For me the ugliest part of any human institution is the inevitable power struggles within that institution. Politics are for the spiritually vacuous. The fundamental principle/axiom/truth of our taichi (heartwork really) is that when together in the right spirit of cooperation the correct path forward reveals itself in a way it never does (never can) when alone. The truth of taichi is the good work you do with another. The work you do alone is simply preparation for the time you spend together – getting your energy into some sort of shape so that the time together is better spent. When working with another there should not be the slightest vestige of wanting to get an advantage. Your attention is fully directed to helping that other person improve. The path of improvement is painful because it means facing fears that one has been carefully sweeping under the carpet for some time. So a really good training partner will certainly be making life very difficult for you, in the same way that they expect (demand) that you make their life difficult in turn. Each of us is required to be a teacher, which means putting the student first and not resting until that student at least has a glimmer of where you are trying to take them. If the student is willing then this process generally takes care of itself. If the student is unwilling – which in the final analysis we all are – none of us wants that final leap into the abyss – then the teacher needs to be pure and compassionate so that the grace of the third heart can encourage both to take that leap together. As one of my teachers said to me recently – you must stop thinking in terms of me and start thinking in terms of we. This in a sense is the key to successful connexion of any sort.

A pub in Pardes Haana, near Caesaria.


—between an earth, sentient with moles,
& the owl's
radiant eyes—

Ronald Johnson

Hamid goes green.

Stillness & Yielding

If you stand still then you are so either because you are neither sinking nor rising, neither turning to the right nor turning to the left, or you are so because you are both sinking and rising, equally and together, and/or turning to the left and to the right, again equally and together. The first way of being still tends to stiffness and an idle and therefore wandering mind. The second way is dynamic, engaging and healthy: full of richness and potential. What's more, it yields – draws the other's energy down with its sinking and turning away – whilst issuing energy with its contrary balanced movements. If you confuse yielding with not being there then you avoid connexion. A solid and firm body that is not ostensibly moving can still be yielding – drawing external energy into its root. In fact such yielding is really the only way to be honestly – fully – present, and to be any other way whilst in the presence of a person who is so present is very dangerous indeed.


My youngest student at 7 months. As with all my students, I always have the nagging suspicion that they are in fact teaching me.

The Head

When the head is out of alignment – when the ground fails to reach the crown – then the mind cannot be washed clean by that constant pump from the ground, and instead fills with extraneous junk – foreign material – making the head separate from the rest of the body by virtue of its “specialness” – it's tension.


Tension is something
into our bodies
as a way
against the next attack.



Correct alignment – heel coccyx crown – and the sinking within this vertical line, is the taichi path to egolessness. Without correct alignment as one's foundation the mind is always having to create the reality it then convinces itself it perceives and engages. Correct alignment brings reality so close that there is no distance, and so no room for thinking, which is just an idle activity occupying the dead space one's insistence at disconnexion opens up.


Move with a spring & vegetable swiftness

Ronald Johnson


If you withhold nothing then there is only honesty.


The veil

existed before he was born
and between his arising
shadowed the world he moved through
reaching for dim forms he thought
brought light

David Meltzer


Salutation #2

For the sake of completeness, here is JK's second salutation, leading with pinkies.

The first salutation is still available here.


I must take my partner in movement as a tugboat pulls boats on the river.
I must feel the river in which both he and I stand.

David Michaeli


The more you relax the more your energy extends & connects to other energetic realms outside your usual confinement.
When the mind is in the head thinking is about reality.
When the mind is in the heart thinking becomes reality.

Tai Chi Book List

Cleaning up my hard-drive I found this book list. Needless to say I haven't read many of them:

T’ai Chi: The Supreme Ultimate Exercise for Health, Sport and Self-defence
Cheng Man-ch’ing & Robert W Smith, Tuttle, ISBN:0804805601

T’ai Chi Ch’uan for Health & Self-Defence
T.T.Liang, Random House, ISBN:0394724615

T’ai Chi Ch’uan
Cheng Man-ch’ing, North Atlantic Books, ISBN:0913028851

A Study of Taijiquan
Sun Lu-tang, North Atlantic Books, ISBN:1556434626

Cheng Tzu’s 13 Treatises on T’ai Chi Ch’uan
Cheng Man-ch’ing, North Atlantic Books, ISBN:0938190458

T’ai Chi Ch’uan Ta Wen: Questions & Answers
Chen Wei-ming, North Atlantic Books, ISBN:0938190679

Master Cheng’s New Method of Self-Cultivation
Cheng Man-ch’ing, Frog, ISBN:1883319927

Steal My Art: Memoirs of a 100 year old T’ai Chi Master
T.T.Liang, North Atlantic Books, ISBN:1556434162

Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions
Douglas Wile, Sweet Chi Press, ISBN:091205901X

Lost T’ai Chi Classics of the Ch’ing Dynasty
Douglas Wile, State Univeristy of New York Press, ISBN:0791426548

Tai-Chi Ch’uan
Y.K.Chen, Wildside Press, ISBN:0809531208

The Essence of T’ai Chi Ch’uan: The Literary Tradition
Ben Lo et al., North Atlantic Books, ISBN:0913028630

Tai Chi’s Ancestors: The Making of an Internal Martial Art
Douglas Wile, Sweet Chi Press, ISBN:0912059044

The Taijiquan Classics: An Annotated Translation
Chen Wei-ming, North Atlantic Books, ISBN:1556434316

The Dao of Taijiquan
Jou Tsung-hwa, Tuttle, ISBN:0804813574

Cheng Man-ch’ing’s Advanced Form Instruction
Cheng Man-ch'ing, Sweet Chi Press, ISBN:091205903
Itamar Michaeli
Photo: Ronit Adar

Happy 13th Birthday to Itamar – Nitsan's youngest son.


There are many ways

to look at an oak, & one, with its
own eyes:

the blunt, burning push
of acorns

in an earth full

of movements, slight rustlings, as a passage of night-birds,

& bones

that 'being striken one against another

break out like fire

& wax greene'.

Ronald Johnson
"The hands never leave the heart, the elbows never leave the ribs."



Not sure where these are from, but I like them.

You learn to the extent that you can extend yourself – reach out.

You learn to the extent that you can be experimental with yourself – take a risk and try something new and different.

You learn to the extent that you can be open and honest and effective in your communication with other people.

You learn to the extent that you can tap your own feelings at a point in time and are able to share those feelings.

You learn to the extent that you are willing to give and receive feedback.

You learn to the extent that you can assume responsibility for group climate and group growth.

You learn to the extent that you can work as a member of the group, in pursuit of common goals.

The Eight Rules of Feedback

Also received this.

Feedback must be wanted or requested. It should be in the hands of the receiver.

Feedback is given for the benefit of the receiver. It is given to be helpful to the receiver but does not obligate the receiver to change.

Feedback is only the perception of the giver. It is neither right nor wrong.

Since feedback is only the perception of the giver, both parties may want to check with others.

Feedback is more meaningful when it closely follows the errant.

Feedback can be better understood and used when it is specific rather than general.

Feedback will be received less defensively if it is descriptive rather than evaluative.

Feedback should be useful and meaningful. It should be important enough to affect the receiver and should be directed toward behaviour that can be changed.

Photo: Scott Radcliffe

Loving root

Bringing the ground up into the body by sinking the body into the ground. When the ground comes up lightly it stimulates a loving desire to share & communicate — embrace. So, as well as our primal relationship with the earth being a perfect model for our relationship with other things, so also our relationship with other humans, especially the beloved, is a perfect model for our relationship with the ground.


Over 14,600 martial artists set a new world record for group performance of Tai Chi in Taipei, Taiwan, November 2003. Click picture for more information.


Taking risks, which is really what life is all about, almost by definition requires one to come out of one's root – to leave the ground and fly to the stars. As JK once said, the real source of inspiration for all of us is in the heavens and not in the ground, and I think this is John's genius – he had the faith, intelligence and heart to leave the earth when the time was right and to really fly, surrendering to the living essence of the work, and allowing that work total expression.


I play music. In life, and in music, it is about loving and being loved. If you don't have love you can't play music the way it should be played.

Sunny Murray


Photo: Roisin Bohan, of the Spire on O'Connell Street, Dublin



Yosi Rosenthal – my oldest student so far. He will be 91 in December. His whole family died in Auschwitz. He is as soft as butter and as bright as a button. It is an honour and an education to spend time with him.



Give and take is a fallacy. In reality there is only give and give.

That is, things don't stop giving—living—when they receive or in order to receive. And, in fact, tension is the result of (and then results in) interrupting that process of giving—living. So, on a very fundamental level, which should be the one we are looking for, yielding is not giving way or making space or getting out of the way, but is simply standing firm, being as present (alive) as possible, and receiving the world into the body.


The biggest knot of tension in the body is the ego.


Gillian McGregor, as she was then (now Gian McGregor), in 1983 – the year we first met. We started Tai Chi together a year later. She took the photo herself with a cheap Polaroid camera. She is a damn good photographer.

Love may be defined as the desire for an intimate closeness.

Alexander Lowen


Thinking -- a shunting of railroad tracks.

Gregg Biglieri
In all our voluntary movements there is also an involuntary component, representing the essential motility of the organism. This involuntary component, which is integrated with the voluntary action, accounts for the aliveness or spontaneity of our actions and movements. When it is absent or reduced, body movements have a mechanical, lifeless quality. Purely voluntary or conscious movements give rise to few sensations other than the kinesthetic sense of displacement in space. The feeling tone of expressive movement comes from their involuntary component—the component not subject to conscious control. The fusion of conscious and unconscious elements or of voluntary and involuntary components gives rise to movements that have an emotional ring, yet are coordinated and effective actions.

Alexander Lowen



Tension is something we actively bring into our bodies as a way of readying ourselves for the next foray into the world. Bracing against the next attack. Such tension often accumulates in the legs. Seldom have we been taught how to relax and welcome the ground up into the groin with each step, and instead we push the ground away with our straightening legs – we treat the ground as an enemy. Such behaviour necessarily tightens the sacral area making proper energy transfer between the upper and lower bodies well-nigh impossible.

Deep relaxed breathing is a good model for any healthy interaction. When we breathe in we bring as much of the world into our lungs and belly as we can, allowing every cell to expand and swell with good air and inspiration. And as we breathe out we send our good energy with that breath, allowing each cell to relax and empty, infusing our environment with good will.

Any chronic tension or behaviour pattern we have locked into our bodies is accompanied by a corresponding psychological problem. Almost invariably this problem will manifest as a me-and-them attitude which, to our minds at least, necessitates conflict. How we fare in such conflict is set during early formative experiences – is another aspect of our behavioural patterns. However, regardless of how we fare we are still victims – victims of those patterns that lock us into a narrow and barren world of our own making.

For the body to be relaxed, open and working freely, the mind must first be content and at rest: happy. This requires us to be at peace with the world: to be willing and accepting participants in whatever transpires. This is what openness is. It is a quality that makes things happen the way they should. Good will.

You'll always find tension in the jaw: beneath the ears. Clenching the teeth. When the jaw relaxes then the skull and spine meet harmoniously and powerfully, the face widens and smiles, and energy from the front of the heart is allowed up into the brain. Relaxing the jaw is the key to bringing body and mind together. The two sides of the jaw then correspond to and communicate with any other problem areas in the body: knees, hips, shoulders, ankles, soles, etc. When we start to relax, each part not only represents the whole, but is the whole. The world starts to lose its me-and-them attitude.

Regarding the world rationally and logically – me-and-them, here-and-there, now-and-then – necessitates and generates tension.

Tension is simply lack of faith.


When I descend to the root, there appears an alternative to the fight or flight instinct. The alternative is the connection, the bridge, and the ability to move thereupon, together with the other.

David Michaeli

David (Dadi) is Nitsan's brother. A dear friend and a Tai Chi master in his own right.