The Dragon Journals
The Dragon Journals

The Journals Archives: September 2003 - August 2005.

September 17th 2003

Starting this month we are back to three sessions; after summer's end the classes scheduled on Tuesdays and Saturday mornings, were switched back to Tues-Thurs-Sat. I can only attend two per week due to courses and work, but will rotate sessions. Hopefully I will be playing on my own sufficiently and with diligence so that my bagua doesn't fall behind classwork as a result.

Time flies, time stands still.
Yet another summer has passed. It was literally months ago when I last updated this site, mainly due to the unnoticed passage of time. That is to say, I'm now taking courses that started in July and have simply not noticed how long it has been since the last site update. Time flies.

On the other day, it seems a very long time since Shifu's last visit and October appears to be a far distant goal. I do think anticipation makes time stand still, activity sends it flying. Despite the anticipation, I can already tell that I won't feel I've practised enough for Shifu's visit...

That leaves me to wonder about my still on-going bagua practise, and/or lack thereof. One of the reasons I attend class, even though they are not suitable to my schedule (there, I've said it :) ) is that class keeps me practising. More often than I care to admit, if I don't go to class then I don't practise. This has absolutely got to change for me, I know it.

Amazing thing is, I keep starting over. Yes, this means that I probably could have been a much more skilled practitioner by now, but the fact is that I have progressed in skill, ofttimes despite myself. Coulda / shoulda / woulda well, I didn't so it's at best a moot point. Every day is one more day when I have the opportunity to get it right (and sometimes I do).

So having said my piece, I'm off to sit quietly now, and perhaps more than that.


September 21st, 2003

I have been moderately successful working out daily, now been on the exercise bike 3x this week (today, 12 minutes at level 4 interval training + 1 minute warm-down = 101 calories burned, yippee).

...and this time, I really mean it!
At a recent bagua class, Assistant SGL Jan showed me the beginning steps of learning to fall; something I suppose I should have asked for ages ago, but with the inability to really spar it seemed unnecessary. After a few years of core training in sensitivity and learning Heaven Palm, our group however is now going to really go for it - getting mats so we can learn throwing and joint locks. Now, keeping in mind that many in our group have some other martial training, it is likely that many already know how to fall. Ergo, I am a bit behind...

So I'm now off for a bit of personal errands then hopefully a bit of rolling on my knees in the backyard (if I get photos I will post them... just to see what this beginning roller looks like ;)

By the way the new website is almost finished -- a completely different look and I hope you'll like it as much as I do! Off to roll...


September 24th, 2003

Need to learn to fall as we will soon be taking this to the next level.

First entry on new website.
Having updated many photographs for this new design, I spent some time in the backyard last weekend (posing!) and decided to try out my "rolling" technique, as mentioned above. See my very first attempts on the photograph page.


October 13th, 2003

Still can only manage 2 sessions per week; a bit complicated by troubles the group is having with the reliability of the space we are renting. Ah well. On a positive note, I now have a room in the house that will be strictly bagua, large enough for sitting and standing quietly, as well as some circle walking. Strength training is as always reserved for the basement or outside. I'm very excited by the room and will post pictures as soon as I've had a chance to take some!

Shifu, students and the Gompa.
With some disappointment, I realised that I could not attend Founder's Day this year. The disappointment was made a bit less sad by a few good people: Shifu, who was very understanding and supportive, Karen in Arlington (who I'm still planning to call she was SO nice and I'm sorry to have missed her too), and everyone who was willing to share their own experiences at the Gompa for the weekend to some degree or another.

Thanks to everyone who shared and I'm looking forward to Shifu's next visit - very soon - in October!


October 24th, 2003

Heaven Palm Combat Concepts I
WEEKEND WORKSHOP this weekend. I am truly looking forward to learn more about combat applications this weekend. As mentioned, although my health has benefitted greatly from the training, it is the martial aspect which appeals to me. Not knowing *exactly* what to expect, I'll try to update this over the next three days with the experience, learning and reactions from the weekend. At this time I can sum up my feelings in one word: excited!



October 24, 2003 @ 11:30 p.m.

Summary of event...
Not a seminar goes by where I don't learn something new. I'll get back to this comment at the end, but to give a flavour of what I learned or had reinforced by tonight's lessons, here's how the evening went:

We began with Shifu providing a brief history of baguazhang and how its origins relate to our studies (example - baguazhang was designed for multiple opponents and has as its history, a martial beginning) . A concept stressed was the goal of learning to change and adapt according to the situation, learning to use all methods available.

Shifu explained how the studies progress, among other abilities it teaches us to stay calm under pressure and become aware of body mechanics, let go of tension, feel power and learn to use the whole body in any position, any situation.

During the course of the evening, we did simple two-student exercises to both demonstrate and feel the concept that was being explained, and that can easily be replicated in study group classes and incorporated into daily home practice.

At the end, as usual Shifu asked for comments, feedback (what did you learn that was most useful to you?). As I was driving home I considered this, seeing as all twelve of us at the workshop had a separate answer. Not only does this "question and answer" give us all additional food for thought from each other's comments, but it also shows that each time we go through this process, we learn or focus on a different aspect of the art.

Looking forward to tomorrow's lessons!


October 29, 2003

More about the weekend...
As usual - everyone had a great time at the seminar. I took LOADS of notes and am trying to figure out whether anyone would want to see them here. Tell you what: if you're a student and want my notes, I'll send you a copy after transcribing them (will take a couple weeks to finish at this rate). Just email me if you want them, but if you'd prefer the short version - this is it!

I must admit I hope to get my notes transcribed soon. The words "wedge" and "Goldilocks" come up quite often and I'm afraid I'll have forgotten the specific context by the time I can re-write them. On the other hand, the concept of the wedge, and of getting it "just right" (Goldilocks), are some of the basic principles we study.

Shifu reinforced this message on Saturday morning - emphasizing that striking, throwing and joint locks all follow from the basic moves we are all taught from the beginning. One thought (from my notes so this is not a direct quote), 'The basic skills are the launching pad upon which all else is based. Then we study and play with timing.'

In order to demonstrate the concepts, we were given simple exercises we could practise, both on our own and with a partner. I've posted one of these in the photograph area (left arm is heaven palm, right is a strike using the elbow).

As a result of the weekend, I've been left (again) with a lot to ponder and a lot to practise. So I'll be practising then adding my thoughts here on how the new focus is working out. Hopefully not forget everything we were shown! Wish me luck (I'll need some!) ;)


November 3, 2003

More about the weekend to follow later this week...
Due to an exam tomorrow, my notes from the weekend are off to one side. Photos, same thing. However, after tomorrow I will again be updating ... time to go sit quietly in preparation for exam!


February 17th, 2004

Overdue Updates
If you're very very patient, perhaps you are still reading my journals or earlier entries, you will have noticed that there has been a distinct lack of updates recently. This is an on-going challenge for me in terms of juggling time and priorities, but before I ever sit down to any entries I make sure my practise is up to date.

My disappearance has been due to many factors but mostly due to an intensive job search and coursework. At some point in time, something suffers and the website is usually the first to suffer - unfortunately. However I did have some thoughts and have been developing others regarding my baguazhang development, which I hope to share over the next few weeks. As well, I will complete my update regarding the October weekend workshop, for which I kept copious notes and have a few more photos to upload. I will also have some updates regarding upcoming Jiulong Baguazhang events so stay tuned! And for those of you who have waited patiently - thank you.

... and just in case you're interested, I am pleased to say I did well in my November course. January... who knows! *grin*

Random Thoughts
During a very basic side-to-side exercise it occurred to me to consider the force of the floor pushing up as the "equal and opposite" force of my 'root' into the floor. Not that this is anything new, but it shifted my perspective slightly and I realised that I am not 100% in agreement with a favoured analogy about baguazhang. Many bagua players have likened the art and its complexity to that of peeling an onion, as the art has many layers and one's understanding is deepened with time and experience. The problem with this analogy is, no matter how big the onion, it has a centre and its layers get smaller. I'd prefer to think of starting at the inside of the onion, or better yet the expoding sun of a universe, or the centre of a large pond where the beginning is like the ripple in the pond and each ripple is broader and can be stretched further.

Random thoughts indeed! I'm off to bed - I promise to have more interesting updates soon - good night :)

April 15, 2004 @ 9:50 p.m.

This web site has been neglected for far too long! As well as my practise...

I sometimes feel like I'm starting again from scratch, only a bit older and hopefully a bit wiser. In about 10 minutes, my plan is to go upstairs for my seated and standing quietly practise, then take it from there, and do this every night at the same time from now on. Still wrestling with the idea that all my work has to be done before I can "play", because that idea leaves me with no "play" time. Blame my German background if you must, but at any rate it is now so ingrained I have to break myself of it.

To add grist to my mill, as of mid-January I have been in the midst of a very intensive job search. They say that looking for a job is a full-time job, but forgot to mention the overtime evenings and weekends sending out more applications (because if you don't send it immediately you risk being too late), and then the guilt if any spare moments are spent in doing something that is not contributing to finding work.

I don't know if writing this out will help me to overcome these obstacles, but hey! what else is a journal for?

Of course, if anyone can offer any ideas to break these old mindsets, feel free to share them with me (email to sandyt XXX and replace the XXX with @ ). Something's gotta help!


April 18, 2004 @ 11:59 p.m.

Going fine so far...
At last I have a decent (workable) practise time, and now am ready to make it a habit.

It appears my best time is between 10pm - midnight. Any other times if I have free time, I am using to either do some strength training (yoga or pilates type), or on the bicycle, and - new to the set - a treadmill! The treadmill is a great addition (I feel my calves burning from just a 5-minute tryout) and due to a family friend's move, so we are truly lucky to have this equipment at home.

One reminder (to me, myself): don't eat too late ie., after 7pm! Yes it's generally not great to eat late for any reason, including a healthy diet reason, but add to that playing Bagua after eating a large meal... well I might as well go swimming (**rueful smile**). Live and learn or if not - live and learn the hard way! ;)


June 29, 2004

Quick Update
1. Still struggling to practise regularly. Best time remains late evening/night.

2. Participated in "Earth Palm" workshop and as a result, am now training Earth Palm. Am picking up photos from the store later today and hope to be able to post some on the site soon.

3. Still looking for work and dealing with a family illness. I think once these two items are improved it's time for a holiday!

4. Since this page is now 9 months old it's ready to be archived, and in tune with my study focus moving from Heaven to Earth palm it is likely a good change! When the new page is ready, it will be announced on the front page. Keep your eyes on this space, more to come!


July 4, 2004

More quick thoughts.
Unfortunately, the photos from the workshop did NOT turn out. All were underexposed and since I received prints, it will take still longer to see if anything is salvageable for the web site...

I did discover an interesting (to me anyway) fact about Earth Palm. It is more easily visible when the shoulders are not appropriately engaged, because it is virtually impossible to position the arms in the proper twin yang position without starting the movement at the shoulders. If the shoulders are omitted, invariably you will see a 90-degree angle at the elbow (or close to it) and this is corrected when the shoulders start the movement.

I'll see what I can do about taking more photos, possibly at class, to get some Earth Palm pics on the site. Then the above might make more sense! Cheers... and thanks for your patience!


July 14, 2004

Working Out and Playing Bagua
Today: exercise bike, interval level 3, 145 kCal burned, max heartrate (only?) 139. Earth Palm standing with different rotations before bed.

Yesterday: went to Tuesday evening class, really enjoyed it. Will be there Saturday too, despite weather warming up (I just melt in the heat, mentally and it looks like physically too!! *grin*)

Tomorrow: we'll see....


July 18, 2004

More Working Out and Playing Bagua
Today: exercise bike, interval level 4, 21 minutes, 151 kCal burned, max heartrate 153.

Yesterday: went to Saturday morning sauna *ahem* I mean, class. Played some more with Earth in both standing postures and linear walking - lots of imagery to absorb and apply. This palm is still a bit 'physical' for me in that I have difficulty keeping the shoulders "down and relaxed" while starting the rotating movement in the shoulder.

Tonight will be for quiet sitting and standing. So far I'm just trying to 'observe' my progression with Earth palm, still finding this all a bit new... while somewhat familiar with the principles it's the application of them in a new palm that's twisting my brain! *grin* More to come...


July 18, 2004

More Working Out ...
Today: exercise bike, interval level 4, 20 minutes, 157 kCal burned, max heartrate 155.


July 24, 2004

Still Working Out ...
Today: exercise bike, interval level 4, 20 minutes, 151 kCal burned, max heartrate 153. Last Tuesday in class, we practised the 'ball & wedge' principle. I tried using Earth palm but apparently the feeling is completely different, so the entire class practised it using a Heaven palm. Am wondering whether that is the correct terminology, is this really an application of Heaven palm, or is it a 'wedging principle' that is best demonstrated using Heaven? Food for thought and a question to ask in future...


August 7, 2004

Still Here
Am still struggling with Earth palm, it is completely ephemeral. The expression "smoke and mirrors" keeps entering my head, and today Shi-Ge Eric showed me some applications where I actually used Earth palm effectively, and it felt like - nothing. So, getting appropriate 'physical' feedback in this new palm is going to be a great challenge.

On another note, quiet sitting has lately been very challenging for me. Have you ever had times in your life when everything seems to go wrong, or backfire, or unusual stressful periods, have arisen all at the same time? These are usually the times when playing bagua is extremely beneficial, and usually it's the first thing to go as other issues take precedence (now that doesn't make much sense, does it?)

In either case, you might find the following interesting. I have found that during stressful times, as much as I need the quiet sitting, that peace of mind becomes far more elusive. So my question in the Yahoo! news group was, how to approach quiet sitting during the difficult or unusually stressful times? I quote Shifu's reply:

"Dear Sandy,

The trick is to learn to wait patiently (one of the virtues) and allow (a key word allow) the mind to settle. Now when it starts with all the static and noise sometimes it will gently settle and others it seems to only get worse, again no matter what the situation unless there is a feeling of deep dread then just sit sincerely and patiently and wait humbly for it to settle. What we are doing is Quiet Sitting not Vipissana or other forms of meditation so we just sit still. It is common for the mind to get all excited when we first do this it is like a kid that you ignore. It will try to get your attention and the more you consciously ignore it the more loud and rambunctious it will become. Acknowledge the thoughts but do not get hooked into playing their game of look at me.

Even if it does not settle there will be some benefit. It takes time, it is a cumulative process and it gets easier in time, yet not always will it just settle and you experience bliss at least not for some years. The breathing is healthy and calms the nerves, the sitting feels stable and helps also. When the mind goes on a jaunt gently remind yourself that you are just sitting and occupy it with feeling your breath go in, pause and go out pause and go in pause.......... this will often help as well.

Sitting for too short a period is not productive and sitting for too long a period is counterproductive. With most people just sitting for five minutes is torture. Working up to about fifteen to twenty minutes is good but anything much over 30 minutes at least for Quiet Sitting is not of much benefit.

Waiting is active inactivity. You are doing something by doing nothing this type of activity you cannot force or intellectualize wish too hard for it will run away like a doe in the Forrest if it sees something that is unfamiliar.

Trust the process and work with it.

Dr. Painter"


August 29, 2004

Updates Overdue!
Just over a month ago, I started a new career and am working in a consulting role, two major changes for me. As well, some personal "stuff" is keeping me busy and as a result, all else has suffered, including my practise and the updates for this page. However, after missing going to The Gompa last year, I am once again going to attend Founder's Day at The Gompa this October. Also am planning to update this page re: learning a new, and very different, type of palm (Earth) for this art. Stay tuned, I'll be back!


October 24, 2004

The Metal Monkey
It's being a challenging year, a year of changes and high stress levels. One thing that has suffered has been this web site, as usual. So just a few "tid bits" until November, as I have an exam that needs my full attention between now and then:

- My second trip to The Gompa (Founder's Day Weekend) was at the beginning of October and I have new photographs that will be updated in the photo section as well as in the Yahoo! group. I met some wonderful people for the first time as well as being reintroduced to others, and everyone had a great time. It was interesting to notice my own progress and areas for improvement by interacting with unfamiliar partners. I was grateful for the kindness of Karen, who was not only my host but a great sounding board and sister in this art.

- A new programme I haven't yet had the opportunity to study, but am hoping to schedule a class with Shi-Ge Eric before the workshop.

- A real possibility of not being able to attend the next workshop, due to personal (business, school and family) issues.

- Another interesting experience with combatting illness even after not practising regularly. This is one I can briefly relate: yesterday morning I had nonstop sneezing and a runny nose. I spent some time doing clearing exercises mentally, since I was in a car and unable to physically do the exercises, imagined and felt myself clearing nine times. This I repeated a bit later in the day, and by the next day (today) am virtually cold-free. Am feeling a renewed sense of gratitude as a result as I cannot afford time to get a cold! More after exams. Cheers - Sandy.


December 23, 2004

Thanks... more updates to follow soon!
For those of you who know, thank you for my birthday greetings today. For all other readers, please rest assured I am planning to update these pages over the holidays, starting with photos from last October's visit to the Gompa. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all! Cheers from Sandy T.


April 19, 2005

The best laid plans!
Apparently it's an old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." A Google search actually gives it as a quote from Robert F. Kennedy, who attributed it to the Chinese (if you are TRULY interested in the origin of the phrase check out this website). The past few years have certainly not been dull, and I'm not the only person I know who has lived through a few crises lately. The reason I bring this up, is twofold: one to explain, and I hope get some understanding, of why I haven't been updating this site. To me, I wanted to keep this a place of joy evenly balanced with disappointment, and it would have been rather depressingly one-sided for a while there.

However, now that life is once again just "normally" rocky, the first subject that comes to mind is one I've heard several instructors of this art question: why is it, that when the practise of Jiulong Baguazhang is calming and grounding for those who practise it, why is it often abandoned in times of stress? Note that this question can equally be applied to anything else that has this calming influence on you, be it yoga, or working out, or playing a musical instrument, whatever it is. Why stop doing it just when you need it most?

I don't claim to know the answer for anyone else, so all I fall back on is my own experiences. If anyone is still reading my journals after all this time, maybe if you're willing to share your experiences, I'd be happy to publish them here. (Email is still sandyt at dragonjournals dot com, replace the at with @ and the dot with .)

In my own experience, when in a crisis it takes precedence, and then to actually take time and attention away from the crisis to do something so very apparently selfish and alone, is counter to my instincts of wanting to "do something" or "be there"... in other words, it seems selfish. If I can actually get past that hurdle, there is also a great difficulty in the quiet sitting and quiet standing practise, because that is exactly when 'getting quiet' feels impossible and I was faced with thoughts I did not want to face. Far easier to drown them out with music or by diverting my attention to the needs of others. I don't know if it's 'right' or 'wrong', but it seems to me that "right or wrong" doesn't matter so much as understanding and attempting to get back to it, now that I've had the opportunity to start rebuilding.

So that's where I'm at now, and I'm glad to be applying myself to this art and this web site again. I'm still finishing my diploma so I don't expect this to be continuous, so I hope anyone still having patience with me will forgive me - again! Anyway I've posted a few pictures tonight from the wonderful Founder's Day weekend last October, and I hope you'll stay tuned as I backtrack to last October in the next few journal entries to post my experiences and learnings from that weekend. It's good to be asked if you're 21, when you're closer to twice that age!!! LOL

An unexpected long break from journal entries...


August 22, 2005

School's out...
Last week, assuming all went well, marked the final five days to complete my diploma in Investigative and Forensic Accounting.

The five-day program is in lieu of the traditional class sessions with assignments followed by written exams. It is intended as a practical measure of what has been learned over the last two years, by taking three days to discuss and practise client management, interviewing, and court room skills, followed by two days of oral presentations upon which the final mark is based.

Before I started the first "mock courtroom" session, where I was going to be "testifying as an expert witness" about a case whose details I had reviewed/analyzed over the prior week and a half, I was nervous. I've never testified in court, and performing well was a goal.

In the five minutes I had before the video camera was switched on and the moot court started, I sat at the edge of my chair and allowed myself to settle into seated meditation. I am sure this did far more good than any last-minute note-checking may have done. Apparently I appeared so relaxed one evaluator commented, "You seemed almost TOO calm at the beginning, ..."


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