Say it again Sunday

July 8th, 2012 by Jan

Last week I started wearing progressive lens glasses full time. They are great, and a little hard to get used to. The best part is knowing where my glasses are at all times, the second best part is I can see better. The third best part is they are really good at helping me maintain better posture.

I have a habit of jutting out my chin when I stand. Wearing the glasses it becomes very “clear” to me when I do this as things get blurry if my posture is wonky.

Today the glasses really helped me during practice and I think they are easier to wear than a sack of beans or an 80 pound hat. So, today’s post is a re-post from a story I wrote a while ago.


The 80 Pound Hat

How do you keep a light and sensitive feeling at the top of the head if you are wearing an 80 pound hat?

This is where my thinking went this morning during practice.

In 1994 I met Sam in China. We were on totally different trips and yet our paths crossed. I said it was destiny — he said it was fate. We have a lot of stories from the trip, but let me share one in particular story.

I will make the story short here, because first off it is Sam’s story, not mine, so I may get a few things wrong. But the gist of the story has stuck with me.

Sam met a lot of people on his trip and many would say something like, “You are very good, perhaps you should meet my teacher, he is really good too”.  After a while, it seems everyone in China has a masterful teacher and it became important for Sam to pick and choose where he went and who he met. There was one young man, who after watching Sam push hands said  “you should meet my teacher”. Sam told us he smiled and nodded and yet, had no intention of meeting this guys teacher; until, the persistent man said the words that stopped Sam and peaked his interests. He said, “You should meet my teacher, my teacher wears an 80 pound hat”. Well, that would spark your interest wouldn’t it? Sam said, yes, he would like to meet his teacher. So off they went down this street and down that one, until they came to a small courtyard and Sam was introduced to a very small and wiry man. Sorry, I don’t remember if Sam told me the teachers name or not. The teacher was humbled by the opportunity to meet a young Tai Chi expert from North America, and when Sam asked about his training methods, the teacher showed him a “hat”. It was made of concrete with handles on the side of it and yes, it weighed 80 pounds. Sam said his first thought was to “try it on” and then realized it could break his neck. So he didn’t, but the teacher did. Sam said it was very impressive and that this particular training stunt gave the wiry man pretty good posture! Pretty good posture!

I’d say it gave him the ultimate structure in being upright. One little tilt off centre and smash — there goes the neck, the spine, his body.

After hearing this story, we all set off with new resolve to work on our upright structure. Our classmate Ted, started wearing all kinds of things on his head. Coolers, medicine balls, water bottles, Ted would balance anything on his head. And for the record; Ted has great structure. I practised with bags of beans or lentils on my head. Hardly 80 pounds, more like five; yet that is enough weight to keep my attention when I move.

I’ve been preparing to teach the 2010 Yang Intensive with Art Baner, and that includes practicing a lot of  Zhan Zhuang or standing post qigong.

This morning I put a bag of lentils on my head as I stood. I went immediately into my legs. My upright structure got clear and the bound places in my structure became obvious. I kept the bag on my head as I start to move through my form and the downward rooted feeling of my feet and legs took over. Then, I started to wonder how in the world I could find a light and sensitive feeling at the top of my head with this “heavy hat”. I thought of that 80 pound hat — the only way to feel light and sensitive at the head top, would be to take the weight off. So I did. The moment I let the bag of beans off my head I felt the spirit of vitality rise in me. There was a light and sensitive feeling at the top of my head. In doing this I was careful not to give up the feeling and reality of being rooted and powerful in my legs. I felt the light and agile freedom of intrinsic energy. The joy of effortless power.

The first of Yang Cheng Fu’s 10 Important points is about holding the head well. Putting something on your head helps to figure this point out pretty quickly. Maybe you won’t use an 80 pound hat, but let me encourage you to test out the principles of Tai Chi for yourself. Become honest about your structure; use props if you want to. Then let them all go and feel what is going on inside you. It won’t be long before we’ll all be saying, “Look mom – I’m doing Tai Chi!”

5 thoughts on “Say it again Sunday

  1. Laur

    Coincidence or happenstance, Sam did share a few “Ted” stories with us last night as he and Christian reminisced about the early years on Bowen. Great stories, great men!


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