The Dragon Journals
The Dragon Journals

The Journals - Current.

October, 2018

9-year hiatus is OVER

Today's update: I'm back on my website, and now as an Instructor in Ottawa. More to come!


(newly minted) Shizi Sandra Troster Díaz

October, 2009

3-day intensive training at the Gompa

As you can see from the February 2009 entry below, my first training with Shifu Castaldo was in January this year, when I went to the Gompa for a 5-day intensive training seminar. My second training with Shifu Castaldo was during the 3 days following Founder's Day weekend, and I had the great good fortune to be training with my Jiulong Baguazhang brothers and sisters Karen Ayyad, Bobb Maio, Bronwen Nishikawa and John Hillson.

Special Iron Palm training session at the Gompa

In addition to the 3-day intensive training, I had asked Shifu Painter many months back about Iron Palm training, and whether or not it might help strengthen my hands.


Sandy T.

October, 2009

Founder's Day weekend in Arlington, Texas

Details to follow...


Sandy T.

June, 2009

"The Gathering of the Circle" Jiulong Baguazhang week-long training in the Catskills, New York

Details to follow...


Sandy T.

February 1, 2009

January 2009 intensive at the Gompa and is there anyone in Ottawa interested in this art?

As you can see from the last post below, I still have unposted feedback from my June, 2008 visit to the Gompa. Needless to say, I experienced a quick and intense burst of activity at work that precluded anything but work and actual daily practise. My web site has to take second place to my training, so I've had to leave out a lot. Having said that, my work intensity has started to diminish and I should now have the appropriate time for updates, unexpected events permitting.

I'm really not afraid of flying anymore. Actually it's a bit boring. What a change.

Just to let you know, I had a great time in Texas at the Gompa, training 5 hours a day with Shifu Castaldo, not including the 1/2 hour morning meditation time or the 2 hours that I had on my own time to review and practise what I'd learned daily. Add to that the time that Karen and I spent catching up, bonding, and sharing our experiences in this wonderful art, and you can bet I had full days (and short sleeps)!

Sadly, I did not take or ask anyone to take photos of my training because I really had no time or energy to focus on anything but the training. Within the next few weeks, I'm planning to ask hubby to take some pics of me and my training tools just for an update, and I'll also post the pics I do have of the training tools at the Gompa in Texas from my June'08 and January'09 trips. I did take photos but really only at the end of the 4 days and I regret not having one with Shifu Castaldo. Next time, eh?!

Finally, in case any readers out there are interested and live in or around the Ottawa area, I'm looking for people to train with. What that means right now, is sharing costs for either travel to Toronto for training with Eric, or sharing costs of him coming here to present a seminar/training for interested students here. It would also mean that we would train together on what we'd been taught, in between such lessons, which is very important in this art if you want to develop.

If you are in the Ottawa area, and interested in this art (health, martial or both) please email me at:

sandyt at (remove the spaces and replace the at with a @)

My apologies, but I had to enter email as above to avoid getting spam from internet bots.

I hope to hear from you!


Sandy T.

August 4, 2008

June intensive at the Gompa - third feedback - on trust and change

This was originally going to be a post about my friend Karen, relationships in martial arts, and the just amazing feelings from the trip, but before I discuss that, the gifts of the bao ding balls and friendships, I do have more thoughts on my trip that started before I arrived and gelled at some time during my stay, and I feel that the concepts of trust and change as they apply to this art are best discussed at this point.

I've been noticing for some time now that there are changes in me as a result of playing this art that are simple yet profound. For example, the phrase "live in the moment" now is something that I understand not only intellectually but I more and more often find myself actually doing. "It is what it is" as my Shifu and others in the art are fond of saying. To call this just a by-product of the practise would be diminishing its weight, importance and difficulty, but the fact of the matter is, I wasn't looking for it. This result found me.

Similarly, I have for many years been uncomfortable flying aka had a fear of flying, stemming from my lack of ability to do anything should something happen, and my once having thought through the likely chain of events should anything happen. Despite this, I do and have flown rather regularly as I know this fear to be quite irrational. I eventually accepted my fear as part of the flying experience and part of who I was.

There is a certain degree of comfort in knowing who you are, what you know, and what you don't know. It gives rise to a sense of self and self-confidence. So it was with some surprise that I realized on the flight from Toronto to Dallas that I truly was no longer afraid of flying. In fact, this fear had been dissipating over at least the last several flights I'd been on, but since I was expecting to be afraid, I thought that I was... but I wasn't. I took a few pictures from my window seat to celebrate and puzzled over my slow realization and why I'd held on to my fear. My fear defined me, and that was gone. I guess once we get comfortable with who we are, we may even resist a positive change. I'm assuming it's not just me who's had that experience but it certainly made me think.

One of the thoughts was the oft-repeated phrase, "Trust the art." By this I have usually taken the most obvious meaning, don't try to figure out what it is doing step-by-step, rather, just do it and trust that when learned, the art will do what it does quite well without analysis. That was the meaning of the phrase that I applied to the lesson of the ting-sha. I now have added a second layer of meaning to "Trust the art". That is to trust in and accept the changes that are going to occur as a result of being part of the art. The path will lead to change but the change must be accepted for the lesson to be learned.

Trust does not mean do not question or do not try to understand what is happening, but it does mean to trust enough in what is happening to allow it to happen.

Make sense? I hope so, because I'm not sure I can explain it better. More on my visit later - can you believe it was only 4 days???


Sandy T.

July 21, 2008

June intensive at the Gompa - second feedback - the lesson of the Tingsha

I've noticed a lot of small changes in my physical condition in just this past month. One of the breakthroughs that helped me to learn to train and trust the art was the lesson that Shifu taught me using his tingsha.

A tingsha, for anyone who doesn't know it, is a pair of small cymbals joined by a leather strap (see Wikipedia for a picture and better description).

Shifu first showed me something he has demonstrated before in workshops - dangling a small object (weight) from a string and making it move without having the obvious appearance of movement. Now, it's been explained before and no doubt you are thinking, well it's just his fingers twirling the string - but that's not really the perfectly correct analysis of what's happening.

The lesson of the tingsha was quite simply a lesson in getting me to do it. The weight on the string was one of the cymbals at the end of the leather strap, and I held the other cymbal in my hand while it dangled. Then Shifu showed me how to make the dangling cymbal move smoothly, in circular motions or back and forth. He even used his hand to "suggest" where the cymbal should swing and it appeared to respond like magic, the cymbal following wherever his hand moved. When he left the room, it didn't swing as widely so I imagined his hand providing the suggestion and voila! it worked. The way it works, is by imagining that it's moving. You actually do end up making very small movements but without the imagination it is very difficult to get the swing to be smooth and controlled.

On leaving the room, his challenge was for me to feel what it was that I was doing, exactly. This was far more difficult and I had to stop and start the tingsha moving several times before I could sense what my body was doing. You see, the entire trick is one that uses your imagination to create very small movements. Once I was able to feel what made the tingsha move, I could do it without engaging my imagination but EVEN WHEN I HAD FIGURED IT OUT, the movement was MUCH more powerful and effective when I was engaging my imagination.

If you feel that you've heard this before somewhere, you have. The breakthrough for me with the tingsha was learning to trust and try to feel the physical adjustments or movements created by whatever is being imagined. This breakthrough also led to a better understanding of what's happening and why I'm training Yi Xin Gong right now. I'll save that for my next update!


Sandy T.

June 29, 2008

June intensive at the Gompa - first feedback

I made some overall comments on the Yahoo! group regarding the week at the Gompa, and repeat them here in case you haven't seen it (you really should join the group it's highly informative) - slightly edited here for clarification:

Last week I arrived in Texas for a four-day intensive training session. What I took away from that week of study and immersion was so much more than I can explain easily. I will do my best to give you a glimpse into this amazing experience that I'd recommend for anybody who has any chance to take advantage of this learning opportunity.

Firstly, I was permitted to attend any of the regular classes held at the Gompa, either as a participant or an observer, at my choice. As a result, when my flight landed at Dallas-Fort Worth, I took the shuttle directy to the Gompa so that I'd be able to attend that week's Xingyiquan session with Shifu Alan Marshall and Wolf Thiel. What a blast! It was fun and interesting to catch a glimpse into what differed from Jiulong Baguazhang™, and I'm grateful for the chance to attend. Thanks Wolf for showing me the bamboo step and I apologize if I was somewhat distracted by noticing the more senior students and teachers bouncing the heavy bags off of their bodies :)

Similarly, I attended the Taijiquan class the next evening and again found it different yet similar, and my thanks to Shifu Andy Garza for giving me a taste of Taijiquan and for actively letting me participate in the class.

As a final note on these 'extras' I found it extremely difficult if not impossible to call on my bagua skills while attempting to 'try out' something else, so I am NOT going to try anything new - for the foreseeable future I'm sticking to bagua!

While I was sad that Shifu Bob Castaldo could not be there during the week I had scheduled, I was glad to be able to learn from Shifu Painter. Thank you Shifu for making this time for me. I am looking forward to seeing Shifu Bob Castaldo, next time!

For daily training, we enjoyed quiet sitting in the morning followed by some new stretching exercises for me, and I've incorporated these items into my morning routine at home. After breakfast, back to the Gompa for a very personalized training program incorporating discussions, reviews, practise, time to practise what I learned on my own, then on to the next lesson. Evenings spent with Karen reinforced training through both informal chats and watching bagua videos. Despite having purchased Shifu Painter's books, which I believed covered most concepts, I filled half a coiled notebook with notes. Even then, I found that I am still remembering discussions and lessons on which I have not yet written notes, and am still writing down information as I remember it. You could definitely say that the week was very full.

Most importantly, I learned what I need to focus on "now" in order to get to the next level in my training, and learned how to recognize when I'd reached that level. Shifu Painter added to that by showing me the next level of practise that I will do when I've reached the first level, and again the next steps once I've reached that level, and so on, so this teaching will result in my practise developing and changing over time as my skill increases. I feel I have finally understood and started to internalize the concept of "learning to learn" this art.

As well, there were some important breakthroughs I've made that I will share as I discuss these experiences in more detail starting next weekend. I now understand what is the power of imagery at one level, and how to train with it to achieve physical results that I can actually feel.

More to follow. If you have any questions about my experiences, please feel free to email me. If you have any question about whether or not to go to the Gompa, don't ask the question as the answer is obvious - just go.

May Workshop in Toronto - progress with hand function

In May, 2008 I attended a weekend workshop in Toronto where, among other realizations, I realized that I can truly change my hand weakness. This is because I have not lost any feeling in my hands or elsewhere, just experienced weakness. Well, I used to be a competitive swimmer and being able to swim faster and with less effort than anyone else required dedicated training. So, this is my new approach with my hands. After the workshop Steven showed my some strengthening exercises which I practised almost daily.

The improvement has been noticeable.

The goal is for the hand weakness to be strengthened by ongoing training to the point where there IS no noticeable weakness. This will improve my everyday life as well as my bagua skills.


Sandy T.

PS: If you are interested in a trip to the Gompa, please see the following link: The Gompa

November 18, 2007

Workshop in Toronto

It's been a strange time for me. After moving to Ottawa, my regular practise became more and more sporadic, but my daily awareness continued. The end result is, I still have some skill but did not progress as I'd like, or otherwise could have done. That's really sad!

I wonder how many others feel the same way?

A few weeks ago, Shifu visited the Toronto study group and despite my lack of practise, I attended the workshop. I am sorry that my lack of practise really meant I hadn't advanced much. So, I'm back to planning my practise, at this time still sporadic.

BUT... I know what I need to do, so I'm just going to do it. This entry to my journal is the start of my re-invigorated practise, so if you missed me -- I'M BACK. If you didn't, well why are you reading this?? **grin**

I've also got some ideas on how to improve my training, based Shifu's new training, Eric's assistance and my own challenges, so please check back after next weekend. Every weekend I'll give some insights into my training from the week before, plus I've many updates from the past few years and ideas to share - next week's topic will be my thoughts on selecting a martial art, inspired by a neighbour and an email friend, both of whom aren't sure what they want.

Hope you like it and I'll be back VERY soon! Cheers,

Sandy T.

January 8, 2007

A new approach to an old art

A few years ago, someone asked our Shifu a hypothetical question, if he could practise/keep only one item he had learned, what would it be? His response was quick, "quiet sitting". Some people accepted this while others tried to understand why. Some were of the (mostly unspoken) opinion, "Really? But that's the BORING part - why would you not keep circle walking or cross the great river or fa jing (sp?) or etc, etc, ...?

The response was dissatisfying to many, "Because it is the foundation."

The reason this answer can be so dissatisfying in my opinion is because you really need a deep understanding of quiet sitting gained through both practise and teachings before you can really appreciate it. To this day I sometimes find it difficult to practise because of the objections my mind creates to quiet sitting "it takes too much time" / "i'll get to it later" / -- the irony being, that when you do practise it daily, these objections disappear because the clarity of mind you can attain means that you can be more productive during the rest of the day, as you find it easier to focus on the task at hand.

As you continue, you start to appreciate quiet sitting on deeper levels. Aside from providing an oasis of calm when you do it, you begin to be able to be that calm at any time, even under normally stressful situations where judgment is often clouded. This means that in extreme situations, you are not reacting out of fear or the adrenaline rush. In daily life you can respond to angry and judgmental people without becoming so yourself.

What we learned in November is a new way of training built on these truths: that in order to progress in this art, you must build on the following foundations and can probably learn faster by focussing on them in the following order: sitting, standing, shifting, walking, circling. I'll discuss how these are being now taught and what it means for my practise in the next post!


Sandy T.

December 23, 2006

Walking this road...
It's my birthday today.

In November I attended a seminar in Toronto where new teaching methods and learning techniques were delivered.

I am looking forward to sharing with you my impressions of the new study methods and approach, and will at the same time share with you my experiences of the last year, which included a move from Toronto to Ottawa and revisiting my career and educational path.

In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas holiday and New Year, and may whichever holiday(s) you celebrate be joyous!


Sandy T.

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