Student's Viewpoint

Danya Rose, Annandale

I became a student of Master Ric Lum in May 2002, largely as a matter of curiosity and opportunity. Studying Yuan-Chi Tai Chi Chuan has opened my eyes to myself, to others and to "going with the flow" in both literal and metaphorical senses.
Through it I have discovered great balance, in both physical and non-physical senses, and my interest in and appreciation for the art has only deepened the more deeply into it I have seen and explored.
As a mathematician, I find that Tai Chi Chuan is of huge benefit to me as a centring exercise and practice for body, mind and soul.
Date:     Thu, 22 Mar 2012 22:51:01 +1100


Subject: Match Report 19/5
Date: Sat, 19 May 2012 15:51:15 +1000

Today's class for me was quite amazing. Stepping into the Dance was like forgetting myself. At first I had an instant of thinking my way into my last step, progressing into my current step and then deliberately letting go of all that, at which point it felt like a door opened and I was no longer "driving". This continued until the end of S2, when my mind became just active enough as to take me out of that state (actually reminiscent of the few times I've been in true Push Hands). Despite losing the "other driver", it felt like the door into that state remained open for the rest of the Dance, and occasionally I was lifted above my normal state just a little before the end.

We closed with repetitions of left and right "Brush knee" and finally one run through that part of S1. During this I moved extremely slowly, and I felt my whole body almost shaking as if from chills and wind, even though I was warm enough. It felt very like I was in a vortex of the Cool Breeze, doing exactly what I should, exactly how I should. Amazing!

At coffee, Chris R, Roselle and Neelica all reported the sensation of the "breaking eggs". Amusingly, they all (without thinking about it or coordinating it) ordered omelettes! 


Subject: Kundala
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2012 13:34:50 +1100

Subject: Kundala
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2012 13:34:50 +1100

Dear Sifu,
Kundala is the seat (Throne?) of Kundalini.

Unlike most other steps, Kundala is not a region that permits conscious control - either you have imbibed the spirit of Tai Chi Chuan (and Kundala thus is free) or you have not.

In Mongolian horse stance, Tai Chi stance and Wu Chi stance (in order of subtle, as well as physical, height) this step brings spontaneous meditation.

In the form (Section 1 so far) it spontaneously imposes (no - inspires!) a straight spine in all postures, brings spontaneous meditation and transcendence during the form (or stances) so that even though the mind dropped initially into focus, attention/awareness is opened up everywhere.

In "frog on lily pad", it brought me to the bottom with great restfulness. I felt as though I were warmly enclosed by the earth, as an egg in a nest or a seed in the ground (and just as sleepy, but vibrant with potential). Rising from here was the one place where Kundala felt like it led directly - everywhere else it followed, but was also the source of spontaneous motion, directing physical awareness of my body - first raising and then inflating me.

It is beautifully natural.

In summary, this step is perhaps the first point at which one is fully on the first rung to Wu-Chi. It is a trigger for spontaneous meditation. It both requires and inspires correctness in all earlier steps to freely raise one's awareness to a higher level (particularly in motion). It is opening a door.

Subject: Final note on '3.07'
Date: Wed, 05 Oct 2011 17:29:33 +1100

While consciously practising this step in repetitions of "Brush knee", the "way" of moving emphasised the weaving of the dragon, much more clearly than at previous steps which introduced aspects of it 
along the way (many of which seemed to be at Water level).

On 28/09/2011 4:32 PM, Danya Rose wrote:
This morning I was glad to practise '3.07' in the main form for a long, continuous session. As before, it felt like the only way to apply it and maintain flow was to remove "thinking" control from my limbs and let my internal pace set the external. This of course led to a tranquil inner state which caused my body to move, and it was very clear what was too fast (what was too slow, even). I noticed that when I was maintaining this state there were points where the external movement was (relatively) faster than I might have expected naively - but this was whenever there was a letting go, and a body part relaxed like a damped spring back to where the form asked it to be at a natural/uncontrolled speed.

While I was leading there were moments when I could tell I was contravening the step. While following it was easier to let go that aspect of my mind for longer periods and let myself be moved.

On 23/09/2011 9:25 AM, Danya Rose wrote:
While practising this step leading Tyrone in his and Parvati, I kept finding that **** worked better when I applied it internally and allowed the internal application to manifest externally. It results in effortless movement, but not guaranteed so - like the external speed becomes a dependent variable and could (potentially) be any speed as a function of...? Context.

On 20/09/2011 6:08 PM, Danya Rose wrote:
Today for the first time I attempted this (new)step. My instinct/intuition was to slow my internal pace and let that guide my external pace i.e., to move only as I am moved (in CMC form).
I feel that my external form at some moments lacks precision. This lack of precision speeds up my execution. My stance, when its depth is appropriate for my level, feels almost like a brake on my execution speed. At the same time, that depth also feels like a great, rolling inertia; once I am moving, there is momentum that resists slowing to a stop altogether (reminiscent of the paradoxical "rising leaden arms", especially notable when one is a beginner).

Sent: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 8:03 AM
Subject: Moving Goalposts?

When weaving a tapestry the thread must weave in an unsubtle fashion between the other strands. Only once it has passed through in the correct pattern should it be pulled tight, and the new thread becomes less obvious, more subtle.


Sent: Thursday, October 22, 2009 7:37 PM
Evening Push Hands

I left Push Hands this evening brimming over somehow. I pedalled my bike home seemingly powered only by Chi - it was like an effortless stroll the entire way, and very peaceful.


Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2009 8:30 AM
Subject: 1.Earth- Constant Rate?

Thank you. This is incredibly illuminating. (the pieces were all there and put together - this just turns it on!)

I'm sure I'll be having unpredictable flashes of insight for week, months, years just from this alone.


Sent: Sunday, July 12, 2009 2:40 PM
Subject: Q.2??

Interesting tangent from applied maths/mathematical physics - a result called Noether's theorem, which in short states that whenever you have a physical symmetry (these tend to be in the form of time/space/rotational invariance, meaning that the equations remain the same when the variables are changed corresponding to translations in time or space or a rotation) you have a corresponding conserved quantity (respectively, energy/linear momentum/angular momentum).


Sent: Tuesday, July 07, 2009 10:03 AM

It seems to me that "Constant Rate" is about being aware of a beat in the form, which makes it more explicitly a dance. However, from the hints I've received, the idea of constant rate as we received it today is a way to nail down the edges of an understanding/awareness that will appear to be reversed later on – an apparent contradiction - while maintaining fidelity to the principle in a deeper/subtler manner.
I think at the heart it is to maintain the strength of the Chi flow at a constant rate through the form.

"When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start

When tomorrow comes!"


30th May, 2009

As today's lesson started, I noticed myself falling into a strange mental space. Almost as if I were drunk, I could not think easily, and all that remained of *me* was my awareness, which was at once both intensely focussed and completely defocussed. Unlike drunkenness, however, was my total control, which, paradoxically, was not even needed – everything I did while in this state felt guided, so I let myself stay there and not worry if this or that that was right or wrong.

While leading Grasp Bird's Tail I felt like a puppet on strings, guided by some other sense in pace and position. Everything was without concern.

This persisted until the time we began to form up to do Section 1 “Around the World”, but has left me in a clearer, better space all day, hovering on the edge of it in some way, relaxed and centred, without stress or pressure. I now have a real glimmer of understanding how Tai Chi should be taught, how it should be learned and why Ric sometimes seems startled when we ask questions – because questions don't come from this space and they intrude upon it, pulling you out like being shaken from meditation.


1st December  2008

Tai Chi has a profound effect improving leg strength and balance on your feet. This extends to improving posture. Endurance increases and walking becomes effortless. Even when you are feeling weak, your legs will be able to keep you upright until you can rest.


17 May 2008

The amount of idiosyncrasies depends on the rank or level of the person. To begin with, the most important thing is flow. It’s like nailing down a sheet – you’re free to move around and you may express very strangely. People can express freely around what’s being nailed down. What they express partly depends on their physiology, their fitness, and their Chi flow. Within these constraints, there are correct ways of doing it. You generally see the correct ways in the more advanced students.


29th March 2008

  • “Can you be big-headed and good at Tai Chi?”
    Answer(?): You can be very technically correct with regard to elements relating to the form.

  • When you unfocus your attention and just wait, it makes things clearer; something always comes to priority, and it is usually the correct thing, if your head/impatience don’t get in the way.

8th March 2008

  • When is it too late for someone to start Tai Chi Chuan?
    As long as you can stand on your own two feet, you can do Tai Chi. That’s the core of the answer.


Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2007 11:51 PM
Still Immobile?

This evening washing my hair in the shower I had a small revelation that I wanted to share.
Just washing my hair, scrubbing my scalp, I was feeling the simple mechanical waves/oscillations travel down my body to my feet, reflect back up, and watching how my body moved in counterpoint to the motion of my arms (conservation of momentum), and noticed, suddenly, the difference between what it is to be still and to be immobile.

It was the kind of simple discovery that made me wonder why I'd never noticed that before. At some stage the two concepts may coincide, but the subtle, qualitative difference between the two says they're not identical - the difference between true neutrality (conserving momentum) and taking a position and holding to it (requires forcing against the natural flow of the motion that dissipates energy most *efficiently*).


Sent: Sunday, January 28, 2007 6:51 PM
Subject: Tai Chi on the Farm; or How Your Stance can Save Your Back

In essence, there is little to expand upon the title of this update - having a correct stance from the feet up through the knees (remember from an early lesson, knee in line with big toe) and maintaining the seat, particularly in the case of digging trenches with a mattock, will at least reduce the amount of strain on the muscles of your lower back around your spine. On rough ground, releasing the heel first gives you the opportunity to find a stable platform before you shift your weight, preventing falls or unbalancing from slippage (if you slip, just let your weight go down on your weighted leg and the unweighted leg will slide until it's done - a version of "Snake Creeps Down", in the extreme - your weighted foot should already be stable, and when the slide finishes you can transfer your weight and raise yourself).

Those are the main experiences where unconscious Kung Fu asserts itself, but if you are aware you will notice how it can infiltrate just walking, especially on rough terrain, or standing when hard work has tired you.


Sent: Monday, December 11, 2006 12:21 AM
Subject: Phases of Chi

In this morning's class (Sunday, 10/12/06) I realised for the first time that in the rising arms of the opening movement of the form there are two distinct phases of Chi. For the first half it seems to lift up on my hands, then, about 45 from vertical it changes direction and sensation and pulls forwards until the hands reach the top and turn to face palms down. In fact this is not a new sensation, but the realisation of this distinction was interesting. I also find that the same location for the change in phase also triggers the transition into the next movement, pivoting to the right.


Sent: Monday, December 04, 2006 7:37 PM
Subject: Automotion

Hi Ric,
Just this hour I was overwhelmed by an urge to do Tai Chi. As I stood in Tai Chi stance waiting to begin, my arms floated up in front of me and my whole body was carried through the form, which took somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes to complete. The whole time I held a very low, smooth, sinuous stance, and my pace varied in different moves - even between the same move at different times - starting slow and easy, then at times jabbing out like a striking snake and then coiling slowly into the next movement, picking up pace and momentum later in the form until, naturally, in completing Tai Chi it became perfectly sedate.
It is remarkable because this sensation of needing to do - or, better, be - Tai Chi has been absent of late, at least in the sense of needing to perform it outside of class, and it reaffirms my love of the art. It is a joy.

Lastly, two observations of note: first, it was in my mind the way you do the "Brush Knee" immediately before "Fist Pounds Earth", and having seen you do it on numerous occasions I was interested to try it, but when the moment came that avenue of flow was still closed off to me - there was no point in trying to reach it. Second, my mind became actively distracted (by now I know not what) early in section three, just moving into "Jade Maiden" I realised I was about to skip it and go into "Cloud Hands" instead. This was the only section of the form where I felt trouble connecting to the flow, and felt intense heat coming out of my whole body as I readjusted. It only goes to reinforce the message that activity of the (intellectual) mind (even though I was not thinking of an intellectual topic, the same part of my brain felt active) is not only not required for Tai Chi Chuan - it is harmful to it.


Sent: Tuesday, October 03, 2006 12:29 AM
Subject: Progress to 23/9/06

This week has generally been a good one, but nothing especially stands out aside from the Push Hands lesson, where there was some progress working on my right arm and particularly my shoulder, which has been feeling a kind of "rustiness" in the gears and the springiness that's in my left arm just isn't in my right - much like elastic that's been overstretched and lost its elasticity, but also like a corroded, rusty metal spring. In contrast my left arm feels silky smooth and well oiled.
While pushing with the right side there was a space where it felt like caked rust was coming away, which left me with a very strange light-headedness that was almost unpleasant, though it seemed to go away quickly enough.
During a left-handed round at the high point of your push there was a moment where I had an unexpected sharp intake of breath that almost caught - not a unique incident, but not something I recall having had for a while. I think it happened a couple of times this lesson.

Related to discussions we were having, I find that when I try to progress faster than I'm ready to (whether I know I'm ready or not) something will always hold me (or worse push me) back. This happened twice when progressing from New Foot to Old Foot in 2004, where I fell sick each time within a week of the first lesson of it. I believe it has happened to me on other occasions, but alas I remember no specifics to back up my suspicion. The moral of the story is that there can be no ambition to swim ahead.
On the other hand, you must never, ever, ever try to swim backwards. The consequences of that are dire indeed, I think. Best just go with the flow and enjoy where the current takes you, and if you must swim in any direction at all, glide gently across the current to where its depth and speed are just most comfortable. (As long as you don't climb out of the river entirely!)

Sent: Tuesday, October 03, 2006 12:33 AM
Subject: oops... P.S.

P.S. When walking away from Push Hands I realised that my pelvis was untwisted. This has never happened spontaneously (even when the chiropractor did it, it never felt so good).
It didn't last, but the fact that it happened was just fantastic. Tight muscles along my whole spine seem to be loosening now (slowly), and my pelvis doesn't usually feel so bad as it was before Thursday, so I'm very encouraged!
And more, the Chi raised me from a squat!


Sent: Saturday, September 16, 2006 1:48 PM
Subject: Progress 16/9/06

Today towards the end of the form I felt my connection to the source of Chi open up dramatically. No longer was the Chi guiding me - it was dictating to me, and following its directions I felt myself moving ever more fluidly and stably. It was very amazing.


Sent: Tuesday, September 12, 2006 11:09 PM
Subject: Progress 12/9/06

Starting on 'W..K' has started making things feel like I'm moving on a higher, stronger platform in my stances. The part where I am moving is less like I'm moving, somehow, and the feeling of being "in the air" in the middle of my feet is now more like rolling from the first platform and being caught easily on the new one, with almost no air-time. Introspecting now, I realise how much faking I must have been doing even doing 'U..K', let alone anything before it. This may sound disparaging or discouraging from lower on the spiral path, but it is the only way to progress, and when you progress you know you have progressed.

Thursday morning last week was terribly wet and windy, but standing in Wu Chi stance in the middle of it, warmly clothed and insulated as best as possible against biting wind and penetrating rain, was painless and enjoyable. Maybe that's partly my ego rewrapping the memories, but it was certainly bearable and felt better than just "standing easy" and trying to shrug off the weather, if not preferable to being inside and cosy while nursing a hot drink!

Last week was also the first time in over a year where my body wasn't so craving sleep that I was having trouble staying awake towards the end of all my lectures, too.


Sent: Sunday, September 03, 2006 2:35 PM
Subject: Progress 3/9/06

This week feels like a slow week, but a good one. Getting up earlier is easier, as is going to bed. My mind has been unfogging, and the overstressing of my knees from riding my bike in too high a gear has been healing.

Push Hands was fulfilling, and my understanding of where I am in it is becoming clearer. I am happy to be exactly where I am; to have both come so far and still have such a long way to go. The former being obvious, I think, and the latter because I enjoy the learning process so much.


Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2006 6:07 PM
Subject: Progress 30/8/06

Today I seem to have found the seed of a kind of internal personal space that I have been missing for a significant length of time, that I can hopefully nurture back to full health. This coincided with practising Tai Chi Stance on the platform at Redfern station and on the train to Strathfield. During this practice I finally, finally figured out what to do with my left knee to make my foot feel like it's properly flat on the ground (not rolling slightly to the inside as I've been aware of it being since at least my first lesson with you). This in turn feels like the turning point for my twisted pelvis and its straightening, not to mention all the follow-on effects that should allow my spine to straighten, which in turn will help balance my shoulders, thence my arms, etc..
This feels like the small beginning, of a most important event, especially with the "burning off" on the weekend, as described to you on Tuesday morning.


Sent: Monday, August 21, 2006 10:12 PM
Subject: Progress Report 21/8/06

I learned an important lesson on Thursday - one that perhaps won't leave me now.

The sense of Chi directing my form that I mentioned to you in person several weeks ago is persisting. The strength of it varies at times, but there is always at least some. It grows stronger when I am focusing more on what I am doing but trying less to /do/ it myself.

Push Hands feels like it's going in deeper. I am enjoying having a range of other people to learn with; it is like coming out of a monochrome room and seeing a larger range of colours. I also appreciate more how much you have gone through to teach me what you have. I am humbled!


Sent: Sunday, August 13, 2006 11:06 AM
Subject: Progress Report

Hi Ric,
Obviously there's not much to report in terms of Tai Chi progress this week, thanks to certain viral influences. However, there's not nothing. On Tuesday evening I was still fairly sick and had little physical strength and was slightly depressed. It actually seemed impossible to use muscular effort against my weakness and self-pity to lift food to my mouth (in spite of - or perhaps in part because of - my hunger) until I cleared my mind and actually had Chi guide my hand.

A little earlier that evening I had started feeling somewhat worse, after having so far made fairly quick progress through symptoms the previous two or three days (I still felt awful, but by that time I was nearly stellar compared to how I felt on the weekend). Shortly after the point where I utilised Chi, however, I started feeling more energetic, stronger - physically and mentally. It could easily be dismissed as the effect of the food, and I know how much effect food can truly have on the body and on the psyche, but in this case I feel more inclined to attribute this to Chi.


Sent: Monday, June 12, 2006 10:01 PM
Subject: Peace
Before class this morning, Ric practised a small segment of Chen style. It was extremely vital and full of Yang energy; very impressive and good to watch, and I found myself noticing how much of an impression it left when he finished it.
Then it came to me that in comparison how quiet our own form is - how when it is done it seems, unlike Chen style, to leave nothing behind. No trace except peace.


Sent: Thursday, May 25, 2006 10:22 AM
Subject: Report on Push Hands
During Push Hands class this morning it became very much like the other morning a few weeks ago, where the energy flowed back and forth and could not be distinguished between us. As the pace increased I found my eyes becoming unfocussed; I stopped looking and watching and was simply seeing. With each continuous exchange there was no conscious thought or focus, just the flow, the movement and a pleasant sense of surprised satisfaction at everything my body was doing, particularly as my eyes let go. For a few moments when it started I tried to bring them back into focus, but the shift of attention seemed to cost too much for too little gain - in fact it was a loss until I decided to let it be, at which point there was nothing to do and nothing to disturb or surprise me. It was Push Hands, and finally I understand.


Sent: Thursday, May 11, 2006 9:20 AM
Subject: Tai Chi breakthrough
This morning was the first time ever that I truly did Push Hands. It was
truly an amazing feeling of flowing and circling and blending energy so that there was no advantage or disadvantage - it was just movement (but not *just* movement, if you know what I mean). Now that I try to describe it, it is indescribable, but truly worth the years to reach it.


Sent: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 10:26 AM
Subject: Learning without Teaching:
When I watch you do your form, I often see differences between what you do and what I do. When I can I take the time to play with the differences that I see, and when they work I try to let them seep into my own form. When they don't, I let them go; there will always be another chance when I am ready.

Sent: Monday, March 20, 2006 6:45 PM
Wed, 1/3/06, Chi Hands lesson:
Practising Neutral Hands while tired to the point of falling asleep on my feet.
Ric with hands on shoulders pushing me to ground. I release tension in my brain and my mind clears significantly and immediately with Chi.
Returning neutral hands to him and he is repulsed almost before I touch him.
The clear-headedness from the start of the lesson lasts for a bit more than an hour before I become sleepy again, but more Neutral Hands from Ric wakes me up again, though not as much as the first time.

Sat, 4/3/06, literally running late for Advanced Dance class:
 Left the house at almost exactly 8am, so decided to jog so as to be a little less late.
I fell into a new style that happened to me spontaneously on Thursday, with a very small-stepped, efficient gait that feels almost like a shuffle, but with amazing spring in each step.
This gait was so efficient that I ran what is normally a twelve minute walk in six minutes, barely breaking a sweat by the time I got there.
This is noteworthy because I normally wouldn't manage to run that far without needing to pause for breath and to let my muscles take some relief. In the end I came around the corner in time to watch the class completing Tai Chi Manifests and joined in before Single Whip.
I have since used this running style, and in some places it feels lighter and easier than walking. Downhill I spend almost no energy, and uphill the spring gives me momentum and then maintains it without effort.

Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 4:10 PM
Subject: Yin-Yang force balance
When becoming yin in push hands it is like being a magnet that attracts the opponent's yang - his opposing pole, letting you move it wherever you wish. Yet unlike a magnet the feeling of force between you is like nothing. Where magnets snap together, the attraction of yin to yang or yang to yin is soft and without end.

Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 8:58 AM
Subject: “soft . . release”
During 'close-up' there was a very strong sensation of there being a sort of "puff" of Chi that seemed to close each move and start the next - it would come out of my foot and lift my other limbs like it enveloped me in a swirl for a moment before smoothing. It wasn't extremely strong, but it was enough to truly move me.

Sent: Saturday, June 04, 2005 5:28 PM
My own morning's sensory repertoire included mostly stretching of all the tendons and muscles in my right arm and shoulder, from those between the scapula and the spine and, between the shoulder and the neck through everything down to my forearms. The knots in the top of my shoulder have "dissolved" slightly and the whole shoulder is learning to relax properly again such as it hasn't for a long time. There's still a very long way to go with this, but it's shifting.

Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2005 9:41 PM
Subject: Stillness in Movement
The stillness in movement felt like floating on legs - everything was easy and I kept nearly losing track of pace, even at the end of class doing section one. It was very peaceful and calming, and the sensation is even spilling over into the rest of my motion outside of Tai Chi.

At today's lesson, just watching Ric lead Holly through the Section 1 Brush Knees, I found it very hard to distinguish the two in terms of their flow. At a purely physical level they looked very different, but I had to actually clear my head to see that it was two people, not just one person in two places (which is very much how it felt).

"Over the last couple of months I have felt lifted tall, as if I were the string tying a helium balloon to the ground. Firmly attached below and lifted straight from above. It has also been my experience that small wounds have started healing a little faster than they normally would."

“I started Tai Chi lessons at the end of May 2002. I have, since the very beginning, found it satisfying at every level of my being, as if it fulfills some craving or hunger that I have always had. The grace and elegance of the form, and the underpinning strength and balance, flow through into the rest of my life, and I feel grateful to all the influences that have led me to this point.”

“Today's tai chi lesson was very amazing. I did the standard stuff for these lessons (as Ric already knows), and at the end received one tiny, subtle-as-subtle-can-be change for the chi exercise and felt as I was doing it my hands being warm (usual), slightly filled with pressure (also usual), slight tingling in the palms (a bit like pins and needles - again usual) but such power coming through all of them that it was frightening and I had to spend a minute just discharging from it before I was game to let myself do it again. There was also a feeling in the shadow of my mind that seemed like a visual effect that wasn't truly light (or I'd have seen it properly, and others too, of course :) ) that seemed to appear both in my vision and not in it like my hands were radiating faintly, whitely (without colour, I guess you could say, and without light, as I said). I'm still not certain if I was really "seeing" this or not, but it "appeared" to be a part of my vision...”

“I found on Saturday that something in my body has clicked over. I feel like I'm standing more balanced, my walking has more even steps and my back isn't feeling slightly twisted by archery. I also found that my actual stance had improved, too.”

I started doing Yuan-Chi Tai Chi Chuan at the end of May in 2002, at the age of 21. I have never studied any other forms of Tai Chi, nor any other martial arts in general. I enjoy the art immensely, and I like the way Ric teaches his classes.
As for other things I do, I'm presently (as of November 2004) studying for a Bachelor of Science with a major in mathematics at the University of Sydney. I also spend far too much time on the internet.
Danya 2003


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