Silk Reeling – Literally

A discussion on the Chen Style Taijiquan (Tai Chi) group on Facebook about the meaning of “silk reeling” sent me searching for a description of how actual silk is made from silkworm cocoons, and I can across this page:

I suppose I was half-expecting to see a picture of a cocoon being unwound by hand to make thread, but what I actually saw was a spinning reel (half-way through the page). From this I infer that “silk-reeling energy” isn’t so much like the unwinding of silk thread from a cocoon, but more like the continuous spinning of the reel. It makes sense – when we practice silk-reeling, we aim for a continuous, circular energy, much like the spinning of the reel.

You can also take the analogy further by considering that when one part of the silk reel is spinning, then all of it spinning, and the reason it spins is because the centre moves, and the arms follow.

Makes perfect sense when you think about it.


When it comes to stretching, in the past I would always say it was important, but honestly I considered it more as something you ought to do, rather than as an essential part of a regular practice. That’s changed recently, however, owing to shifting circumstances eroding a regular practice plus more time spent sitting at a computer than ever before. This was a double-whammy that resulted in quite painful legs, and it was only when I embarked on a daily regimen of hamstring, calf and soleus stretching that it eased off.

That shouldn’t really come as a surprise, however it was the first time I’d invested that amount of time in stretching the backs of my legs, and to my surprise, when I did start practising again, I felt generally more mobile in my legs than I remembered. My conclusion is therefore that regular stretching is actually a very important part of a Tai Chi practice, because it will make you more limber and more ready to study the form, less hindered by stiff or shortened muscles, tendons, etc.

Does anyone have any Tai Chi and stretching stories to share?

Competitive Tai Chi

I found a good video of two guys fighting with Tai Chi. If you know what you’re looking at, you’ll see some brutal takedowns in there. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of one of those, you’ll know just how quickly you can find yourself on the floor.

The Meaning Of “Gao Tan Ma”

Here’s an interesting take on an alternative translation of the posture, “High Pat On Horse”;

New Chen Xiaowang / Jan Silberstorff Book

I noticed that the following is available for pre-order;

I have another Chen book by Master Silberstorff and I have to say, I thought it was excellent (and an excellent translation too).

Hard vs. Soft

Good post discussing hard versus soft in Tai Chi, or rather, “versus” is the actually wrong word to use.

‘Godfather of Fitness’ – Jack Lalanne’s legacy

I noticed on the BBC News that Jack Lalanne has passed away. Now, I hadn’t actually heard of him before, but he is credited with inspiring millions of people to get fit and changing the common perception of gyms as the preserve of bodybuilders and strongmen to places for the average person to keep in shape. He made it to an amazing 96 years old, and was still performing record-setting feats of fitness at 70!

Whatever your chosen method of keeping fit, one way or another you probably owe this man your respect.

BBC News – Tai Chi prevents elderly falls say geriatrics societies

The latest advice in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society recommends the use of Tai Chi to reduce falls in the elderly;

What’s surprising is how much falls cost;

A third of over 65s and half of over 80s will fall each year, and it is thought that 14,000 people in the UK die as a result.

“Treatment costs the NHS in England around £4.6m a day.”

Chen Zhonghua’s Practical Method

I came across an interview with Chen Zhonghua, which is copy of a translated article in a Brazilian Tai Chi magazine. Zhonghua studied with Hong Junsheng, and later with Feng Zhiqiang. Chen’s teaching strongly emphasises the practical aspect of taijiquan training, as did Hong before him.

Chen Zhonghua has quite a few videos on Youtube;

Revenge Of The Stairs

BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting a series called Costing The Earth, which examines “… man’s effect on the environment and how the environment reacts, questioning accepted truths, challenging those in charge and reporting on progress towards improving the world.”

In the latest episode, “The Revenge Of The Stairs“, Tom Heap attempts to find out whether it is possible to plan cities and design buildings so that people are encouraged to walk and exercise more, take the stairs over the lift, and so on. The programme considers whether the design of cities has had the unintentional side-effect of making us less healthy, and whether this trend can be reversed.

Yet another reason to get practising your form in your local green space – assuming you have one. Failing which, get walking and take the stairs!