Upcoming Classes and Workshops at Better Body Works — 2011


Practicing Yang Family Style Dao form, West Lake, Hangzhou, PRC 2009.


Coming soon to Better Body Works in Westerly, RI on Monday evenings from 6 pm to 7:15 pm, Daoyin and Taijiquan. Learn practices that will stretch, tone and purify your mind, body and spirit while also enjoying the healing benefits of the ancient Chinese martial art of Taijiquan [Tai Chi].

Movements are gentle yet profound, allowing students of all types and physical conditions to practice safely and enjoy.

Classes will begin with Chinese yoga – Daoyin – to open qi [energy] meridians and prepare the spine and body for Taiji practice. Thereafter we will move into the first section of the Classical Yang Family style 108 form and conclude with 15 minutes of harmonizing Daoyin for breath, mind and spirit. Students should leave class feeling lighter, stronger and centered – freer to live, enjoy and engage in their lives to the fullest.

Daoyin and Taiji can help:

Heal the aches and pains of modern living and aging, including shoulder and neck pain from computer work, back pains of all kinds, repetitive stress and balance issues whether physical, mental or emotional.
Rediscover a natural center which fosters peace and confidence regardless of life’s circumstances.
Restore harmony in breathing, eating and weight control. Digestion, elimination and weight issues may resolve quickly with regular practice.
Strengthen, tone and firm the body inside and out.
De-stress and relax, releasing toxins – physical, mental and emotional — encouraging natural immunity for optimum health.
Provide clarity and focus to meet the challenges of life.
Nourish the entire system with healing qi [energy] that juices the body, retarding aging and the complications of aging.
Unravel mental and emotional patterns that cause suffering.

Classes are taught by Jessica Sommar, M.Sc., recently returned from two years in China, a student of Classical Yang Family Style Taijiquan – including three fist forms and three weapons forms –Traditional Chinese Medicine, Western and Eastern herbology, Daoyin [qi gong] and alchemical practices of Daoism learned over a decade from disciples of Master Wang Liping, lineage holder of Quanzhen Longmen Pai; Martial artist, acupuncturist and herbalist Rene Navarro [http://www.renenavarro.org/] (a student of Master Gin Soon Chu, second disciple of Grandmaster Yang Sau-Cheung [www.gstaichi.org]) and various other teachers from the Healing Tao and Western Energy Medicine. Healing and counseling sessions will also be available with Jessica at BBW by appointment.

Upcoming workshops:

Daoist Dietetics – bringing Eastern dietary practices to Western students to improve health and restore sanity to weight control issues.
Daoist Internal Practices for Women – to preserve and strengthen internal qi for healing, beautifying and longevity.
Daoyin – a one day workshop on rare breath, movement, dietary and meditative practices of Daoist Masters seldom taught outside of temples today.
Eastern Energetics and the Western Body – an introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine principals and practices and how they can help Western bodies. We will explore how to unify Western and Eastern traditions to bring body, mind and spirit into harmony with the natural cycle of the seasons.

Shaolin Grand Master Visits RI

On Saturday, the hamlet of Pawcatuck was graced with a lecture and demonstration by Songshan Shaolin Temple Grandmaster Shi De Li. Jim Leach, the Rhode Island Representative of the Shaolin Cultural Foundation, hosted the event at his studio – Imperial Martial Arts – overlooking the river that separates Connecticut and Rhode Island on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Master Yon Lee of the Harvard University Tai Chi Tiger Crane Club and Shaolin Cultural Foundation organized the event with the monks and Jim Leach. Master Lee translated as well. The training room was full of Tai Chi [taiji] and other martial arts enthusiasts as well as acupuncturists and alternative health and healing practitioners.
My guess is there were anywhere from 75 to 100 people in attendance, not surprisingly. GM De Li is the current martial abbot of the Songshan Temple, the 31st generation successor in lineage from Bodhidharma — considered the traditional first patriarch of Ch’an (or Zen) Buddhism.


Master Lee started with some background on the Harvard club and some history on Damo Zen. Master Lee spoke about a special form that GM De Li teaches called Tongzigong – which translated means to return an older person back to a child. The GM wants to examine the medical benefits of this qi gong and has a passion to share this practice as far and wide as possible.

Master Lee then gave us a koan:

Kung Fu [gong fu] is basically Zen.
Zen is also medicine.
Medicine is also Kung Fu.

He added:

Zen is also music.
Music is medicine.
Music is Kung Fu.
Music helps to heal.

From this the Grand Master and his teaching monk were joined by Jim Leach in a ritual to bless the training space and Leach. Leach was presented with a mala blessed by the GM.

Jim Leach, GM Shi De Li and Monk at ritual.

Then the demonstrations began. The training monk sat at an 8 stringed zhang and began to strum. GM De Li began to demonstrate his form to the haunting music.

Thereafter, the training monk took up a wind instrument and played upon it. When he finished the simple melody, he bowed and began a martial form using the flute – quite heavy, made of red wood [which we were assured floats in water] as a club.

After the impressive and energetic form, he followed with a fist form and the demonstrations were ended.

The GM made himself available for questions and answers out of which I only include some interesting points:

He said there were only two conditions to someone wishing to join the Temple and learn the martial art: 1. They must attend Buddhism college and 2. They must have the gifts to learn martial arts.

When asked about the daily routine at the Temple, the GM said they eat at 11 am and practice until 3 am. Then the master seemed to balk, or Master Lee did. Lee apologized. Apparently it was/is a secret that the Shaolin practice at night.

The GM gave a demonstration of breathing in the cosmos, with hand gestures and posture.

Finally, when asked about weapons he said that sticks were the most common training weapons at the Temple, but that there were 30 plus weapons and the young, training monk with him was an expert in 20 different kinds – including an umbrella.

After the questions/answers we were given a lesson in three forms by the training monk. Many of us participated, while the shy among us hugged the back wall and watched.

It was a fun form and invigorating and not at all complicated – though I’m sure it would take years to perfect. Too soon, it was all over.

For me, I was able to watch the GM do his daoyin or qi gong before the demonstrations and saw the similarities to some of the Daoyin I practice as well as learning and moving in a ‘hard style’ martial art, anchored in Buddhism. Taiji is a ‘soft style’ or ‘internal’ martial art, anchored in Daoism — China’s indigenous faith. And of course it was fun to get to know the martial arts community in my new hometown. Whether we all got that kung fu was music and medicine, and Zen I can’t say. But I left there feeling grounded and happy to be alive.


Me and GM De Li

The GM is in the US for another week and will be teaching again at the Shaolin Center in Quincy, Mass on Dec. 12. Master Lee will also give a talk on Kung Fu Medicine and there will be a dinner and dance at the China Pearl Restaurant. Contact Master Lee at yon@yonlee.com for tickets and details.

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