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The Dragon's Head Blog: Spiralling in New Zealand National Program

Approximately 30 New Zealand  participants gathered at the Lower Hutt clubrooms on the weekend of the 25th and 26th August for a two-day program led by National President Sue Lightfoot, ably assisted by Wellington continuing instructors Mary Brownlow and Peter Love.  Participants ranged from those who have done Tai Chi for many years (including a foundation member) to someone who had only recently completed a beginner’s class.  Some foundation exercises and a set began each day.

The focus for the workshop was the spine. The emphasis was on stretching (standing up) and turning (spiralling).  

After discussion and practice of determining where the top of our heads is (an extension of the spine, through the skull) and how to stand tall, we started the dan-yu always holding our hands in the open tiger’s mouth position.  Sue reminded us that where we are on our tai chi journey will affect how it may feel.  But the components of hands in tiger’s mouth, opening up from the shoulders, looking straight ahead, all contribute to sound development in this area.

We then worked on “Parting Wild Horse’s Mane”.  Once again we were told to concentrate on our spine and reminded to imagine our hand as a scythe, allowing it to lift as the spine turns and stretches upwards at the end of the move.

Then it was time for a delicious shared lunch – just enough of a break for participants to catch up with each other socially.

After lunch we started with the tor-yu.  Then we worked on movements from “Needle to Sea Bottom” and “Turn and Chop with Fist”.  This series worked on the rotation of the spine, as well as the up and down movement, and opening of the chest.  We practised in pairs and small groups with Sue, Mary and Peter roaming amongst us to give advice.

Sunday saw members gather for another day of focused steady work on improving our Tai Chi.   “Go Back to Ward off Monkey”, “Step up to Seven Stars”, “Retreat to Ride Tiger” and “Turn around to Sweep Lotus” certainly made us aware of our spines spiralling and many of us have made a few adaptions to our practice.

Both days finished with a set and happy, but tired participants, who each had some new learning or ideas to take away for our ongoing Tai Chi journeys.

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