Below you can find a description of what each of my classes actually involves. Because of the uniqueness of what I do, it is often very difficult to relate it to something familiar for those who are trying to get an idea of what it’s about. Classes are also separated into two categories, those that contain solely material from the Da Xuan tradition, and those that contain material from my other studies.
If you are unsure about what a class is about or if you want to attend, get in touch and I can elaborate further or arrange a trial class for you to attend with no obligations or fees.
DA XUAN CLASSES
PHYSICAL TRAINING AND MARTIAL ARTS
In this class we train the physical body using a series of basic exercises and various martial arts drills, both solo and with partners (called wai gong – external training).
After time, the basic foundation of qualities is created and a practitioner becomes able to express these qualities in a more personalised manner in whichever of the school’s arts (Xing Yi, Tai Chi, Bagua, Ziranmen Quan) is more appealing or suitable.
Long term practitioners start to take on a style that is unique to them and so can each look very different to the outside viewer, but the underlying qualities are always present.
The qualities we establish in the beginning are:
– Grounding: This quite simply means being difficult to push over and more capable of holding your ground against incoming force. Developing your grounding aids in building self-confidence and capacity to confront difficulties in life.
– Structure: We learn to align the body so that no unnecessary tension is used – in motion, expressions of strength or against external forces such as gravity. It’s essentially learning how to do physical activities without fighting your own strength.
– Strength: This one is pretty straight forward; being strong is always good! However we develop our strength in a particular way so as not to go against the other qualities.
– Coordination: Knowing where your body and joints are in space, being able to clearly feel which direction they are moving in and being able to move each part in harmony with the centre are all capacities which are trained to develop the coordination as a whole.
– Relaxation: All of the above qualities contribute to an increasingly more deeply relaxed experience of the body in general and also within expressions of power and strength. This is quite a magical feeling that is rarely seen in other methods of physical training, and obviously has huge implications in dealing with our hyper stressed modern world.
Qigong (also called nei gong – internal training) is a practice that combines basic physical motions with breathing, work on sensations and exchange. As such it acts as a bridge between the physical training and the pure training of the breath. The Da Xuan Family Qigong is a specific approach that will develop the internal qualities in a clear and methodical way with no need for esoteric fluff and misdirection. We have no time for fantasy and so there are plenty of tests to make sure that the experience is manifested in reality. The internal qualities are:
– Feeling: We develop sensitivity to internal sensation of both the physical structures (our physical limits/skin, muscles, connective tissue, bones and eventually organs) and circulation. In the tradition we say tension blocks feeling, so we learn to relax deeply to feel more and more intricate details of the internal landscape.
– Uniting: By tractioning and grabbing in a particular way, we begin to repair broken links to unite the body. A united body moves in complete harmony with greatly increased circulation and superior structural strength. This makes you both stronger and more resistant to injuries as any impacts are efficiently spread across the system rather than getting stuck in weak links.
– Grounding: This is the felt counterpart of the physical grounding – learning to make the body feel either extremely heavy or light as a feather. As this aspect of grounding grows, more possibility for deeper work becomes available and ignites a general feeling of being very settled. It also serves to reinforce the physical grounding!
Proficiency in these foundational capacities allows one to explore deeper aspects of the Da Xuan Family Qigong: absorb, project, disappear, test, release and finally returning to natural expression.
The Da Xuan tradition has a unique approach to developing the full capacities of the human being. We consider the physical body, the breath and the mind to be of equal importance and therefore each aspect is trained separately and thoroughly in isolation, only recombining them once each part has been perfected to a degree.
The work on the breath is therefore a separate avenue of practice to the work on the mind or meditation, and also separate to the work on the physical body. It is a path that can eventually lead to more complex practices of energetics and internal alchemy, but before we get into this we have to address the very basic foundations of the breath. Due to modern life, most people’s breathing is heavily constricted, silently impacting almost every other part of our lives. Breathing is the barometer of our emotions. It helps us regulate our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system responses. It allows us to relax and have all of our essential internal functions working well. A shallow, constricted breath interferes with all of this.
There is a very clear connection between breathing and emotions, particularly stress. Nothing brings a greater relaxation than breathing, and nothing brings more energy than breathing. It is at the centre of everything we do in our practice and in our lives.
We often want to start out with quite advanced exercises, when the truth is we need to first work on the critical basics: removing inhibition from the diaphragm and other related tissues, increasing the capacity of the lungs, calming the breathing actions, finding rhythm in breathing and much more. These are the practices known as Primordial Breathing.
Jibengong (基本功) is a Chinese term that literally means ‘foundation training’. Every style of Chinese Martial Arts contains its own set of Jibengong exercises that train the general and specific qualities needed for the style. The exercises are usually simple motions or postures that are practiced for long periods of time without pause – sometimes up to 20 minutes straight for more advanced practitioners! In this class we will draw on many different jibengong exercises from many different styles. Our practice will progressively work through every corner of the body, heating and working clogged, closed, tight and jammed areas until the tension melts away and we are left with an open, aligned, powerful and deeply relaxed body. Do not be fooled by the simple appearance of the exercises, they will challenge both beginners and athletes alike!
This is an outdoor class designed to build or restore our very primal and fundamental desire to move in the environment. We will practice basic movements such as jumping, climbing, balancing, landing, vaulting, swinging and more.
Movements like these are often trained only from a competitive or athletic perspective aimed at increasing performance. However, they can also be used as a tool for personal development to people of any level of ability. Through our movements and the way we practice, we can shine a light on habits of posture, gesture and unintended motion that are surface reflections of deeper inhibitions. In this model of practice we prefer awareness to performance – seeing the habit. The movements are kept simple so we can begin to see (or feel!) and refine the myriad of subtle elements. We only increase in difficulty once we have become properly aware of and addressed the habits of the level we are at.
Of course, as well as all of the super serious self development things we are addressing, it is also simply the case that moving about, climbing trees, jumping onto rocks and playing with some friends is incredibly fun and touches something deeply playful and innocent inside of us. This something that many adults of today’s culture have smothered – but the ember is still aglow and these classes are a perfect way to find this once more!