• timothyagriswold

Positive Health Benefits and Mechanisms Behind Internal Martial Arts and Zhao Bao Tai Chi

Updated: Nov 18, 2019

My Tai Chi instructor, Master Wayne Peng, the 12th generation master of Zhao Bao Tai Chi, recently asked me to write an article conveying my experiences and insights related to learning Zhao Bao Tai Chi. I was happy to do so as learning this art from Master Peng has been a huge blessing to my life. I realized that because my background is different from most of my fellow classmates, as they are culturally and linguistically Chinese, to do this topic justice I would need to provide a more expansive writing. By explaining my background, I hope to be a bridge between the East and the West, helping Western readers understand the Eastern philosophies taught to me primarily in Mandarin Chinese, and allowing Chinese readers to see an already familiar topic from a fresh perspective.


General Background


I first began learning martial arts when I was 14. I am from a small town in Utah called Roosevelt. It’s in the middle of the Uintah Ouray Indian Reservation. Mormon pioneers began settling this area in the late 1800s, setting up ranches and farms. It has a large deposit of shale oil, which is economical to extract only when the price of oil moves above a certain threshold. Fracking has changed the dynamic of this, but when I was growing up in the 1980s, Roosevelt was a ghost town, as many of the jobs disappeared during a time of economic recession.


Unfortunately, some of the rougher types of people that moved to Roosevelt from around the country in the good times tended to stay during the bad times.


My dad worked in a radiator repair shop. He was also a scientist. He took the radiator repair job because his boss let him use the back bay of the radiator shop for his science experiments. One time when I was in 7th grade a television news station in Utah interviewed my dad because of some of his inventions. They called him the “back yard scientist” in the broadcast.


After hearing this, some of my classmates started teasing me about that. Achievement in education or other scientific pursuits seemed to not be highly valued in my hometown to say the least. Many derisively referred to those who liked to read and study as “nerds.” Before I knew it, I was being bullied almost daily. One time when I was walking home from school four kids ganged up on me. They started kicking and punching me. Several of them held me down and another got on top of me and started pummeling my face. He broke my nose in the process.


First Exposure to “Internal” Martial Arts


One of my dad’s friends heard about this and similar incidents. He had practiced a form of internal martial arts since he was a young child and was very adept at it. Although I’m not sure of the Chinese origin of this style, he called it “Deceptive Hand.” After hearing about what happened he started teaching me this art.


“Deceptive Hand” had all the ear marks of an internal style, such as stance training, Qigong exercises, meditation, joint manipulations akin to “Qinna,” and an emphasis on moving one’s body in a holistic manner, etc.


I remember one time in 8th grade somebody was trying to attack me in the library. He kept charging at me. Applying what I had learned, I was able to divert his attacks. After winding up on the floor several times, he finally gave up. Another time, somebody grabbed my shirt with one hand and was starting to punch me with another. I was able to quickly grab his wrist and bring him down with a joint lock.


Experience with “External” Martial Arts


After one year my teacher’s work-schedule became too busy to continue, so I started learning an external style of Kung Fu from Southern China from the only martial arts studio in the area. I’m not sure of the Chinese characters, but it was called Chen Juan Kung Fu. It had a lot of animal and insect forms, such as the Tiger, Crane, Mantis, etc.


Determined not to be bullied any longer, I practiced very hard. After a couple of run-ins with a few other bullies, which did not end well for them, kids soon stopped trying to instigate fights with me.


Meeting an Internal Martial Arts Master


After several years, I earned a black belt in Chen Juan Kung Fu. Just prior to attending basic training for the Army in Ft Leonard Wood, Missouri (I became a Chinese linguist for the Army due to my interest in martial arts and Asian philosophies), I had the chance to meet a local internal martial arts practitioner whose name was Arn.


Arn worked in a wood shop in Vernal, Utah. He was in his late 50s or 60s. He was short, a bit overweight, and walked with a limp. He also spoke with what I would call a “hickish” accent; basically, he talked like he was a farmer. In short, he didn’t strike me as somebody who could be adept at fighting.


I remember that Arn asked me to “kick him.” He said, “Now, I want you to kick me as hard as you can. I get my power from you, so if you don’t kick me hard, I can’t do anything. Don’t worry about hurting me.”


I thought to myself, “I’m going to really hurt this guy if I kick him hard.” At that time, I was young and in good shape. I had a six pack. We often did “1000-kick” days in Kungfu practice among other intense workouts. My brain likely also wasn’t fully developed at that time;) I thought, “Well…if he wants me to kick him hard, I’ll do it.” So, I threw as fast and as hard of a roundhouse as I could at him. I tried not to telegraph my movements, as I had learned to not do.


Despite his appearances, Arn was able to move with rapid speed. He matched the movements of my kick perfectly and swung my body around in an arc, flinging me halfway across the room. He didn’t hurt me, though. It almost tickled. I wasn’t even sure what had happened as I lay in a crumpled posture staring up at the ceiling.


After I got up, he told me to make a fist with my hand. He had me feel his arm. He said, “You feel that. My muscles aren’t tense.” They weren’t. Then, he pushed slightly on my fist with an open palm. Before I knew it, I flew back approximately ten feet, nearly falling again.


I had seen documentaries when I was a young kid about Chinese internal martial arts masters who could throw people almost effortlessly. Although I was fascinated with that, a big part of me never really believed it was possible. After meeting this man and personally being the recipient of this type of internal power, however, I no longer had any doubts.


From the moment I met Arn onwards, I became so disillusioned with external martial arts that I gave up practicing it. I became committed to learning from a qualified internal martial arts instructor or vowed to stop practicing entirely.


I couldn’t learn from Arn as my life took me elsewhere. In the years that followed, in every place I moved, I looked for a qualified internal martial arts master in vain. Several years passed. I finished my initial entry training as a Chinese linguist. I completed college and started working. I spent more than a year in a deployment to Iraq. After I came back, I went to law school.


Physical, Mental, and Academic Issues Associated with Stress


These years took a great toll on my body physically as I became relatively inactive. My deployment to Iraq took a toll on my mental and emotional state.


When I started law school, due to the stress of studying and inactivity, I was overweight, depressed, and started suffering from insomnia and high blood pressure.


One day when walking on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, I found a local advertisement for a Tai Chi class. I decided to attend it. They were teaching a style that was a simplified version of “Hun Yuan Tai Chi” created by grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang. “Hun Yuan Tai Chi” was itself derived from Chen Tai Chi, as grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang was a student of Chen Fake.


Even though that form didn’t seem like a complete martial art to me, after starting to learn it, I quickly noticed a difference in my mood.


After graduating from law school, I joined the Air Force as an officer and a lawyer. I once again found myself getting trapped by the stress of the job. I had a long commute and the pressure involved with work was intense. Even though we did mandatory physical fitness in the Air Force, I started gaining weight again and felt terrible overall. A lot of aches and pains also started showing up around this time. I was diagnosed with arthritis and gout! Some days the pain hurt so much I could barely walk. I had also dislocated my shoulder during officer training. It hurt very badly and significantly affected my sleep quality. In addition, I was diagnosed with a chronic, degenerative back issue that had plagued me since I first began basic training for the Army at the age of 19.


In short, I wasn’t doing well.


Learning about Zhan Zhuang and Benefits of Standing Exercises


I thought about my previous experience practicing Tai Chi and searched for a local teacher in Spokane, Washington, where I had my first Air Force duty assignment. I couldn’t find one, so I started ordering and reading as many books on the topic as I could.


Book after book mentioned an exercise called “Zhan Zhuang” as a very important exercise to learn how to feel “Chi” or “internal energy.” Unlike caloric energy, Chi is an ambient form of energy that exists throughout the universe but is concentrated in living beings. It is a major principle underlying all internal martial arts and is what enabled Arn to throw me so easily. Learning to feel Chi can be challenging as it takes a new way of standing, moving and even thinking.


Zhan Zhuang is roughly translated as “standing like a pole or tree.” It consists of static poses that help generate Chi. I realized I needed to learn these exercises if I had any hope of learning internal martial arts, so I scoured the Internet, found a good book on the topic, and started practicing them (for interested readers, that book's name was "The Way of Energy" by Lam Kam Chuen). Fortunately, learning these exercises was possible without a teacher due to their static nature.


Because of my chronic back issue and other problems, the standing exercises were very painful at first. In fact, my back hurt so much when I first started that I couldn’t stand for more than five minutes at a time. Because of my desire to learn how to feel Chi and also because after each standing sessions I felt better, I persisted and pushed past the pain each time.


After a couple of months, my muscles stopped hurting so much and I started feeling energy fill my body. My back even felt much better! I started swimming, running, and lifting weights with the newfound energy from these exercises.


After about four or five months I was like a new man. I lost over 20 pounds and was stronger, fitter, and could think more clearly than I could for many years. Even my gout flare ups and arthritis stopped!


After that I started practicing Taekwondo with my young son. Even though I hadn’t practiced kicking or martial arts in many years, I was somehow able to kick strongly and quickly without telegraphing my movements. In fact, one person surprised me one day by telling me that my kicks felt like a bullet to his sternum, even though he knew I wasn’t trying to kick that hard.


The only thing I had done differently, other than more intense weight-lifting and running routines, was those standing exercises. Nothing else had changed.


From then on, I began practicing Zhan Zhuang almost an hour a day. I kept to this routine for several years in addition to running and lifting weights.


Through those exercises my energy and vitality grew immensely.


How Zhan Zhuang Works


Basically, Zhan Zhuang helps to unclog and expand one body’s energy pathways, called “meridians.” Throughout the average person’s life, our meridians often become blocked due to stress, bad posture, negative emotions, etc. In fact, most people’s meridians are never fully opened. It’s like having a water hose filled with clay and gunk. No water can flow through the hose with this. Water also stops flowing if these hoses get kinked. If a hose is both clogged and kinked, it’s difficult to know what the actual cause of the blockages are.


During these exercises, one can systematically monitor one’s body and, while maintaining the correct postures, slowly relax the body’s unnecessary muscles. Because the exercises are difficult to do if one constantly utilizes too many unnecessary muscles, this causes the body to produce energy or “Chi.” Such energy runs down the meridians, at almost a trickle at first, hitting into the blockages. Through consistent effort, one drop at a time, the energy continues to slowly hit against those blockages until it finally breaks through them.


What I am describing is from personal experience, not from a book. After several months of practicing Zhan Zhuang, my body began trembling and shaking intensely. After the period of shaking, I started to feel tremendous, uneven heat. Finally, one day I reached a breaking point and I felt my back crack in a strange way, then I began to feel the energy flow through. After that, standing for long periods of time was much easier.


Zhan Zhuang is Necessary but Insufficient: One Must Learn to Move Holistically to Gain Proficiency with Internal Energy


I knew from my reading and from personal experience that these exercises weren’t enough in isolation to gain true proficiency with internal energy and its martial applications. Although the Zhan Zhuang exercises in themselves had amazing benefits, I knew that I needed to learn how to move in a holistic way if I was going to progress any further. At that point my body’s meridians (the hose) had become largely unclogged, but I couldn’t feel internal energy or Chi if I moved much because my movements were not holistic. Employing the water-hose analogy again, my meridians were getting kinked.


Learning Zhao Bao Tai Chi from Master Wayne Peng


Almost as if by some miracle, right at the point where I could progress no further, I left the Air Force active duty and moved to Milpitas, California. One day, when in a Chinese bookshop, I asked the owner, as was my habit, if they had any books on Tai Chi or internal energy. At that point, I became almost obsessed about reading whatever I could find on this topic.


The owner told me they did have a very popular book.


I read it quickly and was enthralled. I knew this master had a very solid understanding of the principles at work with Chi. I thought, with almost an internal sigh, that I would love to learn from a master like this. At that time, I believed he undoubtedly must live in some faraway place.


As I looked more closely at the inside cover, however, I realized that the master taught in Milpitas! The same place I had moved to!


The book I had bought was Master Peng’s first book.


The day I came to a trial class, I knew I had finally found an extremely qualified internal martial arts master. My long search was finally over! The Chinese have a saying: "keyu bukeqiu" "可遇不可求." Literally this means “one can only desire something, one cannot demand it.” Basically, many things in life, like finding a good teacher, are left to the hands of fate.


Even though there are a lot of good Kungfu and other martial art teachers around the Bay Area, after having personally met many of them and having seen them in action, it is my opinion that Master Peng is the most qualified internal martial art practitioner in the Bay Area.


Replacing Conventional Exercises with Tai Chi Exclusively


I learned from Master Peng in as detailed manner as possible. At first, when I still hadn’t learned many movements, I continued to emphasize Zhan Zhuang. I did this for 40 or so minutes every day and practiced any new movements for about 10 or 20 minutes. I also maintained my running and weight lifting routines. At that point, it just wasn’t enough exercise. The more movements in the forms I learned, however, the more I slowly began replacing my conventional exercises with Tai Chi. Now I exclusively practice Tai Chi. I sweat much more doing Zhan Zhuang and practicing the Tai Chi forms than I ever have running long distances or lifting weights.


Every year, I am required to take a physical fitness test for the Air Force Reserves. This consists of pushups, sit ups, and a 1.5-mile run. Each year I still score in the “excellent” category, despite replacing my conventional exercises with Tai Chi. Last year I got a 98.3 out of 100. I was the third fastest runner out of over twenty runners, most of whom are much younger than me and who are on active duty military, so it’s their job to work out.


The Health Benefits of Practicing Zhao Bao Tai Chi


Despite the benefits of Zhan Zhuang, when I first started practicing Zhao Bao Tai Chi, my body still had a lot of aches and pains. Specifically, my right shoulder, which I had dislocated, hurt each time I moved it.


Over time and after consistent practice of Zhao Bao Tai Chi, all my aches and pains slowly went away until I felt no points of pain in my entire body. I also started sleeping and have been able to deal with stress much better. Perhaps most importantly, I don't even remember the last time I got sick.



The Martial Benefits of Zhao Bao Tai Chi


After starting to learn from Master Peng, I participated in a Push Hands competition almost right away. I faced off against one of Master Peng’s first students in the Bay Area. He was extremely strong. Even after all my years of Zhan Zhuang practice and all the weight lifting and running I did, I could barely do anything against him. He was also older than me! He beat me in a landslide. In the excitement of the match I accidentally ripped his shirt. Fortunately, he was nice about it, as almost all of Master Peng’s students are.


I realized, through reflection, that even though I could feel Chi due to the Zhan Zhuang exercises, I didn’t know how to move properly. Chinese internal martial arts have two major tenets related to movements: these are known in Chinese as “San Wai He” "三外合,” or “the Three External Harmonies,” and "San Nei He" “三内合,” or “the Three Internal Harmonies.” The Three External Harmonies require the shoulders to move in harmony with the waist, the elbows to move in harmony with the knees, and the wrists to move in harmony with the ankles. The Three Internal Harmonies require the mind to be in harmony with intention of movement, intention of movement to be in harmony with “Chi,” or internal energy, and “Chi” to be in harmony with physical power.


At the time of my match, I didn’t know or understand any of these principles. Not knowing or understanding them, of course I couldn’t apply them! After that I vowed to practice harder and learn as much as Master Peng could teach me.


About two and a half years into learning Zhao Bao Tai Chi, Master Peng asked me to attend a special Tai Chi Push Hand’s competition. It was for the 30th year anniversary of the International Wushu Sanshou Dao Association (IWSD), an internationally-recognized martial arts organization for which Master Peng is the current Chairman.


I was so busy with my law practice at that time, I wasn’t planning on attending this event. In fact, I had a court trial the next week for which I was intensely preparing. I went anyway, however, at Master Peng’s request.


I’m still not sure exactly how I did it, but I won the grand championship of this competition and was awarded the title of “Push Hands King!” Competitors flew in from around the country to attend this event; many of them are extremely dedicated to the practice of Tai Chi.


I remember one competitor in particular: he weighed about 40 pounds more than me and was much shorter, so had a lower center of gravity. He was also the champion in his weight category and had just defeated an individual weighing 60 pounds more than him.


When he approached me, he had a look on his face when he came up to me as if to say, “I’m going to beat this guy easily.” About 30 seconds into the one-minute do-or-die round, however, his look started to change. I think he began realizing I was harder to defeat than he originally thought. About ten seconds from the end, I was able to throw him to the ground. He looked so surprised when he fell!


I know my winning that contest had very little to do with my body shape or any natural talent. It was almost entirely because I learned the right style, Zhao Bao Tai Chi, in as detailed a way as possible, from the right person, Master Peng. I had also practiced consistently, at least one (1) to 1.5 hours per day.


The Characteristics of Zhao Bao Tai Chi


When I first met Master Peng, I knew he was very proficient as a martial artist simply because of what he could do. I later realized, however, after traveling to Xi’an China, the city from which Zhao Bao Tai Chi spread, and witnessing the local Zhao Bao Tai Chi Masters from this area, that Master Peng truly deserves the title of 12th generation lineage holder of Zhao Bao Tai Chi. Master Peng’s teacher, Grandmaster Song Yunhua, lived next door to the famous 10th generation Zhao Bao Tai Chi lineage holder, Grandmaster Zheng Wuqing, and was the best of the group of students Master Zheng Wuqing’s taught in the last 20 years of his life. Master Peng was the best student of Grandmaster Song Yunhua, who handpicked Master Peng to teach in Hong Kong with him at a time when that was a high honor.


There’s no doubt that when most people think of Tai Chi, they typically don’t think of it as an effective martial art. At this point, I should emphasize that I believe all styles of Tai Chi that have maintained fidelity to their authentic traditions as martial arts are likely very effective in their own right. As I have almost entirely encountered watered-down versions of other Tai Chi styles, however, my knowledge of the effectiveness of authentic/traditional Tai Chi styles, other than Zhao Bao Tai Chi, is limited. Additionally, because I also have had limited exposure to other masters who teach Zhao Bao Tai Chi, many of whom also seem to teach watered down versions of this style, my explanation of Zhao Bao Tai Chi must necessarily be limited to the version of Zhao Bao Tai Chi that Master Peng teaches.


Zhao Bao Tai Chi, as taught by Master Peng, has remained very true to its origins as a formidable internal martial art. I have been particularly impressed with Master Peng’s abilities to apply Chi in a very concentrated form when applying “Qinna,” or grappling techniques.


Just like magnifying glasses can take the heat of the sun and concentrate its energy into extremely powerful and dense rays, Master Peng can employ Chi to achieve the same effect. Zhao Bao Tai Chi’s spherical (note: not merely “circular”) movements allow Chi to be concentrated into very small points, which an advanced Zhao Bao Tai Chi practitioner like Master Peng can use to bring opponents to the ground with a slight touch.


Every movement of Zhao Bao Tai Chi is intentionally aimed at keeping the meridians open and allowing Chi to flow from one movement to the next continuously throughout the forms. Each part of the body is inherently connected in each move in accordance with the Three External Harmonies mentioned above. Throughout each form, the body, and Chi along with it, move in undulating waves, up and down and side to side, as well as at 45-degree spherical angles.


None of the movements in Zhao Bao Tai Chi, if performed correctly, expend energy. They are all specifically designed to generate and circulate Chi while simultaneous providing potent offensive and defensive movements. The same as in theory with all Tai Chi styles, Zhao Bao Tai Chi’s defensive movements are hidden in offensive movements and its offensive movements are hidden within defensive movements.


The Push Hands practice of Zhao Bao Tai Chi, as Master Peng teaches it, also shows Zhao Bao Tai Chi’s origins as a robust martial art. Push Hands is an exercise where opponents connect their arms and try to move or knock their opponents off balance, somewhat akin to Sumo wrestling. When participating in Push Hands, Zhao Bao Tai Chi practitioners stand mostly at 45-degree angles to each other. Their arms and legs constantly shift to match their opponent’s movements. They also always protect each part of their bodies throughout Push Hands practice and remain constantly vigilant against weaknesses and threats.


Zhao Bao Tai Chi Builds Proficiency Systematically Through Its Multiple Empty-Hand Forms


Traditional Zhao Bao Tai Chi has five empty hand forms, a staff form, and a sword form. Each empty-hand form builds on the principles of the form before it, allowing students to master combat skills in stages, from basic to advanced. Each form must be mastered before moving onto the next as the skills learned from each form are building blocks for the next form(s).


Purpose of Zhao Bao Tai Chi’s First Empty-Hand 24-Movement Form: Learning to Relax and to Feel Chi


The first of Zhao Bao Tai Chi’s forms has 24 movements. The purpose of this form is to make practitioners start to relax and begin to feel Chi flow. Zhao Bao Tai Chi’s version of Zhan Zhuang consists of various static postures from movements throughout this first form. This builds the framework to allow practitioners to step into the correct postures at key points while performing the forms. These Zhan Zhuang exercises are also a major contributor to achieve the goals of relaxation and Chi generation / flow.


After I began learning Zhao Bao Tai Chi, I replaced the previous Zhan Zhuang stances I had practiced with Zhao Bao Tai Chi's Zhan Zhuang stances.


As mentioned above, Zhan Zhuang is an important foundational exercise as it is much easier to feel and produce Chi when standing in static postures than when moving. In static postures, practitioners can more easily monitor tension from head to toe and consciously relax all points of tension. This greatly aids in feeling Chi generation initially and in unblocking the body’s meridians in a much quicker way than with moving alone. Once Chi begins to flow, if movements are performed incorrectly the Chi will stop flowing. Because of this, learning to feel Chi earlier can help practitioners to self-correct movements in their forms before bad habits set in.


The importance of Zhan Zhuang can be seen with Master Peng’s own experience. Master Peng started learning Tai Chi when he was just six years old. He went on to win two nation-wide Championship titles in a practical Chinese fighting style called Sanda. Afterwards, however, when he became disillusioned with Sanda due to its physical limitations with advanced age, he vowed to himself to learn Tai Chi from the ground up again.

At the age of 27, and after becoming more famous due to his national championship titles than his Tai Chi master, Grandmaster Song Yunhua, Master Peng asked Grandmaster Song to teach him the forms from scratch again in as detailed manner as possible.


What did Grandmaster Song make Master Peng start with? That’s right. Zhan Zhuang! Master Peng held each of these basic postures for several hours each day for over the course of more than six months! His fellow practitioners thought he had gone crazy😉


Purposes of Zhao Bao Tai Chi’s Other Four Forms


The aim of both the 36 and 43 movement forms is to smooth the Chi flow of the practitioners. The 56-movement form is designed to let practitioners learn how to sink their Chi into the ground and to stabilize their movements. The final empty-hand form, with 75 movements, teaches practitioners how to use Chi like a precise weapon.


These forms have many commonalities, but also have newly added dimensions progressively incorporated. As stated above, if one doesn’t master the previous forms, it’s pointless to progress to the next form.


Philosophical Aspects Underpinning Zhao Bao Tai Chi


Zhao Bao Tai Chi has very profound philosophical principles. Chief among these is its emphasis on moderation and acting in accordance with "the middle way." The symbol of Zhao Bao Tai Chi is a Yin Yang symbol that, unlike the traditional Yin Yang symbol, has a small white circle in the middle. The goal of movements in Zhao Bao Tai Chi is to always stay in the center of that circle. Since the Zhao Bao Tai Chi movements are spherical in nature that symbol should be thought about in 3-D.


This principle is often seen in Push Hands practice. Any extreme movements, either extreme aggression or extreme passivity, can leave one off balance and open to attacks. If one moves too aggressively, the opponent can use this energy to circle around and either throw them off balance or bring them down with Qinna grappling techniques. If one gives too little energy and is too passive, an opponent can invade empty spaces caused by such and either throw them back or use Qinna grappling techniques to bring them to the ground. The Chinese summarize these principles with a short idiom: Wu Ji Bi Fan, “物极必反,” or “anything to the extreme must inevitably reverse itself.”


Zhao Bao Tai Chi Philosophy in Every Day Life


These same concepts apply to every-day life. I have actively began incorporating these principles into my law practice and have found that they help me harmoniously resolve a wide variety of contentious issues. Either being too aggressive or too passive in the practice of law can also lead one to be off balanced and subject to attack. But if one maintains the neutral ground, and is calm and relaxed, it’s much easier to find solutions to contentious issues.


In fact, to truly master Tai Chi it must become a way of life, not just an exercise.


The underlying Mechanisms of Tai Chi and the Cultivation of Energy in Daily Life


A recent study from Finland compared heat patterns in a large group of individuals from culturally-diverse backgrounds when they experienced 13 categories of emotions, along with a neutral emotion. Specifically, infrared cameras were used to see the heat of individuals when they felt Anger, Fear, Disgust, Happiness, Sadness, Surprise, Anxiety, Love, Depression, Contempt, Pride, Shame, Envy, and a neutral emotion. (see https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/early/2013/12/26/1321664111.full.pdf). In short, this study shows that when we feel positive emotions our entire body heats up, but with negative emotions a different type of cooler energy is present in various uneven patterns. Such negative energy is also typically limited to our upper bodies.


The mind, body, and energy are obviously connected. I believe this profound truth is exactly how Tai Chi works to provide its host of health and martial benefits. It also seems to be the way the universe guides us to understand the attributes we should be focusing on and cultivating in our lives.


It can often be difficult to break negative cycles in life once they start. The practice of Tai Chi helps to do this. Because the mind and body are connected, they can influence one another. Even if one tends to be negative, when internal energy starts flowing and energy fills the body, our moods improve naturally. Once a vicious cycle of negative emotions is broken and we start becoming mindful of the correlation between our thoughts and the type of energy we feel, we can purposely generate warm healing energy, or “Chi” by simply having positive thoughts as well.


As Master Peng often says, “the goal of practicing Tai Chi is to store more internal energy than we use on a daily basis.” He also often says: “Chi is life. It is when we run out of Chi that we can no longer live.” Another thing he says a lot is “the practice of Tai Chi is meant to decrease our degree of regret every day.”


In the end, if we learn to store more Chi energy than we expend daily, over time, we become much healthier and happier. When we start paying attention to the subtle energies in our bodies, we start living in ways that enhance the positive energies and minimize the negative energies. If we do the opposite, however, we will experience s net deficit in energy levels and a variety of sicknesses and advanced aging that accompany these.


As Nicola Tesla once said, “if you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” The philosophies and mechanisms behind Tai Chi would certainly support Mr. Tesla’s insight. It’s like setting the radio to FM 99.7. A little bit out of tune, and we get static. We must be on just the right frequency to hear the broadcast.


Conclusion


I wanted to share my background and insights into Zhao Bao Tai Chi and Master Peng’s teachings with others because learning this art has significantly improved my life. I believe that everybody could improve all aspects of their lives by practicing this profound art. As the Chinese say: “Mo Dao Bu Wu Kan Chai Gong, 磨刀不误砍柴功.” This means “sharpening the knife does not delay cutting firewood.” The daily practice of Tai Chi can adjust our moods, cancel out unnecessary noises in life, and allow us to reach deep, calm places within ourselves. This helps us to see the big picture and to put things into proper perspective. It also makes us healthier and happier. With such daily practice, all our other efforts can be made much more effective.

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