Thirteen Reasons MMA Fighters Need to Crosstrain in T’ai Chi

Mixed Martial Artists are always looking for a competitive edge. They’re constantly checking out the latest in sport nutrition and the first to explore a new workout or training routine. They need to be on top of all the trends in order to stay competitive in their sport.

Like its name implies, Mixed Martial Arts was founded on the idea of taking skills and training methods from all the fighting sciences and then combining them to create the best sport-combat strategy possible. They carefully select the most proven methods and use them in order to prepare themselves for the ring.

However, there’s one training method that seems to have been overlooked. -Or at least no one’s been willing to talk about it… until now!

I discovered this ‘secret method’ years ago while I was preparing to enter the ring for a kickboxing match.

My previous fight hadn’t gone very well and I was really tight and nervous. Before the fight, one of my trainers, Jerry Cheng, took me to an open room and led me through some T’ai Chi exercises that his father had taught him. He had me start by slowly circling my neck and shoulders, then proceeded with a routine that worked its way down my body; gently moving my arms, torso, hips, knees, ankles and feet until every muscle was stretched and warmed up. Even better, my mind began to relax and I was able to focus on the fight ahead.

I fought very well that night, easily winning by TKO in the second round. I felt loose, aware, and relaxed the entire time. To this day, I still credit T’ai Chi with helping me win that fight.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “T’ai Chi? You mean that slow-motion thing that old people do in the park on Saturday afternoons? How could that possibly help me in the ring?”

Well, here’s the deal, I know MMA looks a lot different than T’ai Chi. You have to hit really hard and really fast, while T’ai Chi moves softly and slowly. I know you practice grappling skill on the ground (Sometimes for hours on end), while T’ai Chi is all about standing and rooting in place. (So, it’s not the actual techniques but the training methods that make T’ai Chi so valuable to fighters.)

I’m not going to tell you that T’ai Chi can replace any of the bagwork, focus pads, or sparring that you currently do, but I can tell you that T’ai Chi can bring incredible benefits to your training. It’s the perfect supplement workout for anyone who’s serious about MMA competition and it’s benefits are something you just can’t afford to ignore.

Here are my thirteen top reasons why you NEED to crosstrain in T’ai Chi if you’re a competitive fighter…

Continue reading Thirteen Reasons MMA Fighters Need to Crosstrain in T’ai Chi

How to Own your T’ai Chi Form

T’ai Chi is beautiful. There’s nothing quite like watching the grace and power of a talented T’ai Chi practitioners as they effortlessly float from one posture to the next. The strength, flexibility, and dexterity demonstrated can be awe inspiring.

Unfortunately, for most of us, our form doesn’t quite live up to the aesthetics found in a gifted performance.  Try as we might, our bodies just don’t seem to be able to bend or hold the positions the way we’d like them to. It can be terribly discouraging, especially after you’ve spent years studying the art only to see someone much younger, and more limber, easily execute a move that you still have difficulty performing.

But, is a pretty, aesthetically pleasing form really what we should be striving for? Isn’t T’ai Chi designed as a martial art? -As a method for moving vital energy through our body to improve health?

How can we make the T’ai Chi form our own, even when we fail to perform the movements the way we imagine they ought to be done.

Continue reading How to Own your T’ai Chi Form

The Best Place to Train T’ai Chi

Every time you see someone practicing T’ai Chi in a book, magazine, or website (even this one!), you’ll likely see someone standing outside on a beach or in a lush garden, striking a perfect pose. Usually they’re practicing on a clear day with the sun rising  behind them. It’s no wonder those people in the photographs always look so happy.

But it’s that picture perfect image of T’ai Chi training at all realistic?

Let’s face it, picture perfect T’ai Chi is kind of like the way we imagine going on a picnic with a loved one. We’d like to think it will be all sun, fun, and even a bit romantic; But, when you get to the park, you realize that the ground is hard and uncomfortable, there’ are bugs everywhere, and if you don’t wither from the heat, there’s sure to be a raincloud heading your way. Meanwhile, the food gets cold, the drinks get warm, and you start to feel lucky to survive the whole ordeal without catching salmonella. Picnics just aren’t as much fun in real life as they may seem in a magazine -All in all, it’s much easier to drive to the nearest Hot Dog stand and grab a bite!

But, how does this relate to the training experience of T’ai Chi? I mean, shouldn’t we be outside, ‘becoming one with nature’ as we find our our ‘Center’? Doesn’t the fresh air and sounds of nature help us relax and to become rooted into the Earth around us?

The answer is “YES,” outside training, close to nature and fresh air is best for the T’ai Chi experience. But there are a few things to consider before you head out to that sunrise beach…

Continue reading The Best Place to Train T’ai Chi

Book Review: ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer… Why It’s One of My Favorite T’ai Chi Books

A while back, I was doing some pretty intense HIIT training and quite a bit of running during my morning routine. I was working on building my aerobic endurance for kickboxing.

After about 12 weeks of this type of training, I noticed that the heels of my feet would really hurt when I woke up, first thing in the morning. The pain continued as time went on and eventually it got to the point where it became hard to exercise or even walk.

I ended up seeing a podiatrist, who quickly diagnosed me with plantar fasciitis, a foot injury common among runners that happens when the tendon leading under the foot becomes inflamed and painful. The Doctor prescribed some pain meds, a pair of foot inserts, and a special brace for me to wear at night.

I was okay with his treatment until he told me that I wouldn’t be able to run anymore.

Now, I’ve never been a really competitive runner, but it’s always been a part of my exercise routine to run a few miles as a warm up and also to clear my mind for training. I’d been running since Middle School and it just didn’t feel right to give it up.

I started searching the internet for ways to deal with this injury and found a group of barefoot runners. These are people who run without shoes and rely on special running techniques to protect their feet from injury. Without shoes, they are compelled to run very deliberately, making sure that only the proper areas of their feet come in contact with the ground.

After giving my feet some time to heal, I began to try the barefoot running technique and quickly became hooked: I found that without shoes, I could learn to run more naturally and with greater awareness.

I started slowly, running first on grass before eventually building up to pavement. As I improved, I continued to search for and practice everything I could find on natural running techniques.  That’s when I discovered the book that changed everything for me; Danny Dreyer’s ChiRunning.

(Now, I need to mention that Chi Running IS NOT about running barefoot. Danny Dreyer recommends his techniques are practiced in  proper running shoes. –Now, I still like to run barefoot because it feels very natural and forces me to stay honest to the technique.)

Danny Dreyer’s insights into both running and T’ai Chi are actually quite amazing…

Continue reading Book Review: ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer… Why It’s One of My Favorite T’ai Chi Books

Embracing Confidence: the T’ai Chi Way!

Using the principles of T’ai Chi can help us in a variety of ways during our daily life. One area of life that we can all use a little help with is self-confidence.

Some of us, unfortunately, seem to have no confidence;We’re wishy-washy and easily run over by pushy salespeople, aggressive authority figures (like  parents, bosses, or teachers), and tend to fade away into the crowd rather than stand up and express ourselves confidently to the rest of the world.

Others, try to arm themselves with a sense of ‘False Confidence.’ They outwardly appear strong, brash, and sure of themselves to everyone outside, but in doing so become rigid in their convictions. They stand so hard on their beliefs that they fail to see the value of ideas different from their own. This puts them in constant conflict with those around them and leaves their ego hopelessly bruised when someone has a better idea or wins an argument.

In both cases, the result is the same. They eventually become frustrated and drained of energy.

If you lack confidence, you’ll become slowly frustrated at your inability to speak up for yourself and feel pushed around until the stress of not being able to stand up for yourself becomes too much and you finally explode in a fit of anger.

If you’ve built an inflated sense of False Confidence, you find yourself always arguing your point and in friction with anyone who doesn’t share your particular point of view. Again, this constant struggle eventually leads to frustration and most likely a bitter breaking point.

Either way, these poor confidence strategies leave the person exhausted and stressed out, which is not  a very resourceful way to live.

Luckily, there is a fundamental T’ai Chi principle that provides true, authentic confidence and saves our mental energy, leaving us relaxed and stress free. It’s not a ‘Get Confident Quick’ scheme, like reciting positive affirmations into a mirror, but a real strategy that works even when life gets tough.. Continue reading Embracing Confidence: the T’ai Chi Way!

Martial T’ai Chi Chuan & Mindfulness

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” – Amit Ray

 

The “Mindfulness Movement” has become a popular trend among many people trying to improve their  lives.

Yoga, meditation, and T’ai Chi are among the most common ways people strive to achieve this mindful state. And while all these practices can help us achieve this elusive frame of mind, there is one important difference between them…  T’ai Chi is a martial art period.

WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?

Everyone wants to do T’ai Chi in order to be “Mindful“;  To be One-With-Nature, to find Inner Peace and Contentment, to be in Harmony with the World around them… well, screw that!

Look, you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, thinking about all the things you’ve got to do… pick up bread at the store, pay the electric bill, plan a birthday surprise for Grandma, and have someone check into that funny noise your car’s been making lately. When suddenly someone jumps out at you from behind a corner. “Give me your money”, he yells as he comes rushing towards you… then you see a punch heading straight towards your face!

Moments ago you were thinking about Grandma’s birthday and now and you’re suddenly fighting for your life.

Your attacker on the other hand, has had time to prepare. He knew when he woke up this morning that he was going to sneak up on someone, beat them up, and take their money. He’s been watching you and pumping himself up for the attack. He has adrenaline and ‘bad intentions’ surging through his veins.

If you knew he was coming, if you knew what was going to happen, you also could have got ready. If you couldn’t somehow escape, you would have at least built up your resolve to fight  and prepared your mind for the combat ahead.

But it’s too late now. There’s no way you can match his energy or intensity as he comes rushing forward. You simply can’t go from ‘Grandma surprise’  to ‘ Vicious Street Fighterthat quickly.   -So what do you do?

Continue reading Martial T’ai Chi Chuan & Mindfulness

What is Moving Meditation? …and how to achieve it!

T’ai Chi is often called a moving meditation… but what does that really mean?

You probably already know that meditation is a process of focusing your thoughts and projecting your mind’s intentions in order to achieve a desired state of consciousness. However, when most people think about meditation they usually imagine someone sitting in a ‘lotus’ position or kneeling for ‘zazen’  meditation. Sitting, or even laying down, is often used so the person can completely relax the body and give their thoughts full attention. Movement, it would seem, distracts the mind, making it harder to achieve the desired state.

What we have to understand is that movement can be an important part of our meditative evolution. Performance specific movements like those found in T’ai Chi, Yoga, or even certain types of prayer can actually help the practitioner in a variety of ways.

First, for those who have difficulty staying still, the movements give the body something to do while the brain focuses on the task at hand. A body that moves slowly and with purpose in a controlled, rhythmic manner can calm the mind, in much the same way a stage hypnotist might use a swinging pocket watch to lead someone into a trance. By giving the mind something to concentrate deeply upon, the subconscious this free to explore and relax.

Secondly,  movement helps us visualize energy, or chi, moving through the different areas of our body. As we raise our arms, it becomes easier to imagine the arm meridians filling with energy and nourishing our body. Standing allows us to visualize Earth Energy rising up from the ground and into our center as we ‘root’ into our stance.

Finally, movement is necessary for us to allow the meditative state to become a conscious part of our everyday life. Meditation in a quiet, candle-lit room, under the smell of incense and soft music is great for giving yourself time to de-stress, heal, and discover spiritual insights. But, true Mastery comes when you can achieve this state on a noisy, traffic filled street. It happens when you can stay calm, centered, and energetically efficient throughout your day, no matter what life happens to throw at you.

But, is this kind of Mental Mastery really achievable?

Well, it will take a lot of personal growth to attain this type of control, but yes it’s totally possible.

Here’s a short overview to help get you started on the path…

Continue reading What is Moving Meditation? …and how to achieve it!

Welcome to Embrace T’ai Chi

What is Embrace T’ai Chi?

Embrace T’ai Chi is a lifestyle blog for the T’ai Chi enthusiast.

There a lot of Lifestyle blogs on the internet that cover everything from golf, to cooking, to sailing, or fishing, crafts, relationships, dance, politics, cars, you name it! But it’s hard to find a website that discusses the way that T’ai Chi affects the lives of the people who practice this remarkable art

T’ai Chi people are special. Although the art shares many similarities to other pursuits like yoga, meditation, karate, or kung fu; The particular way this art is practiced puts it in a class of its very own. Those that train T’ai Chi deserve a place where they can explore and discover, as well as share their own experiences while practicing this unique lifestyle.

Of course there are a lot websites that cover a particular style or lineage of T’ai Chi. Many delve into the specific history and traditions of a school or organization. These sites offer a wealth of information and detail to the student wishing to learn that specific brand of the art.

But what’s missing on the Internet is a place to get the ‘Big Picture’ of T’ai Chi practice. Something that goes beyond a set of forms or traditions and asks the question “What does it mean to live the T’ai Chi Way?” Continue reading Welcome to Embrace T’ai Chi