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TAI CHI BOATING WAND

HOME | DETAILED INSTRUCTION ON HOW TO PRACTICE TAI CHI BOATING WAND | VIDEO


The Boating Wand is a gentle therapeutic exercise and moving meditation. It ia also an evolution of "Exercise Tai Chi" and a branch of "Qigong". It features traditional Chinese boating movements such as rowing, turning rudders and punting.

The form consists of a continuous flow of linked movements performed holding a pole or stick about 48 inches in length. Postures are coordinated with deep diaphragmatic breathing, precise footwork, and frequent changes of weight. The Boating Wand takes us on a mental journey of flowing rivers, deep gorges and placid lakes. It is a mindful moving meditation which produces a calm peaceful mind, uplifted spirit and helps alleviate bodily ills.

Opening Up

Excessive sitting at desks, using computers, laptops, game consoles, TV remote controls, tablets and smart phones often result in postural problems like hunching. The Boating Wand is a perfect remedy for modern day lifestyle. Along with The Chinese Wand Exercises is shares a unique and effective method of holding and positioning the wand. Grasping the wand at each end for most of the postures not only provides a comprehensive range of movement but opens the chest and improves posture.

Breathing

The focus of the Boating Wand is diaphragmatic breathing coordinated with each movement. Breathing in this way in conjunction with holding the wand in a wide grip increases lung capacity.

Key points:

These qualities make the Boating Wand a perfect exercise for a wide range of people, young and old alike.

In 2011 I wrote a book about a Chinese exercise that uses a four-foot bamboo pole. One of the unique features was that by holding the wand in a wide grip we simulate a pyramid structure between wand and the body. The 17 exercises (10 standing and 7 floor) can be used as a stand-alone routine - a comprehensive daily health and fitness program for everyone. The routine can also be serve as a warm-up for Tai Chi classes or other activities and sports.

After I had been using the 17 Exercises as a warm up for my own Tai Chi classes I wondered whether I could perform Tai Chi while continuing to hold the wand in the same wide 'pyramid structure’ grip. The result is the Tai Chi Boating Wand. It can be a moving meditation practised by itself or, if practiced after the 17 Exercises it complements the static stretching and strengthening with continually moving, constantly flowing set of postures; creating spirals and circles with the wide arms which gently twist the spine, massage the internal organs and loosen the joints.

The 17 Exercises and the Tai Chi Boating Wand serve as a 'Yang’ and 'Yin’ and together they form a Golden Routine which I perform each day.

2. ORIGINS

Tai Chi Chuan

The Boating Wand is a therapeutic exercise influenced by 'Tai Chi’ and 'Qigong’ - two cultural treasures of China.

Tai Chi

Most people in the West are familiar with the term 'Tai Chi’, identifying it with slow graceful movements which have become synonymous with relaxation and stress relief. Tai Chi is an ancient philosophical term; 'Tai’ (meaning supreme) and 'Chi’ (meaning 'ultimate’). It is also the name of a martial art and exercise system

Tai Chi Chuan

This is a Chinese martial art which is hundreds of years old. The term translates as 'supreme ultimate fist’ (tai, chi, chuan). Martial training is comprehensive and involves learning weapons, partner-sparing routines and solo hand forms. Tai Chi Chuan is often shortened to 'Tai Chi’ - leaving out the 'chuan’. As a martial art, Tai Chi Chuan has been around for a few centuries. The full martial art of Tai Chi Chuan is still practiced by many people. The training includes many types of sparing and weapons forms. So how did the slow-moving forms originate? In Shanghai during the 1920s, several masters got together and removed explosive and vigorous movements fast, explosive punches, kicks and leaps from their practice forms to create slow, even forms to make them easier to learn and to stress the health aspects. The result was the distinctive slow and graceful forms of Tai Chi that are so well-known throughout the world today. Nowadays Tai Chi is widely practiced for health, meditation and well-being. This could be dubbed 'Exercise Tai Chi’ which is practiced by millions across the globe.

Language Change

The difficulty with translating Chinese into English is that there was until comparatively recently no standardised system to transcribe Chinese sounds and words into romanized words. In 1949 China brought in the 'pinyin’ system of romanization which more accurately represents Chinese sounds. With pinyin and simplified Chinese characters, every aspect of Chinese philosophy, history and art can be approached in a standardized way by both Chinese and non-Chinese alike. The term 'Tai Chi’ is based on the old romanised methods of translating Chinese words into English. This terminology is still popular in the West but the reader may increasingly encounter the pinyin equivalent of Tai Chi. In China, Tai Chi is known as 'Taiji-quan’. The suffix 'quan’ at the end of Chinese words means 'fist’ and indicates that a martial art is being referred to. Other examples from Chinese culture are Xingyi-quan (形意拳)'Form Intention Fist’; Zui-quan (醉拳) 'Drunk Fist’ and Yi-quan (意拳) 'Mind Boxing’. Tai Chi is actually Taiji-quan (太極拳) and means 'Supreme Ultimate Fist’.

Exercise Tai Chi

Exercise Tai Chi (as opposed to the martial training) is classed as a gentle exercise and is a wonderful addition to any health and fitness regimen. It can help rehabilitation from illness and injury, improve balance, motor skills, range of motion and dexterity. It is also wonderful means of moving meditation. The more mental interest and challenge within the forms the more value it is as a mindful exercise. It is also wonderful method of stress relief and relaxation.

Slowness

Professor Cheng man-ching, the master credited with making Tai Chi popular in the West during the 1960s, said that the movements should be done at a slow pace throughout, and that there are no fast movements. Slowness encourages distinctness of movement and encourages a calm mind. Slowness also enables the mind to function to its fullest extent in appreciating the actions of all parts of the body as one moves. Master Da Liu, a famous Tai Chi author, said that Tai Chi should be performed slowly to enhance focus, energy, breath control and patience. He also said that slow gentle movement helps to accelerate the circulation of blood and qi.

Modern Exercise Tai Chi

In recent decades there has been more focus on introducing Tai Chi for the elderly and those with a range of health issues preventing them from performing robust exercise. However, many Tai Chi instructors feel that although the original forms are fine for the general population they contain elements that are a barrier to a significant number of students.

One option is to separate strengthening movements like squats and one leg stances from the flowing aspect of the form (in the same way that the explosive movements were removed). This creates a continuously flowing gentle form that is gentle on the knees, hips and lower back. 'Flow forms’ as they may be called, still maintain the martial art movements and intent in the remaining postures.

The Tai Chi Boating Wand is part of this evolution.

Qigong

In recent years a more ancient Chinese health system called 'Qigong’ has been introduced to the West. 'Qigong’ is a modern pinyin name; the old Romanised English version (Chi Kung) is rarely used these days. Therefore, in this book I shall use Qigong, as it is the most familiar term the reader will encounter.

Qigong has a very ancient history in China. Records suggest that it is over five thousand years old. There are many types of qigong. For example, religious (Confucianism, Taoist and Buddhist) which emphasises mental, psychological improvement and spiritual growth. There were numerous names used for the many forms before the People’s Republic of China adopted the term qigong. Then after 1949 qigong was encouraged for maintaining health and curing diseases.

One of the first books about qigong translated into English was written in the late 1970s by Dr Hu Bing, chief physician at the Department of Qigong at the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing. When the book, titled 'A Brief Introduction to the Science of Breathing Exercises’, was published, the author had fifty years’ experience teaching and studying Qigong and was considered the world’s foremost authority on the subject.

Qigong’s aim is to train the mind and 'vital energy’ or 'qi’ ( pronounced ‘chee’) through focus on breathing. However, the term 'qi’ is more usually and mundanely translated as 'breath’ or 'air’. Dr Hu - as the title of his book indicates - stressed that breathing is the fundamental principle and essential component of qigong. Without focus on breathing there can be no Qigong.

Qigong has gained recognition in recent years as a wonderful yet simple and low-cost self-improvement system. In recent years there has been less emphasis on breathing and more focus on intricate patterns of movement and philosophical concepts - such as acting in accordance with the body’s energy pathways (meridians). While traditional Chinese medicine concepts are fascinating it is essential for the student to first develop a sound and therapeutic breathing method and mental attitude before progressing - if at all - to more fanciful concepts and intricate techniques.

However, many types of exercises that claim to be 'Qigong’ on social media do not even mention breathing and consist of random stretches and loosening movements, often performed in a jerky manor or using speed and momentum. At the other extreme some 'Qigong’ forms involve minimal movement and are limited waving the arms in small repetitive patterns.

Most classical and well-designed Qigong routines offer a middle path of movements coordinated with breathing, focused mindfulness and adequate beneficial physical therapeutic action (i.e balance, coordination, stretching and range of movement). A good example is the 'Shibashi’ or 'Eighteen Forms’ designed in 1979 by Professor Lin Housheng. This form, with its fluid movements coordinated with breathing is the basis of my own routine which I have taught in over-50 classes for some years.

Shibashi also serves as a basis of the Boating Wand.

How do we coordinate breathing with movement in Qigong (and Exercise Tai Chi)? All movements, even circular ones, have a natural beginning and end position where, for example, hands and arms begin the move and where they finish it (or must return to the beginning position, if circular). When we coordinate breathing with movement we usually change breaths at these two extremities – which could be called 'yin’ and 'yang’ points. I refer to a movement from the beginning of a posture to its end as a 'journey’. There are two 'journeys’ corresponding to a breathing cycle.

Here’s a practical example of coordinated breathing from a posture called Raising the Cup from the famous Shibashi Qigong routine. Stand with feet at shoulder width, knees slightly bent and weight equally on both feet and arms resting either side of the body. Inhale as you turn your left palm upwards and move it in an arc up diagonally to the right, across your body so that it ends up at approximately head height. This is the end of the first journey. Now you must return. As you turn the palm down, exhale as you retrace the left hand’s path back down to the left side of the body and its original position – the return journey is over. Now as you inhale again you repeat the same movement with your right hand (lifting the palm up to the left side, ending at head height (the outward journey). Then exhale as you turn the right palm down and return to the right side (return journey).

This is coordinated breathing. Changes in breath should occur at natural and significant points in the posture. You can’t move too fast or too slowly without increasing or decreasing your breathing, so having a regular breathing cycle controls your speed.

A breathing cycle encompasses an outward and return journey.

With uncoordinated movement a breathing cycle can encompass a half, one and a half or two journeys. In other words, changes in breath are arbitrary and random and there is no focus on specific points of the form. In some cases this results in movements being faster than breathing, and with no breath to control movements can be faster than our breathing; they we risk using momentum or performing movements in a jerky fast manner. If movements are slower than our breathing we lose energy flow, mental focus and balance.

How fast should our breathing be? Natural breathing produces a natural movement; neither too fast nor too slow. all

Tai Chi and Qigong Implements What’s so special about the Tai Chi Boating Wand? Why not practice Tai Chi or Qigong? Well, when you practice the Boating Form you are! Its benefits - it is a gentle series of not too taxing movements - offer the same benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong routines yet it provides some additional benefit for the upper body in particular from holding the wand.

I want to present the Boating Wand Form in the same spirit of Cheng man-ching’s book of 1967, which introduced Tai Chi to the west as a holistic comprehensive gentle exercise. All that was needed was to practice this form and the practitioner would receive the pliability of an infant, patience of a sage. So why not just practice Cheng man-ching’s Tai Chi form? For many years I did so. However, I came to realise that the elements of Cheng man-ching’s methods are not ideal for many people. The form can be certainly be adapted for people with many health problems, and evolution and adaptation are essential in the development of any art. In fact, the Tai Chi Boating form can be seen as an adapted Tai Chi form, taking as its base a hybrid between the 24 Step form and Cheng man-ching’s form. In addition, it stresses qigong’s attention to coordinated breathing.

Sticks and Poles as Exercise Aids

CWP story plus amendment with evidence of my linguine scrolls Since the publication of my book there has been a keen interest in using sticks and pose to enhance exercise all over the world.

In China apart from the element backed qigong stick other Tai Chi like forms have emerged. One, based on the familiar standardised 24 step Tai Chi routine, basically adds a stick which the practitioner wields with strikes and other martial movements. This is also popular in Japan. Here is the problem of adding implements to standard taiji forms the temptation to base movements on martial techniques is irresistible for some. What’s wrong with martial techniques? Nothing if your intent is martial. If your intent is to devise movements conducive to improving health and fitness then intelligent design dictates a focus on whatever techniques enable that most efficiently. To have health and fitness as byproducts of techniques devised for martial intent is not likely to be ideal. Here I would add that there has been a huge publicity campaign during the last few decades to describe Tai Chi as the perfect exercise. While also pointing out that the form is based on Marshall I.e. fighting movements. Perfection is not achieved coincidentally as a byproduct of techniques aimed at another intent.

If a weapon form is devised using for exercise at least both arms and hands should have equal focus on techniques such as grasping the implement.in other words left and right hands should be exercised in the same way approximately 50% of the form each. Traditional weapons forms don’t have this balance. Students learn the right side only. A minority of them may eventually learn the left side never practice this regularly. The right side has more size than the left. For a fighter this is fine but for health and fitness has obvious drawbacks for this reason I have developed a sword form which the right and left hands use grasp the sword for about 2% of the time. However exercise aiming at improving benefiting range of movement opening the chest breathing coordination and balance is clear that weapons forms were not the way to go.

The four-foot Stick

Fortunately all the philosophical and energy-related aspects of the Tai Chi will exercises also exist in the larger longer stick with the additional benefit that it promotes opening postures. I used to practice the taiji ruler regularly when I was an office worker in the civil service many years ago.

Why use a wand?

Physical posture tasking stretching aid Psychological mental focus on one

The boating wand as:-

-Moving meditation

Quiet calm mind absorbed in the flow of movement. The movements bring balance, elegance, poise, control, grace leading to improved posture, bearing presence and assuredness.

Why use an Impliment?

'No equipment needed’ is a seductive selling point for many exercise programs. Equipment can be cumbersome and expensive, frequently needs storage space and is not always portable.

However, there are very few exercises that do not need any equipment whatsoever. All exercises have shortcomings. For example, swimmers need a body of water, runners require correct running shoes and space.

Tai Chi and Qigong are usually practised without any equipment at all (they are 'open-handed’ exercises) but can also be practised with equipment.

The advantages of using implements are:

Tai Chi Weapons

Tai Chi weapons are approached as extensions of the arms. 'Qi’ or internal energy, is said to flow from the hands into the weapon.

But from the standpoint of health and fitness, weapons have one big disadvantage. All the traditional forms are right-handed forms. They are either, like swords and fans, wielded in one hand throughout the form (predominantly the right), or if wielded in both hands - like staffs and spears - the left and right hands have different focus of strength and energy. They do not have equal work. After the right side has been mastered the student is encouraged to study the left side so that they go through all the form with the weapon in their opposite hand. This is inefficient, as this process could take months or years, so many students never get to this stage. It is also impractical to study right and left side forms regularly, as they are too time-consuming.

However, I have created a left-right hand sword form that solves this problem; both hands take turns at wielding the sword 50% during the short form. But this is an exception to the rule and not within the scope of this book.

A true health and fitness implement should work both hands / arms equally and not take too long to perform. Qigong has such implements. There are short and long sticks.

Qigong Implements

The Tai Chi Ruler

The tai chi ruler is a form of qigong that uses a wooden dowel or rod about an inch thick and a foot long (2.5 by 30 cm). It is held between the palms the ends resting against the acupuncture point called the pericardium at the centre of the palms. The idea is to stimulate this point thus allowing the sheet or energy transfer the ruler from one palm to the other. The name. Although called Tai Chi this relates to the philosophy not Tai Chi Chuan the martial art. The Tai Chi ruler has always been a qigong exercise not a martial one.

The emphasis of the Tai Chi ruler exercises is strongly internal that is stresses the energy pathways within the body. It is a strongly philosophical- centric practice. The movements are aligned with energy centres within the body cultivating qi and balancing qi throughout the body. As a moving meditation it is tolerable. However it is the external aspects which are unsatisfactory as a therapeutic exercise.

As a teenager my first job was a cook in a large four-star hotel. I worked from line till 2.30 then back from 5.30 through 10 in the evening. During my few hours in the afternoon I spent at the piano playing and composing my favourite pastime. I developed a sore hot pain in the centre of my upper back (at the top of the thoratic vertebrae) from standing and sitting with my arms in front of me either working in the kitchen or sitting at the piano; so all day my arms were held up in front of my body no range of movement outside that basic position. This problem disappeared after I changed my lifestyle I never had any problem. Then about 20 years later when I worked in an office sitting on the desk and the computer, one of my daily Tai Chi practices was a Tai Chi ruler, and I practised most days. I began to experience the same problem as I had done as a teenager. Now I was spending all day with my arms in the same close positions again. When

I stopped ruler practice and replace them with exercises with more range of movement and the arms in opening the chest opening arms are wider angles the problem again went. So now we see the problem with the taiji ruler idea. When 1st devised by the Chinese we did not have the problems of the modern world but now we have office duties sitting at desks using laptops using mobile phones using smart phones sitting on coaches with remote controls watching television everything we do is put us in hunched position that is the disease of the modern world. Someone who is a manual labouring job with no doubt find the techniques of the Chinese ruler quite relaxing for those of us who do not have a physically robust lifestyle the ruler exercises are simply not comprehensive enough their physical aspect. There are some strange claims with the Tai Chi ruler, such as”Different movements stimulate energy in different organs in the body.”This is impossible claimed you evaluate with sophisticated modern medical instruments how would we detect energy at all within the organs let alone evaluate and measure any increase or decrease.

Drawbacks of the ruler

There is no obvious practical advantage in using a smaller stick. Every parctical benefit is present when using the longer wand. Many devote ease to the tai chi ruler because of its philosophy philosophical concepts and moving meditation method. However the boating form offers similar philosophical internal focus with a range of movement or comprehensive.

  1. It is not as asthetically pleasing as the longer wand.
  2. It feels rather constraining - like wearing handcuffs. The arms never 'open up'
  3. Maintaining the constant inward pressure necessary to keep the Ruler in place with the palms can be a bit of a strain after a while.
  4. The performer feels 'closed' in a hunched posture; the ruler is not for the modern world.

Wands

Chinese Wand Exercises

CWE will discovered in the mid-20th century and brought to the West by American sailor Bruce Johnson. In my book, I take the reader through 17 incredible exercises which I efficient gentle provide more robust and physical workout than traditional Tai Chi or qigong. While these exercises are outside the scope of this book the bamboo wand is identical to that used with the CWE, as, I have previously mentioned, I created the Tai Chi boating form is a moving vehicle for the principles of the CWE.

Of all the exercises that use a similar sized stick or wand, the CWE stands out its comprehensive benefit’s and efficiency. Most unique and impressive aspect is that of holding the wand at both ends for majority of the postures. It is this concept of opening up the chest and being a posture enhancing support that makes this exercise invaluable for therapeutic uses.

Other Wand Exercises

Chinese Health Qigong Version

A short while after I wrote my book the Chinese health qigong Association brought out their own version of stick qigong. They had found documented evidence of the use of such a implement in ancient times which vindicated both Bruce Johnson and my own research and writings into such an art. There are those within the Chinese health arts and Tai Chi community who expressed doubt that there was a Chinese health and fitness art which used a stick of about 4 foot in length. But while the documentary evidence for such an art was a pleasant surprise, the documentation did not describe the exact methods used in ancient times. As far as Bruce Johnson was concerned art he learned from an elderly Chinese practitioner in 1945 showed great logic and intelligence, as if it had been refined over many generations. The Chinese qigong Federation however decided to create a brand new set of techniques for a stick of approximately the same length. The techniques are quite different from the CWE, the most striking is the narrow shoulder-width grip used from most of the postures. A stick of this length offers great opportunity to open the chest and a wonderful range of movement, countering the hunched narrow posture which has become habitual in the modern world. The Jang stick is disappointing in this respect.

Tai Chi Yang Cheng Jan is a moving form of exercise which borrows quite a lot of techniques from traditional Tai Chi.

South East Asian

Both Vietnam and Thailand have stick exercises which are quite popular. The Thai system uses a very long and quite thick pole and consists of some really extreme and unsafe bouncing bending. There is also no apparent coordination with breathing or mindfulness. It appears to be a purely physical exercise.

Vietnamese system comes from the work of XXX wrote a book in 1982 picturing some wand exercises. The pole is about 6 feet long and many of the exercises quite idiosyncratic but several are identical to those which appeared in Bruce Johnson is Chinese wand exercises years earlier.

Tai Chi Qigong Boating Wand

For some years the 17 Chinese Wand Exercises served as a warm-up, stretching, strengthening and loosening exercises for the flow form I was practicing. One day I wondered what it would be like to keep holding the wand during the flow form. It became clear that while some Tai Chi postures could remain with minimal adaption (i.e 'Cloud Hands’) the martial basis has to be abandoned to improve the quality of the exercise. I could have wielded the wand like a weapon but there were already many Tai Chi weapons forms, all of which relied on the traditional body dynamics I was trying to improve. On the other hand I did not want create an 'abstract’ exercise like most Qigong forms. I wanted to base it on a real activity to supply a meaningful framework for the movements. The only activity that made sense was rowing and boating movements. Graceful, simple, natural world, peaceful surroundings, water. Non-martial in spirit, yet requiring similar mental attention and awareness to traditional Tai Chi. The boat person must remain attentive and alert to the currents, rocks, other boats and fish.

Serves as a support (a 'fulcrum’) A light stick about the size o a broom handle is easy to store, does not take up much space and can be carried outside the home and put into cars easily.

3. FUNDAMENTALS & PRINCIPLES

Slowness

Why should we move slowly? Imagine standing at the bottom of a deep swimming pool (while being able to breathe easily). As you raise your arms in front of your body you feel the resistance of the water slowing your arms down. Your arms should be relaxed with no tension whatsoever, so that you move with the skeletal system and all the connecting tissue and muscles all working together - rather than just moving the large muscles.

Imagine heavy resistance but relax the body.

Vigorous exercises performed with speed and explosiveness or jerky fast movements can cause sprains and strains. Exercise does not need to be vigorous to be effective. Vigorous exercises are also not suitable for everyone; running, gym workouts and aerobics are not suitable as daily maintenance exercise. Even for those who can perform vigorous exercise there is the problem of over use injuries. If you exercise too often and too hard your body won’t have a chance to recover properly. This is over training syndrome; workouts that are too intense and too frequent are unsuitable for daily practice. We should think of our daily exercise routine as a matter of essential maintenance - like cleaning one’s teeth or showering.

This forces you to move slowly and smoothly. You use not your big muscles but engage the fascia and connective tissues. Moving this way, the skin and tissues below expands like a balloon. This movement improves the circulation, hydrates the bone tissues and circulates bodily fluids - preventing dehydration, bone-tissue breakdown and brittle bones.

The joints, ligaments and vertebrae are opened, hydrated and lubricated because of the gentle stretching - which also makes the veins, arteries, nerve tissue and connective tissue more eclectic.

Quality, not Quantity

It is how you move - the quality of movement - not the precise physical form (the orientation) that is important. Many westerners - particularly 'hobbyists’ are enamoured with the very precise and intricate 'exotic’ patterns they find in Tai Chi and Qigong forms; and it is easy to see how someone might come to believe that it is these moving patterns themselves that contain the 'magic’ of healing. But any movement, no matter how beneficial, that is preformed in a fast, jerky, unfocused manor, will not bestow many benefits.

This great struggle to make headway through thick water/air is mental only - through imagery’ do NOT let this struggle become physical (by tensing the muscles).

The resistance is imaginary; do not allow it to become physical.

Choosing a Wand

In my book 'Jiangan – The Chinese Health wand’, I introduce the 4-foot bamboo pole used by Bruce Johnson, who brought these exercises from China. Bamboo is perfect for wand exercises because it is hard and unyielding yet very light. This is an important combination if we are using wands for stretching, strengthening and floor exercises. A heavy wand would make the exercises too much like weight lifting and a wand that is too yielding would not work.

The Tai Chi Boating wand uses the same bamboo pole as the wand exercises. However, as it does not have any static stretching, strengthening or floor exercises it is sometimes possible to use a heaver wand. For example, I have previously used a 50” oak staff (a Japanese 'Jo’).

The most common object you can use for the form is an ordinary broom handle. The length should be no shorter than 47”. 48” is ideal and 50” suits many taller people.

Hand 'Home-Town' Positions

Throughout the Tai Chi Boating Form form you essentially hold the wand lightly between thumb and fingers, so that the palms and fingers are always in a position to come into contact with the surface of the wand in varying ways.

In some positions it is natural for the fingers to curl lightly around the circumference of the wand and even grasp it - but it is always a light grasp, ready to change into an open hand (fingers outstretched) with wand held between thumb and fingers (or open palm).

As a general rule, in postures that require an arm to be outstretched the fingers should be open, and in postures that require the hands to come close to the body or the wand lowered, the fingers are curled around the wand.

Apart from this general guide, how the wand is held is a matter for individual preference. There is no set way to grasp the wand, as long as there is no tension and the grasp is not too tight.

The hands grasp the wand in only two positions.

Home

The first position is with each hand placed at the respective tips of the wand. This, I call the HOME position.

Town

The second position is when one hand slides up the wand to a point about half way along the shaft. This I call the 'TOWN’ position.

Both hands are most frequently at their HOME positions together as we go through the form. Thils ensures a wide grip, which opens the chest and shoulders. But in some of the postures one hand slides to TOWN while the other hand stays HOME. Whichever hand slides up to to TOWN it always returns HOME before the other hand moves from its HOME. In other words, while both hands are most often holding the wand at opposite tips (the HOME position) they are never both at the TOWN position (the middle of the wand) at the same time!

A photo of hands clasping a wand at the ends - with a green tick next to it.

A photo of a wand being clasped by the right hand at the right tip and the left hand clasping the centre - with a green tick next to it.

A photo of a wand being clasped by the left hand at the left tip and the right hand clasping the centre - with a green tick next to it.

A photo of a wand being clasped by both hands at the centre - with a red cross next to it.

Body 'Home-Town’ Positions

Both arms are never outstretched at the same time. When one arm extends away from the body the other arm is usually touching or very close to the body.

A photo of me holding a wand in various positions from the form with one arm outstretched and the other close to the body - with a green tick next to them.

A photo of me holding the wand at the ends, both arms away from the body - with a red cross next to it.

Double-Single Weight

In traditional Tai Chi forms you never place 50% of your weight on both feet (being double weighted) because it is a form of martial art training. In fighting you need to keep mobile and being double weighted makes this impossible.

Mosts Qigong routines have weight distributed 50% on both feet because they have no martial imperative for mobility. Such is the case with the Tai Chi Baoting Form.

For example, in the bow posture (where one foot is placed about one and a half foot lengths in front of the other at shoulder-width), traditional Tai Chi places about 70% or more weight on the front foot. In the Tai Chi Boating Form we never put more than 50% of our weight on the front leg in this position because this would overload the front knee and risk straining and possible injury.

The Boating Wand follows the method of combined weight distribution. When we step or turn all weight goes to one leg but when not stepping or turning there is no reason to have most of the weight on one leg so there is 50% on both. There is an ebb and flow from 100% (weight on one leg as we step or turn) to 50% (weight on both legs equally when the legs do not move). This combined weight distribution system takes place within a flowing continually moving form where parts of the body are in constant movement and there are no static postures.

When more than 50% weight is placed on a single leg, that leg should be under the body, only slightly bent, and only for the duration of supporting the body to aid transfer of weight from one foot to the other.

Yin-Yang Waist Split

In traditional Tai Chi, the waist is always moving. But with the Tai Chi Boating Form there is sometimes a split in the movement of the lower body and upper body.

This reflects the nature of boating movements such as rowing and punting for example. You do not generally need to move the lower half of the body. The feet and legs form a steady foundation for the upper body movements.

This split can be defined in terms of the Chinese principles of 'yin’ and 'yang.’ The lower body is 'yin’ when it is static and the upper body is 'yang’ as it is moving. This lower body / upper body split causes beneficial resistance (stretching, massaging internal organs) in the waist and hips region in within the trunk.

In some movements, such as the 'Fair Lady Embarks on a Boat’, the body moves together as one unit but for a brief section when the upper body continues moving while the lower body is still. Some postures have a subtle combination of split yin yang movements and movements where all the body moves as one unit.

Biomechanical Alignment

The general advice for Tai Chi applies

In addition, the boating form has one added rule. Avoid placing full weight on a leg if the knee is not directly under the body.

Vertebral Alignments

When spinal vertebrae slip out of correct position this causes back pain. The Tai Chi Boating Wand’s unique gentle twisting and stretching movements invigorate the ligaments and help maintain the correct space between vertebrae. These movements even stretch the spine slightly, increasing circulation and energy.

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© 2018 Michael Davies