Friday, May 27, 2011

My Dad Just Got His Tai Chi Uniform!

Check it out!  My dad is my first student to get a uniform!  :)

Looks pretty awesome, doesn't he?

Let me know if any of you guys or gals want a cool outfit like this. :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Self Control? Part 3.2

Continuing From Self Control? 3.1...

When I first began studying martial arts, at the age of 13, I heard that they could help improve a person's self control and I thought, "Well, that's just ridiculous.  If someone wants to have better self control they just need to make themselves do what they know they need to."  ha ha!  This, of course, was the wisdom of a jr. high student.....fortunately I have learned since then that this can be as foolish as saying, "If anyone wants to be able to lift 300 Lbs. they just need to make themselves do it."'s not always that easy.   Why?  Because we are all different.  We have all developed differently mentally and physically.  If you see a super skinny person try to lift a 300 Lb. weight and fail you would think very little of it.  You would say, "Well, it's clear that their body is not strong enough to lift that weight."  But what if you see someone make a bad choice, swear to never do it again, and make the exact same choice before the week is over?  We tend to judge that person more harshly.  We say they are "this" or they are "that" and "why can't they just figure it out?"

This is because with the skinny person we can physically see that they are not strong enough to lift 300 Lbs., but with the person making bad decisions we can't see their brain or how it works so we can't logically explain their illogical behavior.   However, one of the greatest aspects of our human bodies is that our bodies will adapt to whatever we frequently do.  In other words, that skinny person may not be able to lift 300 Lbs. today, but they could probably lift 1 Lb.  or 5 Lbs.  and if they continue to do that, eventually they will be able to lift more and some day, if they stay consistent, they will no longer be a super skinny person and they will be able to lift that 300 Lbs.  In the same way, if someone doesn't make good life choices and they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over, they can start by do things to stimulate their prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that's responsible for making good decisions) and eventually, when they have "strengthened" that part of their brain, good decisions will just make sense, instead of being something they are striving to achieve. 

Since I began studying martial arts I have seen improvements in my self control and the self control of other students, particularly when studying meditative practices like Tai Chi.  Learning that meditation can increase blood flow to and activate the part of your brain that is responsible for self control is what connected the dots for me. 

Tai Chi is often described as a moving meditation and, when practiced as such, can have the same positive effects on the mind as any other meditation.  So, one of the main ways that Tai Chi can help improve a person's self control is by stimulating and strengthening their prefrontal cortex, which allows their brain to work better when it comes to decision making. 

So why practice Tai Chi when there are so many meditation practices available in the world?  What makes it so special that it has become one of the main forms of body mind exercise in China, is practiced by millions of people every day, and is growing in popularity all over the world?  Check in next time for more on that.  :)

P.S. for those who are just joining this blog, here are links to previous Self Control? blog posts.
Self Control? Part - 1
Self Control? Part - 2
Self Control? Part - 3.1

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Monday, May 30, No Tai Chi class at NYF

Just FYI.  There will be no Tai Chi class at New York Fitness on Monday, May 30 for Memorial Day.  All classes will resume as usual on Tuesday, May 31.  I just wanted to let everyone know.  :)  Please comment if you have any questions.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Here's the video of my Tai Chi form.

Here's the video of the form I did at the competition on Sat.  It's from the Chen style of Tai Chi and is a bit more aggressive than a lot of the Tai Chi forms that are practiced for health.  In my classes I start people on Yang Style Tai Chi, which is much more relaxing and soothing.  Chen style isn't started until much later in their Tai Chi training.  Anyways, enjoy!  :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Trophy From Tournament

On Saturday, May 14, 2011, I took part in a GSKA martial arts tournament in Newman, CA and brought home a trophy.  Here's a picture of the trophy and I'll be loading the video of the form I did before too long.  :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Self Control? Part 3.1

This is supposed to be Self Control? Part 3, but as I was writing it, it became a rather enormous post.  So, I've decided to break it up into a "Part 3.1" and "Part 3.2"  To make it a little easier on everyone to get through.  :)  Enjoy.

Last time we discussed how simply going to a Tai Chi class and participating can help improve self control by building a habit of self control, but we also mentioned that this might not be enough to give someone a real discipline boost.  If that is all there is to improving self control through Tai Chi, then what makes Tai Chi any different from any other form of exercise?  Habitual self control (or self control that is produced by doing something so much it just becomes a habit) can be attained in almost any exercise program, diet program, financial planning program, etc.....the trick is sticking with it long enough for it to become a habit instead of a failed attempt.  So what is the missing piece?  Does Tai Chi have that missing piece?

Well, lets take a little look at the brain and get some ideas about how a meditative art like Tai Chi affects the brain.  Perhaps this will help us better understand how an art like Tai Chi can help improve self control when many other exercise programs may not.  Some of you may already know that how your brain works has a lot to do with how you handle day to day life, and whether your decisions are something to be proud of, but few people realize that their brains can be trained in a way that will increase their ability to function more effectively in decision making and life choices.  To learn more about how our brain works let's look at some information From Dr. Daniel Amen on the subject.

Dr. Daniel Amen  is a physician, child and adult psychiatrist, and brain imaging specialist who studies how the brain works and how it affects human behavior.  He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Change Your Brain, Change Your Life and below are some statements he has made about how our brains affect our choice making abilities.

"Did you know that will power is a function of the prefrontal cortex?   Your ability to stick with a diet, save for retirement and remain faithful in your marriage is the result of a brain that works right.   Hurting this part of the brain can wreak havoc in your life, while helping it can help your weight, your finances and even your relationships."  -Dr. Daniel Amen

"Meditation is a wonderful tool to calm your mind and boost your brain at the same time.  Meditation actually fooled us.  Initially, we thought it would calm brain activity.  What we found was that many different forms of meditation actually dramatically increase blood flow to the brain.
Last year we published a scientific study showing how a very simple 12-minute meditation boosted blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, the same area of the brain that helps you make good decisions."
-Dr. Daniel Amen

As you can see from Dr. Amen's statements there is a direct correlation between how well your prefrontal cortex works and whether or not you can make good decisions and stick with them.  The part that is really exciting is that meditation can actually help improve the part of your mind that will give you greater self control and the ability to make good choices...

Check back soon for the second part of this post.  :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Awesome, Short Video Clip About Tai Chi in China

 I saw this short video on youtube about Tai Chi in China and I wanted to share it with you all.  :)  Check it out.  It's only like a minute long and it gives a good brief description of Tai Chi.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Self Control? Part 2

In Self Control? Part 1 we asked whether Tai Chi can actually help someone improve their self control.  I mentioned how I had seen it do so for several people and we asked how it might be responsible for such positive changes in those people.

Today, we will look at one of the answers.......or perhaps it would be better described as part of the answer... 

Self control is definitely a habit, just like a lack of self control is a habit. Our bodies and minds are so adaptive it just amazes me.  If we choose to do something over and over, pretty soon our minds are programmed to do that same thing every time we have the chance.  Well, this is part of the reason self control can be so difficult for many people...........many of us have developed a habit of not being disciplined. 

For some people the kinds of food they eat is where their discipline habits are most evident.  They know they should eat better, but they have developed eating habits since the time they were little and when meal time comes, their body is just programmed to grab for certain foods and not for others.  It's the same with people who eat really well.  They have been doing so for a long time and they don't even consider the junk foods they used to eat because they have reprogrammed themselves...........or they have just always eaten that way, but either way, they have a developed habit of good food choices.

When it comes to discipline and self control most people notice that when they become more disciplined and self controlled in one area of their life it tends to spill over into other areas as well.  This is probably the most basic aspect, or even possibly the "first part", of how Tai Chi can help a person develop greater self control in all areas of their life.  When a person attends a Tai Chi class and follows the instructors directions and spend that whole class duration trying to improve their Tai Chi skills, there is a good bit of self control that they must practice......usually even without their direct knowledge.  Generally that self control hides itself as "manners" or "normal behavior" because when someone takes a Tai Chi lesson they generally realize it's a much better work out than they had previously imagined and when their legs start to get tired and they start to sweat, they exercise self control by not quitting in the middle of practice.  To most of us it's just obvious that you don't sit down and quit practicing something that you are taking a class to learn, but it is practicing self control to follow that "common sense" about how to behave in a class.  That's why it is somewhat "hidden self control practice", but it begins to develop a habit of self control and discipline that can eventually begin to spill over into other areas of our lives because it starts to "reprogram" our brains and bodies to be self controlled for, at least, a couple hours a week.

But that can't be all there is to improving self control through Tai Chi, right?  Probably not, considering most people try very hard to start new classes and new habits all the time and fail.  They try to go to a class or practice every day, but sometimes they don't feel like it, or they stay really consistent for a long time then all the sudden just don't want to, or don't feel like they can, keep doing whatever their new endeavor may be.  We see it in diets and exercise programs all the time.  People start, last for a while, then quit and it's not because they didn't have enough time to form new habits either.....not usually anyways.  There seems to be a missing ingredient somewhere......what is it?  And can it be found in Tai Chi?

Check back in the near future for Self Control? Part 3 to find out what that missing ingredient is and if Tai Chi can help you find it.  :)