Tai Chi Wandwork 34

With a bewildering array of health exercises from China – literally dozens of Tai Chi and Qigong forms,  styles and routines – how do we choose one as our daily health routine?

I have explained many times on this blog that for comprehensive health and fitness (“internal” and “external”) the 17 Chinese wand Exercises passed on by Bruce Johnson is a perfect daily routine for just about anyone. That does not mean to say that we would not benefit from other exercises routines once we have completed our daily round of wand exercises. For a long time I performed Tai Chi after the wand exercises, using the wand-led movements as a sort of warm up and stretching routine for Tai Chi.

Then one day I felt that I wanted to continue holding the wand while performing Tai Chi and created the Tai Chi Boating Wand form. It is a flowing and very relaxing form that adds many benefits to gentle movement, such as improvement of posture and increased shoulder mobility.

My daily exercise routine became the wand exercises followed by the Tai Chi Boating Wand. This is as simple and comprehensive as it gets.

But….many students, while enjoying wand exercises, still want to learn Tai Chi and Qigong.

Tai Chi
During the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was learning Tai Chi there was basically only Cheng man-ching’s short form in the west. Nowadays the 24 Step Yang form has become and international standard. Both forms, while rewarding for dedicated long-term students, contain elements that are very challenging for the average person. I created the 55 Step “Flow Form” based on both forms but without the static single-leg stances and squats.

So after the wand exercises students can either perform the Tai Chi Boating wand or The 55 Step Flow Form. Both options are as simple and comprehensive as it gets.

What about Qigong?
Students ask about Qigong. It’s difficult to incorporate a Qigong routine into a class syllabus when there are hundreds of routines to choose from. For example the Chinese Health Qigong Association have created many new Qigong forms and still teach updated older forms. The interesting thing is that the stated health benefits of the routines are remarkably similar. Which Qigong form should I choose for class? I decided to use some of the “Shibashi” Qigong exercises because they are similar to the wand exercises in that they focus on both the external and internal and are practised with a moving flow which is neither too slow or too fast.

Putting it all Together
The reality is that most students will not have the time or inclination to study the entire wand exercises, learn the 55 Step Flow Form, the Tai Chi Boating Wand or a the Shibashi Qigong routine.

So I designed a sequence of 34 exercises which contain simple movements with comprehensive benefits from Tai Chi, Qigong and wand exercises. The routine, called the Tai Chi Wandwork 34, not only serves as a general introduction to these different forms but focuses on quickly getting circulation and energy moving in an accessible way. The form is simple yet just challenging enough to be enjoyable.

The first 18 exercises are open-handed (no wand needed) and consist a selection of  Shibashi and other Qigong movements and Tai Chi 55 Step Form. The last 16 exercises use a “wand” – a stick, wooden dowel or bamboo pole about 48 inches long and one inch thick to perform some Chinese Wand Exercises and movements from the flowing “Tai Chi Boating Wand” form.

Breathing is integral to the movements of the whole program. Movements should not be too fast (using momentum) or too slow (with stagnant energy and no flow). A moderate, even speed is maintained throughout, coordinated with breathing. This methodology gently stretches the body and massages internal organs (with rocking movements, for example).

While some students may want to go on and learn the various components of this form in their entirety, those seeking a 15 – 20 minute well-rounded gentle exercise routine for health and wellbeing need look no further than the Tai Chi Wandwork 34. It is a sort of one-stop shop for people with a wide range of medical conditions as well as the sedentary and office workers who sit for hours.


Tai Chi Wandwork 34 is  accessible for programs such as “wellness in the workplace” and the “GP Physical Activity Referral Scheme”. Doctors are now prescribing Tai Chi and Qigong for conditions such as: High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Heart Disease, Muscle or Joint Problems, Anxiety or Depression, Arthritis, Asthma, Diabetes, Obesity, Sedentary Lifestyle, Posture Problems, Seniors Balance Problems, Slouching & Stooping.

Tai Chi Wandwork 34 is especially beneficial for people suffering from ailments of modern life such as slouching and stooping caused by using smart phones / desktop computers / tablets and playing PC games. The movements excel at opening the chest, strengthening the shoulders, back and neck and combating bad posture.


Search for the Hatchet Taiwan Wand Method

`Search for the Hatchet’ is one of the more challenging Chinese Wand Exercises. It involves bending forwards and raising the arms behind us as we hold the wand behind the back either side of the body.


There is a style of Chinese Wand in Taiwan that has an identical technique. However, their wands are shorter which makes the posture a little more challenging. This posture is one of many presented by Bruce Johnson in his original book which also feature in exercises in China and Taiwan today.




Advice to those who are Inventive with Sticks

Many exercise class leaders have an instinct for `safe’ and `effective’ exercise. They like to create their own exercise routines but seldom check whether others have done the groundwork for them. Sometime their instinct lets them down

If you want to use herbs to heal the body you could travel hundreds of miles around the country classifying and collecting plants. Then you could test them on patients to see what qualities they posses. Are they poisonous or beneficial? What ailments can they help? Fortunately generations of herbalists over hundreds of years have completed this time-consuming work. There is no need to start again and ignore knowledge from culminated experience.

Exercise methods can have positive and negative effects, some obvious and immediate but others manifesting in the long term over decades or lifetimes. This is the reason I value Eastern exercise over Western; they have developed over many generations of refinement, experiment and observation.

There are many stretching routines that use a pole, stick or broom handle. Its such a simple instrument that people can easily create all sorts of movements; some random, some unsafe, some effective, safe and beneficial. The Internet – and in particular Youtube – is awash with videos of exercise instructors who have created their own exercises using poles and broom handles. Are these movements safe and effective? We can only discover the best method by trial and error. Similar to herbalism, you can either start again and do the experimenting yourself or pick the brains of past generations.

According to Bruce Johnson, who brought Jiangan (AKA the Chinese Wand Exercises) to the West, they were designed over many generations to eliminate unsafe movements and maximize efficiency.

Although I did not have expectations when I started Jiangan my health and fitness improved in significant and tangible ways. The consequence is that although I am Hon. President of the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain I no longer teach or promote Tai Chi as an daily health exercise. Instead I practice and promote Jiangan because it is a superior method of achieving and maintaining health and fitness.

It is frustrating seeing people making up their own stick and wand movements. I urge them to make a study of the intelligent and efficient design of Jiangan before coming up with their own routines.

Try Jiangan first and you will be rewarded.


Michael Davies is Hon President of the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain and author of `Jiangan – The Chinese Health Wand

Amazon UK page http://amzn.to/1yPqjZK
Singing Dragon Blog Interview http://bit.ly/1yPqogd
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Taiwan Wands 2

The three-foot wand of a traditional Qigong system in Taiwan uses techniques similar to Bruce Johnson’s lineage. Other techniques involve massaging and stimulating acupuncture points in the body. The wands are made in three sections that join together and are embedded with greenish-black spots of copper as described by Bruce Johnson. The routines in the following video are gentler and more in tune with the internal characteristics of Qigong than the other type of `Qigong wand‘ exercises practiced in Taiwan.



Michael Davies is Hon President of the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain and author of `Jiangan – The Chinese Health Wand

Amazon UK page http://amzn.to/1yPqjZK
Singing Dragon Blog Interview http://bit.ly/1yPqogd
Google Books Preview http://bit.ly/1vCadPZ


Taiwan Wand Exercises 1

Apart from the Taiwanese `Tai Chi Rod‘ system which involves massage of acupuncture points, there is another style that appears to be practiced by a good many people. Although the videos below mention `Qigong Stick’ in the title and description the movements are performed quite fast and in a jerky rather external way, so breathing and leading the Qi can not easily be associated with this routine!

However, there is something about the sequence and combination of movements that reminds me of Jiangan, even though the movements are not gentle or internal.

The sequence holding the wand across the back of the shoulders has a combination reminiscent of `Twisting Snake’ but although they bend to each side they combine it was bends backwards and forwards with no twist. The wand is also shorter and grips narrower. It must be difficult to hold an manoeuvre it comfortably.

The `Qigong’ label indicates that there is probably a history to the method and not something devised recently. The Taiwan systems may be variations of the ancient wand heritage. Perhaps in the past a wand master was observed and the movements copied without the internal elements which resulted in a very brisk and physical exercise.


Michael Davies is Hon President of the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain and author of `Jiangan – The Chinese Health Wand

Amazon UK page http://amzn.to/1yPqjZK
Singing Dragon Blog Interview http://bit.ly/1yPqogd
Google Books Preview http://bit.ly/1vCadPZ