DonnaFrelickSensei.com

Tai Chi & Chi Gung


RELAX!  Yes, But How?

Around the time I began to train seriously for my Isshinryu black belt, one word began to dominate any feedback sessions:  RELAX!  I had begun my martial arts training late in life, and like most adults, I had trouble "letting go". 

Everyone could tell me I had to do it, but no one could tell me how.  It is true, however, that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  I saw a sign advertising hsing-i classes at the YMCA where I was a member.  Instructor Joe Miller,  a student of Dr. Ed Hampton in Blacksburg, VA, is an advanced black belt in the internal Chinese arts of hsing-i, ba-gua and tai chi.  In these ancient martial arts, the focus is on cultivating strength and power through the circulation and projection of internal energy, or chi.  Relaxation is key to this process and, yes, relaxation can be taught!

In Joe's class there we
re no intermediate belts or ranks, no uniforms or titles, none of the trappings of martial arts study I was used to in my Isshinryu class.  What little history I learned, I picked up on my own.  And yet I learned volumes about the energy body vs. the physical body, the art of breathing, exercises to build energy through movement (nei gung) or to build energy through meditation (chi gung).

I began my study of the internal arts as most traditional students do with the five elements and twelve animals of hsing-i, combining techniques and footwork to learn some 60+ hsing-i forms, including two-person and weapons forms.  We also studied  linear and circular ba gua forms and both empty-hand and sword forms for tai chi.  In all, by the time I received my black belt from Joe and Dr. Hampton in 2004, I had learned over 80 forms!

Tai Chi on Top

My training had given me a broad base of knowledge, but I wasn't satisfied with the depth of my skills in one area--tai chi!  I enjoyed my practice of the tai chi forms I'd learned more than the hsing-i or ba gua forms and sought out information outside class to help me learn more.  I spent more time training with the 37-posture Yang-style short form that I had learned from Joe Miller and Ed Hampton. I incorporated new chi gung exercises into my training routine.  I added the 24-posture Wushu tai chi form to my repertoire during a visit to North Carolina, under the tutelage of Florida tai chi instructor  Ellen Teeter.  And finally I began to teach my own tai chi and chi gung classes at the YMCA Massad Branch in Fredericksburg, Virginia in 2008.

I currently teach four classes weekly at the Massad Y, including both beginner and intermediate/advanced level tai chi, as well as the Fire Up for the Weekend Chi Gung class for all levels.  Beginner classes start with basic skills such as breathing, moving from the center and empty-and-fill and move on to the postures and movements of the 37-Posture Yang-Style Short Form, as well as simple chi gung exercises. 

Intermediate/advanced students (who must know the 37-Posture form) move on to the 24-Posture form, the sword form and the 108-Posture Yang-Style Long Form, as well as more advanced chi gung and Dr. Ed Hampton's Energetic Movement Arts.

A new beginner tai chi class started up at the Caroline County YMCA in February, 2013.  The class follows the same structure as my classes at the Massad Branch YMCA.  We meet in the temporary storefront facility next to the Ladysmith Food Lion until the Caroline Y is open in the summer of this year.


Starting in October, 2013, I took over tai chi classes at the Ron Rosner  Spotsylvania YMCA , 5700 Smith Station Road, Fredericksburg, VA 22407.  This all-levels class meets twice a week, with a format similar to my beginner classes elsewhere.

Chi Gung in a Chair

In 2009 I was asked to teach a tai chi class for residents of Heartfields, an assisted-living center here in Fredericksburg.  I was replacing the previous tai chi instructor, so naturally I thought the residents would be of a certain fitness level.  But when I arrived I discovered almost all of my new students were in wheelchairs or using walkers.  Those who weren't were not at all steady on their feet.  I had to revise my teaching plans in a hurry!

Fortunately I had a copy of Cynthia Quarta's excellent book, Tai Chi in a Chair, at hand, as well as a series of adaptable chi gung exercises I had learned from Sifu Ellen Teeter, the 18-Movement Chi Gung.  Drawing from these two and other sources, I put together a twenty-five-minute program of easy exercises that the seniors could do sitting down.  No problems with balance or falls while exercising, and yet my students could get the full benefit of tai chi--strength (especially core strength, so important to balance), better circulation, lower blood pressure and less stress.

The Chi Gung in a Chair program incorporates the basic principles of building energy with movement and breathing that is the hallmark of nei gung, but is easy to do and to learn. Even Alzheimer's patients participate in the classes at Heartfields.  Anyone with mobility issues can benefit from the program.  For example, I've given demonstrations of the exercises at meetings of the Fredericksburg Multiple Sclerosis Support Group and the Parkinson's class at the Massad YMCA.

(The program is available on CD for play on your computer at cost for $5.00/copy plus $1.00 shipping & handling.  Order from: classicdonna@donnasfrelick.com)

Advanced Study:  The AIMAS 108-Posture Form

As students progress they eventually move on to the original form of the Yang style, the 108-posture long form.  As with most tai chi forms, there are as many versions of this form as there are teachers of tai chi.  Through much research and individual practice, I have developed a version of the form which is consistent with our American Internal Movement Arts Society (AIMAS) principles of movement and with both the 37-posture and 24-posture forms as we in AIMAS teach them.  This is now the officially accepted AIMAS version of the 108-posture form.


Advanced Study:  Energetic Movement Arts
 
Dr. Ed Hampton of Blacksburg developed this elegantly simple form of energetic exercise over many years of practice in the martial and healing arts.  EMA is founded on the ancient principles of chi gung and nei gung and the basic movements of the five elements of hsing i, but it is something new and unique.  The movements themselves are not complicated or elaborate; they are meant to be easy for anyone to learn.  But they yield impressive benefits in increased strength and energy, balance, flexibility and overall health.  Older tai chi students can practice at a slower pace to gain all the benefits of traditional tai chi or chi gung.  Performance athletes can practice at a faster pace to supercharge their workouts.

In our search for health and well-being we often say we just want to feel "normal" again.  But as Dr. Hampton says, why should we settle for a normal body when we can have a superior one?  That is the goal of EMA.

TAI CHI AND CHI GUNG

 CLASS TIMES AT THE MASSAD Y

Beginners
  Mondays @ 3:45 p.m.
 
Intermediates/Advanced
  Mondays@ 4:30 p.m.
  Fridays @ 4:15 p.m.

Fire Up for the Weekend Chi Gung (all levels)
  Fridays @ 3:45 p.m.

All classes are free of charge to Y members; $25/month for non-members.  Friday Chi Gung may also be taken as a drop-in class for the $7.00 non-member drop-in fee.

CLASS TIMES AT THE CAROLINE YMCA

  Thursdays 6:00-6:45 p.m.  Beginners only

Storefront facility located next to Food Lion in the Ladysmith shopping center, corner of Routes 1 and 639.  YMCA members pay $25/eight-week session; non-members pay $35/eight-week session. 

CLASS TIMES AT THE SPOTSY YMCA

  Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:00-5:00 p.m. All levels. 
  Free to YMCA members; non-members pay $25/month.

Professor Frelick?!

In August of 2013 I began teaching a course on tai chi in the Physical Education department of Germanna Community College, Fredericksburg Area Campus.  This course, which meets twice a week, provides a unique opportunity for me to teach a younger set of tai chi students (most of my Germanna students are below the age of 25!), to explore the history and philosophy of the art indepth and to really practice the self-defense applications of the postures.  I'm having fun with this new aspect of my tai chi practice, and I hope my students are, too!

NEWS FLASH

Saturday, April 25 is World Tai Chi Day! Tai chi practitioners around the world will be pausing to do tai chi and/or chi gung at 10:00 a.m. (wherever they are) in a universal "movement" for peace and brotherhood. Please join me and students from all my classes as we participate in World Tai Chi Day! We'll meet at the the Pavilion in the Village of Idlewild (just up from the clubhouse at 2280 Idlewild Blvd., Fredericksburg VA 22401) at 9:45 a.m., warm up and be ready to do forms at 10:00 a.m.  If you practice tai chi you are welcome to  "play" with us!
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