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Learning to Walk

I am sure that you have heard me mention my nephew Tank, and his adventures in learning to walk. I have learned a lot watching him. Not that long ago, I have compared his journey to ours as we learn Tai Chi.  As adults it’s often hard to not be super great at something. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, or even embarrassing when we don’t “get it” right away.

While watching Tank, he would often take a step, panic, and quick sit down.  Sometimes he would even take a few steps and plop down just to scoot the rest of the way. Either way, no one ever once said he was doing it wrong. No one told him he would never be able to do it. No one made him feel bad. We all cheered him on. When he fell, we picked him back up and held his hand until he got the hang of it. We all told him what a good job he was doing and how strong he was. He would look up at us, smile his gooey smile, and try again. It might have taken him a little while to figure the whole walking thing out, but now he is a pro! 

Learning Tai Chi is a new “thing” for many of us. Most have never moved their body like in second circle, or Single Whip. I have joked with many of you; I have said that I will be starting a new thing using single whip to choose items at the grocery store. I am sure it will catch on soon. Looking at this from the right perspective; a lot of these moves are very new experiences. Especially trying to coordinate them and remember the next one. So we need to give ourselves some slack. As long as we keep trying, we will get it! Always keep in mind, RULE #2: don’t worry about it. The moves will come. The sequence will come. The balance and coordination will come. The only wrong way to do Tai Chi is to give up! 

The Japanese proverb “Nana korobi, ya oki” means “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” It means choosing to never give up hope, and to always strive for more! 

Shamelessly including a picture of this handsome guy…

~ Kate

The Next Level

One of our student’s brought this up in class recently. I haven’t thought about this topic in a while, but I’ve found that it’s very true how this works. It was the concept of bringing her Tai Chi practice to the next level.

We think we’re doing something well, and we usually are, but we really don’t know what it feels like to do something “right” until we do it “right”. Here we’re doing Tai Chi “right” when we are following its principles. Like adhering to the concept of the form, being mindful of our balance, upper & lower body coordination, having a slow steady speed and continuously moving.

Once we do “feel it”, then we have reached that next level when practicing. This will be like doing the form, and connecting with the balance aspect deeply. Where we know the set so well we can focus our attention on noticing how we are off balance. Whether we’re leaning forward with our shoulders, or more accurately our hips have pulled back behind our shoulders. We connect to what we’re really doing, and we can adjust ourselves to do it “right”.

We are always reaching for doing Tai Chi perfectly, but we always find something else to improve upon. This may seem frustrating on the surface (to never be done), but it is the right way to practice. Knowing that we can do the set well, and being happy about that, but also knowing that we can do it better. We however, don’t let that deter our positive outlook on our practice. We learn to enjoy the process of learning. That tends to be a greater joy than to doing it really good once. It will continue to offer happiness as we continue to train.

To look at this from another angle, it’s a false belief to think that at some point we will be done. I don’t know about anyone else, but I do not come close to thinking that. I’d rather to never be done, but to continue to improve throughout my life. Especially if I know the concept in my mind, but have not put it into practice fully. That means I don’t practice enough. But If we continue to practice throughout our lives, we will continue to reach new levels where our practice deepens and offers more to us. There’s no rush here; all in due time, and no matter what, it will take time.

This coupled with the joy of learning keeps bringing more and more peace and ease in my life. I hope that we all practice enough to reach that next level at some point in our lives, and to then strive after the next one. 

This is the will to be an expert. We all know it in some area of our lives. Where we’ve gotten better and better at something in our lives, to a point where others come to us for help on that topic. That’s reaching the next level at work, or gardening, or mathematics, or anything we’ve excelled at in life. 

There are many levels to pass through. If you’re patient with yourself and practice, you’ll pass through them and see Tai Chi from a different perspectives. Over time You’ll see many subtle areas, and some not so subtle, where it provides great benefit to our lives.

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)