December Newsletter

In this newsletter: 
Holiday Schedule and January 2014 Class Start Dates 
2014 Tai Chi for Beginners Courses (I) and (II) 
Ongoing Qigong Classes 

Dear All,

I hope this finds you very well and looking forward to a much-deserved holiday break. As we approach the beginning of 2014, my wish for each of you is that you continue to find smart and innovative ways to cultivate peace, joy, and well-being. Further to that goal, I would be delighted to see you at a Tai Chi or Qigong class or workshop in the coming year. I am always available by phone at (905) 521-0043 or email at to talk to you about any questions you might have about classes and workshops.

All my best,

Holiday Schedule and January 2014 Start Dates

Regent Centre
The last class at the Regent Centre before the holiday is Saturday, December 21st.
In the new year, classes at the Regent Centre will begin on Friday, January 3rd, 2014.

Chalmers Presbyterian
The last class before the holiday at Chalmers will be on Thursday, December 12th.
In the new year, classes at Chalmers will begin on Thursday, January 16th.

Tai Chi for Beginners (I), Winter 2014 

If you're looking to start learning Tai Chi in the new year, I'm offering two courses for brand new beginners. These are ten-week sessions that introduce you to the first part of the Tai Chi set.

Wednesday afternoons, 1:15-2:15pm
Location: Regent Health Centre, 150 Locke Street South, Hamilton
Start Date: January 8, 2014
Instructor: Gillianne Shaver

Thursday evenings, 7:45-9:15pm 
Location: Chalmers Presbyterian, 200 Mountain Park Avenue, Hamilton
Start Date: January 16, 2014
Instructor: Melissa Smith

Tai Chi for Beginners (II), Winter 2014 

On Saturday afternoons at the Regent Centre we'll continue our study of the Tai Chi set with Tai Chi for Beginners (II). This ten-week course will see us through to the end of the Tai Chi set. We'll focus on polishing familiar moves and forging ahead through new material.

Saturday afternoons, 3-4pm (4:00-4:30 continuing practice)
Location: Regent Health Centre
Start Date: January 4, 2014
Instructor: Melissa Smith

Qigong at the Regent Centre

Qigong classes will continue to run at the Regent Centre on Monday afternoons, 1-2pm and Saturday afternoons, 2-3pm. Beginners are always welcome at Qigong. On Mondays we'll be continuing our study of Eight Silk Brocades; on Saturdays, we'll focus on Five Elements / Six Healing Sounds. The first Saturday of each month, I'll be offering formal sitting meditation instruction.

Tai Chi Sword Workshop, Sunday, December 8, 1-5pm

If you're in the Hamilton area, have spent time exploring tai chi, but have never had the pleasure of learning a weapons set, this is the workshop for you. The prerequisite is that you are familiar with a tai chi form; those who have learned Taoist style or have been learning from me at the Regent Centre will probably benefit most from learning this particular sword set. All are welcome, even if you haven't been to my classes before.

Tai chi sword is my favourite of all the disciplines I know. Sword is a classy sort of weapon: the fact that it is a two-bladed with lots of stabbing potential makes for intricate work. The movements are like the fine play of a surgeon's blade, as opposed to the broad, sweeping arcs of sabre (a curved, single-bladed weapon: think Japanese katana). Nothing against sabre: it's just that the challenges of sword encourage precision. Tai chi sword is a set through which you can really refine your practice.

Workshop details here. If you don't have a sword but would like to join the workshop, I will have a limited number of inexpensive swords on hand and available for purchase. Inquire before attending, please, especially if you are planning to purchase a sword through me.

October-November Newsletter, 2013

In this newsletter:
Ongoing Qigong Classes
Tai Chi for Beginners (I)
November Qigong Meditation Workshop

Dear All,

I hope this finds you all well and looking forward to fall. The class schedule has been on the light side through August and September as I am taking some time away to relax and plan our fall and winter program. There is some very exciting stuff coming down the pipeline, including a new meditation workshop (November) and a brand new Tai Chi for Beginners Course (starting October).

We'll officially be at two locations this fall: in addition to the studio at the Regent Health Centre, I'll also be teaching at Chalmers Presbyterian on Hamilton Mountain. I couldn't be more excited to announce that Gillianne Shaver will be teaching the Tai Chi for Beginners sessions on Wednesday afternoons at the Regent Centre. Gillianne has many years experience practicing and teaching Tai Chi. Many of you know her from the Monday Qigong classes.

My aim is to make it easier than ever for you to explore Tai Chi and Qigong. I believe that these practices are among the most powerful tools for self-transformation a person can learn. I hope you'll be able to join us this fall.



Ongoing Qigong Classes

It is never too late to come out and try Qigong on Mondays at 1pm or Saturdays at 2. While Tai Chi is hundreds of years old, Qigong is thousands of years old, with many routines and exercises to explore. My students have reported that they feel stronger and have more energy even after a few sessions.

If you're not familiar with Qigong, it is an ancient science of movement and meditation, designed to take your body and mind through a complete workout. Its aim is to make you strong and flexible, inside and out.

While Qigong is every bit as sophisticated as Tai Chi, its learning curve is a bit less steep in the beginning. It is an excellent practice on its own; Qigong also makes a wonderful accompaniment to Tai Chi lessons and will enhance your Tai Chi learning experience. Qigong classes are always open to new beginners. See the website for complete information on the schedule and fees.

Tai Chi for Beginners (I)

This fall I'm launching Tai Chi for Beginners (I), a ten-week course designed to take you through the first part of the Tai Chi set and help you build a strong foundation in Tai Chi technique. Tai Chi contains all the same components as Qigong, but is a more vigorous physical workout that gently challenges balance, coordination, strength and flexibility. October is a terrific time to start learning, because we have three different times available.

Course 1: Thursdays, 7:45-9:15pm
Start Date: Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
End Date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 (no class October 17)
Location: Chalmers Presbyterian, 200 Mountain Park Avenue, Hamilton, On
Instructor: Melissa Smith

Course 2: Saturdays, 3-4pm
Start Date: Saturday, October 19, 2013
End Date: Saturday, December 21, 2013
Location: Regent Health Centre, 150 Locke Street South, Hamilton, On
Instructor: Melissa Smith

Course 3: Wednesdays, 1:15-2:15pm
Start Date: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
End Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Location: Regent Health Centre, 150 Locke Street South, Hamilton, On
Instructor: Gillianne Shaver

Here's the really good news: when you join any of these courses, you get access to all of them. Let's say you want the Thursday night course, but you know you'll have to miss two classes. You are absolutely welcome to attend the Wednesday or Saturday class to make up the lesson. Let's say you plan to attend the Wednesday class, but you know you'll also want to drop by as many of the Thursday and Saturday classes as you can. Please do!

Bottom line, learning tai chi means repetition and practice. You can do that on your own, or you can come to class and refresh your memory, get answers to your questions, and pick up whatever you might have missed. All classes are included in your course fee.

Also included: access to both of my Qigong classes at the Regent Centre. Any time you like for the duration of the course, you are welcome to drop by, work with the Qigong exercises, and practice standing meditation. (I personally include Qigong at the beginning and end of all my Tai Chi workouts. It is an amazing way to settle into a workout and to ensure that the effects of practice continue long after the session is over.)

Tai Chi for Beginners (I) Course Fees:
Regular: $100
Seniors: $50
Students / ODSP / Under 18 / Financial Need: $30

Again, the course fee covers attendance at any or all Tai Chi for Beginners classes, as well as Qigong classes at Regent Health Centre for the duration of the course - from October 3rd to the December 21, 2013.

November Qigong Meditation Workshop
Sunday, November 10, 1-4pm. Open to All Levels of Experience.

The connection between stress and illness is becoming increasingly acknowledged and understood by modern medical science, but Qigong practitioners have long had an incredible understanding of the mechanics behind this vicious cycle and how to break it. The fact is that the body has an amazing ability to heal itself and recuperate from stress, if we allow it to do so. Qigong meditation helps relieve stress and intervene in the formation of illness by literally getting you out of your own way and pausing thought patterns that disrupt the body's natural processes.

Qigong meditation is a pure meditation form. It aims to allow the mind to simply focus and relax. It uses no visualization or mental tricks to create a state of awareness. Through this form, you learn to conquer the mind's habit of moving from thought to thought and experience simple, unadorned reality in all its beauty. There is no limit to how deep you can go or what you can overcome.

On Sunday, November 10, we'll explore sitting and standing Qigong meditation along with simple foundation exercises from Qigong and Tai Chi in order to stretch the body and make meditation more comfortable. No experience required.

Qigong Meditation Workshop Fee: $75

August-October 2013 Newsletter

Locke Street Festival: Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Locke Street Festival, an annual celebration run by Locke Street businesses and local vendors, is on from 10am on Saturday, September 7, 2013. Locke Street will be closed to traffic that day.

The regular Qigong class (2-3pm) and Tai Chi class (3:00-4:30) will run that day. The Regent Centre runs an open house during the festival. This is a great opportunity to promote the classes. If you can attend class that day, I would appreciate it. It is a wonderful way to help me show visitors what we do.

If you are coming to class, please allow some extra time to find parking off Locke Street.

Reduced Schedule and Reduced Fees for August / September 
I will be away in late August and late September. If you are paying the monthly rate, your August dues will cover your classes for both August and September.

Class dates for August / September 2013
Monday, August 5 (Qigong / Tai Chi, 1-2pm)
Friday, August 9 (Advanced Tai Chi, 1:10-2:40pm)
Saturday, August 10 (Qigong 2-3pm; Tai Chi 3-4:30)
Monday, August 12  (Qigong / Tai Chi, 1-2pm)
Friday, August 16 (Advanced Tai Chi, 1:10-2:40pm)
Saturday, August 17 (Qigong 2-3pm; Tai Chi 3-4:30)
Monday, August 19  (Qigong / Tai Chi, 1-2pm)

Friday, September 6 (Advanced Tai Chi, 1:10-2:40pm)
Saturday, September 7  (Qigong 2-3pm; Tai Chi 3-4:30)
Monday, September 9  (Qigong / Tai Chi, 1-2pm)
Friday, September 13 (Advanced Tai Chi, 1:10-2:40pm)
Saturday, September 14  (Qigong 2-3pm; Tai Chi 3-4:30)
Monday, September 16  (Qigong / Tai Chi, 1-2pm)

For a limited time in August and September, I am still running open practice in the park. For dates, times and location of open practice in the park, email me at or call (905) 521-0043. Open practice is free and open to everyone. 

New beginner's Tai Chi classes at Chalmers Presbyterian Church on Hamilton Mountain. Classes will run for a ten-week cycle beginning on October 3, 2013 and continuing into early December.

Time: 7:45-9:15pm
Start Date: October 3, 2013
End Date: December 12, 2013
Location: Chalmers Presbyterian is at 200 Mountain Park Avenue, on the mountain brow just east of Upper Wentworth.
Fee: $100 regular; $50 seniors; $30 students and people on disability.

Your course fee covers materials and the entire ten week session. For the duration of the course, the fee also gives you access to my classes at the Regent Centre on Mondays at 1pm (Qigong and Tai Chi), Saturdays at 2pm (Qigong) and Saturdays from 3-4pm (Tai Chi for Beginners). 

Highrise Bootcamp

James Beltrame is a really nice guy with a terrific attitude. I've known James for a while now, and I was really happy to learn that he's launching a fitness bootcamp in Hamilton. If you're looking for a workout to balance the stretching and meditation you get with tai chi and qigong, or simply want to get your boot in shape, I can think of no one I'd recommend more. 

Here's the press release for Highrise Bootcamp. Check it out!

Hamilton-based fitness bootcamp Highrise Bootcamp (HRB) will be launching a new location in the Downtown area on July 3rd, 2013 at 15 Wellington St. N. Highrise Bootcamp helps busy people get into the best shape of their lives with only three short 30 minute workouts per week at a third of the cost of personal training.

Classes will run in a professionally re-modeled 700 square foot studio on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 6 pm. Highrise Bootcamp will be offering a free one-week trial to all interested residents in the Hamilton area.

Highrise Bootcamp features 30-minute express workouts for busy professionals and they guarantee to help you drop a dress or pant size in 21 days or your money back. The secret behind their training system is the cutting-edge concept of “metabolic” bootcamp-style workouts.

According to HRB Owner James Beltrame, PTS, Pn1 “A metabolic workout features a total body workout in alternating set or circuit format that combines the muscle building benefits of resistance training with the cardiovascular benefits of cardio training. The result is a killer bootcamp-style workout that will supercharge metabolism for up to 48 hours post-workout, build lean muscle, blast belly fat, and get you into the best shape of your life with only three 30-minute express workouts per week.”

The launch of the new location in Downtown Hamilton on Wednesday, July 3rd will provide a great opportunity to get the local community involved. Highrise Bootcamp also provides done-for-you rapid weight loss meal plans and access to a monthly grocery store tour and nutrition seminar.

HRB will be launching the new Downtown Hamilton location on Wednesday, July 3rd at 15 Wellington St N. To activate a free one-week trial to test-drive the program, email or call 289-396-4140 today to reserve your spot. Visit their website at for more info.

Phone: 289-396-4140

On Tai Chi and Being the Best

I often encounter people who tell me that tai chi is the best martial art (I often encounter people who say, "Tai chi is a martial art?!?!" but that's a post for another time). It was a common topic of discussion where I trained. People just love the idea that you can spend time training in this apparently slow, gentle form and suddenly transform into a martial arts beast if you're confronted.

On one level, I will say yes, I think tai chi is the best. Obviously I do, as does anyone who spends hours every week practicing it. If I thought otherwise, I would be off learning karate or kung fu. No doy. (Although I do not practice solely for self defense...any martial artist will tell you that is not the only or even the primary benefit of martial arts training.)

In reality, whether tai chi is "the best martial art" is really a weird kind of statement if you think about it. Martial arts are not what does the fighting should you sign up for a competition or be unlucky enough to get into a confrontation on the street. People do the fighting, and people come in all formats: well trained, with tons of experience; untrained, with tons of experience; well trained, with no real fighting experience; belligerent windbags who won't throw a punch; silent but deadly types who will literally stab you in the back. Not to mention the vast majority who just won't bother getting into any type of fight.

What I can say for sure is that tai chi is an amazing way to learn how to deal with the energy of others, including, when you're ready, physical confrontation. If you want to see what it looks like when a guy with a lot of tai chi training demonstrates his skills against a mixed martial artist, go straight to the video below, featuring a tai chi demo and commentary by Ian Sinclair of Sinclair Martial Arts in Orillia.

If you want to know what really makes someone the best, though, listen to the audio commentary Ian Sinclair has laid over the video. You might want to especially prick up your ears at 3 minutes. Here I'll help you with a little transcription:

In order to master martial arts, you need to master yourself. This is not just an idealistic principle. This is a very practical thing. Every time there is a thought there is an emotion. Every time there is an emotion there is a physical response. So people who master martial arts have to work through their own stuff. There is no room for fear, hatred, anger, ego or anything on the floor.... The better the martial arts school - the nicer the people. The higher the level of skill - the nicer the personalities of the instructors.    

You get this, right? Not: the higher the level of skill, the faster they'll wipe the floor with you. Not: the higher the level of skill, the more they'll boast about their level of skill. Not: the higher the level of skill, the less they'll have the time of day for you when you walk in the door to check out the class. Niceness is a good metric because anyone who has learned well should have learned mastery over themselves and therefore should be able to help you feel accepted and comfortable from your first day. That really is the best.

Qigong Workshop, Sunday, August 11, 2013, 1-4pm

I'm offering a qigong workshop at the Regent Health Centre on Locke Street South on Sunday, August 11 from 1-4pm. The workshop is open to practitioners of all levels, including beginners. No prerequisite or previous experience with qigong is required. If you have taken qigong before or are a regular participant in my classes, you'll find exciting new material here.

This workshop will focus on Chinese five-element theory. According to traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy, all matter is made up of five elements: fire, earth, metal / air (they're considered the same element), water, and wood. These five elements work together in a constructive cycle, pictured below.

In qigong, each exercise works with a different element, and corresponds to a different organ system in the body. You don't need to deliberately draw qi or meditate on the element you're trying to work with. Simply moving the body in the unique fashion required by each exercise will do that for you. By the time you've completed a cycle of five exercises, one for each element, you'll have performed a complete internal workout.

At the workshop I'll be introducing six exercises (one to align the body systems, and one for each element) and teaching qigong standing meditation. By the end of the afternoon, you'll have a short routine that you can use to refresh your energy or stretch and relax tight muscles any time you need. I'll be showing you how to make each of the movements more or less challenging to your muscles, and how to adapt the routine to fit the amount of time you have.

The fee for this workshop is $60.

Contact Melissa at or (905) 521-0043 for more information or to register.

Advanced Tai Chi Workshop, Sunday, June 23rd, 2013, 1-5pm

I'm offering a workshop for tai chi practitioners who have completed the 108-form tai chi set (Taoist style) on Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 from 1-5pm.

The focus of the workshop will be technique, with an emphasis on individual corrections to help take your practice to your next level. We will be working on improving the push from the foot and correct spinal alignment, in addition to any questions participants may wish to address.

I also plan to show participants how to work with a transformative self-healing visualization - a form of guided meditation - to release stale energies that may prevent you from moving forward in your practice. The workshop will include qigong meditation also.

I'm posting this information here on the blog in case you're reading this but you're not familiar with my regular classes.

Let's say you're part of a certain popular tai chi organization, maybe calling itself a society or academy, that is Taoist in its focus. It may be that you are finding that you would like to take your practice to the next level, or you're looking for an alternative to the tai chi instruction offered at a certain popular society or academy. It may be that you're looking for an instructor who has been trained in a more in-depth fashion than what is offered at those fine institutions. I in no way intend to oppose myself to the good people who teach there, since I think they do have a place, but I at the same time I want to let those who wish to go further know that there is more to learn. From my experience, I have more to offer and would love to share it with anyone who is interested.

If you want to check out my regular classes, please see the "Class Schedule and Fees" tab at the top of the page.

The workshop fee is $75. Contact me at or (905) 521-0043 for more information, to sign up, or for details on the workshop's location.

Simple Acupressure Routines

From time to time in class we've talked about identifying acupressure points and what the various points do. If you've been around for a while, you've no doubt learned about the Bubbling Spring (aka Yongquan or Kidney 1).

We've also talked in detail about the Great Eliminator (Large Intestine 4, Hoku), which is the point we're trying to stimulate when we use the Tiger Mouth hand position and when we point in Draw the Bow.

It's easy enough to learn to find acupressure points. Once you know that feeling of tenderness when you press on one, and you know that they tend to hang out in natural folds or indentations in the structure of the body, you're well on your way. From there, it's a matter of knowing how to stimulate points, and which points to stimulate depending on the problem you're trying to resolve.

There are a number of great resources online to help you. I recommend this article at Eclectic Energies to learn two basic techniques for working on points: pressing and reducing. Most people are familiar with pressing and holding as an acupressure technique, but you can also press and perform small counterclockwise circles. This circular massage clears stagnant energies from the point and its associated channel and organ. Pressing and holding moves new energies into the point. (The article I've linked to there includes a little image of someone working on a foot. If you click on it, it plays a small video of how to reduce a point.)

If you're interested in learning more about acupressure points and how to combine them into little routines to help with common ailments, then is a great place. The site features short guides to acupressure routines that can help you with numerous different types of headache, nervous system issues, menstrual and menopausal issues, and body aches. When you click on a symptom, it opens a little chart that guides you, with illustrations, on which points to stimulate and how long you should work with each point. Personally, I often use the reducing technique as well as the pressing technique (from Eclectic Energies, above) when I work through an acupressure routine. It's the only thing I would recommend adding here. I've used Acupressure Online for headache and digestive issues with great results.

The site has links to mobile versions of the charts that you can download to your phone or other device. The complete acupressure guide is also available as a small paperback book if you prefer a physical book for when you're offline or away from your toys.

It's another tool for your toolkit.