of strong, resistant solidity. I feel this common usage of those terms has clouded the meanings and roused misconceptions, particularly of “soft” as used in internal martial arts. Note that in this article, I will be, for ease of explanation, over-simplifying a bit, but not to the point of error.

There is a common phrase from Chinese philosophy that states that “softness overcomes hardness” or that “the soft overcomes the hard.” People often look at this as philosophical mumbo jumbo. I have listened to someone say that if they took their hard finger and poked someone in their soft eye, the finger would win. That statement says a lot. It pokes (pun intended) fun at ancient wisdom and shows that soft things have a weakness that is ready to be exploited by hard things. It also highlights a major misconception which I will expand on later. As a counterpoint, the classic example of water is given: water erodes rock and creates things such as the Grand Canyon. However, this is not practical in a fight. Am I to drool on someone continuously over centuries, patiently awaiting victory? No.

Is it the case that the phrase should not be taken literally? Is soft weak? No, and no. The phrase is very literal, and soft does not mean weak. In martial arts the term hard is used in the common way. It means solid, strong, powerful. Of course, within the broad category of external martial arts there are styles that are considered hard and those that are considered soft. However, the word “soft” as used in external styles does not have the same meaning as “soft” as used in internal styles or T’ai Chi in particular. Even within internal martial arts, there are styles that are seen as hard and those that are seen as soft. However, “hard” as used in internal styles does not have the same meaning as “hard” as used in external styles. I am not going to cover all of those variations. I will stick to the original contrast.

If soft is not weak, then why is it perceived as such? I feel it is the result of two very closely related issues. One is that people have trouble getting away from the preconceived notion of soft and hard as being polar opposites. The other is widespread incorrect practice of soft, internal martial arts.

Hard is simple to do. It is how we would normally react. I tend to use the phrase “conventional strength” when talking about hard strength as used in external martial arts. Kids fighting in the playground or adults fighting in a bar are examples of hard, though not necessarily trained or skilled hard. External martial arts train hard to become harder, stronger, and faster through use of good structure, strength training, more stamina, and efficient strategies. There is much overt and visible strength in these hard styles.

Let us return to soft now. Hard seems clear and much strength is used. If soft is the polar opposite of hard, then much less strength must be used, right? This is where the problem is and can be seen in bad T’ai Chi all over the world. There is a saying about T’ai Chi that goes something like this: “Done right, T’ai Chi is the best martial art. Done wrong, it is the worst.” Best and worst are both extreme, and I am not going to get into that, especially the idea of T’ai Chi being the best. I do not want to start that kind of argument here. However, done poorly, T’ai Chi is a very, very bad martial art. This is because those people want to be soft without really knowing what soft is. They relax because they know they should relax without really knowing what the right kind of relaxation is. They give up using as much conventional strength as they can because they know they are not supposed to be forceful. So, what happens then? The person ends up being relaxed in a way that still has the joints closed even though the joints should be open. Because they lack clarity as to what soft is and they have tried to give up conventional strength, what they end up doing is using tiny bits of conventional strength in order to move around. Being “relaxed” and using tiny bits of conventional strength may seem radically different than methods employed by hard external martial arts, but it is actually the same, still hard, just much, much less hard. This is why bad T’ai Chi is not effective as a martial art. What we end up having is someone being hard and strong against someone being hard (without knowing it) while at the same time being passive and weak (tiny amounts of conventional strength).

This is not what soft is supposed to be in internal martial arts. The soft of internal martial arts is not the polar opposite of the hard of external martial arts. They are not on a continuum. You cannot get to one from the other. They are different things, even though they both use the human body in similar shapes performing similar techniques. When encountering a force from an opponent, if being hard, there are 2 main possibilities: resist or withdraw. For those not trained or skilled, this can be blatant; resisting becomes hard clashes and withdrawing becomes moving out of the way or even running away. For those with training and skills, it becomes more subtle, resisting and withdrawing are done at angles to the force, and timing becomes very important. However, conventional strength is still being used to either do something to the force or to get away from the force, and because conventional strength is still being used, it is hard and external. What, then, is soft?

In T’ai Chi, it is said that one should neither resist nor withdraw. Those 2 options are so typical and ingrained that it is difficult for people to even fathom that there is a 3rd possibility. However, it is this 3rd possibility that is the realm of softness. When teaching beginners, I refer to it as option 3 or door number 3. Furthermore, it is because option 3 is something very different than the other 2 options that I can say that this kind of soft is not on a continuum with that kind of hard. In fact, engaging in resisting or withdrawing keeps option 3 from happening. So, what is option 3?

Option 3 is allowing the force to pass through your body without it adversely affecting your balance or stability. This cannot happen if you withdraw from the force. If you withdraw, then the force does not enter in order to pass through. This also cannot happen if you resist, even if you use just a tiny bit of conventional force as your resistance. If you resist a force, then the force will land on and / or in you depending on various factors. If the force lands on and / or in you, then, once again, it cannot pass cleanly through you. For instance, if someone strongly grabs you and you hold strongly against it (resisting) so as to remain upright and in control of yourself, then the force of the interaction lands in you and will be felt in the areas of tension in your body. Your muscles would be strongly stabilizing your joints so you could try to be stable, and other muscles would be engaged in order to act out against the force. In this kind of situation, the bigger, stronger, faster person wins because the forces involved have less of an effect on their balance and stability, and therefore, ability to generate power, than the smaller, weaker, slower person. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, hard external training aims at making you stronger and faster, but also teaches strategy involving angles and timing in order to minimize the effect of the strength of the opponent on your stability and balance. However, by neither withdrawing nor resisting (option 3), you allow the force to enter your body and pass cleanly through it without it affecting your stability and balance, thereby preserving your power base and upsetting the power base of your opponent. The opponent’s power base gets upset because in most cases (depending on specifics regarding intention and technique of the soft internal practitioner), the power is returned to the opponent using various methods (depending on the style and branch of soft internal martial art). The harder they are and the more direct force they use, the more force that gets returned to them. It is as if they are fighting themselves. Furthermore, it confuses them to some degree because they are not getting the tactile feedback that they are used to getting.

All throughout life, the norm is using conventional force and either withdrawing from or resisting against forces that your encounter. Your body and mind are conditioned to what that all feels like. It becomes your sense of physical reality. If you are being hard and strong and your opponent is doing option 3, that will feel very different from what you are used to feeling. It is that odd feeling that is labeled as “soft.” That is the meaning of soft, and it is not weak. In fact, ideally it is as strong as whatever force is being manipulated.

So far, I have only touched on using the opponent’s force, but there are various ways of creating a force from the core of your body near your center of gravity (different styles and branches of internal martial arts may use different methods) that do not require you to brace hard and strongly against the ground in order to impact your opponent. When that force you create is “released” it passes cleanly through through your body in the same way that your opponent’s force passes cleanly through your body. This force is in addition to any force that your opponent is unwittingly supplying to the equation. Again, because this released force does not have a background of resisting or withdrawing to it, the way it feels to an opponent does not coincide with his normal sense of feel in a physical contest. It has that same odd feeling that is labeled as “soft.”

Other than feeling odd, what else is soft? The main characteristic seems to be that it is difficult to detect where the force is coming from. The “softer” the practitioner is, meaning the more cleanly the forces can pass through them, the more difficult it is to detect where the force is coming from when they apply it to you. Because your normal sense of physical interactions involve you either resisting or withdrawing from a force, when you encounter a force but cannot feel where the force is coming from, you cannot resist it because you cannot properly align against it. Also, depending on how well the internal martial artist can stick to and follow you, it can be also become very difficult to withdraw from them.

How does one become soft, allowing forces to pass through? That is a different discussion for a different time. However, I hope that I have given you a sense of what soft is and why it feels odd. Furthermore, I hope you now understand that this soft is not the polar opposite of and on a continuum with hard and so should not be considered as weak. It is the internal practitioners who do not enter door number 3 or who do enter but never get sufficiently skilled at it (the overwhelming majority of people who practice internal martial arts) who end up still using tiny bits of conventional strength and evasively withdraw from forces that have allowed the perpetuation of the misconception that soft is weak. Me? I keep working on becoming a clear conduit for forces, stripping away the errors little by little.

Trailer for Joint Opening and Loosening DVD

fb cover photo

Below is the trailer for my DVD on Joint Opening and Loosening Exercises. The release date for the DVD is set for June 1, 2014.

There is also a dedicated Facebook page for the DVD.

Total running time of the DVD is 1 hr 57 min.

The price is $20 plus S&H. It can also be purchased directly at my business location in Delaware.

For ordering information, email me at info@firstchoice-acupuncture.com or call me at 302-792-2831.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you have not done so yet so that you never miss a new video of mine.

 

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.

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:

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

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.