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Forums > Expressive movement / costumes and props > Tai-Chi movement theory meets Poi spinning.

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Meenik
SAPPHIRE Member since Nov 2001

Meenik

enthusiast
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Total posts: 272
Posted:Hi everybody. Below is an article I wrote for Momentum Magazine, published here in Canada. It's about my personal experience with applying traditional tai-chi movement theory to spinning poi. I thought ya'all might find it interesting. Let me know what you think. (Um, this is my first registered post, but I've been around for a while. I'm pretty quite, usually, but I enjoy the site.)Poi: Unravelling the Mysteries of MotionEight years ago, I was called to explore physical movement. It could have been the Bruce Lee movies, or the stories about Shaolin Temple monks, or the Buddhist books about peaceful warriors. Or maybe it was intuition (I'm not sure how these things work). All I know is that at age 19 I discovered a determination and enthusiasm for delving into the mysteries that lie within our ability to move.On a hunch I took up Tai-Chi, which proved a perfect place to start. My teacher had studied under the greatest masters of China, and he taught his students traditional Tai-Chi movement theory. This included the use of circular and spiral motion, the body's five bows, the stacking of muscle/body structure, the raising of spirit and focus, and many other concepts and techniques. I became a fierce believer in the intelligence and practicality of Tai-Ch theory.Although I practiced intensively, and learned a lot, I eventually longed for something more upbeat. Since then, I've trained in Arnis, dance, Wushu, and Capoeira. Applying Tai-Chi theory always helped me progress quickly, and each art taught me something fundamental about movement. Still, none of them were quite what I was looking for.I finally found "it" outside a dance party in Roberts Creek, where I watched a group of fire spinners jamming. As I watched, I realized that my entire history of movement practice, plus that of several past lives, had been geared to lead me to spinning Poi (fire chains). I don't know how I knew. I just knew. It was like God opened the skies and said, "Take up poi. You' ll understand later." I was soon practicing with a pair of rolled up socks and shoelaces. To my delight, I discovered that poi are amazing movement exploration tools. They are guides. They are teachers. They are like Yoda, only smaller and on strings.You see, in Tai-Chi you can mimic your teacher's form with non-connected movement instead of the more powerful inner-circles. The difference is subtle and it's often difficult to discern how to improve. Poi act as an external manifestation, and magnification, of inner circles. If you can't keep the circles straight within a given region of your sphere of movement, you don't yet understand how to extend yourself into that region with full control or awareness. As all movement is created by an interplay of body/energy structure that extends from your hands to your feet, straightening the circles re-stacks that structure from the ground up. For me, the whole process is like carving a rough piece of wood into a sphere. Bumps and corners make movement awkward and limited. As the block becomes spherical, movement becomes smooth and centred. The rhythmical, circular motion of Poi proves ideal for sanding. Fire helps further by raising focus and spirit (Tai-Chi prerequisites to good practice). Practice enough, and you develop a tangible sense for movement and space that seems to exist beyond your body. You begin to literally feel dimensions within your movement sphere. Getting even more metaphysical, the motion of poi is like that of a solar system or atom. The more spherical you become, the more you tune into patterns that lie at the centre of all matter and energy. At any level, the results of practicing poi extend well beyond spinning them. I'm enjoying leaps of physical ability across the board, as well as a revived sense of play, and an increase in discipline and self-esteem. Taking all that out onto the dance floor is fun. I can't compare poi to staff and other movement tools, as I haven't tried them yet. I can only say that Poi have opened dimensions for me, and I highly recommend exploring them. (Bi-line: Nick Woolsey spends about four hours a day spinning things around his head. You can email him at nwoolsey@istar.ca,or visit www.thevenue.org for fire spinning videos.)(((p.s. I've only been spinning for 8 months now, so this article was written from the point of view of a student who's happy with his progress. The video is at http://www.thevenue.org/nickwithfire.wmv.
I know the .wmv format is limiting, but it's all I can do for now.Best to all!Nick )))


"They're interdimensional fractal intelligences. That's why they wear funny shoes."

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pozee
BRONZE Member since Jul 2001

old hand
Location: san diego

Total posts: 886
Posted:very nice, great article, and great video. you look very fluid and happy out there.one question, do you think that learning all of the other forms of movement that you had studied, helped in any way with the learning of poi, did it hinder you in any way? just curious if they connect at any level.thanks

anyone got a light?

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Posted:yeah very nice work
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Josh


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Meenik
SAPPHIRE Member since Nov 2001

Meenik

enthusiast
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Total posts: 272
Posted:Hey, Pozee and Josh. Hi. Yeah, I'm happy out there :0) Spinning has proven to be a big piece of the puzzle on many levels. Every movement form I tried contributed something to spinning practice. It's like there's a part of me that knew I'd take up Poi, and it was teaching me lead-up drills. The night I first saw fire spinning, I'd been dancing, making circles in the air with my hands. When I saw someone spin poi, it looked like what I'd been doing on the dance floor, and a voice said, "now you know what you've been looking for." It was pretty intense. I've been averaging three hours of practice a day since! :-)I just hope it never gets boring.(...looking for the smiley button... Smiley button not obvious to little fire spinner... little fire spinner no know how to make smileys... :-([This message has been edited by Meenik (edited 21 November 2001).]

"They're interdimensional fractal intelligences. That's why they wear funny shoes."

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Cassandra


Cassandra

Froggie ... Ribbit !!!
Location: Back in Paris... for now !

Total posts: 4224
Posted:Meenik,thanks for the article, it was really interesting ! STill struggling to find a way to see your video though.
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Just wondering : do you firedance with music ? I mean Tai chi is a world of "silence" for all I know, did the music change something for you ?Shine onCassandraPS : As for smileys, when you post a topic there is a part about smileys.
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[This message has been edited by cassandra (edited 22 November 2001).]


"I want brown bread... no, that is diesel oil..."
"So I was raised in Europe, where History comes from ..."
"NON !!! La Plume de mon oncle n est pas Bingibangibungi !!!"

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Knagi


member
Location: Brunswick, Ohio

Total posts: 397
Posted:Props on the excellent movement. I'm sure your video will be over played on my comp for awhile to come. Great clarity too. Could I ask what type of fuel you use to get that awesome ground affect.

We are all in the cosmic movie. That means the day you die you watch your whole life repeating for eternity. So you'd better have some good things happen in there and have a fitting climax. --Jim MorrisonIt's going to come from a direction you didn't predict at a moment of chaos which you didn't see coming. -- NYC

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Meenik
SAPPHIRE Member since Nov 2001

Meenik

enthusiast
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Total posts: 272
Posted:Knagi, We used Coleman Camp fuel. It's a great effect, but it's dangerous. Don't try it unless you've got somebody ready to put you out
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Cass, yes, music added something to my practice. I never used music when I was practicing tai-chi, but if I take it back up, I'll certainly try it with music....and I'll put up a quicktime version of the video, sooner or later. Has anybody else studied something that gave them a good background for fire spinning?


"They're interdimensional fractal intelligences. That's why they wear funny shoes."

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poiwonder


member
Location: Washington District of Columbi...

Total posts: 21
Posted:the other evening i was outside my house spinning and my neighbor came out. he is an older asian gentleman. he asked me if i was practicing tai chi. I told him not that i know of, but he came out anyway and started doing tai chi while i spun. As i watched him i noticed that an aweful lot of his body motions were very similar to mine. Anyway, that was fun. I also share the same feeling about poi that you do, it was like a calling and i cannot stop spinning. It mends my mind body and soul, there is just something about it that intoxicates me. to tell you the truth, i spin even when i'm not technically spinning.
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Hey chicky chick, check slick Nik flick sick tricks with glow sticks and lit wicks real quick!...;) (IM:cmsnr grdn)

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Joelism


member
Location: Thousand Oaks,Ca, USA

Total posts: 1
Posted:Hey so Tai chi helped you spin. I havent really thought about using martial arts to help me spin. A lot of the staff movements have really helped my kendo/kenjitsu. A lot of random and and unorthodoxed movements keeps my friends on their toes. Havent seen you video though

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Cassandra


Cassandra

Froggie ... Ribbit !!!
Location: Back in Paris... for now !

Total posts: 4224
Posted:I think aikido and belly dancing have given me a great background for firedancing. I am more conscious of my body and energy thanks to aikido and I can really start to dance thanks to belly dance... As if firedancing was somewhere half way betwen these two love of mine...it is wonderfull !Shine onCassandra

"I want brown bread... no, that is diesel oil..."
"So I was raised in Europe, where History comes from ..."
"NON !!! La Plume de mon oncle n est pas Bingibangibungi !!!"

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Meenik
SAPPHIRE Member since Nov 2001

Meenik

enthusiast
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Total posts: 272
Posted:Hey, bellydancing! Yeah! When I was in the Kootenays (BC, Canada) this summer, I met a girl who was just taking up poi. She showed me a bit, and my first responce was, "Holy jumping salamanders! SHe's fantastic!" Then I watched closer, and I realized that the actual spinning was really basic, and not controlled at all, but her dancing was so amazing and sexy, that you didn't notice. I could watch her for hours.Er... It helped that she was a total goddess
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I'm not sure if I could pull bellydancing off...


"They're interdimensional fractal intelligences. That's why they wear funny shoes."

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Whiffle Squeek


Whiffle Squeek

addict
Location: Hartford, CT USA

Total posts: 416
Posted:mmmmmm:imagines cassandra belly dancing:

Educate your self in the Hazards of Fire Breathing STAY SAFE!

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jonathan


enthusiast
Location: new zealand

Total posts: 210
Posted:stylee moves meenik. was that a sneaky double spin i saw there? im new to this place but i live in new zealand and have done poi for 5 years now as part of a weapons training progrm to learn the taiaha . ive done a few different styles of martial art, but my native tounge is tae kwon do (15 years)it seemed to be a natural progression to move onto more traditional styles of poi use. i can do four poi at a time with reasonable fluidity, (although ive shied away from fire in favour of rocks!!) i was quite impressed by how you do them, i think i could give some pointers that would greatly increase the degree to which you feel that internal energy, i could see it coming through, but theres one or two things i could recomend to help it spiral down your arms a bit more. if your keen for a chat with a fellow poi enthusiased whos willing to learn anything new that i can, feel free to mail me.im at jonathan@surf.co.nz.yeah im keen to talk to everyone, ive been doing this on my own for a long time now, and ive seen it get more and more popular! about time to i saykeep those feet moving!!!

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Cassandra


Cassandra

Froggie ... Ribbit !!!
Location: Back in Paris... for now !

Total posts: 4224
Posted:WS, if you have real good imagination, you can start imagining MANY of us HOP girls belly dancing cause many of us are belly dancers... Flash, Pele, Peregrine, Bec etc.Flash maybe even does it with the "madonna tits" (see other thread) in which case I think malcolm should post some more pics
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LOL dream on
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meenik, Many of my friends who do Tai chi as a hobby or for a living tell me that the heel is a very important part of the body in tai chi moves. Do you also share that poitn of view ? does it effect your spinnig too ?how about what we call seika tanden in aikido (the center of energy, you know what I mean. i am sorry i don't know the term in chinese)do you use it for freestyle and turns in firedancing ? just curious
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shine oncassandra[This message has been edited by cassandra (edited 28 November 2001).]


"I want brown bread... no, that is diesel oil..."
"So I was raised in Europe, where History comes from ..."
"NON !!! La Plume de mon oncle n est pas Bingibangibungi !!!"

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SteelWngs
BRONZE Member since Aug 2001

SteelWngs

member
Location: Malden, Massachusetts United S...

Total posts: 169
Posted:Speaking of using martial arts in a way to develop your poi skills. Has anyone ever read "A Book of Five Rings" by Miyamoto Musashi. I have found that being able to visualize the 5 different circles around myself really helps work out moves mentally. Fast and dirty description. Imagine 5 rings around your body one in front about the middle of you chest being the center of the circle, and it should be about arms length wide. Now envision the same circle attached to your back. Take the same circle and no attach it to the top of your head in a horizontal way. Imagine a large circular beret. The other two circles are easily imagined as two round shields attached to the arms if both of your arms were lying at your sides. Since I am learning poi on my own I have found it much easier to visualize moves if I break the move down into the 5 circular patterns. Take the weave for example. the weave intersects 1/2 of two side rings and 1 full front ring. A 5 beat weave intersects all 3 (front and side) rings. Hand positions can be directly related to an 8 point blocking system like the one used in showlin kempo. I work on poi spinning like I work on martial arts kata. Slow and methodical works on style and technique. Fast and aggressive works on energy transition and focus.Hey, that just my opinion though.
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------------------Blessings to all, Peter "In motion, move like a thundering wave. When still, be like a mountain.Rising up, be like a monkey. Land swiftly and lightly like a bird. Be steadylike a rooster on one leg. One's stance is as firm as a pine tree, yetexpresses motion. Spin swiftly and circularly like a wheel. Bend and flexlike a bow. Waft gracefully like a leaf in the wind. Sink like a heavy pieceof metal. Prey like a watchful, gliding eagle. Accelerate like a gusty wind." Wushu Proverb


Blessings to all,
Peter
When you find yourself in the company of a halfling and an ill-tempered Dragon, remember, you do not have to outrun the Dragon ...you just have to outrun the halfling.

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Cassandra


Cassandra

Froggie ... Ribbit !!!
Location: Back in Paris... for now !

Total posts: 4224
Posted:I am *really* fascinated by this book as a matter of fact and can't beleive I never consciously linked this with my firedancing !!!Gotta run and read it again. Thanks SW
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Shine onCassandra


"I want brown bread... no, that is diesel oil..."
"So I was raised in Europe, where History comes from ..."
"NON !!! La Plume de mon oncle n est pas Bingibangibungi !!!"

Delete

Meenik
SAPPHIRE Member since Nov 2001

Meenik

enthusiast
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Total posts: 272
Posted:In Tai-Chi, most turns are done on the heel. The toes raise and fall to initiate and stop the turning. Even spinning kicks spin on the heel, not the toes. I practiced Tai-Chi more than any other martial arts or dance form, so much of it's movement techniques became pretty imbeded in everything I do. People say they see Tai-Chi in my spinning, so I'll take their word for it. In Tai-Chi, the energy centre is called the Dan-Tien (although I'm not sure if I'm spelling it correctly. All movement is initiated in this place, about two inches below the belly-button. The dan-tien is like the handle of a whip. A small circular movement in the handle results in a large, powerful movement at the end of the whip. Poi magnify the end circles. This book about the five circles sounds interesting. In tai-chi, they talk about the five bows, although I think it's slightly different. Bows are sets of muscles that can work together to expand, contract, and release energy like a bow. There are two leg/hip bows, two arm/shoulder/back bows, and one spine bow. Anyway, the book sounds interesting. Now I've gotta get back to work
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...with visions of bellydancing, firespinning, HOP Diva's dancing in my head.
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"They're interdimensional fractal intelligences. That's why they wear funny shoes."

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SteelWngs
BRONZE Member since Aug 2001

SteelWngs

member
Location: Malden, Massachusetts United S...

Total posts: 169
Posted:The Miyamoto Musashi books that I have read concern mostly swordsmanship. The principle is based around the sword becoming a direct extension of the arm. In poi spinning, IMHO, you would want the poi to become part of the kinetic movement of the dancer/spinner. You want the entire body to move as one unit not as a collection of pieces. As the person becomes more fluid the dance becomes more hypnotic. If you think of the mechanical aspects of spinning you tend to lose a lot the "feeling" of what drew most of us to poi spinning in the first place. Magic without wonder is just mechanics. On the other hand trying to fire dance with out knowing the mechanics is just asking to get hurt.
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Now what would be really kewl, IMHO, would be to see if you could do Wushu 9 sectional whip form with poi. ------------------Blessings to all, Peter "In motion, move like a thundering wave. When still, be like a mountain.Rising up, be like a monkey. Land swiftly and lightly like a bird. Be steadylike a rooster on one leg. One's stance is as firm as a pine tree, yetexpresses motion. Spin swiftly and circularly like a wheel. Bend and flexlike a bow. Waft gracefully like a leaf in the wind. Sink like a heavy pieceof metal. Prey like a watchful, gliding eagle. Accelerate like a gusty wind." Wushu Proverb


Blessings to all,
Peter
When you find yourself in the company of a halfling and an ill-tempered Dragon, remember, you do not have to outrun the Dragon ...you just have to outrun the halfling.

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yoni
GOLD Member since Jun 2005

yoni

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Bideford and Bath

Total posts: 3099
Posted:*bump* I've just taken up thai chi last month, and this thread is really really good, so i thought i'd bump it for any others who might find it usefull

UCOF "evolution: Poi -> stick -> hoops -> devil stick -> juggling club -> juggling ball -> crayons."

Supergroovalsticprosifunkstication
In other words, it's the thumps bump

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NOn


activist for HoPper liberation.
Location: ffidrac

Total posts: 1643
Posted:nicely bumped, was thinking of getting back into tai chi - just got to find a tutor near me, which is proving the difficult part....

Aurinko freedom agreement reached 10th Sept 2006

if it makes no sense that's because it's NOn-sense.

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yoni
GOLD Member since Jun 2005

yoni

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Bideford and Bath

Total posts: 3099
Posted:as i dont have a clue where "ffidrac" is (i'm probably being very very stupid and tired an not getting something) i'll say there's a very very good one in bideford, who's wife also spins poi and he's called ranald macdonald as a bonus!

UCOF "evolution: Poi -> stick -> hoops -> devil stick -> juggling club -> juggling ball -> crayons."

Supergroovalsticprosifunkstication
In other words, it's the thumps bump

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NOn


activist for HoPper liberation.
Location: ffidrac

Total posts: 1643
Posted:ubblol you just have to read backwards... bideford's not exactly close. There are a couple of classes i found here but they are at weird times of day, i keep a look out...

Aurinko freedom agreement reached 10th Sept 2006

if it makes no sense that's because it's NOn-sense.

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yoni
GOLD Member since Jun 2005

yoni

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Bideford and Bath

Total posts: 3099
Posted:BACKWARDS!! now thats just silly, pfft. but yeah bideford is quite far away, worth it though.

UCOF "evolution: Poi -> stick -> hoops -> devil stick -> juggling club -> juggling ball -> crayons."

Supergroovalsticprosifunkstication
In other words, it's the thumps bump

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squarefish
SILVER Member since Sep 2002

(...trusty steed of the rodeo midget...)
Location: the state of flux

Total posts: 403
Posted:Anyone know of Tai-Chi classes in Dublin? used to do it myself, lapsed and always regreted it
M.


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alphalight
GOLD Member since Jan 2005

alphalight

member
Location: south germany

Total posts: 103
Posted:nick what is ur approach after years of experiences now to the fusion of poi with tai chi ?
i was practicing several martial art forms ( jiu jitsu, capoera and tai chi) but i never get really into it before i found poi.
now after years of poi new gates are open and it seems like the circles help my soul to find the way back to these arts
with a better comprehension and deeper feeling for it


i was in a wushu central 2 weeks ago and show the weapon master poi wink
he saw directly several martial art weapon movements like double sword, shot sword, long stick.
so poi seems to be part of all and all is poi wink

the fusion between it is defenetly possible i will try to fuse every movement and knollege from tai chi in poi

recently i started zazen and that is for me a sign that i am now completly open for the deeper circles in me meditate

peace light and love

ap


peace and light

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DeepSoulSheep
GOLD Member since Sep 2002

DeepSoulSheep

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Berlin

Total posts: 2617
Posted:Although I know poi to mainly to be a traditioanl female dance prop. When I was in New Zealand I was told that males used them for weapons training....

I live in a world of infinite possibilities.

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alphalight
GOLD Member since Jan 2005

alphalight

member
Location: south germany

Total posts: 103
Posted:u mean spin without any ego and let ur soul coming in the circles **

peace and light

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Faberg
GOLD Member since Aug 2003

veteran
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Total posts: 1459
Posted: Written by: squarefish


Anyone know of Tai-Chi classes in Dublin? used to do it myself, lapsed and always regreted it
M.



hiya martin

check out www.taichi-ireland.com

jan has been my teacher for the past 4 years and is probably the best i've ever met. his school is "wu style" though, most folks are probably more familiar with "yang style" which involves larger movements, lower stances etc

if you're not particular about what style you want to do then there are tons of yang style classes and probably quite a few chen style too

check here for more of what's available...

peace


My mind not only wanders, it sometimes leaves completely smile

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linx


newbie


Total posts: 2
Posted:Oh, it's
Dan Tian instead of Dan Tien.


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PinkNigel


PinkNigel

Pinker than thou
Location: A little pink world all my own...

Total posts: 336
Posted: Written by :linx


Oh, it's
Dan Tian instead of Dan Tien.



It's a transliteration, so either spelling will do (go with the same one as your teacher uses, that's your best bet...)


A wise man once said: "You have two ears and one mouth, therefore you should shut the censored up and listen" (though, to be fair, he might not've put it _quite_ like that..)

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Sarah_P
BRONZE Member since May 2008

Member
Location: Southern California

Total posts: 78
Posted:After a stint of living in the middle of nowhere, I'm finally moving back to civilization and one of the first things I did when I realized where I was moving was look up a tai chi school. wink When I first picked up poi about two months ago several people said a martial arts background would be good but as I have bad joints I think the lower-impact movements of tai chi would be much more relevant to me while still giving me a martial basis. smile I'm so looking forward to moving!!

I never thought of belly-dancing, but I'll be looking into that as well!

Anyway, even though it's an old post I still like the article (my being a fan of Nick's in no way, of course, biases me ubbangel ).


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