Sunday, May 14, 2017


In ancient times, whether in Africa, China, the Americas, Europe or elsewhere in the world, there was a warrior class of men and women dedicated to cultivating their bodies, minds, and spirits to successfully engage in battle. It was a matter of life and death, not just sport or entertainment. One's life literally depended on one's level of tenacity, discipline, diligence in training and preparation as well as ability to recover from serious injury or harm.

These days, whether it's a distant, unmanned drone strike or a lethal bullet from a gun owner, we are generally far removed from the personal engagement between adversaries our forebears experienced. So why would I train in traditional martial arts the way I do here on the mountain? If it's far easier and presumably safer to be armed in a hostile confrontation, why go through the rigors of being here?

From my perspective, nowadays the national and local news media concentrates on the sensational stories of police brutality and killing of unarmed adults and children, as well as, urban neighborhood killings to the point of distraction. Now, the old cold war tensions between the US and Russia that had us practicing impotent safety drills under our school desks have been reintroduced. The air is seeded with fear that permeates our subconscious mind and continues to feed what it is that makes us different from each other. Yet, this clever prestidigitation covers the hidden machinations that sustain the real sources of glaring inequality that are systemic. This historic psychic and physical violence benefits the few at the expense of the majority, has nothing to do with so-called race, and precedes my 60 plus years on the planet. The major difference now is the technology available to spread the effects faster.

Where are the sustained investigative stories on the water crises in Flint, Michigan, the Monsanto GMO assault on our health, the accelerated efforts to erode our sensibilities about right, wrong, and the truth by denigrating anyone who points out that the emperor has no clothes as the bearer of 'fake news'? This protracted war against the majority of humanity requires, in my opinion, self-knowledge and clarity of purpose to know how to be in the world, but not of it in order to succeed in overcoming its negative effects. By being the best possible human being one can be physically, mentally, emotionally, psychically, and most important, spiritually, we set in motion a vibration that can go to the heart of the matter; especially for our progeny. That's why I'm here on the mountain...

7 Weeks and Now I'm Counting...
 It's almost strange to realize that there remain only 7 weeks before this first year of training concludes. Wow! Time has accelerated and each week whizzes by ever more quickly. My personal experiences of both conditioning and training at this stage are in a state of transition. On the one hand, I needed to have volume of repetition to the conditioning in order to secure my ability to train on a daily basis without flagging. However, I now am at a point where I recognize how to be more precise in what it is I need to focus on to take better advantage of the training itself. So, I'm not just conditioning just for the sake of conditioning nor am I training just to stay on track with the scheduled curriculum.  I feel freer to modify from day to day what it is I think I need in order to be better at not just doing a drill, but fitting that into my overall goals for being here.
In other words, I doubt that I'll ever be in a situation where I'll find the need or opportunity to have to use a Taiji Saber to fend off an attacker. However, mastery of my mind, emotions, and physicality in the process of learning to use the Saber or Bo Staff may preclude a confrontation from happening in the first place or quickly dispatching or transmuting circumstances that do arise. Speaking of the Saber training, I absolutely enjoy the process of learning its use and the sequence. I think it may, in fact, replace my choice of weapon-the staff...
As the weeks move along, my current semester end goal is to have at least 3 Qin Na applications and 6 Taijiquan applications solidly under my belt to continue practicing during the summer. Having completed the full Taijiquan sequence earlier in the semester, we ae focused on the Yang side of the moving Yin-Yang symbol with partner exchange, Double Push Hands focused on the feeling and movement against the extended leg, and Centering drills without becoming combative to ensure we have the fundamentals intact. In fact, Dr. Yang has offered to do centering with each of us weekly so we can improve our ability. Many of us have begun training on bricks to better establish our sense of rooting this semester. I just resumed this week and am taking it methodically slow to be able to experience that feeling both when I'm stationary, but more importantly, when I'm moving. Additionally, we will have completed the various Qigong routines including the 8 Pieces of Brocade, 4 Seasons (including Winter, Spring, and Summer), Soft White Crane, 5 Animal Sports (Tiger, Deer, and Bear), and aspects of Qigong Massage.

The Annual  Retreat Center BBQ...
Last Saturday, May 6, 2017, I experienced my first BBQ here with invited guests from the surrounding community. It was a fun experience as we each provided the guests with demonstrations of what we've learned so far. Our 3-Year group performed the first chapter of the Taijiquan sequence as well as the Tiger sequence of the 5 Animal Sports. My colleagues in the 5 and 10-Year groups also performed and it was such a treat to see their skills and poise! It's all on videotape which I'll share with you when it's been processed. I'm sure you'll be amazed at what you'll see...

World Tai Chi & Qigong Day...
My colleagues and friends that form the Harlem World Tai Chi and Qigong Day Committee did an admirable job of organizing and executing the 10th Annual Harlem Celebration of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day in St. Nicholas Park on Saturday, April 29, 2017! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to participate, but was there in spirit. As always, our venue included qualified holistic wellness practitioners offering free services to community participants as well as interactive demonstrations of Tai Chi, Qigong, and natural movement. My thanks and appreciation go to the New York Parks Department, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, WHCR 90.3FM New York, the Harlem News Group, the Harlem Ki Energy Center, Grandmaster Lamarr Thornton, the Noble Touch, YMAA Publications, the Afrikan Holistic Health Chapter of New York, Tru Movement Collective, Master Tony Rogers, Dr. Yvonne Noel, MD, Jomo Alakoye Simmons, Aswad Foster, Jana Cunningham, Norman Spiller, Margit Spiller, and my students.  Thanks to Margit Spiller for the following photos from that day:

Master Tony Rogers and Jana Cunningham
Photo credit: Margit Edwards

Norman Spiller
Photo credit: Margit Edwards

Master Aswad Foster demonstrating Tru Movement
Phot credit: Margit Edwards

Master Aswad Foster demonstrating Tru Movement
Photo credit: Margit Edwards

St. Nicholas Park Plaza looking eastward down 135th Street
Photo credit: Margit Edwards

Master Tony Rogers teaching Qigong
Photo credit: Margit Edwards

Group Qigong on World Tai Chi & Qigong Day in St. Nicholas Park
Photo credit: Margit Edwards

Group doing Tai Chi led by Norman Spiller
Photo credit: Margit Edwards

Grandmaster Thornton's New Breed Life Arts students
Photo credit: Margit Edwards

Grandmaster Lamarr Thornton New Breed Life Arts (standing far left)
Photo credit: Margit Edwards
Norman Spiller leading Swimming Dragon Qigong
Photo credit: Margit Edwards

Afrikan Holistic Health Chapter New York  providing Reflexology
Photo credit: Margit Edwards

Harlem World Tai Chi & Qigong Day Committee:
Aswad Foster, Norman Spiller, Jana Cunningham
Photo credit: Margit Edwards
My experiences here on the mountain continue to refine and enlighten. As this first of 3 years draws near to closing, I'm reminded of the flow in Dr. Yang's explanation of the Taijiquan form which has 3 chapters. The first chapter is to regulate the body with each successive chapter focused to regulate the breath and the mind/spirit. The second chapter focuses on raising the energy level to a high state while the concluding chapter, which is the slowest and longest, allows for recovery with a focus on the mind/spirit. The total sequence takes about 20 minutes and is repeated 3 times in succession so that the form takes about an hour to practice. Like a fractal, each successive 20 minute segment of 3 chapters represents the whole in of itself... So, now, this first year is my beginning and introduction to when I return in September to focus on elevating my energy and focused determination in preparation to conclude the third year...

Thank you to all of you who continue to support my efforts to be here. I appreciate you very much!


"First, pray to God, then move your feet!"    
                                                                               --African Proverb