I’ve heard that Master Jou Tsung Hwa taught a qigong that involved making yourself as big as possible – expanding the arms, spine, legs, vision, hearing, breath, consciousness, etc…and then contracting as small as possible. It’s quite a fun practice.

Sensei Charles Cross would do a meditation at the beginning of Aikido classes with a similar flavor – bringing your breath/awareness to the very center of yourself, smaller and smaller. And then extending as far as possible, encompassing everything.

heather sent me a link yesterday to The Scale of the Universe 2. This is a nifty little website that lets you zoom from Quantum Foam (theoretically the foundation of the fabric of the universe, at 0.00000000001 yoctometers in size…really really small) out to the observable universe (93 billion light years) in relation to the estimated size of the universe (at least 160 billion light years).

In between, there’s everything from the Tarantula Nebula and the Pillars of Creation to Pluto, Rhode Island, Central Park, saguaro cactus, human, hummingbird, grain of sand, mist droplet, helium atom…and many things in between.

I have no idea what motivated Cary and Michael Huang to create this website. Who knows, maybe they were students of Master Jou or Sensei Cross. Give the site a look – it’s a fun ride from feeling quite giant to microscopic.



Yesterday we had the wonderful opportunity to do some tai chi work with a handful of women from the Flat Track Furies. Some sticking, some kao jin*, some hip & waist work, some joint range practice…and a lot of laughter. They’re a great group of serious athletes – and an absolute blast to work with.

The Furies are one of the Emerald City Roller Girls teams – next bout: next Saturday (April 21) at the Lane County Fairgrounds, vs the Andromedolls.

Check out the schedule here, and if you haven’t seen them in action…plan on a trip to the fairgrounds. You’ll be glad you did.


* kao jin ( 靠 勁 ) is usually translated various ways in the tai chi world. It’s usually seen as shouldering energy, but I like Dr Yang Jwing-Ming’s translation of kao as bump.

My Chinese dictionary program defines kao as “lean on; rely on; keep close to; come up to; near”. In the book T’ai Chi Qi & Jin, Stuart Olson writes that “The character (靠) originally meant to rebuke the wrongdoings of another, but why the meaning changed is unknown.”

All definitions aside…the best way to understand kao jin is to feel it. And after feeling it a few times, the phrase “rebuke the wrongdoings” seems like a reasonable description of the energy.

San Francisco

I got to spend last week wandering around San Francisco while heather was attending a non-profit technology conference. One of the highlights was meeting up with long time tai chi player Valerie Barntsen for some push hands in St. Mary’s park. And a wonderful tour through Chinatown, ending with a fountain sculpted with highlights of San Fran’s Chinese community.

Included in the sculpture/fountain is the family of Kuo Lien-Ying (right). Valerie and Roger used to study with Kuo in Portsmouth Square – and I got to hear some great stories of early morning classes in the park.

In addition to many fine students and practitioners of tai chi, Kuo also left us a wonderful book on the theory and practice of the art. The T’ai Chi Boxing Chronicle (translated by Guttmann) is one of the few books in English that dives into the specifics of tai chi theory and energetics. Out of print, but find a copy if you can.

Thanks to Valerie, Roger…and Professor Kuo.

Monkeys are in…

After a long wait, our White Monkey Holding Peach order is finally here. Thanks to Ma’am at for shepherding it through US customs.

If you’re not familiar with this particular balm, my Thai medicine teacher (Nephyr) introduced me to it a few years ago. And it has become a client favorite ever since. Great for aches, pains, bug bites, congested lungs…and it smells wonderful.

Perfect timing, too. Because we’ll be doing a longer version of the Chinese Medicine Chest workshop on Saturday, April 21. If you missed the first one, or want to dig in a bit deeper, register before April 15 (space is limited, and this is a quite popular workshop). You can email me to register.

The workshop (run by Mary Fraser Smith, LAc) will familiarize you with many readily available balms and liniments. What they are, when to use them, and how to use them most effectively.

Cold & Flu Cupping

My introduction to cupping was pretty dramatic. I had a horrible case of the flu, and called to cancel an acupuncture appintment. Rachel (Rachel Rubin, Emerald Acupuncture Center) had me come in anyway – and quickly decided that cupping was in order. I had no idea what she was talking about, but felt so crappy I didn’t really care.

Rachel pulled out some plastic cups and went to work attaching a handful of cups one at a time – then removing them, moving them over a bit, removing them, moving them over a bit…systematically working the whole back. By the time she was finished with the treatment, a few things were obvious:

  1. My back was covered with dark marks from the cupping.
  2. My back felt amazingly good, my fever was down, and I was beginning to feel like a human being again.
  3. A ridiculously fast, simple, and easy treatment can make a world of difference.
  4. This would be a handy thing to know how to do…since I’d probably get the flu again at some point. Continue reading

8 part breath cycle

Beginning Breathwork Mini-Workshop
Wednesday November 16, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Space is limited –
email Jim to register

Breathing is one of the few automatic actions in the body that we can consciously engage in. One of the wonderful things about breathwork is that you can practice anytime, anyplace, and in any physical condition. Working with the breath is something that can be cultivated over an entire lifetime, ceaselessly deepening as your body – and your experience of your body – changes over time. Continue reading

Jobs and the environment

A few years ago I was sitting at Theo’s (the funky coffee shop close to our old dojo) catching up on some email. At the table behind me there was a pretty vigorous Mac/PC debate going on. All of the usual arguments were made (price, proprietary software, blah blah blah). Both sides were well represented, and I briefly thought about buying a PC for my next computer.

And then the conversation turned to the working environment – the PC side of the argument was that the user could tweak everything about the machine, both the hardware and the software. Total freedom. You just can’t do that with the Mac.

The Mac side of the argument was that the elegant interface inspired creativity. Not about tweaks to the machine, but about what you were doing with the machine. The working environment, and its effect on the user. (And, I wonder if the conversation that took place in a funky Eugene coffeehouse would have happened at Starbucks or MacDonalds…)

In the years since the episode at Theo’s, hauling my laptop around has been replaced by an iPod Touch. A very different environment to be sure. While I wouldn’t want to write a novel or edit video on the thing, it’s a wonderful device for access to the web, quick emails, my schedule. It’s a digital multi-tool. It’s got a camera, shoots video, works as a small flashlight, a level. It holds Gray’s Anatomy (the anatomy text, not the TV show), Sam’s PDF articles, some mighty-fine push hands reference videos, client notes. It reminds me when it’s garbage day.

Oh, and it plays music, too.

I’m bringing this up for a couple of reasons. With all of the posts about Steve Jobs and how Apple products have changed peoples’ lives, I’m wondering:

a) How do you utilize current technology in your study/training?

b) What are you reading this on? (my technology consultant is curious, since she needs to know how many folks will be reading this on mobile devices)

Stoic Daoism

a newer translation of the book in question

During a routine check of the martial arts section at Smith Family Bookstore, all of the usual titles were there – and an oddly almost empty shelf. In the middle of the shelf was a single, old, hardbound book – completely out of place.

The book as an object sucked me right in…with beautifully set type, old book smell, the way it fits in your hands. But the content made me buy it. Turns out it was a copy of Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius.

If I’m not, in fact, the last person to know about this work…check it out. Meditations reads like a Roman version of the Daodejing.