Thanksgiving in August?

I want to say THANK YOU! If it weren’t for all of our dedicated students, AFC716 would not be what it is. Over the past few weeks we have had some really awesome things happen. We posted a really cool facebook commercial of some of our students and their testimonials as well as Daniel and I practicing section one on top of Chestnut Ridge. That led us to Mike Randall coming to interview us for The Now Buffalo. That was an incredible experience. As a result, we have had some new friends come to try out Tai Chi. People are really starting to hear us when we share the benefits of Tai Chi. 

I will never forget the day Daniel and I decided to teach together. I had a small class on Saturday mornings, he had a small class on Thursday evenings. We were standing in the parking lot after our class on a Wednesday evening talking about life and how we really wanted to get out of the daily grind of “the day job”. We both share a passion for teaching and our love of Tai Chi is limitless. He asked if I would like to teach with him. I said absolutely.  We decided to launch a 12 week session over the summer. We came up with a flyer and we walked around the village and talked to anyone who would listen  to us about the benefits of Tai Chi. We put up flyers anywhere and everywhere they would let us. We talked endlessly about how wonderful it would be if this “thing” took off and we could teach all day every day. 

That first session was a success. We did it again in the fall. In fact we did two. We met a lot of new awesome people and really honed our skills of teaching and sharing what we love. Some friends stuck it out and some moved on. We learned from, and appreciate every one that tried it out.  We decided after the second session what we wanted to make it a real class. That way beginners could start any time and we could really take our time and teach our students at their pace instead of packing everything into 12 weeks. We decided to let things build slowly and really enjoy every second. 

So here we are three summers later with 5 classes and lots of friends to share Tai Chi with. It is still kind of unbelievable. All the walking and talking led us here to you. We are so honored to be sharing Tai Chi with you. You have all become our family. I am humbled at your dedication. I look forward to each and every class. Blessed doesn’t even begin to cover it. So thank you from the bottom of my butt because it’s bigger than my heart. 

~Kate

Relentless: Part two – Kate’s ramblings

In the last post I wrote about how being relentless in my dedication to be better and do better was a good thing. I relentlessly show up both for myself and for my classes who rely on me. These are great things. There is, however, a part of me that doesn’t want to. 

That nagging voice is relentless. That negative self-talk is relentless. Not feeling as though I am good enough is relentless. The procrastination part of my ADD is relentless. Some days it’s like fighting an uphill battle all day long. 

Over time, I have managed to work through the negative self- talk that tells me I am not good enough at this fitness stuff and I should just hang it up and let someone more fit teach these classes. What helps get me through it, is people talking about how refreshing it is to have an instructor that isn’t “perfect”. I am regular, just like them. I am good with that. My quest for fitness is for my own self. If I can help others along the way, then the more the merrier.

I have a harder time trying to quiet that naggy voice that tells me that I am too silly, that I need to be more serious and more focused because I am not holding up my end of the bargain. I am extremely fortunate that I have surrounded myself with people who understand my silliness and don’t try to “fix” me. I still think I’m too much. I am not everyone’s cup of tea, but I am the right people’s double shot of whisky. 

The procrastination is the hardest thing to manage. Even as I write this I am working on three other things. I write a little, and then go back to my spread sheet… then I come back all the while singing along to classic rock. I have honestly put off writing this for weeks. I knew what I wanted to write about. I thought about it a lot, but I just couldn’t sit down and write it. It has been like this my whole life. There is always tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. This is by far the most relentless thing in my life. It is a huge bummer and something I struggle to manage. One of my tools is Tai Chi. Tai Chi helps calm me; it calm’s my body and my mind. It helps me stay focused and get things done. The relentless thing about ADD procrastination is that I will always choose to do Tai Chi or another form of exercise over what-ever task I am putting off.  So it’s ultimately a wonderful tool in my box of tricks, but sometimes too much something good is something bad. 

There are two sides to every coin.  I can say that for as much as these things bother me and create havoc, my silly side, my happy go lucky self, is even more relentless. So, I suppose, it evens the score.

~Kate

Relentless: Part one

What does it mean to be relentless? 

This word has been used a lot lately during my workouts. I see this as the intensity, focus and drive needed to smash my goals. Be Relentless!

Good, Better, Best, never let it rest until your good is better than your best. Be Relentless.

This term keeps circling around and around in my head… it’s kind of relentless. I looked up the definition. There were many similar ones, but the most straight forward is- Relentless: showing or promising No abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace. Knowing this, I have been reflecting on what it actually means in my life.  

Be Relentless – Show up even when you don’t want to. Long after the fun wares off; I show up. 

This is especially true in my alternative fitness class: Core De Force. I love it! I love the physical challenge. I love the music, and let’s be honest here, I LOVE hitting things & feeling powerful. There are days, however, that I just don’t want to. I am tired. My body hurts. I am just shot! I show up.

I love my ladies, and they need me to be awesome. I am relentless when it comes to being there for them. Sometimes I need to be silly and make them laugh. Sometimes it’s to struggle along-side them as we chase our fitness goals together. Those are the days that I draw strength from them.  

I am a firm believer that exercise has to be fun, or you won’t do it. We change things up regularly to keep our bodies moving, but we laugh. We have fun, and we build each other up, physically, mentally and emotionally. 

Most classes I am there ready to hit it, and hit it hard! There are other days that I confess, that I had a crap day and I need a bit of grace. They smile and we get through it together. We show up. For ourselves, and also for each other. 

Ultimately, the drive to be relentless comes from within. You determine if it’s worth showing up, and putting in the work. There are days that will be a struggle, but show up anyway. I’ll be there. 

~Kate

The Art of Tai Chi

While Tai Chi is based on certain rules, such as, form, balance and continual motion. It becomes inherently one’s own. Two people may be doing the same move, but they each make it their own. One person may have a bad shoulder, and applies our principle of “if it hurts don’t do it”. They, therefore, make a Tai Chi “move” look slightly different than a person who doesn’t have that same injury… They don’t raise their arm as high as the other.

The injured person will still practice daily, sometimes more than the person who is not injured. They will apply the rules of Tai Chi to their motions. They will be in balance. Their body will be coordinated well. They will be moving slowly and steadily, never stopping. Their form may be slightly different though.

This is what we call making it your own. Doing the health set 1000 times, it will never be forgotten. Doing the health set 1000 times, helps you make it individually yours. Each practitioner will follow the rules. Based on their individual bodies, and how they move, they express it slightly differently. This then becomes creative part of Tai Chi. The art of Tai Chi.

Shifu Daniel Cimino

Filing Up Cups

If you have ever taken a Tai Chi class with us, you have most likely heard us talk about balance.

What is balance? I am so glad you asked! A quick google search of the word gives a few different definitions. Each one is important and meaningful.

During a class you will hear us talk about your physical balance. Maintaining an even distribution of weight to enable you to remain upright while learning and practicing Tai Chi. We show you how to shift your weight between your legs to help you maintain your posture while keeping you as steady as possible.

We like to talk about filling up your cups. The cups are a lot like your legs. … some like to imagine mugs like the picture above and others like to imagine red solo cups. As we shift our weight from one leg to the other, it’s like pouring water from one cup to the other. It’s always easier to move a cup with little to nothing in it. Pour all the water into one cup and move the empty cup and begin to fill the empty cup from the full one. We shift our weight into our right leg before we turn our left foot and begin to shift the weight back into the left leg thereby ensuring we do our best to never turn a joint with weight on it. We cannot break infallible rule number 3… or is it 4? I can never remember.

Balance can also mean doing whatever we can to remain upright in life. Take it from a person who falls down a lot because I am always “busy”. It’s a struggle sometimes to stop and be quiet. There is always one more thing to be done, or one more thing to say. I have a hard time being okay with where I am, like Daniel say’s. So Balance for me is coming to class. It helps me to focus on you for the hour you are with us. By helping you learn to calm and balance yourself physically and mentally, I find my own inner balance.

You can’t fill from an empty cup as they say. If you ask us, we will make tea in class, and we can all enjoy filled cups.

Whether you come to class regularly or you are still on the fence about trying it out, I hope to see you soon. We can figure out this crazy upright life thing together. It’s always better when we are together.

~Kate (and Daniel because I made him proof read this)

Harmony Between Yin & Yang

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Balancing yin and yang has several different aspects to it. This is based on how these two very different sides of the coin interact. 

Yin could be in harmony with yang, where they both agree. The yang aspect could initiate the idea of wanting to learn another language. The yin aspect would nurture that idea until it grows strong enough for action to be taken (which is yang). In harmony they work together.

Yang initiates; yin receives that and responds to it. This receiving and responding gives support to the yang energy to keep initiating. 

Think about a man approaching a woman. If the man approached her, and she didn’t give some sign that she wanted him to continue talking to her. He would then feel less inclined to continue the conversation. He would end the conversation, and he would not feel the need to start it again. There would be no harmony between yin and yang here.

Yang can start things all day long. Unless it works in harmony with the yin, then it will not be successful. Unless yin is willing to support the yang, the yang will fall. Yin needs to catch the yang’s initiation. Yang needs to see that and continue, or notice that it’s not happening and stop itself.

Harmony is an awareness of what your partner is doing (here yin and yang are partners in the same event). With this awareness the two play different parts in the same song. The two move together in the same direction. One drives and is in the lead; the other supports and provides sustenance to keep going.

If we notice and are aware of what energy is being presented to us at any time, we can receive that and respond accordingly (yin). If there is nothing being offered and we’re free to create something, then we can initiate (yang). It starts with knowing what is going on though. 

Pay attention, be aware, and you will start to see the differences apparent in everything. You will then start to see the balance, or imbalance of various situations. Over time we can start to help correct the imbalances when they become apparent to us. This is the goal of any true martial artist. To help provide balance in the world.

Shifu Daniel Cimino

Rule #4

We have many “Rules” in our Tai Chi class. Rule #1, for instance, is: “If it hurts, don’t do it”… We know that some of us have had injuries and cannot perform each move the same as the instructors. This is perfectly ok. Tai Chi is about doing the most natural thing for your body to do. If you’re capable of performing a move to it’s extent, then do so. However, if you cannot, then do the best you can for what your body is capable of… that is your Tai Chi in its natural state.

Rule #4: Stay in your center, and in your space. The physical understanding of this, is that your neck should stay over your shoulders, your shoulder, over your hips, and your hips are balanced over your feet. Further, the heels of your feet never come off the ground. Especially, your back heel. That is your ground, your root which is responsible for you standing tall, and not giving way.

Like the roots stop the wind from blowing over a tree, this foot is responsible for us to not give way when we do not want to give way. 

Another way of looking at this rule is if someone enters your space, and tries pushing you off your center, then you get rid of them. In training with another person in the martial arts, if they start pushing you around, getting you off balance, then you start loosing. Staying in charge of yourself means staying in your center. Staying in control of your balance, and your posture.

Looking at this from a different perspective, we need to maintain a calm and clear mind. Imagine, you are sitting in your car stopped at a stop light, listening to one of your favorite songs, when someone comes up to you unexpectedly yelling, and being aggressive. All sorts of questions start rolling through your head at this point, like why are they acting this way… what is happening… and where did this person come from? All of a sudden you are off your center, out of your calm state of mind, where you are balanced and in control of what you are doing. 

We have lost Rule #4 at this point, we didn’t stay in our center. Most likely, in this state of mind you cannot think clearly what needs to be done, and may make a mistake in handling this or any other similar situation. We need to get our center back to find our way out of that situation, or any like it. 

Our center is more that just an aligned body, or a clam mind. It’s both and more. It will incorporate our body, mind and our spirit. Knowing our center and acting from it will also provide inspiration towards our goals. Whether will power, or determination to achieve a milestone in our life, or the creativity to see a solution to a problem. 

Our center is a holistic point, incorporating our human potential. Tai Chi, and the martial arts can teach us to find this, to develop it, and to use it when needed.

Shifu Daniel Cimino