Cheng Man-ch’ing’s advice for beginning Tai Chi students

Some wise words from Professor Cheng Man-ch’ing for those starting out on their tai chi journey. He warns that this practise may cause some discomfort, but that one must be fearless in the face of such pain, the taking of which is ‘beneficial to one’s heart organ and the development of the brain’.

“The fundamental method for a person who has just begun to do tai chi is to take three to five minutes in the morning and the evening, alternating standing first on one leg then on the other. Gradually the time is lengthened, gradually the person sits lower. The mind should be put into the tan tien, and without forcing, even a little bit,  the heart of the foot should adhere to the ground. When one is rooting, he should extend his middle and index fingers to hold onto the back of a chair or the edge of a table in order to be stable. After a while when that is familiar he can take away the middle finger using just the index finger assistance. Eventually this will become very stable and the person will not needs to be assisted by his fingers any more. Then one can utilise the ‘Lifting Hands’ and ‘Playing Guitar’ as two positions for this standing (or rooting) discipline.”

The quote is from Wolfe Lowenthal’s ‘There Are No Secrets: Professor Cheng Man-ch’ing and his Tai Chi Chuan‘.  Where he talks about ‘rooting’ he is referring to the feeling of the weight of the  body dropping into the ground through the ‘Bubbling Well’ point, just behind the ball of the foot. ‘Lifting Hands’ and ‘Playing Guitar’ are positions from the Yang Style Short Form. These positions are demonstrated in the images below, reproduced from Cheng Man’ch’ing’s book ‘T’ai Chi Ch’uan: A Simplified Method of Calisthenics for Health & Self Defence‘.

Tai Chi on the MTB Tour de Cairngorms

In late May I achieved a longstanding ambition and completed the 4 day mountain bike tour round the Cairngorms. The route is over 200 km and almost all off road. We saddled up at Glenmore Lodge near Aviemore and passed through Tomintoul, Braemar and Blair Atholl before returning to our start point.  In between these settlements we traversed some spectacular remote country and enjoyed three beautiful camps.

My travelling companion has a greater appetite for sleep than I, so I was able to fit in an hour of Tai Chi and Chi Kung each morning before he emerged from his tent.

Our first camp was South of Tomintoul, just past Inchory Lodge at the Linn of Avon (pronounced A’an).

I love being up  in the high glens at this time of year amongst the  nesting waders and other seabirds. The bird above my head is an  oystercatcher strafing me with its characteristic alarm call to distract me from its nest site. Birds are scared of human movement more than of humans themselves, and once I got into my form  the bird paid me no more attention than it would  a reed shaking in the wind. Doing Tai Chi is a great way to tap into the energy of these places and break down the pervasive modern  illusion that we are separate from our environment.

The second camp was at the ruined Bynack Lodge, past Braemar on the way to Glen Tilt. The mountain in the background in Beinn Bhrotain.  Despite being in remote country with an almost infinite choice of good camp spots we were joined by a pair of walkers and two Dutch cyclists. A great illustration of the human herd instinct in action!

Our last camp was probably my favourite, though it was also the lumpiest. The route from Blair Atholl back to Aviemore runs past Gaick Lodge and down Glen Tromie. We camped at the high point of the route, at the north end of Loch an Duin, and started our last day with an amazing long descent. Doing tai chi on these small islands was an unforgettable experience!

All in all it was a great and exhausting trip and I enjoyed some tremendous Wild Tai Chi spots along the way.  If you’ve enjoyed this post please check back for more. If you’d be interested in joining a Wild Tai Chi backpacking or bikepacking trip in this area get in touch through the contact form.