Monthly Archives: April 2008

Eight Section Brocade by Sitting in the Chair

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     There was a meeting on tai chi at the auditorium in Tsurumai last Sunday. And I participated in it.

     The auditorim is located in a park named Tsuruma(i) Koen. Tsuruma(i) means that cranes dance, but there’s no cranes in the park. But Nagoya citizens enjoy seeing many colorful flowers in each season and relaxing time in the shade of big trees at the park. 

     There was a festival of flowers and there were some food stands in the park when I went there last Sunday. But I didn’t go to the park to see flowers at that time. As I said at the beginning, I went there to participate in a meeting on tai chi at the auditorium. It was the first time to visit there after I graduated from the junior high school about XX years ago. 

     The auditorium was built for the memory of the wedding of the Emperor Showa (Hirohito) in Tsurumai, Nagoya in 1930. It was used as a military headquarters during the war and was requisitioned by GHQ and was a theater for the exclusive use of soldiers in the Allied Forces until 1956. Anyway the meeting was held at that historical place.

     I’m learning tai chi, but I learned how to do the eight section brocade by sitting in the chair that day. The eight section brocade is a kind of qigong used as exercise. I do it before doing tai chi, but I usually do it by standing. If you’re interested in the eight section brocade, how about reading this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_Pieces_of_Brocade

     You know, Japan has become the aging society, and its average life expectancy is the longest in the world. But not all aged people live healthily without any troubles in their bodies. So, many sitting style exercises were thought up for them. 

     Tai chi and the eight section brocade are exercises, but are fundamentally qigong. So those will make you feel better and generate energy all over your body even if you do them in the chair.

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Taichi & Cherry Blossoms

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      The green light of the land phone was flashing on and off when I got home the other day. It means there was a message in the answering machine while I was out. So I pressed the button, and a gentle voice reached my ears…

     “Hello. This is Panda. There will be a tai chi lesson and a cherry-blossom viewing party after the practice next Tuesday of the first. Why don’t you join us?”

     The lady saying her name as Panda is a friend of mine. I met her first at a training camp of doing tai chi last October.

     She is a wife of the chief priest of a Buddhist temple in Gamagori. She and her husband, the priest, hold tai chi lessons in the precincts of the temple every Tuesday and Saturday morning. (The temple used to be the family temple of Katahara Matsudaira, one of distinguished samurai worrier classes.) 

     I learn tai chi on Tuesdays and I have something to do on Saturdays. So I usually cannot participate in their lessons. But we have no class on April first because of the spring vacation. My class is one of extension courses at a university and the new school year starts on the seventh. So I went to the temple at the friend’s invitation with a friend of mine last Tuesday. 

     We left Nagoya before eight o’clock in the morning, but it was around 9:30 when we arrived at the temple in Gamagori. We stuck in the traffic jam. I saw many people doing something between the two stone pillars when our car was going through a narrow path. “I found it! We just passed the temple!” 

     There were more than thirty people in the precincts of the temple: women and men, old people, young people, and even little children. They were doing tai chi whose styles I didn’t know. I tried to copy their movement and exercised together. 

     After the lesson, we had a cherry blossom-viewing party under a beautiful cherry tree. They have many kinds of cheery trees in the precincts. We enjoyed delicious Japanese green tea with some sweets there.

     It was a little bit windy, but a very lovely day. Some of us decided to walk to a sushi restaurant for lunch. We enjoyed talking, seeing beautiful spring flowers while walking. And of course, the sushi lunch was excellent!

     After lunch, we went to see the cherry blossoms at a park, which has many weeping cherry trees. How beautiful they are! We had a wonderful time there!  

     By the way, there’s a poster on the notice board in the temple. The title is Itsutsu-no-yokatta in Japanese and it means the five good things. And it has the five items as follows: It’s good that I’ve smiled, it’s good that I’ve kept my mouth shut, it’s good that I haven’t said had things about anybody, it’s good that I haven’t got angry, and it’s good that I’ve said gently.  

     OK, I’m going to try to do anything with smile, and to say just good things in the coming new school year!

The Voice of English Learners

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      I’ve studied English for 8 years, but I’m frustrated by my English ability. It’s as if an invisible thick and tall wall blocks me. Probably most of English learners feel the same as I do. So I often talk about what to do for improving our English skills with my friends, and we always seek good places or methods for learning English. But meanwhile, it seems that many English teachers think of what to do for teaching English and for securing students.

     I take an English class at NHK Cultural Center in Sakae. It’s not a usual English conversational class or grammar one, but it’s a kind of phonetic one. The class had suffered small numbers of students. In fact, the least number of students is eight to be opened the class, but we had had only six students for a long time. But now there’re nine students in the class!

     Content, teacher, place, time, and everything except for the fee are the same. As for the fee, it’s risen! But the number of students increased. Why? I think it has something to do with the title. The title of the class had been “Basic Class of Pronunciation and Listening” for a long time. But since this April, it has changed to “Let’s Have an Ear for English!” I think the newcomers were attracted by the title.

     As you see, titles are important. Don’t you choose a book when you see the title at the bookshop? But, if the content is not your type, you’ll stop reading it soon. I think English classes are the same. An English teacher happened to ask me about the content the other day, and I sent out questionnaire to my friends. The answers are very interesting. They are the real voice of us English learners!

Question: What class do you want to take if everything (the teacher, the place, the fee, the time and so on) is OK for you?

1. I may be attracted by specific slogans such as “This class ensures that you won’t be in trouble when you order at the restaurant abroad!” than general titles such as “Travel English”.(woman)

2. I’m interested in studying philosophy of live with movies and American culture including slangs. Might be good discussion about movies or current affairs, and that studying about geography and culture including food and music of the country where the teacher comes from. (woman)

3. I’d like teachers not to speak too much, to be enthusiastic for teaching and to try to let students speak English. (woman)

4. Slogans may be attractive such as “The teacher can explain in Japanese too if you don’t understand.”, “I’ll promise you your improvement in English!”, “You’ll improve the level of your English skills in this class!”, or “Beginners are welcome!” . And quick and short questions and answers may be nice in each class. And I’m interested In dictating lines on movies.(woman)

5. I’d like to study practical English. I’d like to practice with words which appear frequently such as get, have, take, hold, make, bring, come and so on, and not just study phrases.( woman)

6. I’d like interactive classes, not one-way lectures. Discussion about some themes and the presentation by students may be good. I think it’ll be nice to study using the newspaper. Students can ask something to teachers with the paper. (man)

7.I’m interested in anecdotes of movies, famous speeches, accidents or events all over the world. (woman)

8. I’d like to study English with those themes as follows
    
Current affairs: global warming issue, presidential election in U.S.A, Chinese poisoned dumplings 
                      
   issue, declining birth rate issue
    History: The country of the teacher, Japan
    Sports: baseball, soccer, golf 
    I
ntroduction of countries or areas: London, Tokyo, Beijin (man)

9. I’d like to how to debate, practicing expressing own opinions. And I’m interested in studying something special like oriental medicine, inside stories of some historical events, and so on. (woman)

10. I’d like to belong to interactive classes, not only teacher speaking ones. Teachers should ask students something concretely, not just ask "What do you think?" And I’d like to know systems of elections in U.S and other countries. And I’m also interested in reading a specific book…Time, Newsweek, or New Yorker is also OK. (woman)     

11. I’d like to study culture through the language, by reading poems, essays, or novels, or playing in English and cooking in English may be interesting. And if it’s possible, I’d like to learn from a handsome man. (woman) 

12. I’m interested in like
       Current affairs: Pension issue, Tibet issue, food safety, professional baseball, murders by juveniles
       History of rock music and society
       Globalism and anti-globalism
       Movies of Spielberg and Hayao Miyazaki   
       Medical care and insurance, medical tour
       Correlation between popularization of cellphones and human relations
       Comparison with culture of food in each country.  (man)

13. I think compatibility between the student and the teacher is important. And it depends on material, theme, textbook, style (discussion or not), grammar, pronunciation, and the teacher’s face! (woman)

14. I’d like to practice presentation. And each teacher should have strong personality. (woman)

15. I prefer the class of listening and speaking to the one of reading and writing. I’m interested in the difference between British and American English, and the difference between polite (in the upper classes) and rude (filthy words or swearwords) English. I’d like to study about well-known stories in Western countries (related with Christian culture) and American or British history too. (woman)

      Well, we English learners are looking for something good for our English all the time…And I participated in a lecture at NHK Cultural Center last Sunday. But it was more boring than I had expected. It was just a comic show, not a lecture of studying English at all! (It was fun as a just comic show.)

     I think many of other participants also must have felt bored because I noticed there were many professional or great English speakers around me at the place. But I was able to see many friends who I hadn’t seen for a long time there.

     I went to a British pub with some of my friends before the day and it was really fun. We tried to speak English there. Maybe speaking English over beer is the best way to study English?!