Authentic Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) and Qigong (Chi Kung)

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Classic Ideas in Modern Formats

Dale Napier, Writer

Sanctuary of Dao

Taoist Energy Arts
September 30, 2015

Tai Chi
Tao Energy Arts

Author and Taoist teacher Bruce Frantzis has been teaching qigong, taijiquan and baguazhang for years, but most of his workshops are aimed at ongoing students with prior experience. How does one get started with Frantzis' Taoist Energy Arts? He and a top teacher, Paul Cavel, discuss Cavel's 10-week program The Five Keys to Taoist Energy Arts. The five keys are:
  1. Taoist Whole-Body Breathing
  2. Standing Qigong and Outer Dissolving
  3. Dragon and Tiger Exercise 1
  4. Energy Gate Qigong's Cloud Hands
  5. Tai Chi Circling Hands
Cavel has a podcast discussing these five points in detail. You can listen or download it here, at no charge.

Summer, Fall Workshops and Retreats
September 30, 2015
Tai Chi Eli Montague has announced his Tai Chi Foundations UK workshop for April 2016 -- Check it out here.

Tai Chi Newsletter
May 31, 2015
The latest Elemental Tai Chi Newsletter is available. Main topics are the perils of practice in the summer heat, continuity, stillness, and contradictions. Also updates to the Camps & Retreats list.
Read the newsletter here.
Better yet, subscribe to it here.

Essential #10 - Stillness
May 13, 2015
In the closing essay of my What is Tai Chi? series, with "ten essentials", I discuss stillness. Most people have trouble sitting still, but a much higher attainment is desirable: The ability to maintain internal stillness, internal calm, while in motion. The beginner and intermediate student must shut out external vibration, such as music and other controllable noise, in order to concentrate on the stilling of internal movement. Even internal cultivation such as Daoist orbiting must be set aside to acquire deep stillness.
Read about stillness - and try sitting perfectly still while you do. Is it so hard?

Essential #9 - Continuity
April 13, 2015
What is it about Tai Chi practice that draws us in - that makes us feel so good that many proponents adopt the language of joy in describing their practice of this, the ultimate martial art? The keys are relaxation, balance, slow speed - and smooth, continuous movement. These components allow our chi to move freely in the "internal massage" that so many of us are hooked on. Continuity is, at long last, one of those tai chi essentials that we all grasp without struggle; it is one of those commented upon the most. Although this principle seems straightforward, you must consider the nuances in order to get full benefit.
Read on to find out more.

Camps, Retreats & Conferences
You see them every spring - announcements of summer camps, retreats and conferences of all types. What about for Tai Chi? You bet, they're out there, but kind of hidden in plain sight. Within their own circles they publicize well, but others may have trouble hearing about it at first. So how do you find them? I can help with that.
Click here to see the list.
Check it regular for updates.

Essential #8 - Unify the Inner and Outer
March 25, 2015
To unify the internal and external we must first understand the internal - which requires a lot of dedicated effort. Once you have it, your tai chi has the chance to approach mastery. Read on to find out more.

Essential #7 - Unify the Upper and Lower
March 13, 2015
We speak of the lower body as our solid, unmoving foundation and our upper body as our willow-like, supple neutralizing feature. How, then, do these work together as one? Read on to find out.

Heal Yourself
March 10, 2015
Do you have an chronic illness or condition that your medical doctor has not been much help with? Don't waste your time cursing the doctor; there are limits to what drugs or surgery can accomplish. Instead, investigate whether you can heal yourself, or at least help yourself. The herniated disks in my spine often cause me pain and limited mobility. Except for aspirin no painkilling drugs help, and in any event the side effects of narcotics are grossly undesirable. I've discovered that most of the time, a heaping helping of tai chi goes a long way toward easing the problem. Although I like yoga and have practiced it since my teen years, when I have pinched nerves it is usually impossible.

My own condition is not the only one that is self-treatable. Is yours?
Read here about healing yourself.

Tai Chi Destination
Tai Chi Destination: Wellspring

Essential #6 - Mind Over Matter
February 22, 2015
"Mind Over Matter" does not mean telekinesis, it means using your mind to guide your body's actions. You may think you do that already but unless you are an advanced practitioner, chances are you've barely gotten started. How can you train for it? Read more.
Brick Hand

Essential #5 - Drop the Shoulders
February 4, 2015
Every beginner hears about it: Sink your shoulders. Drop your elbows. Unless you can do this your entire upper body is tense, preventing free movement or circulation of chi. You cannot punch with any power. Your center is high and your are easy to unbalance. Read more.

Essential #4 - Full and Empty
January 20, 2015
"Full and Empty", along with freeing the waist, are concepts that help make Tai Chi the vital, dynamic exercise we know it to be - concepts that require the whole body to realize. We start out learning about full and empty when our teacher tells us to avoid equal weighting on each foot. Later we see that one arm/hand will be full while the other is empty. Even later we see that when we split at the waist, the lower body is full, giving strength, while the upper body is empty, giving fluidity and the freedom to neutralize our opponent's advances. Read more.

Feedback - Tai Chi Essentials 1-3
January 13, 2015
Last month I began a series of columns starting with the general question, does Tai Chi have standards? From there I proceeded to write individual columns about each of Yang Cheng-fu's Tai Chi "essentials". Three columns into it and I've already accumulated enough feedback to pause and recap what has been said. To put these comments in context, I publicize each column heavily on two Twitter feeds, @DaleNapierLV and @TaiChiYourLife. The tweets are deliberately provocative in the hope of drawing readers and comments. And it works! I generally agree with the comments I received, but would like to add some footnotes to emphasize the basic points of each column. Read more.

Tai Chi Essential #3: Relax the Waist
January 3, 2015
A key secret to the power of Shotokan karate is the use of the hip in completing a punch, often a reverse punch. Most karateka and taekwondo students are taught this hip movement, but many beginners find it unconvincing because their teachers cannot explain why. If you know about the use of the hip in karate, without an understanding of why you use it, you will find it tough to separate from the idea of using your waist, not your hip, in tai chi. If you have no karate background you will not have this problem; instead other problems will emerge.

Put your hip into the karate punch because the angular momentum arising from the twist will provide last-minute acceleration to the punch, increasing the force (force equals mass times acceleration). In tai chi our punching power is derived by totally different methods, so our use of the waist has different reasons as well.
Read more.

Tai Chi Essential #2: Sink the Chest
December 26, 2014
The second essential, regarding the posture of the chest and back, carries another "anti boot camp" element: As a young student I had difficulty absorbing this lesson except through a separate art my teacher introduced, tongbeiquan. Tongbei emphasizes the use of the upper back for power. Although that art has other elements as well, this aspect is a common influence on tai chi practitioners because of Cheng-fu's second requirement. Digging deeper, we discover that this principle has energetic as well as physical goals.
Click here to find out more about sinking the chest and raising the back.

Tai Chi Essential #1: Crown Up
December 18, 2014
Yang Cheng-fu's first "main point" of tai chi describes the posture of the head and neck. The ramifications are physical but also energetic. If you miss this principle you will never get far in your tai chi practice.

Tai chi scholar Douglas Wile in his book Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Touchstones, translates Cheng-fu's description as follows:
Click here to find out tai chi's first requirement.

The Essence of Tai Chi
December 8, 2014
What is tai chi chuan? We must ask this question with tact because it is a sensitive matter. A lot of exercise passes as tai chi that probably is not, often taught by people who have no idea what tai chi is. At the same time many advanced practitioners hold opposing views about what tai chi is or is not, and what it should or should not be. Chen style practitioners famously advocate tai chi's martial methods, although they are not alone. Others claim exactly the opposite, that tai chi was never, or at least should not be, a martial art. This is easy to understand among those who have never been taught martial methods, which is increasingly common. Others conduct classes in sitting tai chi, or wheelchair tai chi. Who is right and who is wrong? More importantly, is there even a right or wrong? Does anything go?
Click here to find out whether tai chi is a "to each his own" art.

Classes - Calendar
Tai Chi January 14, 2015
All classes are cancelled for the time being.

For new students one of the toughest problems is learning to create a pattern of practice at home. Many people will add their Tai Chi practice into their other exercise practices, but if they do not already have a habit of exercising, it takes a little effort to build the habit. I wrote two blogs on this subject a few years ago that I recommend you take time to read.
Click here to read Best Practices.
Click here to read Habit Forming.

Not your grandfather's Tai Chi! We do not compromise the exercise to accommodate people who are unable to perform them. That defeats the purpose of exercise! Instead we encourage everyone to participate if they wish, and to do as much as they possibly can. There is no shame in sitting out some of the exercises, if necessary, but there is even less shame in trying without success.

Subscribe to the newsletter and watch here for class changes and information.

Free Tai Chi E-Book:
Tai Chi Intention

November 10, 2014

Interested in learning more about how to apply intention in your Tai Chi practice as well as daily life? Chapter 2 of Tai Chi In Your Life examines intention from a unique perspective. The exercises provide valuable insights into training methods for cultivating intention, which is basic on habit formation and honest introspection. To get the free e-chapter, simply


Tai Chi Blogs

Tai Chi and Balance, Western Style
May 28, 2014
As a young student I mistakenly believed that centering was a mental-spiritual idea and nothing more. As a result one of my earliest important "light bulb" moments came when I realized that balance is first physical. From physical balance can arise mental balance, and from mental balance can emerge spiritual balance. I say "can" because more work is needed after achieving physical balance, but by taking the first step you make the later steps possible.

Today I wish to explore balance as a scientific concept and how that applies to Tai Chi. (Click here for more)

Tai Chi News
Meditation and the Brain 2013 (24 Jun 2013) M.D. Jon Lieff describes physiological brain changes occurring from meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, and related pursuits.
Tai Chi and Related News
Beyond Balance: T'ai Chi Dramatically Improve Seniors' Overall Health (Holistic Primary Care Network, 13 Sep 2013)
Tai Chi Reported to Ease Fibromyalgia (Tufts Medical Center/New York Times,18 Aug 2010)
Author and teacher Arthur Rosenfeld demonstrates Tai Chi on Fox News
Tai Chi: Discover the many possible health benefits (Mayo Clinic, 25 Mar 2010)
Tai Chi Reduces Arthritis Pain (Click2Houston, 29 Oct 2009)
NBC video on Tai Chi as Exercise (Brian Williams, NBC, May 2009)
Overload: The physiological toll of multitasking and why we may not be making rational decisions even when we think we are. (Herbert Wray, Newsweek, 8 Apr 2008)
Tai chi may prevent excruciating skin disease (Associated Press, 9 Apr 2007)
Obese can get healthier without dieting (Reuters, 4 Dec 2006)

Sifu Napier's articles
Houston Tai Chi Kung Fu Magazine 2009 Nov/Dec Yang Style Symposium Grandmasters Chen Zhenglei Wu Wenhan Sun Yongtian Ma Hailong
"Conversations with the Grandmasters" (Dec 2009)

Houston Tai Chi Kung Fu Magazine 2009 Sep/Oct Yang Style Symposium
"Yang Family Comes Out In Style"
"Symposium Makes U.S. Tai Chi History" (Oct 2009)

Houston Tai Chi Kung Fu Magazine 2009 Sept/Oct "Standing Exercises for Taiji Qi Cultivation" (Aug 2009)

"Yang Taiji for Combat" (Apr 2007)
Houston Tai Chi Kung Fu Magazine 2007 Mar/Apr
Photos Available from Demonstration
Click here for the full album.
Pull Down Crossing Arms for Bafa
Students from Elemental Tai Chi demonstrated their skills at the Grand Opening of the Baker-Ripley Community Center, which featured demonstrations from cultures of six continents.
Sophia Delza
My early introduction to Tai Chi took place in the mid-1970s. I had no teacher but was talking about it, so my step-father gave me a book by Sophia Delza, which I read but did not understand. Little did I know at the time, but Delza was the first American to teach Tai Chi - Wu style, from Ma-Yueh Ling - and first demonstrated it in public in 1954. Take a look at this great article to learn about the Tai Chi life of Delza, who lived from 1903 to 1996.
Click here to read the article.
Taiji Sensing Hands

Taoist teacher Stuart Alve Olson, one of my teachers, has released a new DVD, the first of two to accompany his book on the subject of Taiji Sensing Hands - what most teachers call pushing hands, tui shou. Stuart's approach is the most peaceful possible, eschewing all notions of combat. He maintains that calling the exercise "pushing hands" automatically puts the student at a disadvantage by suggesting an aspect that simply should not be in play.
Click here to acquire the DVD..
Click here to visit Stuart's Valley Spirit Arts website
, based in Phoenix, Arizona. He has quite a few more books and DVDs, as well as a schedule of practice for those in the area.

Meditation A new study published Jan. 21, 2015 in the online journal Frontiers in Psychology has published a study showing the meditation slows aging. They "observed that age-related gray matter loss was less pronounced in meditators than controls."
Click here to read the complete study.
Tai Chi
A remarkable Tucson man, once paralyzed, has rehabilitated himself using Tai Chi, which he now teaches. Click here for the full story.
With students hailing from five continents:



South Africa
United States
Tai Chi
The Houston Chronicle covered our session of Six Healing Sounds qigong on Tuesday, Sep. 6. Click here for the full story.

Tai Chi In Your Life is lauded in new book review.
(June, 2012) Michael DeMarco, Editor and Publisher of Journal of Asian Martial Arts, has nothing but compliments for Tai Chi In Your Life:
  • "Napier's work provides very practical information for both taiji practice and everyday life. He does so in a way that is easy reading and inspiring."
  • "Napier expects us to not only read, but to think deeply about the principles and creatively utilize them inside and outside of our taiji practice."
Click here to read the entire book review.
tai chi meditations
Sifu Napier's Tai Chi Meditations CD now available.
(July, 2011) Sifu Dale Napier released his new meditation CD, Tai Chi Meditations, recorded specially for the Soul Explosion & Green Living Expo on July 30-31 in Houston.

The CD, backed by pianist-composer Marta Keen, features a standing meditation, Zhan Zhuang, and a sitting meditation, Six Healing Sounds.

Zhan Zhuang, or standing post meditation, is taught here for breath, balance, and relaxation. Balance is required for deep relaxation. To deepen the relaxation further we learn to use deep breathing, giving us lung improvement as well. Standing post is important for building Tai Chi Chuan rooting ability.

Six Healing Sounds is a popular chi kung (qigong) exercise that uses movements, sounds, and visualizations based on Five Element Theory. The general idea is to purge ourselves of negative emotions, which removes damaging energy from our internal bodies - helping keep us youthful, vital, and energetic.

Both meditations are regular features of Sifu Napier's current and upcoming classes.

Tai Chi Meditations is available as a physical CD or for download. For download, go to

CD Baby

For the physical CD, Click here.

Listen to Sifu Napier's radio interview on Secrets of the Qigong Masters
Why Tai Chi is the Perfect Exercise (Time, 31 Jul 2002)

Tai Chi In Your Life Tai Chi Chuan Chi Kung taiji taijiquan qigong neigong health wellness mind body spirit
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World Tai Chi & Qigong Day 2010

Johannes Huber, Susan Davis, Ellie Blaby, Dale Napier, Sue Greensmith, Kitty Borah, Sandra Jequier, Jim Haskins, Lizzy Hargrove