October 18, 2018

In Memory: Benjamin Lo

One of the leading figures of late twentieth-century taiji, Benjamin Pang-jeng Lo, has passed away. Born in 1927 in Mainland China, Ben, as he was called by his students, was one of Professor Cheng Man-ch'ing's earliest students in Taiwan after both of their families had resettled there at the end of China's civil war in the late 1940s.

In his early twenties, Lo was not well; his father sent him to see Cheng Man-ch'ing, who was a well-known artist and traditional doctor, as well as a t'ai chi master. Lo was not able to consume the prescribed herbs, so Cheng recommended he study t'ai chi to build up his body strength. Lo began training with Cheng, and never stopped. He studied literature in college, and then got a masters in public administration. After working in the government, all the while continuing his t'ai chi studies, he moved to San Francisco, and with Cheng's encouragement, began his teaching career.

Over the years, Ben Lo taught thousands of students, both in his San Francisco studio and in regular camps and workshops in many cities around the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. He was a regular visitor to the Shih Chung T'ai Chi Association when visiting Taiwan. Lo, along with Robert Smith, was a staunch defender of Cheng's teachings and reputation.

Lo produced several important books. He worked on a translation of the Classics with Susan Foe, Robert Amacker, and Martin Inn, titled The Essence of T'ai Chi Ch'uan, which was one of the earliest t'ai chi books in English (it has since been reissued by the Inner Research Institute). With Robert W. Smith, he translated Chen Weiming's T'ai Chi Ch'uan Ta Wen: Questions and Answers on T'ai Chi Ch'uan. With Martin Inn, Lo translated Cheng Man-ch'ing's seminal Cheng-tzu's Thirteen Treatises on T'ai Chi Ch'uan. 
 Lo was the subject of a number of articles, including a lengthy interview in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts. He also gave a series of lectures and made videos, produced by the Inner Research Institute.

Lo's workshops were grueling, challenging, enlightening, and informative. They were usually quite large,  with scores of students in attendance. They struggled to hold postures while he walked around making correcctions on everyone. Lo's ability to root was legendary; he was able to playfully shrug off the most aggressive and large push hands challengers, always with a smile on his face. His teaching style was very direct and often very critical-sounding, but always with humor. "You must go lower! Remember my name, Ben(d) Lo!" He regularly admonished me and others, saying, "Why do you Americans have to write books about t'ai chi? You should just practice more!" Another pet peeve he had was how impatient people were about learning and presumptuousness about becoming teachers: "They think they can teach t'ai chi after just studying one month. They think they can be born after just one month!"

Ben Lo's work lives on in his many students and others whom he inspired. 

—Barbara Davis

September 5, 2018

A Voice Lesson for Tai Chi Players


Music and t'ai chi share a lot in both principles and practice. Here, singer Joyce DiDonato coaches opera singer Amalia Avilán Castillo in a very tai chi-ish way....consistency, energy, aim, relax, whole self, whole body. You can watch DiDonato teach on these Carnegie Hall opera master class videos, and other venues online.

May 18, 2018

The Washington Post reports on the heightened awareness that top players like LeBron James use in playing basketball, chess, and other endeavors, such as t'ai chi. It involves how the brain maps spaces around us.

"Most magical of all is what’s required to build those spatial maps in James’s head. In 2014, researchers John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser won the Nobel Prize for explaining how the brain navigates. They answered a simple but profound set of questions: How do we perceive position, know where we are, find the way home? They discovered the brain’s “inner GPS,” that makes it possible to orient and plan movement. O’Keefe found that a specific cell in the hippocampus throws off a signal to mark a specific place. The Mosers added to this by showing that neurons in the entorhinal cortex fire in fields with regularity. When they drew lines corresponding to the neuronal activity, here is what they saw: a grid. LeBron James has a geometric projection in his brain that acts a computational coordinate system. And so do you."

April 27, 2018

World Tai Chi Day April 28

Join millions of people around the world in celebrating World Tai Chi and Qigong Day! At 10 a.m. local time, groups and individuals will bring a public face to these ancient health-enhancing practices. For more information, visit the World Tai Chi Day site. 

November 12, 2017

Never Too Late to Start Exercise


"It’s never too late to start working out, says Justin Mullner, a D.C. sports medicine doctor. “You can see dramatic benefits from exercising in older adults,” Mullner says. These benefits include prevention of osteoporosis and muscle loss, as well as improved blood pressure and blood-glucose levels.
Government guidelines suggest adults over 65 should get at least two and a half hours of moderate exercise per week (brisk walking, for example) and do muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups twice a week."

Read the full article in the Washington Post.

September 5, 2017

Tai Chi for Millennials!

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CNN reports that millennials are seeing benefits of tai chi practice for stress reduction. Locked into leaning over a computer for hours in stressful environments, they are learning to loosen up with this ancient Chinese art. "I live in Southern California, so driving on the freeways, it can be tempting to rush through traffic and go as fast as you can," one interviewee said. "But since I've been doing tai chi, I've been able to stop and pull back and just be like 'all right, here I am in the flow. I'm going to go with it, and if it's slow, that's OK.' "
Read the article here.

April 26, 2017

Book Review: The Tao of Tai Chi: The Making of a New Science by Bill Douglas

The Tao of Tai Chi: The Making of a New Science

Bill Douglas
SmartTaichi Publishing, 2016
Paperback, 246 pp
ISBN 978-1537117935

The Tao of Tai Ch
i is a very informative, personal, and eclectic book perched on the “boundary” between science and spirituality. Half philosophy, half autobiography, the book gives insights into one man’s journey with taiji (tai chi).

Author Bill Douglas is known to many as the founder of World Tai Chi and Qigong Day, which began in 1999.
For those who are curious about the event’s origin and founder, this book will introduce the thinking and motivation behind this labor of love that has helped spread taiji around the world. Douglas is also author of widely selling The Complete Idiots Guide to T’ai Chi and Qigong (Alpha, 2012).

The Tao of Tai Ch is written more as a conversation with the author. In essence, it is organized as a flow of topics, eschewing standard book formating and page numbers.

Blending of practice into daily life is a given for Douglas. Going to the supermarket becomes a lesson in letting go and seeing the beauty of the universe:

“If I rush into a supermarket I am in a Yang state of mind. I am on a mission with a set of tasks I must perform, holding them, sometimes squeezing them in my heart and mind. However, when I sit in my car before entering the store and ‘breathe’ and ‘let go,’ and fall into that Yin state where my mind lets go of mental control (and my knowing awareness allows the light of the universe, the lightness of the universe, to expand through it), then my spine and nervous system’s sensory awareness lets go of trying to feel or trying not to feel....

“I feel the cool air conditioner on my face as I walk through the doors of the supermarket,. I see the extraordinary beauty of the eggplant’s purple majesty, succulent and massive in its glory. The golden yellow of bananas and peppers, the smells of fruits and flowers...

“I still get things I need done, but it is a completely different reality now.”

This is an inspirational book suited for all readers.