“Say who you are, really say it in your life and in your work. Tell someone out there who is lost, someone not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years.
Your writing will be a record of your time. It can’t help but be that. But more importantly, if you’re honest about who you are, you’ll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognize him or herself in you and that will give them hope.”
Charlie Kaufman, screenwriter, “Screenwriters’ Lecture: Speech for BAFTA, 30 September 2011.
Japanese candy making technique (amezaiku) where you get to eat small sculptured pieces of art. To make this delectable treat, candy artists take the melted mizuame and quickly shapes it using their hands and some simple tools, such as scissors and tweezers.
The Chinese are famous for various forms of holistic health practices, such as acupuncture, massage, and herbalism, all of which are used widely throughout the world as an alternative means of improving quality of life and alleviating sickness. My personal experience with Chinese therapy came in the form of practicing Tai Chi, or Tai Chi Chuan or Quan (太极拳); a meditative sport based on martial arts techniques that were developed in China in the 16th Century A.D.
The name Tai Chi in its self is self-explanatory. Tai Chi (太极) means balance, and Quan (拳) meaning fist denotes martial arts discipline or style. Qi or Chi means the life energy that runs through all living things, and it is believed in Chinese medicine that the imbalance in Qi force is what brings about illness and disease. Tai Chi has been reported to have numerous benefits such as improved muscular strength, flexibility, fitness, enhance immunity, relieve pain and improve quality of life through reduced stress and anxiety.
Before starting my journey with Tai Chi, I read a lot about it online, and I found that indeed it has many documented health benefits published in well – respected scientific journals. An article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine conducted a study which analyzed the results of 33 experiments involving 1584 participants. The most important findings of this article were that Tai Chi showed favorable effects on walking, knee extension strength and quality of life in most or all of the four chronic conditions under study, which were cancer, osteoarthritis, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Another article published in JAMA Internal Medicine demonstrated the effectiveness of Tai Chi on health outcomes in older patients with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory issues. The article reported that Tai Chi had a positive impact on patients who had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery as well as in patients with heart failure, hypertension, acute myocardial infarction, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
For me personally, Tai Chi helped me immensely in overcoming a severe condition of vertigo (dizziness), that had left me on bed rest for almost three months. At the beginning of my illness, when I was still undiagnosed and so was not on any proper medication, the sport offered a gentle form of movement that did not overly tax my sensitive system.
Tai Chi allowed me to gradually regain my sense of balance, at a time when even yoga was too much for me (since yoga involved a lot of bending, which is impossible with severe vertigo). Moreover, Tai Chi kept me at a constant state of calmness and relaxation, which was a much-needed relief for someone who suffers from Meniere’s Disease. As someone who also finds it extremely difficult to actually sit still and meditate, Tai Chi was a perfect alternative, as it involved a balanced combination of movement and stillness that effectively calms nerves and quietens the senses.
“The philosophy of Tai Chi is that, if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certainly to be injured. Students are taught not to directly fight an incoming force, but to meet it in softness while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, meeting yang with yin.Lao Tzŭ provided the archetype for this in the Tao Te Ching when he wrote, “The soft and the pliable will defeat the hard and strong.”
The story of Tai Chi started with a Taoist philosopher named Zhang Sanfeng while mediating in the mountains on the philosophy behind yin and yang. ZhangSanfeng was inspired by a fight between a snake and a bird to create one of the earliest forms of defensive martial arts. However, it was not until the 16th Century that Tai Chi began taking its modern outlook. Tai Chi’s earliest form is known as the Chen tradition (陳氏). This form is credited to a mixture between Chen Boxing, which was characterized by intense bursts of movements, and the additions which Chen Wangting brought to the discipline, introducing elements of yin/yang theory of movement and chi philosophy.
Sanfeng was inspired by a fight between a snake and a bird to create one of the earliest forms of defensive martial arts. However, it was not until the 16th Century that Tai Chi began taking its modern outlook. Tai Chi’s earliest form is known as the Chen tradition (陳氏). This form is credited to a mixture between Chen Boxing, which was characterized by intense bursts of movements, and the additions which Chen Wangting brought to the discipline, introducing elements of yin/yang theory of movement and chi philosophy.
At that time, knowledge of Tai Chi was limited to members of the Chen family, until the 19th Century when an outsider named Yang Luchan was allowed to learn Tai Chi. He later on devised his own form of the sport called Yang Style, which is characterized by slower, and more rounded looking movement. The Yang style is what eventually took off in the whole world, and that is the style most commonly practiced today.
The Yang style (楊氏) fundamentally changed Tai Chi into a meditative sport that is no longer a hard-core martial art. As it exists today, Tai Chi has become a gentle practice that everyone can pursue regardless of their physical attributes. The most commonly practiced form is the 24 movement routine, dubbed as the “short form.” The “long form” consists of 48 movements, which build upon the short form. There are three other significant forms in Tai Chi, the Wu Hao style (武氏), the Wu style (吳氏), and the Sun style (孫氏).
Traditional weapons used in some forms of Tai Chi
Tai Chi has made a significant and fundamental effect in my health, as it helped me to gradually “reteach” my self how to walk, after months of violent vertigo episodes that had previously left me completely motionless. I hope for everyone out there who suffers from any rare or chronic disease to give alternative medicine a chance. Who knows, maybe it will surprise you!
P.S. Resources for learners: YouTube has a ton of free video’s for anyone curious about Tai Chi, but my personal favorite training guide was this paid course.
Corniest of all corn in the world:
Q: Why is this an Asian squirrel?
A: Because it eats rice!
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Pardon me for the silly riddle. I captured this pic when I first moved back to Singapore and was working from a park then, as I badly need connection to nature more than WiFi. That was after years of living in villages, and I was suffocating in the concrete jungle even though my parents had filled the entire 18th floor with greens to make me more at home.
So. Here I was sitting in a real jungle, getting all distracted taking pics of spiders (small, innocent ones, unlike those of Australia’s. heh heh), ants – the red juicy-assed ones, feathery looking animals that move on their own (and were definitely not feathers), and this squirrel hopped into the…
Most of us go through life feeling that we are missing out on something. Yet that “something” is often an undefinable, beyond our grasp feeling that there could be more to our days than our normal routines. We wake up, go to our 9-5 jobs, come home, pay the bills and rinse and repeat. We might have a few friends to hang out with, we could perhaps have the occasional fun activity to look forward to, but overall, we would not feel quenched.
This undefinable “something” would usually rear its shy head into our subconscious minds in the form of admiration for someone else’s life, be it real or fictional. It could happen when we see that amazing dancer on T.V who just baffled their audience with their floor routine. Or it happen when we see a scene in a movie where the heroine is a kick-ass, completely toned ninja whose offensive moves makes her seem all strong and powerful. We might watch an interview with a famous book novelist and wounder quietly to ourselves “just how lucky is that person!”
Our mind however, is hardwired for survival, where conformity and society have programmed us early on to believe that our 9-5 jobs, and our ability to save every last penny we possibly can, is the only sure method of paying our bills. We are programed to believe that the safety of a stable job is the only method we would not be considered losers in today’s hectic world.
In the middle of this hassle, we learn to forget our passions, to the point where we no longer recognize that soft envious voice in our heads as one that is prompting us to go forward and explore the fullness of life as we would really want to live it. We forget that we are made up of huge potential that we are wasting away by our incessant marathon towards the 104k pensions, where we hope will provide us with the funds to finally go on that dream cruise. Overall, we simply remain unquenched, always hungry for “more”.
Perhaps, we can just listen to that soft envious voice in our heads, to recognize it for what it really is, a calling to do more with our lives. And perhaps, we can then take concrete steps towards living the life WE want to live, by investing in making ourselves the best, damn versions we could ever hope to be, in our own eyes. Who knows, maybe after sometime we can find a way to turn our passion to profit.