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Students tend to think of martial arts as just being physical. This is not correct. All action begins in the mind. Our perception of reality is psychological.
A person may know a lot of information and be academically clever, but this is not about knowledge. It is about functionality. Application. How flexible is your mind?
How easily and skilfully can you adapt, change and improvise? Can you learn from everything you encounter?
There is growing scientific evidence that the brain can be kept healthy and functioning as we grow older.
Challenging existing modes of thought, dropping long-held opinions and learning new skills causes the body to grow new brain tissue to cope with the demands of change.
Our syllabus encourages people to fundamentally change the way in which they perceive the world around them. This is one of the reasons why Tao and Zen study are so important.
We experience reality in our minds. All sensory data is processed and interpreted by the mind. This is where the tai chi study really takes place.
Another reason to move
slowly and gently is to allow yourself time to approach movement in an
exploratory and curious manner, and to put a great deal of attention on the
subtle details of the movement. Becoming more coordinated is essentially a
matter of rewiring the neural circuits that control movement, which is an
example of a very fashionable process called “neuroplasticity.”
Neuroplasticity simply means the brain’s ability to change. According to
Michael Merzenich and other prominent neuroscientists, attention and
awareness are major preconditions for neuroplasticity to occur. In other
words, your brain is much more likely to get better at a certain activity if
you are paying close attention while doing it. Slow movement can help your
ability to pay attention to exactly what you are doing when you are doing
A student’s ability to attend to incoming information can be improved through properly coordinated training:
- remain present
- remain present while being subjected to distractions
- remain present whilst attending to two things at once
Memory is the ability to store and recall information. It can be divided into short-term and long-term memory.
Short-term memory is the ability to understand and hold information in immediate awareness. Long-term memory is about recalling information from the past.
Logic and reasoning
This is the ability to reason, form concepts, and solve problems using unfamiliar information or novel procedures.
Deductive reasoning extends this problem-solving ability to draw conclusions and come up with solutions using relationships and associations.
Listening is about discriminating and interpreting sounds.
This is about perceiving, analysing, and thinking about what you see. The skills also includes visualization, the ability to picture things in your mind
A healthy brain is capable of performing complex tasks quickly and effectively. The student is required to ignore distractions, maintain presence and remain sensitive.
What we teach
Our students are required to undertake an ongoing extensive course of study. We address physical, psychological and emotional development:
Principles & practice
Breaking things down/reverse engineering
In addition to the
more obvious physical training, our students are required to study the
website thoroughly and select books from the reading list.
We offer questionnaires and comprehensive assignments for more tai chi students.
Think for yourself
Watching television, surfing the web, reading newspapers, magazines, fiction books and engaging in gossip can all lead to mental stagnation.
Instead of thinking for yourself, you begin to parrot the thoughts and opinions of others. Advertising bombards people with trends, fashions and must-have goods.
It promotes competition, jealousy, greed and restless agitation. How many people sit in the company of others listlessly fiddling with portable electronic devices? These are simply adult toys.
In order to open your mind, you need to switch-off, unplug and just stop. Just sit, stand or lie down without stimulation of any sort. Listen to your mind, to your thoughts and emotions.
Feel the anxiety and the agitated thoughts. Do not act, judge what is happening or have any thoughts of control. Simply become aware of what is occurring.
If you are stimulated by sugar and caffeine, you will find this extremely difficult. It may take many occasions of practice before you experience any expansion of awareness.
Instead of allowing society to manipulate your mind, take control of what you are exposed to:
- media is easy to avoid: only watch the programs or DVD's you feel will be healthy for your mind and emotions
- be ruthlessly selective
- do not watch the news. Recognise that the news is a commodity, a product. It is sold to you. And like any commodity it is tailored to suit the market
- stop reading news, gossip and anything that makes you feel emotionally unsound (envious, frustrated, depressed, anxious, fearful, helpless, angry etc)
- be cautious with advertising
- think carefully about what you want to do or buy
- advertising is a very clever field of business and it will manipulate people any which way it can
- video games, mobile phones, the web all serve to foster unease and unrest
- put your phone on silent or better yet switch it off when you return home
- switch your contract to pay-as-you-go: it will allow you to control spending and be more frugal
- avoid gimmicks: a phone is a telecommunication device not a multimedia centre
- avoid debt
- avoid the lure of consumerism: there is more life than buying goods
- do not shop unless you have a specific agenda in mind
- think long-term: but things that last and avoid fashion
- every penny you spend needlessly is cutting into your earnings
- invest rather than squander
- eat healthy food, avoid sugar
- feel your mind become calmer and more aware
- read books that expand your consciousness, that challenge your preconceptions
- seek out metacognitive books rather than fiction
- encourage your mind to grow in new directions
- make time to read every day
What have these things to do with neuroplasticity?
If you think that you are in control of your mind, you may want to look deeper. Do some research. Start thinking for yourself again.
Puzzles & games
Some puzzles and games are good for your brain. Others are not. The main danger lies in training your mind to fulfil a specific skill; such as play sudoku or answer a crossword puzzle.
These activities are arguably limiting; an end in themselves. Seek instead to undertake activities that expand consciousness, teach new skills and challenge how you perceive reality.
His responses to attacks of any kind achieve a
flowing spontaneity that is alive and vibrant. There is no prior thought
necessary, no calculation, yet even so, his actions have about them a
magnificent celerity and deadly acumen.
18 March 1997
Last updated 13 December 2019