Category Archives for Tai Chi Training Tips

Kai Men and Dao Yin Question

Morgan from Leeds asks

In the arts of kaimen and daoyin, why are the repetitions either in 3s or 4s?

When we trained with Chee Soo we always used three repetitions for exercises that don’t have a left and right section, an example would be cobra stance and some eagle and frog stance exercises.

An exercise such as dragon, leg triangle etc the exercise is performed on the left and then the right, and gets repeated twice on each side,  first during the sequence and then the same again during the extension. That is the recommended quantity. I personally don’t recommend practising any Kai Men or Dao Yin exercise repeatedly but rather I suggest you vary the exercises and especially if you are a fairly new student. Say two Kai Men only per day, followed perhaps by some Tai Chi Form and then the next day two Dao Yin, followed by some Tai Chi Form, or, if you prefer, the Tai Chi form first and the Kai Men or Dao Yin after.

More repetitions of the same exercise can be done by students with many years experience under their belt. But caution is needed. Too many repetitions can cause injury.

A very experienced student of mine once rang me to say he would not be attending class that week. I asked if the reason was their work hours, but he replied that he had a bad back, due to practising the cobra exercises every day, I had only taught them the previous week! The lesson here is to increase the repetitions only if you are a seasoned practitioner and then pay attention to your body and stop as soon as you feel enough is enough. Never push yourself to do just one more. Learning to understand how you feel and then to stop pursuing repetitions before overtraining is all part of the learning process in our arts. Remember the arts are ultimately a journey of self discovery.

My personal preference is to practise the Tai Chi form, something I have done daily with an odd exception for the last 45 years. Adding a few Kai Men or Dao Yin usually 2 or 3 time during the week and occasionally replacing my Tai Chi form practise with a longer Kai Men or Dao Yin session i.e. 5 or 6 different exercises, practiced by repeating them 3 or 4 times as explained above. Once a year, usually in December, I give a Kai Men and Meditation course and during these often we practise some of the Kai Men exercises with a greater number of repetitions, the maximum repetition we do are 10 i.e. 5 each side or as in the case of cobra etc where there is only one side 6 would be the limit.

As I said the arts to me are a journey of self discovery. Once after a few years training, when I was already an instructor, Chee Soo who had been waiting for some training suits to be made, which took a very long time. Students were complaining they had paid but had not received their suits yet, so Chee Soo decided to deliver them himself. When he arrived at my house we had a cup of tea and a chat and as he got into his car to continue his journey he said “Do you know why I have practised the arts these last 60 years?” I stared at him blankly but with great expectation. I had no idea what the answer would be. Was I about to be given a great secret? I felt myself tingle in anticipation. Chee Soo stared deep into my eyes and said “Because you are learning about yourself, no one else, just yourself”. Then he got into his car and drove off to turn round to travel back in the direction he had came from and gave me a wave as he passed. A great grin spread across his face, probably because he noticed the look on my face, me basically thinking, what the £$&$ is that supposed to mean?

As with many other things he told me over the years I came to realise the wisdom in his simple words. Chee Soo could pack such splendid knowledge into one elementary statement. How fortunate I was to be able to train with this remarkable man for 21 fascinating years.

The only fitting statement is ‘Thank you for the training, Master’.

© Copyright 2018 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved

Why do we face South when practising Tai Chi

Why do we face South to start practising Tai Chi?

A great question asked by Morgan from Leeds

Firstly what I say here applies the Lee Style Tai Chi as taught by the late Master Chee Soo. If you practise another Tai Chi Style I suggest you check with your instructor to see there are no contradictions.

Taking into consideration your available practice space any direction that is suitable will be fine.

However, if you have the choice, as Chee Soo says in his Tai Chi book, stand facing South with your back facing North. East should then be to your left and West to your right.

I am fortunate that my living room, my practice area in bad weather, allows me to face South but when the weather allows I prefer to train outside.

The Chinese Five Elements System places North under Yin and South Yang, well to be accurate, South is Lesser Yang and North is Greater Yin.

So we start facing South and perform ‘Gather Celestial Energy’ drawing in Li energy in the process. At the end of the form set 41 we perform ‘Gather Earth’s Energy’ drawing the Chi up the body into the chest and then letting it sink (Set 42) to its natural home in the Dan Dien. Between the sets of the Tai Chi form we move through Greater Yang (East) and Lesser Yin (West) passing through Lesser Yang (South) as we absorb oxygen energising our body.  Stretching and relaxing muscles, moving the weight from one leg to another exploring and perfecting our balance in the process. Then learning to circulating our Chi and allowing in Li energy from heaven, letting it pass through us revitalising us, providing it is unimpeded by tense muscles and a busy mind.

So by facing South to start our Tai Chi practice allows the Li energy to reach us more easily as we perform our movements

These benefits only come when one puts in the the practice on a regular basis for the benefits of Tai Chi have to be worked for. Having a goal to attain these gifts is not enough the Tao (The Way) must be walked step by step.

I hope you found this helpful. Any questions please ask.

The only stupid questions are the ones you didn’t ask but wish you had.


© Copyright 2018 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved

Eagle & Bear Stance strengths and weaknesses

Learn about Eagle and Bear stance strengths and weaknesses

How often should I practice my Tai Chi?

How often should I practice my Tai Chi?

Having watched students attending my Tai Chi classes over the last 40+ years these are my observations.

Those who attend class regularly, listen to instruction, and then practise diligently make the most progress. When asked by beginners how often they should practise my answer is:

About 10 to 20 minutes 2 or 3 times a week, preferably every day. My experience is until the new students have been attending for many months I find 20 minutes or so is about right, more than that and concentration is lost and therefore the benefits gained may start to unravel. Of course people who have built up an ability to concentrate for longer through the practise of other disciplines such a Yoga etc., may be comfortable practising for longer. So the individual must decide when their concentration flags and then stop. Another practise session later in the day, time permitting, is okay. But learning not to rush the learning process is a very important lesson. As one learns more moves and becomes more proficient, the more the practise time can be extended. My observations show me that students who practise little and often develop greater stamina over time along with the many other benefits that regular Tai Chi practise brings.

I am sure most of you have heard the story of the ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’.

The hare was once boasting of his speed. "My speed is such I have never yet been beaten," said he, "Is there anyone here who thinks they can challenge me?"

The tortoise said quietly, "I accept your challenge."

"That is very funny," said the hare. "I could dance around you all the way."

"Lets race then and keep your boasting until you've won," answered the tortoise.

So a course was fixed and the race started. The hare darted off at great speed, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The tortoise plodded on and plodded on, later when the hare awoke from his nap, he saw the tortoise nearing the finish line, but he could not catch up in time to save the race.

Moral: Consistent unhurried practise of Tai Chi wins every time.

© Copyright 2012 Howard Gibbon – all rights reserved