Maybe I Said Too Much!

So, in my last post, I was just having some fun and thinking, “oh hey, you could do a little 10 minute tiger-inspired internal practice too”, so I made one up. It’s towards the bottom of the post. Then, I was musing that I feel like you could practice this after a hard workout, now I’m having this internal debate. Oh wow, bad pun…

Okay, so first of all, I suppose I should clarify that by “tiger-inspired” I just meant that the names of some of the postures or movements are named after tigers. I have no clue whether tiger external stuff relates to tiger internal stuff and what tiger spirit is to begin with. Maybe confidence and stealth, I guess? That’s what I think of with tigers.

But then, I was like, oh, this little internal practice thing I made is pretty good. Like for me, I actually get a lot out of it. I don’t get any more out of it than other practices I do, but it is kinda fun to try things that aren’t currently in my repertoire.

I feel like maybe I implied it’s better to practice after an intense workout in my last post though and I think all I really mean to say is that when I’ve tried it out, it sometimes is easier for me to relax a little bit more because it’s such a different feeling than exerting, extending, flexing, etc. I just like that I can distinguish the contrast a bit more sometimes and being so tired, I am in this mode where I really don’t want to have to work hard anymore anyway, so I feel like it’s kind of a treat to be able to relax.

But yeah, hope folks know you can do internal energy cultivation practices anytime, anywhere, and with a couple focal points it really doesn’t matter because if you’re doing it right (and enough over time), you’ll feel something.

I think that’s maybe clearer??

Maybe like mud haha!

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My “draft” Kung Fu Bootcamp workout

I’ve been my own Guinea pig lately with some of the martial arts based classes I’ve been constructing. So far it’s been going well and I have a rough template for each one I want to present to beginner audiences with broad experience with fitness and perhaps limited exposure to martial arts.

The program I tried the other day was for a Kung Fu Boot Camp. The class is designed as a cardio workout that also builds your confidence and spirit. I figured it’d be cool for corporate groups or team building situations where you want a one-off “feel the burn” type of experience. So I definitely had been feeling it during the workout since I’d been mainly doing Ashtanga yoga  lately(also badass and hard, but in a different way). I hadn’t been doing as many explosive jumps, kicks, and strikes — which is a whole nother animal. Woo! So hard. I’ve been feeling it during the last 2 days in my hammies and hips especially.

Anyway, if you’d like to try it out and let me know what you think, that’d be great! Below are the notes for the 60 minute program, but you could easily modify this to 30 minutes and I will also offer some suggestions for a 15 minute program too. Granted the notes below are incomplete in that at the very least, you would want someone to show you the tiger form, but you could always skip that or add your own form to the end. I would also say while I thought this was hard, there are probably some serious athletes who would have no problems with this. And in that case, that’s cool, you’re probably beyond the scope of what I can provide.

Btw, this program below and all my thoughts are just that,guys. You should obviously talk to your doctor and get a good teacher and do all those kinds of things to protect yourself before attempting any of this stuff. You know yourself and your body best.

Put on your favorite high energy music or enjoy the pure sounds of silence/nature/traffic, etc. whatever suits your fancy!

Warm-Up Stretch — hold with micro extensions where possible for 3 breaths each

  • Laughing Buddha (cactus arms)
  1. back bend
  2. Side bends (R & L)
  3. Forward bend
  • Horse Stance
  1. Hands behind head, stretch opposite elbow to outside knee (R & L)
  • Bow Stance (warrior)
  1. Extend (R & L)

Shake it out

Cardio Warm-up — do this sequence below twice

  1. 20 double jump-squats with hands raised above head, then touch down to floor on the bend (as a modification, you could do 20 horse stance flat foot squats)
  2. 10 push-ups (modify on knees if needed)
  3. 10 alternating bridge kicks
  • Lay on back with knees bent and push up hips into bridge while kicking leg out and away, then lower down. Alternate kicking legs.

4. 10 bridge throws

  • Push up into bridge position and stretch arm and hand across to opposite shoulder to touch floor as if throwing someone off you. Alternate arm touches.

5. 10 sit-ups with cross punches

  • Keep non-punching arm in guard by head for punches. Extend punching arm across outside of  the opposite knee. Alternate to other side.

Second Stretch and Loosening  — hold for 3 breaths on each posture with micro extensions where possible

  1. Center splits
  • Stretch forward
  • Right
  • Left

2. Butterfly

Stand for joint mobilizations — 3 full rotations one way and then the opposite direction

  1. Hip circles
  2. Lift leg rotate hip/leg in circle L
  3. Knee circles L
  4. Ankle circles L
  5. Toe grasp L (like you’re trying to pick up something on the ground with your toes) x 3
  6. Repeat 2-5 on the R
  7. Shoulder circles L
  8. Elbow circles L
  9. Wrist circles L
  10. Finger grasp L (like squeezing dough) x 3
  11. Repeat 7-10 on the R
  12. Neck circles
  13. Neck No (look R then L like shaking head No)
  14. Neck Yes (look up then down, like shaking head Yes)
  15. Neck ear to shoulder (bend neck to bring ear to shoulder, alternate)
  16. Face
  • Roll eyes, look RL/up-down/diagonally up/diagonally down
  • Scrunch face , open wide

Shake it out

Striking Practice 

Take a fighting/sparring stance with feet a little more than shoulder width apart front and back, side to side. Knees gently bend. I start with left leg forward. Hands are in guard.

  • Jab L x 10
  • Cross R x 10
  • Jab-Cross X 10
  • Hook L x 10
  • Uppercut x 10
  • Hook-uppercut x 10
  • Repeat on opposite side with right leg forward
  • Switch back to left leg forward
  • Elbow L x 10
  • Backfist L x 10
  • Elbow-backlist x 10
  • Repeat on opposite side

Kicking Practice

  • Knees R x 10
  • Knees L x 10
  • Front Snap on RL, start slow breaking movement into knee and extension x 10, then fast coordinated movements x 10
  • Side Thrust x 10 R then L
  • Round House x 10 RL, make sure to take a step out at an angle with standing legend throw arm back on same side as kicking leg
  • Combo:
  • Knee-front kick, knee-side thrust, knee-step-roundhouse x 10
  • Repeat on opposite side

Combo Practice

  • Jab L, Cross R, crouch/duck, step L, Roundhouse R. Do this slow x 5 and fast x5.
  • Switch sides
  • 1 minute each side

Intermediate Technique Practice

  • Double front snap kick x 10 RL
  • To modify without a jump, front snap kick R followed by front snap kick left x 10.
  • Change sides.

Break – 1 minute

Form Practice – Tiger

  • Start slow move by move
  • Modify jumps to kicks if needed
  • Repeat and practice broken down combos-sequences
  • Put it all together and practice gradually gaining speed

Last cardio blast

  • 10 burpees
  • Front Snap Kicks x 10
  • Alternating Tiger Palm Thrusts in Horse Stance x 50

Cool-Down

  • 1 minute deep breathing/visualization


This whole thing should take 60 minutes depending on how long you repeat the tiger form. I would recommend at least 3 times, slow, medium with combos broken down, and then fast. Notes on the form are available in this book, though if you haven’t seen it in person, it’s not going to do much for you. I suppose the same could be said of the striking and kicking. You really do need a good teacher so that you don’t hurt yourself.

If I wasn’t teaching this to total beginners and was doing this for myself, I personally would supplement this with two tiger xingyi fists presented here after finishing this whole program. Not that it matters when you practice internal, but if you were in the mood you could add a 10 minute internal practice that’s sorta tiger related, listed below. I would just keep in mind that while it may look simple it’s actually really advanced and you won’t get internal results if you approach the internal practice below with the same mindset or training goals as the boot camp above. Totally different things. But here’s an idea of something using drills from my teacher’s books.

Some “Tiger-y” Internal Ideas

  1. Quiet standing – 1 min
  2. Santi inner activation (See Aiki Singularity or Tanden Revolution) R and L – 1 min each side
  3. Tiger 1 xingyi (see video linked above) – maybe 4 or 5 steps turn around and do the same thing x 4
  4. Tiger 2 yi quan (see this video) – 1 min each side
  5. Xingyi tiger’s mouth quiet standing – 1 min
  6. Quiet standing with straight wrists – 1 min

This would take about 10 minutes and help you to feel and cultivate internal energy (if you do it the way my teacher lays it out). I really agree with him that you really need to separate in your mind how you approach these two very different practices. Each can teach you something useful, but it’s super different. In fact maybe you don’t want to practice internal forms after doing something so physically inclined like the beginner tiger form referenced above.

But I will say that SOMETIMES, for me personally, because you are so physically tired after doing an intense physical workout when you can fully switch over to “internal mode”, so not using a  lot of physical force or tension and relaxing fully and consciously, I sometimes get a more pronounced internal experience. I’m not sure if this would work for everyone, but a couple students at the old kung fu school did get results that way too. More on that in a future post perhaps. I’d better stop now before I accidentally mislead people!

Anyway, for now, just enjoy the workout program. Probably past students will be able to get the most use out of it. Let me know what you think if you try it and if it is too hard, let me know so I can make modifications.

teaching moment pt 2

So using my martial arts background, I’ve come up with 4 classes I can teach to absolute beginners in a corporate/one-off “let’s just have fun, do something new and healthy” kind of setting. I tested out 2 of the 4 classes on myself this week —breathing/meditation/qi gong and stretching/yoga— and feel confident about my ability to teach them. I also modified my usual beginning tai chi class and today may try out a “kung fu boot camp” type class on myself, which basically just modifies what we did at 108 Heroes Kung Fu and Tai Chi to a more one-off setting.

I’m really digging all this, gotta say. It’s so much fun to think creatively about my various practices and use what I know to make some adjustments so they resonate with specific audiences. I’ve previously felt very dogmatic about martial arts practices and have viewed them as something where I need to not only uphold the forms but also the curriculum of learning and the teaching methods. Now, I’ve figured out a way that I can present that I feel remains true to the lineage, but also gives me room to play and have fun.

I don’t alter the postures or, in certain forms, the sequences of movement, but I have been working with packaging the material into an easy to understand class. There’s certain things I love and enjoy about my personal practice and the practice I’m led through when at a class that I’ve discovered I can’t do when teaching super beginners. I think it’s because the concepts are actually quite complex and if, as a student, you come in with a preconceived notion of what yoga is or kung fu or tai chi or meditation, then in some settings, it’s going to be a steep learning curve for you to get onboard with traditional methods of instruction and thought.

I thought, what if I could present the traditional teachings I know and love, but to people who have a very broad, highly socialized understanding of these concepts so that by the end of the class perhaps they’d be more open to exploring in depth these fascinating practices. Can I be a doorway? Maybe a gateway drug, if you will… ha!

Anyway, it’s pretty fun but as always a challenging balance of being true and respectful of my own teachings while also realizing that I may be able to lighten up on some aspects of the practice as long as I’m retaining what for me is the core. I never would have been in this more exploratory mindset had my own teachers not encouraged this type of approach. I myself was actually surprised that all my teachers had encouraged me to play, explore, and experiment in my personal practice since our bodies, minds, and lives are constantly changing.

Having this freedom has allowed me to not be hard on myself (one of my greatest challenges!) when not being able to do a full practice due to injury or time constraints. I’ve been able to retain and grow my experiences within these practices while being adaptable and not rigidly holding onto the exact same sequence or approach or goal. That being said, the structure of the practices helps me to retain my focus and track my progress on longtime goals. Or if not static goals, just see over time how I’m changing for the better as a result of practicing.

Anyway, creating my own little programs has given me a lot of insight lately and I look forward to seeing what others think too. Fingers crossed that they get something good out of it!

teaching moments

I taught tai chi to a corporate group the other day and it went really well. People were smiling. I felt great. I think they did too. Such a change from the last couple of times I’ve taught classes and it made me thing, “hey, maybe I’m getting better at this!”

I have to credit teachers I’ve had recently who’ve either displayed or given me feedback when it comes to teaching. I thought about it when speaking with a friend the other day who asked if I’d ever teach yoga. I kinda hemmed and hawed about it, but he pointed out  that at least with beginners, I probably know more than them, so why not?

It’s this same mindset that I’ve become a bit more comfortable with when it comes to martial arts. There’s that old impostor syndrome voice that sneaks up on situations. Coupled with its best friend, Perfectionism, they make a great team of talking you out of anything. There’s a character in my generational punk play who is thrust into being the leader of a scene or movement. She says to a longtime friend coming to visit that she never liked authority and wanted to be an authority figure on anything. This is how I feel a lot of time about teaching.

There’s a side to my open-mindedness that can leave me as indecisive and passive. I think, “Well, I still have a lot to learn. I don’t feel nearly as qualified as my teachers.” I’ve gotten hung up on the idea that I need to somehow manifest the level of experience of those I’ve learned from in order to teach well. I forget what my playwriting teacher used to tell us when in grad school and preparing to teach playwriting and screenwriting the first time, which is that we’ve spent more time digging deep into story dynamics and structure than the students we’d be teaching. And even if that may not be applicable, I do subscribe to the idea that you have something to learn from everyone. Would it be so impossible that sometimes you have something to give others?

Tai Chi Teaching
Giving mini adjustments to my awesome group of students!

I think what went really well the other day was that I had experience under my belt to manage my expectations about what I could pass on in the time given. I had ideas of class structure based on classes I’ve attended and taught. I definitely know what I like. I know what I think is important. And I have a pretty good sense of what I do well. In the classes I taught at 108 Heroes Kung Fu and Tai Chi, I realized that because my main interest with tai chi is internal energy, I was being REALLY ambitious with how I taught people.

It was a lot of convincing people that internal energy is a thing. (It is.) But gah, how discouraging to keep trying to convince people of it day after day. I’ve been lightening up on what I do for my own personal practices and getting great results, so I figured, “Low hanging fruit: let’s just get people moving differently and introduced to the form.”

It’s like, maybe just maybe I don’t HAVE to do that much other than present this digestible chunk to folks. Talk about understanding your audience better! I really think this is why it was fun for me and fun for the group. So, comparatively, we didn’t get super far into the form and I chose to only briefly highlight internal energy cultivation once so that I felt that I was still remaining true to how I see tai chi, but I know I didn’t overwhelm people with a lot of concepts that were hard to leap to right off the bat.

And now a couple other opportunities to teach introduction classes to other mind-body practices I have have popped up and rather than being scared about knowing how to do that, I feel really confident. It gives me a new space to explore concepts and put together little programs/experiences based on what I know.

In the last week or so, I’ve started to brainstorm four different basic classes I could teach in a group setting that would be wellness focused and totally fine as one-off experiences. I’ve had fun creating playlists of music I enjoy and that wouldn’t be overly distracting. I had assembled my notes and past workbooks of concepts, postures, and forms I know and could teach easily. And I’ve figured out ways to put these different ideas together into 15, 30 and 60 minute programs. It’s not super exotic necessarily, but then I remember something my husband told me, which is probably the best teaching advice of all.

“They don’t want your teacher to teach them, they want you. You have to bring you.”

Talking Up Tai Chi
This is probably the one time I talked about internal energy.

 

 

DIY

A while back I had started getting into homemade beauty products. After my husband and I returned from a month long lomi lomi immersion at Ho’omana Spa Maui, I became more aware and more enthusiastic about using organic and natural products. Overall, just trying to keep it simple and reflective of what’s in nature. One of the courses we took while on Maui was on ancient Hawaiian plant medicine. In it we learned how to make a number of different things for the face and body that are beneficial.

Around the same time, at our old martial arts school, we had the opportunity to partner with the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Our martial arts lineage had a recipe for dit da jow, zheng gu shui, and this herbal tonic that a doctor over at the college worked with us to translate. Apparently the recipe we had was barely a guide. It had notes that were phonetic but also a bit quirky so it took the doctor a bit of digging to figure out what herbs were meant.

Dit da jow and zheng gu shui are pretty common herbal medicines and it’s not uncommon to see kung fu schools with various recipes. We used to get a family recipe from Brendan Lai’s Martial Arts Supply when they used to have a storefront in the Mission District of San Francisco. It was really good. Around that time, I think we were learning leg sweeps and my calves were so torn up. Ugh, awful. I looked like a weird leopard. The folks at school recommended the dit da jow and I seriously became hooked because it rapidly reduced my healing time. And, I think when you’re a woman doing martial arts, there’s just a certain amount of scrutiny about various bruises you may have collected that you just don’t want to deal with.

Anyway, we ended up partnering with the doctor to do a seminar at our school. As luck would have it, the school had been broken into, so quickly relocated the group to a nearby park since it happened to be a nice day. We made the three formulas right there in the park and the concoctions have been stewing ever since. I hear it’s kind of like wine in that it’s supposed to get better the more you let it sit. This batch has been stewing for about two years now.

Making the hit medicine and then being exposed to ancient Hawaiian la’au lapa’au has helped me to see opportunity in a lot of different areas. My family is a big influencer on my pull to grow and make things. At our old house, we had a backyard that was pie-shaped and contained lots of cool things like pomegranate trees, plum trees, and soon we put in raised bed vegetable and herb gardens. We were always pickling or jamming things. Then, my brother got into beekeeping so we had a hive on the property with access to raw honey. And one of the plants that grew well in the California coastal climate was lavender.

So, one of the things I first tried to make was a solar infused lavender oil. The bees LOVE lavender and also a lot of spearmint and lemon thyme we had. I used dried lavender from the yard as well as olive oil and coconut oil and then stored it in a mason jar which I kept out on the porch for about three weeks. It actually probably has some moon energy too because I wasn’t taking it in at night too, so there’s that too. On a later batch, I also added in lemon blossoms and orange blossoms from our little potted citrus trees outside.

The solar oil just has a light tough of the lavender, though when I tried calendula flowers in oil (after hearing they were really good for skin), that combination is much more potent – like a really heavy marigold scent.

When my brother gave me some of the beeswax from the hives, I got to thinking about salves and lotions. He had suggested salves since they are easier to make. I had originally intended to make this dit da dow salve or my dream was to make a lotion out of it. Since dit da jow is a liniment, I find it difficult to rub into the skin. It’s super watery and gritty from the herbs/minerals in the formula, so I would always have to take this extra step of mixing it with one of my lotions or oils in order to rub it into the skin a little better. But the lotion or oil I would mix was always a little off on consistency and had the chemicals or scents of whatever carrier oil/lotion I was mixing it with at the time.

With the wax, I started looking up recipes for lotions since I prefer that and how it’s less sticky than a salve. There are a lot of simple recipes out there. I had one in this book of herbal remedies that used a solar calendula oil to make a “rich, luxurious cream”. It’s similar to this basic recipe from Wellness Mama only you use the calendula infused oil in place of the almond/jojoba oils listed.

In my first try, I really learned the importance of prep and tools. Wow. I must have burned myself a number of times…

The wax I had was not like what you get at the herb shop that comes in small little beads that melt easily – think shredded cheese into a roux. My wax was a huge chunk that looked like it came from a block of artisan cheese. I thought I could cheat a step and just melt the whole thing in saucepan. Nope, it gets wax all over the pan that’s near to impossible to get off. This is where I felt I learned a new found respect for the double-boiler. Also, having grated wax to begin with. That would have made the process so much easier and avoided some hot wax splatters on my skin. Ouch!

The next part of the recipe that I find to be the trickiest is when you’re supposed to combine the oil-wax mixture with aloe vera. Since I ultimately wanted to combine the dit da jow, I really needed to follow these more complex recipes that had a cooling and second combining process. Enter, the blender. By the way, don’t use a blender to make lotion, it’s really terrible. What happens is the oil-wax can cool too quickly as you’re mixing in your blender and then it gets all piece-y and chunky in your blender. Plus, the blender ends up getting a lot of body product junk on it.

Heed my warning! Don’t use the blender. Probably I should have just used one of those handheld immersion blenders and bought separate equipment for making body products. So, what resulted was a lotion that was very moisturizing, but had these pockets of wax that you really had to rub into the skin. Now when we moved and were making it through our first winter in the Rockies, the extra protection barrier the wax created was kinda nice. It helped my dry skin a lot, but other than that, it wasn’t a functional every day lotion.

I consulted a friend who’s a cosmetic chemist to see if there was any way I could salvage what I had done. I mean, here’s this homegrown lavender and beeswax and it would have been potentially just totally wasted. Luckily, she said I could go through the heating and mixing process again and that should fix it. And it sorta did, but it was still off. Then, I had one tub that was very liquid-y with bits of wax not quite melted and incorporated. And another batch that was super sticky waxy.

Between my friend’s advice and this other site, I also incorporated a couple tips to get the kind of lotion I wanted. I definitely have a new appreciation of chemistry and emulsifiers after this.

So here’s how I fixed it.

I got the double boiler set up and also a whisk.

I monitored the heat really closely while pouring in my waxy lotions and whisked the heck out of them. Not fast, but consistently so that the waxy lotion was at least better blended.

Then, I’d add the liquid-y lotions more and more while still mixing and making sure everything was blended.

The problem was I had more liquid-y lotion than waxy so I also decided to incorporate this other face lotion, I’d gotten from Lush that was kinda like a salve but left a powdery finish. If I wore more makeup, this product would have been really good as a primer. Or, if I was in a really humid climate, but since it’s dry where I live now, I knew I’d never really use it.

I think by combining this product into my lotions, it helped out so much. And I found out later because you can’t use beeswax in a lotion in place of your emulsifying wax. Wow. Learn something new every day!

Still, the process taught me so much and while it may be a long time before I attempt a lotion again, I have more of a sense of this process now and what all is involved in it.

What really makes me happy though, is knowing exactly where these ingredients are from. I hand selected all of them (except for the Lush stuff). When I wear the lotion, I know that there’s infused oil from my old backyard and wax from the bees. It’s a nice feeling for something I will probably use up in a couple months.

lotion

#25

re birth re emergence

i see you have taken the form of the rabbits outside

and the cormorant outside also seems familiar

a goose held my gave a little longer than was comfortable the other day

a deer walked on my path

a hawk swooped in front of our car

i hear the tapping of a woodpecker outside and i knew

a school of fish in the local pond seems to be quite charmed when i look overhead

in never seems to fail that a fly lands on me when i practice tai chi outside

(which i find rather fitting in a way)

and sometimes i see a rainbow right when i need it

each instance takes my breath away for just a second

and i think maybe you all have been here before, haven’t you?

so i’m grateful to my guiding friends

who seem to pop up most unexpectedly

 

 

#24

the biting air spews from my mouth like lava

no one look at me i will look at no one

i cast my eyes askew down not meeting another

it would prove to be fatal

the onlooker sees a glimpse of me in the shadows

they depart

they shrink

i walk through

i will not stop

even the hotness inside can’t be bottled up

raging to the surface

and they run for cover

they are afraid

of my words

and when my eyes are set

they will not feel welcome

and i will be in peace

no, alone

though in solitary confinement

at least there’s only the mind’s judgement

 

#20

time on my hands
got plans
no.
sound of rain
against my window
pain is slowly, slowly driving me insane
i’m going down
my whole world’s turning upside down
sleep don’t come easy
please believe me
today everything’s going wrong
yesterday was golden
tomorrow will it be better?
i can’t stop these tears from falling from my eyes
i’m in love of course
but what’s going on?
do i try to hard?
whispers telling me of patience
i’m so blue
sorry…
please forgive me
i need a home
i’m so tired

#23

 

instal

to be in a state of stability

also refers to lukewarm sea water that has a refreshing quality

opposite would be exstal, which has to do more with questioning your existential position

 

enfix

when you try to fix or adjust something but it’s not quite done

to be half-finished

also when you join together a two parts that don’t go together according to the directions but somehow it worked anyway

 

aberration

an extremely chilly state

specifically so cold that it gives you the shivers and you want nothing to do with it

also refers to the state where after an immediate chill you gain insight or an idea

 

#22

soft new hands

eyes that dance and fix their gaze

i’m not sure what to call you

what do i have to give you?

will you enjoy the things i do or find them embarrassing?

you have a waddle-kind-of run

it’s like the ducks you enjoy pointing at

i’m not sure if i’m too much of a nit-picker

perhaps that makes me not ready

perhaps it’s why you aren’t here

i am doing a series of challenges to show you though

i’m not sure if they are building the skills you want to see in me

i guess you should know i cry a lot

i maybe get more upset at inconsequential things than i really should

i’d like to explore the little wonders with you

i wish i could see you

and know your name

and what you’re like