Monthly Archives: January 2014

Happy Spring Festival! 春节快乐!

Happy new year (again)!  In China, the solar new year (January 1st) seems significantly less important than the lunar new year, known in Chinese as Spring Festival (春节 - Chūnjié).  Spring Festival begins two new moons after the winter solstice (and sometimes three), so the date is different every year.  This year, it’s on January 31st.  2014 is the year of the horse.

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For those of you who haven’t had a chance to experience Chinese New Year, I wanted to share some of my observations.

In China, Spring Festival is undoubtedly the most important holiday of the year, and is a time for families to come together.  During the festivities, most people in China return to their hometown, causing a phenomenon called Chūnyùn (春运).  Chūn means Spring and Yùn literally means to transport, so Chūnyùn is a word that describes the travel season during the lunar new year.  As a foreigner, travel in China always seems hectic to me.  But if you ever try to travel in China during Spring Festival, you will come to understand the true meaning of chaos.

In Beijing, all this travel means a relatively empty capital,  as most Beijing residents are not Beijing natives.  But an empty capital does not necessarily mean a quiet capital.  For those of us who stick around, fireworks vendors spring up on every corner, as the entire country embraces their inner pyromaniac.  The most explosive day is Chūshiwǔ (初十五 – the 15th day of the Chinese New Year), after which the ban on fireworks is reinstated.  Having fireworks during any other time of the year is illegal in central Beijing, so everything must go boom on this eventful day.

My favorite part about Spring Festival is the food.  And the king of Spring Festival food is the dumpling.  If you’re lucky enough to spend the New Year with Chinese friends and family, you’ll spend a good amount of time hand making the dumplings.  For me, this usually means a couple hours of frustration and humiliation as my Chinese friends make fun of my ability (or lack there of) to make dumplings.  I greatly prefer eating the dumplings to making them.

For those of you who do celebrate the lunar new year, what are your favorite parts?  Share your experiences in the comments section!

Learning Tai Chi Online

Sign up now to learn Taijiquan (Tai Chi) online!

Sign up now to learn Tai Chi online!

At Taiji Zen, we want it to be as convenient as possible for you to learn  Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan), which is why we developed the Online Academy.  The Online Academy is a new, systematic Tai Chi training program for seeking personal mastery over mind and body.

tai chiWhat’s new?  Well, in order to make Tai Chi more accessible, we’ve broken it down into fundamental movements as well as core principles.  We also teach the applications of the techniques right away, so that you understand how they should feel and can better visualize during practice.  Finally once you’ve learned a few movements, you learn how to string them together into a flowing form.

We believe that this systematic learning method is best suited for the way our brains process information and learn new skills. The instructional videos are all broken down into small chunks (usually less than five minutes), so you can learn and practice Tai Chi whenever you want.  They’re also accessible anywhere, anytime and can even be downloaded to take on the go.  Pretty convenient, right?

Of course, there are some drawbacks to learning anything online.  It’s very difficult to replace a qualified live teacher or hands-on classes.  But for those of you who don’t have that option available, or already have an instructor and want to supplement your training, we made this for you.   And we’ve tried to build in mechanisms to help mitigate any potential challenges.

At the end of every level of the Online Academy, there is an option to take a test and get certified.  You send a video of your practice, and a certified Taiji Zen instructor will provide a detailed critique and suggestions for improvement.  If you demonstrate sufficient mastery of the knowledge, you’ll officially pass that level and receive a certificate issued by Jet Li himself.

Jet famously said that every man’s biggest enemy is himself.  But that doesn’t mean that you can practice Tai Chi moves on yourself.  Practicing by yourself is necessary, but solo practice must be balanced with partner work if you want a deeper understanding of the art.  Tai Chi Chuan is at its core a martial art; and just like tennis or tango, sometimes it takes two!

The bad news is that it’s up to you to find a partner.  The good news is that we’ve designed the Online Academy to clearly guide exactly what you’ll be doing with your partner, whether it’s games or applications.  Furthermore, the community of Taiji Zen practitioners is growing every day.  Join our Facebook group to find like-minded individuals in your city, or get a friend to train with you!

You can also use the Facebook group to ask questions, which can be answered by other group members, Taiji Zen staff, or even our Master Instructors. We at Taiji Zen are also students of the art of Tai Chi Chuan, and want to find ways to help people learn together. So join the Taiji Zen community today!

In conclusion, here’s a summary of TaijiZen’s online resources:

  • Online Academy – This is where you’ll find the majority of our Tai Chi curriculum
  • Health and Happiness Blog – Read our blog to learn more ways to apply your Tai Chi practice in everyday life, whether it’s in the office or in the dojo
  • Online Academy Facebook Group – This is a forum for discussing the Online Academy with fellow practitioners.  We also post exclusive tips and tricks in here from the Taiji Zen team, including our Master Instructors
  • Taiji Zen Facebook – Feeling overloaded with resources?  Our Facebook page is something like a digest of everything Taiji Zen.  ”Like” us to receive updates in your Facebook news feed.

My Interpretation of Mindfulness

Hi all!  Minnie here.  This is my first post on the Taiji Zen blog, hope you enjoy!

“The past is gone, the future is an illusion created by our minds. All we have is the present…”

This phrase draws me right to a scene in the movie “Limitless”, when Bradley Cooper begins feeling the effects of his first NZT pill while having an argument with his landlord’s sassy Asian wife. During these brief seconds of being in “the zone”, his mind is scanning through all the details of that current moment: HEARING her angry voice yelling at him, FEELING the spittle fly out of her mouth, SENSING the pale glow of the hallway light bulb. Then, using the most commonly overused sense, he is able to SEE a small detail in her bag, the legal textbook which turned an unpleasant verbal beating into an exciting, fiery encounter.

This spectacular scene represents a powerful moment, when everything is clear, when information is easily filtered, digested, and processed into sensible decisions and actions. Those moments experienced in real life are just as cool as how they are portrayed by a gorgeous actor in a brilliant movie.

Obviously, I’m not trying to advocate for us all to take some unknown, movie-invented drug (especially one that eventually messes up the nervous system). But the interesting thing is: that state of mindfulness and focus is something that everyone seeks. More importantly, it’s something we should all be able to achieve…with the right practice, of course.

Sometimes those moments of clarity come quite naturally: for me, that tends to happen early in the morning when I first sit down at my office desk, or sometimes when I’m leisurely gliding down the ice rink.

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The real question is: how do we create the optimal conditions for those moments to arise? Mindfulness and meditation is something many doctors and martial artists talk about, and I’m sure there are many ways to improve these skills. For me, adding a little bit of “Daily Zen” into my routine is a quick and easy way to release the common stresses of everyday life, and better unlock the potential of my own mind and body.

After you master those NZT moments, time to start making yourself look more awesome like Bradley Cooper or his hot movie girlfriend. ;-)