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Posted November 24, 2013
Never the less, in an open room at a local church in Cochrane, Alberta, we gathered to learn the Tai Chi Sabre Set. Our instructor, Boon Loh, had learned this variation of the Yang-style form modified by Moy Lin Shin.
There are many elements of the form that use movements directly drawn from the empty-hand form that we were all familiar with. There are, of course, tor yus (bow-and-arrow-stance) throughout the whole sequence. Individual moves such as Strike Tiger (Left and Right), Stork Spreads Wings, Right Heel Kick, Stork Spreads Wings, and others, are all there. Something different happens when you have a sabre in your hands.
It reminds me of teaching my son to skate. At first, he would shuffle a few feet before pitching over onto his knees. "Don't look at your feet", I'd say. But he'd get up and start skating and inevitably look down at his feet again and put his centre of gravity too far forward. Finally, I put a hockey stick in his hands and tossed a puck about fifteen feet ahead of him on the frozen pond. His head tilted up and he put the stick on the ice and went for that rubber disc. He strode forward and whacked that puck down the ice and skated after it with his head up and his focus beyond his own body.
Learning the Sabre Set has a similar effect. In order to coil the sabre and send it in spirals, you concentrate on making it do what you want it to, and almost subconsciously you improve your basic form in order to achieve those results. I noticed that the class in general wasn't having trouble with the usual problems of balance on the kicks, for instance.
Now my son can skate circles (and squares and figure-eights and triangles and every other geometric shape) around me. These days he's developing a passion for carpentry. Simply driving a nail involves techniques similar to those found in the Sabre Set. Those skills of peace can be learned from the skills of the martial arts such as Tai Chi (or Hockey, the national martial art of Canada).
There might be no obvious "practical" use for the sabre in our time, but, apart from how we can learn and benefit from the discipline, there is another level to learning the Sabre Set: It is part of our history.
Posted November 20, 2013
It's 10:15 in the morning, time to take a break from the computer. What to do to refresh myself? Well I've noticed that kicks in the set are an ongoing challenge. Sometimes they work, sometimes it's like I'm back in Beginner class.
I don't have enough time to do the entire set right now but hey, how about that section from Separation of Right Foot through to second Cross Hands. There's six kicks in that little section! And it only takes a few minutes. When I get up from my chair I try to instantly put myself into that concentrated place and just begin. The multitude of things I notice doing it day after day after day produces when actually doing the set, arriving at that point, all sorts of extra content to include, awareness to bring to these movements.
Pick your "unfavourite" spot in the set and loop through it as often as time permits. You will quickly see improvements and look forward to executing those moves. And now your observant eye begins to notice other topic areas you might work on next.
"Inside. Everything open up." quote from Moy Lin Shin. (too many times to count.)
Posted October 29, 2013
Everyone from beginners to senior instructors took away an increase in knowledge relating to their Tai Chi and in how to teach others with an understanding of the challenges that some students experience.
This knowledge and experience now needs to be put into practice and shared amongst their peers. We appreciate everything that Doug Overholt and Philippe Gagnon shared with us and would like to take this opportunity to thank them in sharing their experiences and teachings from Mr. Moy with us.
Canadian Tai Chi Academy
Posted October 7, 2013
Topics in this first session were wide-ranging: looking at various ways to teach moves such as Wave Hands Like Clouds, Hold the Ball, Grasp's Bird's Tail; discussion around saying too much (or too little); inventive use of props to help with the 45 degree step, coordinating arm and foot movement, keeping knee over ankle while squaring the hips; how to deal with student absenteeism while still progressing through the set (eg video and textual backup); how to work with different levels in the same class; different classes with different expectations; speed of teaching the set; consideration of the meditative qualities for beginners.
Many of these topics were broached but hardly exhausted. We will continue to tackle them in our next workshop, as well as introduce new areas of interest that the members feel are important.
Danforth Club, Toronto