Friday, July 3, 2020

Tai Chi Ruler

Screen shot from Glyn Williams' DVD
Of all the different exercise practices I’ve adopted over the last six months, perhaps the most beguiling is the Tai Chi Ruler. The Ruler exercises that I’ve been doing come straight from the Masterworks International Tai Chi Ruler DVD by Phil Young and Morag Campbell. There is also a video on Amazon Prime by Fred Jennes called Ruler Qigong that teaches essentially the same set of exercises. Either one will work but seeing them both has been a helpful way to cross reference.

To supplement my learning I also obtained copies of Fong Ha’s Qigong/Yiquan DVD (which has a brief section on the ruler plus a lot of other great and related content) as well as Glyn Williams’ Tai Chi Chih DVD. Williams was taught this by Franklyn Sills, a senior student of Fong Ha, as was Phil Young of Masterworks International back in the early 1980's. So actually all 4 of these videos are interrelated and complement each other.

What Is Tai Chi Ruler?
Tai Chi Ruler is like a taoist yoga, qi gong, or internal martial art. A “standing form of seated meditation”. It consists of simple rhythmic movements done repetitively. There are no flashy moves. It is simple almost to the point of boredom. Inside you are tranquil and still. Outside you are moving.

You can do one exercise or all of them. As far as I know you can do the exercises in any order. You can do it for five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes. It’s up to you. Tai Chi Ruler is an opportunity to cultivate a moment in each day where stress and other worries of the world can't get in. It’s an opportunity to find complete relaxation. If you notice any areas of resistance let it go.

You are free to find your own way to play with the ruler. Learn the essence rather than the form. Each time you do it, do it “less wrong”. Benefits accrue from regular practice over a period of time.

You Need One Piece of Equipment - A Ruler (or not)
The ruler itself is like a wooden dowel or rod with rounded ends, between 9 and 12 inches long depending on your physical size or preference. You can use a simple wooden tortilla roller for this purpose, you could make your own from a dowel or a stick you find in nature, or you could purchase one online with a contoured shape. I have links at the bottom of this post.

Hold the ruler in the palm of the hands to stimulate the lao gong acupuncture point and enhance the flow of chi. You can also do the exercises without the ruler in what is called an "empty hands" variation. Doing it empty hands liberates some of the movements, but you miss the lao gong stimulation.

Purpose and Benefits
Sifu Fong Ha
The purpose of Tai Chi Ruler is to help cultivate chi for self-healing/recovery and to act as a catalyst for future workouts. So there! You use an external tool (the ruler) to aid in this development. You may find the following to also be true:
-Has a calming effect.
-Enhances your connection to and awareness of nature.
-Helps develop mindfulness - being able to hold presence.
-Increases balance and poise.
-Improves breathing patterns.
-Reduces tension in the body (or at least brings awareness to it).
-Brings attention to posture and structural alignment.
-Facilitates a timeless state of mind - a state of “no” mind.

The stance is narrow and short. Feet are about a ruler width apart. The rear foot is at a 45 degree angle. The front foot is forward slightly. The heel of the rear foot lifts up as your rock forward. The toes of the front foot lift up as you rock back.

Slowly rock forward and backward while transferring weight from one foot to the other. The heels of the rear foot and the toes of the front foot are raised alternately. The shifting of weight should be smooth and rhythmic. Drive your weight into the ground through the front foot as you rock forward and sink deeply into the ground through the back leg as you rock back. Don’t let the front knee go beyond the toes of the front foot. Pay attention to the quality of the movement rather than the quantity. (Quality is more important than how big, how strong, or how fast).

The rhythmic, rocking movement builds chi in the 3 dantians - the lower dantian (below the navel), the middle dantian (heart), and the upper dantian (third eye). The alternate toe-heel lifting stimulates the bubbling spring/bubbling well acupuncture points on the bottom of the feet where energy from the earth enters the body.

Inhale as you rock back. Exhale as you rock forward. That said, you don’t necessarily have to coordinate breathing with the movement but I find that it helps to do so. Staying in sync keeps things nice, slow, and in time - creating a rhythm.

Relax - The World Will Spin Beside Itself and Suck You In
Relax your shoulders. Mentally do a body check - foot to calf, knees, thing, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders - releasing tension on each out breath until every part of you is relaxed. Relax yourself thoroughly and try to achieve complete quietness within yourself.

Posture, Head Alignment, Upper Body
Posture is super important especially for those like me who are prone to a “text neck”, head forward, hunchback position. Your chest should be relaxed and the head should be level and balanced directly above the shoulders. Don't slouch. You may have to lift the chest to balance head alignment, but then relax the chest to prevent the chi from stagnating there. Shoulders should be relaxed.

Optional Visualizations
-Imagine that you’re invisible, bearing in mind that you’re mainly made of up space.
-Your upper body is empty, while your lower body full, heavy and rooted.
-Focus your awareness on the dantian and the dantian rotation.
-Blend the chi of the body with the chi of the earth and universe.

Variations-Vary the speed.
-Raise or lower your stance.
-Change the height of your arms - up, middle or low.
-Increase or decrease the size of the circle, oval or figure 8.
-Perform each exercise "empty hands" without the ruler.

Where To Get A Ruler
-Masterworks International (free shipping from Ireland!):

-Blue Heron Tai Chi, Longmont, CO:

-Ruler Boxing, Greeley, CO (cool design, lots of options):

-Charles S. Tauber (even more options!):

-Wing Lam Enterprises, WLE. (nice for a budget option):

-DIY - find a stick in nature or make your own out of a dowel.

There you have it. I don't really know what I'm talking about yet so take all of this with an open mind and a grain of salt!