Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Whirlwind Left, Small Star of the Big Dipper, Waiting for Fish, Looking for the Snake in the Grass, The Bird Flies into the Forest to Rest

The Bee Flies into the Hive

The Bee Flies into the hive and Phoenix Spreads Wings.

Remember to control the tip of the sword during the turn into Bee Flies into the Hive. The steps in this posture follow a circular path after turning the left foot anti clockwise.

Remember to bring the posture to the upright position. Turning the waist to the right the left forearm rotates at the elbow bringing the left hand above the right. Keep the sword arm straight. Use the leverage from the left foot to extend the force through the body during the step and sweep of the sword.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Thinking and Feeling.

When we study t'ai chi it is unfortunate that we have to spend some of the time thinking! Why is this considered to be 'unfortunate?'

Thinking takes us away from the actual experience. Yes, we have thoughts about experience, but the thoughts are not the experience. So it is best to keep thoughts to a minimum. They can be like sign posts which direct our attention to a particular feeling or they can help us discover new areas of experience .. or in other words, creative thoughts about our practice. Learning t'ai chi is a process of discovery. Ultimately the mind is directing the feeling and there is little thinking going on at all.

What do we feel? All the tactile sensations are acknowledged as part of the practice. In order to move in t'ai chi, for example, you will need to feel that the foot is pushing the body to create the weight shift and that the other leg is empty of body weight before taking a step, and so on.

The qualities of t'ai chi, such as softness and openness are experienced on a feeling level but we can use our thoughts to direct the experience. Once we have created a feeling then it will become more powerful if you let go into the feeling experience and let go of thoughts completely.

Advice at the Beginning : Surrender to relaxation

To get the most benefit from practice we should apply relaxation. But, how do we relax? If we try to relax the very act of trying will get in the way! A good way to get around this problem is to imagine that we are relaxed already. This is an ancient method. The 'result' becomes the 'method.' When we imagine we are relaxed we stop trying... the feeling of relaxation comes and then we let that feeling take over. At this stage there is no sense of a detached self we feel totally overcome by the feeling of relaxation. Then just let it be.

We become more relaxed when we feel that we can let go of control. 'Trust' is an important part of that process of letting go. If we don't want things to be a certain way, we can let in a feeling of freedom and acceptance. This does not have to be passive state, it is also the starting place for movement and change.

Relaxation and connecting deeply with the experience of being alive is at the heart of the t'ai chi journey.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Question : How to open the inner joints of the spine?

As the body becomes more relaxed and the substantial ch'i sinks to the lower tan tien and the feet so the body is able to move from the feet and the mind is able to lead the force through the body. All of this opens all the major joints of the body.

To open the spine in particular it is good to suspend the head as if by a thread. There is an upward feeling at the acupuncture point 'Meeting of a Hundred Yangs' (Du 20) which is created by the mind intent. The ch'i here feels as if it is lifting. The body ch'i feels as if it sinks from this point in a downward direction. This should be applied to every t'ai chi position.

However, sometimes our body is so blocked that we cannot open the spine with these methods. Then it is good to use muscles to stretch in an upward direction and use exercises involving twisting the spine and so on.

White Crane Spreads Wings is a posture which brings the force very strongly through the spine and this can open each space between the vertebrae as the force rises. The force is brought through the right arm and issued from the wrist. Remember the body is rising in this posture and extending vertically at the same time the heavy relaxed downward force is sinking. It is the only posture in the form where this occurs. Golden rooster stands on one leg is also very upright but here the force is brought to the rising hand and the knee. There is also a potential kick from this posture.

Question :

Question : Is there a link between the full leg/foot and the opposing empty arm/hand? It seems to me that the hands and feet are linked together in some way which follows the yin yang principles, so in moves like push which hand controls the energy?

All parts of the body are linked with all other parts. Then in relation to the movement of dynamic forces through the body or t'ai chi force there a variety of ways that the forces can be moved through the body or enabled naturally through the feet and through the body.

These techniques are not easy to express through text alone. However, I will try to outline my understanding which I know to be incomplete.

In a posture such as brush left knee push. The right foot directs the force of the whole body coordination to the right hand. This is sometimes referred to as 'jin.' Simultaneously there is a rising force which is conducted through the hand with the mind intent and both feet are involved but especially the front foot. In addition there can be spiral forces enhanced by the lowering of the elbow during the act of pushing which rotates the right elbow. Rotation of the elbow is a common feature in the t'ai chi forms to enable the issuing of spiral force.

In a posture such as single whip the back foot is pushing the right hip forward directing a spiral force through the body, enhanced by the rotation of the left elbow and issued from the left hand. So this force is conducted diagonally through the body.

The wonderful principle which is expressed throughout t'ai chi and even in chinese medicine is that opposites create each other. So if I am receiving a force on my left which involves the process of emptying; I am also expressing a force on my right which is becoming more full. It important to understand the these are all active and dynamic movements. So many people use t'ai chi for relaxation and do not balance this yin aspect with the active yang aspect. For example the force of an opponent is received into the body on one side and is channelled through to the other side in many applications. The two sides seem to be different in the way that our mind labels them but the way that we feel and experience them is really as one circle which also includes the force of the other person which is returned to them. They are part of the circle.

It is worth contemplating the movement of these forces throughout the form.

The Swallow Flies into the Nest and The Clever Cat Catches the Mouse

Turn with the idea of efficiency... get the force going to the diagnonal without excess or deficiency. Practise the rhythm of the movement to keep a connection with the force.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Quick responses in Pushing Hands

Many people know the basic techniques of pushing hands and do everything correctly and yet when someone goes to push them they cannot apply their responses quickly enough.. why is this?

When receiving the force of another there is no time to prepare. All preparation must have been completed before your opponent begins the attack.

If you have not sunk your substantial feeling to the feet then it is too late.
If you have not connected to the feet to advance or retreat then it is too late.
If you have not brought the 'sensing ch'i' to the surface of your body and extended towards your opponent then it is too late.
If you have not separated full and empty then it is too late.
If you do not meet your opponent before they touch you then it is too late.
If you did not balance your opponent's action before touch then it is too late.

It is a state of readiness, alertness and responsiveness. It is also 'light spirit.'

Question :

"If the body is balanced and full in the right foot and I am ready to step, I have noticed a sticking sensation in the left foot and visa versa.. is this normal, it sometimes feel very difficult to raise the empty foot."

It is possible that this is the ch'i of the foot which is linking in with the ch'i of the ground. But my guess is that any difficulty of emptying one leg completely is due to not sinking enough and not bringing lightness to the upper body and practising 'light spirit.'

There are many techniques which relate to stepping. First, the body should be centrally aligned over the fixed foot. Then, when relaxing downwards the sinking force increases. Gradually the other leg will empty and then can be moved with the waist. At this time the sinking is constantly increasing during the act of stepping. The body then can function as a whole without breaks. The body actually behaves like a balance. When the substantial goes down on one side there is a corresponding upward force on the other. This is created in the beginning with the mind although it is, in fact, natural. It is not at first an easy matter to get the body light, responsive and behaving as a unified whole. It is the ch'i and mind together that connects all the parts of the body and then using the principles of t'ai chi movement the unity of feeling can be maintained whilst stepping.

It can help to apply the principle that the body is suspended from the crown as if by a thread.
Bristol 28.07.09

Saturday, 18 July 2009

The action serves the function : Sword form

To apply the posture 'The swallow flies into the nest' it important to be efficient with the sword. The tip of the sword moves directly towards the line of the attack without any wavering or loss of direction. To achieve this turn without losing force the arm movement, coordinated with the body movement pushes through to the tip with quite a large arc. The sword does not withdraw during the turn but moves towards the corner.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Coordination of the Sword



When we wish to bring the t'ai chi force to the sword, at the beginning stage, we must be careful to coordinate the body movement with the sword.

When we bring the edge down we sink the substantial within the body and shift the central balance of the body over the foot. When we turn the sword, preparing for the cut, we place the empty foot in the correct position and step. When we bring the force through the cutting edge we shift the weight to the empty foot.

Each action of the sword is complemented with the action of the body. There is no break.

Friday, 3 July 2009

First postures of the sword form

First Postures of the Sword Form

Thursday, 18 June 2009

To 'get' the ch'i you must separate the bones and flesh.

There are two aspects of the body which we need to separate : the bones, and the muscles, or flesh.

The bones are the support structure of the body and, the spaces between the bones, or joints, are drawn out away from each other. This is achieved with an expansion out in every direction using the mind intent. It is important not to use the muscles directly with some kind of physical effort but to open into the feeling of expansion. It is a mistake to allow the body to collapse into itself closing the spaces between the bones.

The bones are aligned from the feet and create a connection through the body so that you can feel a mechanical connection to the hand or wherever you wish to exert force.

The muscles are relaxed and loose as far as possible. The ch'i passes between the muscle layers and unifies the feeling of the body as a whole. With a coordinated and unified feeling in the body it is possible to generate various different forces. The simplest and easiest force to generate is like a wave ripple that begins at the foot and passes through the body to the hand. It is created with the mind intent. In the early stages of development and refinement there can be some movement of the bone structure but without losing the alignment and coordinated function.

The separation of bone and flesh is important for health because the pathways of ch'i are opened and activated more strongly when applying this principle.

The muscles structure gradually changes and the body looks increasingly like that of a child as the muscles appear to puff outwards with a rounded contour. The muscles are relaxed and fill out with ch'i.

Bristol 18.06.09

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The Unique Features of the Sword Form

The movements of the sword form are generally bigger with larger circles. There are movements which open the body much more than say the short form. This is especially true of the spine itself. During the preparation exercises the body twists and articulates all of the vertebrae.

When arousing the ch'i there is also a greater intention since the force must pass to the tip of the sword and beyond. There is a corresponding opening of the body to bring the t'ai chi force through the body. So we should do what is necessary to create greater movement of force in both body and mind intent.

The body serves the purpose of the sword in the sense that all the movements of the body are what is necessary to get the force to move through the sword in the appropriate way. The sword moves smoothly and with continuity. This is achieved with the whole of the body coordinated from the feet and not just produced at the level of the wrist. The sword is not moved using the muscles of the wrist acting independently. When the sword is moving the whole arm is moving.

Simplicity

When we practise internally the mind needs to be clear and uncomplicated and then when intention arises the ch'i will follow. If there are any extra, unnecessary movements or mental distractions the ch'i will not follow.

There are many ways in which the force will be weakened by an unfocused mind or disharmonious body action, or even by an incorrect understanding of application.

At the beginning the important techniques to create as habits are as follows :
  • first get the ch'i
  • the movements of the body must be harmonious and continuous without hesitation
  • the mind moves first, directing the ch'i, the body follows.
Adjust the body/mind :
  • Relax deeply
  • open the joints
  • sink the substantial feeling of ch'i
  • Raise the shen
Perhaps the most obscure instruction is to 'raise the shen.' It is difficult to explain without any ambiguity. To point at the meaning it is easier to refer to examples of heightened shen such as the 'feeling of being inspired,' or the 'sense of awe,' or 'great compassion,' and so on. You can say that there is an alertness but it is on a more subtle, fundamental level of consciousness and not the kind of alertness which we may experience when we know we need to respond quickly... like playing 'snap.'

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Monday, 18 May 2009

San Sau Part 2

The second part of the two-person form.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Adjusting the qualities of Body and Mind

When we experience the body in the ordinary way it feels relatively dense and heavy. It does not feel naturally agile and easy to move. The mind is generally full of content - thoughts, perceptions and impressions.

One of the principles of t'ai chi is to coordinate the mind and chi and in this way move the body. Yet the body is very different from the chi and mind. The mind and chi are subtle and spacious in their natural state. So we cultivate a softer, lighter state in the body. We make the body feel more like the chi. This can be achieved in different ways. We can align the body carefully, sink the dense feeling by relaxing deeply and then suspend the crown of the head. Also we can make the body feel light and sensitive such that if a fly landed on the body, or a feather, then the whole of the body would respond to that weight! In this way the body is atuned to the feeling of the chi.

The mind can be encouraged to settle and be still and peaceful and spacious with no thought. From this state the intention can be clear and uncomplicated and lead the chi.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Releasing an arm lock

If our elbow joint is attacked and we feel force from an opponent we must relax so that the force does not meet with resistance. During the act of relaxing the opponent's force moves to try to maintain the force. When the movement occurs you must introduce a rotation of the arm to move the elbow joint away from the force.

It is important to note that when you relax the arm you actually relax the whole of the body and especially the upper body. It is not sufficient to just relax the arm muscles. If you do this you will not be able to release your opponent's force.

It is also necessary to match your opponent's speed.

Finally if an opponent is able to apply a force towards your joint it is a little too late and so improving your sensitivity, whole body coordination and lightness will avoid such problems.

Using muscles then releasing them

Whenever we move of course we use our muscles. However during t'ai chi we use muscles to make a particular movemement and then we should release the strength from those muscles before we begin the next movement. For example, if we take a step, after the stepping foot has landed we need to let go of the muscle strength and allow the leg to rest before shifting the weight. To begin with this means that you practice very slowly but the habit becomes natural before too long.

Dr. Chi liked to call t'ai chi 'resting in movement.'

Generally the body feel as if we have no strength. This feeling is produced when all of the muscles are as relaxed as possible. Using t'ai chi principles of movement the whole body moves as one piece so it feels as if we don't use any muscles but in fact we use all of the muscles in a coordinated way. When we do this we can't feel individual muscles working harder and it feels as if we don't use any.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Beginning the internal

When we have learnt the form then we have to rebuild the practice from the inside to create the external movement. T'ai chi is an internal martial art. This means that the mind intent leads the force and this, in turn, expresses through the physical body.

The first principle of internal practice is that we should coordinate the idea, the feeling (or ch'i) and the action.

The first position is adjusted to be open with the joints drawn out. Then contemplate wu chi or practice the sleeping/waking meditation.

Close your eyes, withdraw the senses and cultivate a sleepy feeling. As this intention becomes effective remember wakefulness. When wakefulness pushes away the sleepy feeling return to cultivating the sleepy feeling. In this way equalise the two qualities and try to remain in this balanced state. When you choose to begin the form cultivate the wakefulness.

The second posture opens the back. Remember it is both upper back and lower back. Do you know how to do this?

The next posture is used to bring the ch'i up the back and down the front. Remember that until the body has been purified through practice it is unwise to take the ch'i into the head. However, as preparation for this in the future, practise with the tongue touching the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth.

Continuity of Force

When we practise we create forces which move through the body. These forces function with martial application and also bring benefit for health.

To maintain the force from the beginning to the end of the form there are various pointers one should pay attention to.

The first point is to sink the substantial feeling of ch'i beneath the feet and into the ground. This is called developing a root. It is produced willfully to begin with and then as deep relaxation becomes natural so the root is maintained naturally.Then, the second point is that, at the early stages of practice, one must pay attention during the transitions in the postures to avoid the root floating upwards. The weight shift is felt under the ground and when an upward force is generated the two forces, downward and upward, need to be separated so that the root is not disturbed. It is necessary to sink whilst issuing a force.

There are other factors which cause a break in the force such as blinking and loss of concentration, etc.
Bristol 29.04.09

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Active Steps

We practise changes of direction with active steps so that we develop the muscles to be able to do so as well as the habit to have a low centre of gravity and most important the mind that is coordinated and able to lead the body movement.

When we have developed the habit to be able to change from forward to back, back to forward, or to dodge to the side, without being awkward we no longer need to work on the technique. We always have the potential to move from the feet without disharmony and maintain the feeling that we can do so.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Anticipation and expectation

When we practice with a partner for martial application we should not anticipate their movement or intention. We remain open to them without expectation. We match their slightest movement exactly. If they shift their weight we adjust our weight accordingly and so on. After many years of sticking to their movement we can interpret their mind intent. Anticipation destroys our feeling connection with an opponent.

When we practise the form we complete the posture we are doing and create the appropriate forces. We do not think of the next posture until we reach the end of the posture we are performing. The intention moves at that moment.

When we practise an exercise like the solo version of wo bu there is the intention to change direction after every three steps. We are not following a partner and we do not need to complete postures and create forces, therefore we do not practice leaving the mind open without expectation. We are practising to develop our technique and so we check if the substantial feeling is sunk, the change of direction is crisp and clear, the rhythm is fluid, and so on.

In daily life we give up thoughts about the past and future. When we check up we cannot find anything that we can recognise as the past and the future has not happened. Of course we can have mental events which we believe to correspond to past events but we cannot say that our memories are actually the past. If we really take time to check carefully we cannot even find anything that we can identify as the present! In daily life experience unfolds.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Points I like to remember in my own practice

The following points together with a commentary, were shared with students on the one-day course last Saturday :

  • Practice patience. Have few expectations. Let go of anticipation.
  • Open to the bare essence of experience.
  • Experience afresh.
  • Be willing to allow new preceptions to arise and new experiences to come to awareness.
  • Reduce preconceptions - practice only the essential principles.
  • Cultivate Shen : enliven awareness and open-hearted consciousness.
  • Cultivate the Yi : pure decision without being forceful. Uncomplicated, with no desire for result beyond the creation of force.
  • 'If you think there is a method, that is not it.' (Five word secret)
  • Forget self.

Practising the form for pushing hands students

When applying the techniques which have been understood from the experiences of pushing hands we should not try to match up the experiences exactly.

When we are relating to another person's energy in a pushing hands situation we follow the other person's force.

When we practise the solo form we exercise and move our own internal forces in an ideal situation without any other concern. The objective is to increase the force and become familiar with the force. To train the force to follow the mind intent.

However, of course there are features in common. The rotation of forces correspond to physical turning of the waist and rotation of the elbows and hands, etc. but the orbits for these turning forces is a matter of coordination and correspondence. Generally we practice to simplify all the features of our movement through the postures to serve our intended application of the forces.

So we do need to understand the application of the postures but when we practice we do not need to imagine another person we only need to understand which aspect is yielding and which is attack and then we can maintain a fluid circulation of forces.

Neutralising forces

Rob asks
Is it correct that the pivot point is where my partner's force contacts my body, e.g. the hand, or the shoulder, and it is at that point of contact that I empty and turn their force?
In solo form practice, do I
"imagine" the point of contact in order to move the energy between full and empty? Also can you say a bit more about your blog comment: "the pivot point may be in the centre of the body". i.e. I'm a tad confused: Is the pivot point at the point of contact, or in the centre of the body, or maybe even both!

When an opponent has contact with you and applies a force you must do several things simultaneously. Each of these techniques express t'ai chi prinicples.

First ... if you wish to lead a force away first you must follow. So although you must not go straight back when meeting a force, you have to follow whilst at the same time introducing a turning force. The other person's force must not meet with resistance so therefore you empty their force but again, I repeat, you must not go straight back and you should apply a turning force from the outset. The trick is to get the other person's force to 'come out.' Whilst the force is emptying or coming out you can introduce a turning force.

Then the turning force is applied exactly at the centre of your opponent's force. You can empty one side of the force and exert an equal and opposite deflecting force onto the other side. In this way the arm or body can behave like a seesaw with the point of rotation applied to the force.

These things are difficult to understand without demonstration.

During the process of emptying the pivot point moves... yes even into the body and thus becomes internal.

Please use comments to request clarification on any of these points.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Equal and Opposite

When we empty one side of the body to yield to an opponent's force there is a corresponding force which comes to the opposite side. This force can be issued or stored. It increases in strength as we turn and empty on the yielding side.

The body behaves like a seasaw. When one side moves back there is a pivot point which may be in the centre of the body, and then, on the otherside, there is a forward movement. The force from one side must be transmitted without a break so that there is an equal and opposite response on the other side. It is like a revolving door.

If the body is too loose then this force will be dissipated.

P.S. Anyone who says that "nothing is impossible" has never tried to slam a revolving door!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Co-ordination and the benefits

When we co-ordinate the various parts of the body and move using t'ai chi principles we are able to perceive the whole of the body. To co-ordinate the body and arms and then to move those parts with the feet we must be aware of those parts and carefully connect them with a feeling which runs through the parts. The mind functions like a string running through pearls in a necklace. The pearls are like the major joints of the body. So the mind links all those joints and creates a feeling that runs through them.

To achieve this sense of the whole the mind must be spacious and cannot look at individual parts without relating them to the whole. This spacious mind is relaxed and natural.

At first the mind awareness seems separate from the natural feeling of the whole of the body. When there are more subtle levels of co-ordination the mind mixes with the experience of the whole of the body. The feeling of the whole is achieved using the subtle body of the ch'i which fills the physical body together with the result of co-ordination.

To increase the power of the postures it is helpful to co-ordinate on a deeper more subtle level. The elbow rotations in a posture may be correspond to sinking or rotation of the waist. The feeling of the force which may be directed to the hand is, in this way, unbroken.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

'Forget Self' : the supreme principle

When we think to relax there is a sense that we observe the process of relaxation from some place within ourselves. From this place of observation there seems to be a controller of the relaxation. The relaxation seems to take place somewhere else. It is as if there are two aspects to the action. Yet the 'controller' is not involved in the relaxation. In this way our relaxation could be limited because it is easy for the 'controller' or 'self' to be a source of holding and tension.

When Dr. Chi advised me to 'forget self' it had many applications and implications for practice and daily life. If we can forget self the experience of relaxation, for example, is total. There are no parts of our being that are left out. We are 'taken over' by the feeling of relaxation - it is all embracing.

If we forget self we can become one with our experience or with others. To complete the quote from Dr. Chi : 'forget self, become one with the tao.'
Bristol 7.03.09

Squatting Single Whip

If you try to perform squatting single whip externally using ordinary strength you will require great effort and determination. If you use internal movement of force you will achieve the same results with less effort.

The posture begins with a sink towards the front foot whilst extending through the left hand. As mentioned before on this blog 'sinking' must be a total experience. By this I mean that we should not think to sink in one area of the body. Relaxing and melting the substantial in the upper body occurs throughout the whole of the upper body. Even at this early stage the legs also loosen and relax. At this stage it is possible to feel the substantial internal feeling moving downwards. To achieve a low stance it is important to follow this substantial movement. Not only this but we relax and follow the substantial. This way of sinking naturally brings the balance through the legs correctly and through the feet. The body is very stable and allows greater relaxation and deeper stance.

It is important to follow the force. In the lower position the force is directed forward and comes through the left arm to the fingers.

Many students are wary of squatting single whip and yet it is an opportunity to use internal force to open the legs and hip joints.
Bristol 7.03.09

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Conditioning and learning to 'let go.'

When I studied with Dr. Chi at one time he advised that I think of myself as a master. When we think of ourselves as a student we have the idea that what we want to achieve is beyond where we are. When we think of ourselves as a master we relax into the attitude of valuing the experience as it is and we can let go of negative feelings about our experience of practice. We can recognise the value of our practice in the moment and this attitude increases the power of our effort.

Generally we don't need to distance ourselves from that which we want to cultivate. If you want to develop your relaxed state it is better to imagine you are already relaxed and allow the feeling to take you over. If you think to 'try to' relax you already separate yourself from the experience as if it is a quality that you need to aquire. The reality is that you are relaxed to a degree and that if you embrace that fact it is easier to allow it to increase.

We condition ourselves with our own ideas, we unconsciously accept the cultural ways and habits. We have been conditioned by our responses to past actions, by parents, friends and the environment. When we practise t'ai chi it is an encounter with 'natural.' It is unconditioned in its purity and yet we bring our own conditioning to the experience. When we think to 'let go' we are encouraging ourselves to see afresh and allow the experience of the encounter to present itself without too much pre-conditioning.

When we think of 'basic practice' we can think of it as being fundamental. All so-called advanced practises are based upon the 'basics' which we encounter even in the first lesson. Really the very basic practices are the most profound because ever experience of practice is dependent upon them. Understanding this interdependence of all the principles of t'ai chi can inspire us to be happy to always practise 'the basics.'

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Deep stances in the sword form and squatting single whip

When going to a low positions the force is directed downwards when the body sinks. The legs must be relaxed and especially the hip joints. The downward force is achieved by emptying the upper body and following the force down. The force increases as it accumulates in the lower position.

The tailbone should be vertical. The forward knee in line with the foot, and the back leg is straight in the final position. Be wary of the lower forward leg leaning forward. This lower leg should be vertical.

For those people who spend a lot of time in a sitting position it is important to stretch the front part of the pelvis to allow the tail bone to go down to the vertical position. Deep stances in the sword form are useful to open the top leg joints.

Not much time to practise?

James writes... I want to get into the habit of doing some tai chi in the mornings, but mine are invariably hectic (toddlers, work etc.!). If I only have a few minutes, is it best to go through the form or just do some of the preparatory exercises (and, if so, which ones)?

It is good to do the first three preparations and then do some form if you are short of time.

Whatever you do try to cultivate a feeling that you have all day to do what you do. If you are thinking that you do not have much time when you are actually practising you will not be able to relax deeply. If you practise for fifteen minutes there is time to practise something very useful. Even ten minutes can be beneficial if you are wholehearted. Your practise is also a reminder to relax during the day and connect with yourself and others.

When I was working full time I got up early and practised. It was not long before I felt the benefit of this to the whole of my day.

Bristol 28.2.09

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

How do you experience the effect of blinking whilst doing the form?

A student writes :

Soup to Water...

I have been practising not blinking and definately experience a break in 'something' when a blink occurs.
You described this as 'the feeling being like soup and then you blink and this feeling becomes like water'.
For me, the feeling was more as if the focus and connection was clear - like a tranquil flow of water with no eddies or waves... and then a blink... is almost like a drop of water or a pebble falling into this tranquil stream... causing ripples... and there is a slight 'downwards' feeling and the clarity is disturbed and takes a while to come back into focus and for the flow to continue smoothly again.

Ward Off Left

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Three Ways to Practise

There are three ways to practise.

When you concentrate to improve and develop your habit to use the 'correct technique' it is the first method. For example, as you go through the form you might focus on moving from the feet or alignment of the body, etc.

The second method is to put your emphasis on relaxation, but without allowing the body to collapse and compress. Remember to draw out the bones.

Finally, practise with spirit. Here you concentrate to use your 'mind intent.' To do this you will need to know the application of the postures. So, the intent moves first, the eyes then lead the force and the body follows.
During this method the mind intent should not break or loose focus. There are a number of key ways in which the mind breaks.

The attention should not move to the stepping leg. Stepping comes naturally from the movement of the force and mechanically is often following the movement of the torso and the turn of the waist.

The eyes should remain open and not blink.

There should be no break between the end of one posture and beginning of the next. Likewise, after issuing a force there should be no break before rejoining with the next application. In other words the transitions should be smooth. Ultimately one should abandon the concept of a separation between one feature and another. For example between one posture and another, between self and other, between ground and foot, and so on.
Bristol 24.02.09

Monday, 16 February 2009

Pushing Hands : 'Joining'

A common mistake when developing the ability to join is to misjudge the correct weight of contact. Either the touch is too light or too heavy. The body must be light and responsive and sometimes, at the beginning, the touch is too light. This prevents the underlying force of an opponent to be clearly detected and so prevents 'joining.'

At the beginning it is better to be a little too heavy and then you can lighten your contact as you become more confident that you are able to maintain 'joining.' If you are too light you cannot even begin to empty your partner's force.

After much practice your ability to detect your partner's force becomes heightened and you will be able to sense it without any touch.
Bristol 16.02.09

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Pushing Hands Class : Rollback, Press and Single Whip

After learning the basic techniques of movement and contact this was then applied to rollback.

A variation of single whip was used to empty the press.

It is a basic idea that force is not opposed by force. So when feeling the force of press towards the chest, the chest if emptied of substantial resistance and the hips and legs soften to further empty the force. Then the right hand aligns with the bones of the opponent and adds a gentle force along the line of the bones and introduces a turning force as you turn at the waist and pull using the hook hand.

This description is intended as a reminder rather for those students present rather than a complete explanation.

Pushing Hands Class : Review

To move correctly the foot must push the body so that the body movement is controlled by the feet. In this way the body can move as one piece and then there is internal quiet and the movement of an opponent is easy to detect and respond to.

The method of using the foot is as follows : if the right foot is forward and the left arm presents ward off, then, when your opponent pushes towards your arm, you respond by pushing back from your right foot and sinking the hip crease on the front of the body and allow the force of the push to turn your pelvis to the left whilst moving the weight back.

Touch, Stick, Follow and Join.
The basic qualities of contact are touch, stick, follow and join."Touch" is simple contact, skin to skin. "Stick" means that you keep contact as your partner moves. This enables you to "follow." "Join" is more difficult to master in practice but it is important to be clear what it means.

When you 'join' you are able to feel within the contact of your partner a substantial quality which corresponds to the actual force which would push you over if it were allowed to. This quality is dynamic and changes constantly depending on the intent of your opponent. To be able to read your opponent's force you must have a clear perception of this force and be able to 'join' with it. This really is like a kind of energetic sticking at a deeper layer.

When your opponent makes contact, you do not allow them to 'join.' However, you 'join' with them.

If you are able to 'join' with your opponent's force you can then learn to empty their substantial force whilst maintaining contact with them. This called 'neutralising' your opponent's force.

In some cases you empty their force through your own body and in other situations you may lead their force away from you body.
Bristol 15.02.09

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Question about the function of Three Tan Tiens

Question : On the Natural way website the 3 Dan Tians are reffered to particularly with reference for physical alignment in the body, but apart from aiding awarenss in the hips and belly particularly for being sung, should we pay much attention to the middle and upper Dan Tian's whilst doing form and Push Hands? If so can you explain how they are utilised as such please?

The three tan tiens are centres which correspond to an activation or function of subtle ch'i and mind. In the Indian system they correspond to the heart chakra and the pineal/ pituitary chakra.

The function of the middle tan tien is to extend away from the body and also to receive a feeling connection on a ch'i and mind level. We can contemplate the phrase 'my friend was in pain and my heart went out to him.' It is responsible for the 'expanded heart' of increased consciousness. From a martial perspective it allows us to extend out be aware of our opponent, to be able to link in with them to be aware of the slightest movement of mind intent and body action.

The upper tan tien, especially the pineal, can function to allow us to have objective seeing. This means that we are not clouding our perception with emotional content or interference. Together with the pituitary it can also function to enable perception of more subtle objects such as the ch'i itself. This is only possible when the three tan tiens are in a balance.

To function in a balanced way the lower tan tien must enable us to root the body and mind. When a person naturally extends out and is able to link in with themselves and others the middle tantien can function. When there is clear and objective seeing then the upper tantien is active.

This answer is brief and incomplete but I hope it can provide a basic overview.
Questions can be posted as comments. Just click onto the 'comment' under any post. I read all comments and a comment does not have to relate to the post that it attached to.
Bristol 10.02.09

Step Forward to the Seven Stars

Coming out of Squatting Single Whip remember to stretch the little finger side of the left hand to create a curving upward force. After the hand has been pushed upward by the weight shift, the force is the directed across the front of the body by raising the elbow. At the beginning of this movment form the fist and strike towards your right side.

Bring the centre of gravity of the body forward relaxing the muscles of the right leg as your weight shift to the left. Sink through the foot and bring the leg and right arm forward making a fist, raising the elbow and striking towards the left.

The crossed arms are level with the throat.
Bristol 10.02.09

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Pushing Hands Class starts on Thursday

The new pushing hands class starts this week. I am not going to teach in the traditional way that gives emphasis to the martial aspect of the practice. Instead I want to use pushing hands to help understand the inner qualities and philosophy of t'ai chi.


The topics to be covered :

What can you expect to learn from doing pushing hands?
Contemplation of the philosophy of t'ai chi within pushing hands.
Co-ordination of the body to create a sense of stillness.
Developing sensitivity to the levels of being of another person : Body, Ch'i, Mind and Spirit.
Using t'ai chi principles of application.
Application of postures of t'ai chi to deepen your understanding of the t'ai chi short form.

In the future there will be a self-assessment scheme to help keep a record of your own development. It will be your choice if you want to take part in this.
Bristol 8.02.09

Friday, 6 February 2009

Suggest Reading

For anyone who can't find the reading list it is here.

My own favourite varies from time to time. I like Louis Swaim's book, and The Dao of Taijiquan, Way to Rejuvenation.

At the moment I am following up interest in Candice O'Denver at her website. Her reflections inspire my own.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Levels of T'ai Chi

According to Dr. Chi Chiang-Tao, the first level of t'ai chi is achieved when there is never force applied against force. This is in relation to another person's force or within our own body.

The second level is 'correct technique.' This, for the most part, refers to t'ai chi principles of movement. If we can manifest the ch'i and achieve deep relaxation then really we cannot move without correct technique.

The third level refers to 'energy states,' or t'ai chi forces. Following on from this are 'ch'i states.' and 'mind states,' and 'natural way.'

The practical experience of learning t'ai chi will give glimpses of many, if not, all of these states. However, development and mastery of a particular level is dependent upon achieving some stability in the previous levels. For example, in the sword form, the body must move as a coordinated whole for the internal movement of force to be transmitted to the sword. If the body is disconnected in its external movement this will break the internal flow of force. The mind cannot lead the force if there is any break. Through careful practise we can develop a habit to not break anywhere in the movement, the feeling of the whole body, the ch'i and the mind, then it is possible to lead the force with the Yi. If we have the correct idea then everytime we practise we will be closer to 'correct habit.'
Bristol 5.2.09

Monday, 2 February 2009

Brush Left Knee Push

Letting go of the physical body

When we relax we let go of holding and allow the natural state to be there without interference. To let go of the physical body we can contemplate why it is so difficult at the beginning.

We think we are our physical body or at least we feel that we own our physical body. If we have a stomach ache we say "I have a stomach ache." or, "my stomach aches." We don't usually say "there is an ache in the stomach."

We identify with our body. The sense of who we are gets mixed up with the experience of body sensations. In order to relax we have to find a way to disentangle this mix up. So we can allow the body to feel like it does not belong to us, that we have little control over it, that it is unpredictable in the way that it moves. Well... this helps a little but we still have this habit to hold on to something.

When we have managed to 'get the ch'i' and have a sensation in the body that the ch'i is everywhere we can cultivate an identification with the ch'i. When we feel that we are fully connected to the ch'i we can let go of the physical body more easily.

To let go of the ch'i we can progress to the next level and let go into 'mind states.'
Bristol 2.2.09

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Between Heaven and Earth

We are between heaven and earth. We are a mix of both aspects.

The dense physical, heavy matter of our body sinks down towards the earth. This occurs naturally as we relax. First we must align the body to allow gravity to pass centrally through from the top of the head to the centre of the feet then we can relate to the heavenly ch'i. This is the yang ch'i and it moves upwards when we raise the Shen.

How do we raise the Shen?

The Shen is an aspect of the mind. When we are interested and inspired there is a kind of excitment to the mind. So the Shen is similar to excitement yet not quite. When we have a sense of awe in the face of a natural wonder, or feel compassion for our friend, or can manifest creativity, these are all moments of increased Shen.

How do we cultivate Shen?

When I wake in the morning I remind myself that I am alive to the wonder of life on this planet. It is not something to take for granted. It is truely marvelous. Then after stretching a little, I try to get the feeling of ch'i, even if it is only slight. I reflect on the day ahead and inspire myself to do something useful and extend out to others as much as possible.

The feeling of aliveness and interest in connecting with one's experience is a way of cultivating the Shen. If possible train yourself to stay connected with the way of this. The happiness that comes from this simple practice will increase.

Dr. Chi's advice was to 'forget self and become one with the tao.'

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Central Equilibrium : How to develop naturally.

First it is necessary to align the body physically over the foot before taking a step. Only when the body is perfectly vertically aligned can you relax downwards to produce a force which passes through the centre of the standing foot (Kid 1). The fullness of the standing leg increases in this way and at the same time allows the stepping leg to empty.

When the fullness has increased sufficiently the other leg will empty and move with minimum effort.

To avoid the mind loosing contact with the t'ai chi force and to achieve a dynamic responsive attitude during the application it is important to relax the leg muscles completely. The muscles around the ankle and feet are the most difficult to relax. When the full and empty of the legs is achieved completely internally using relaxation and sinking the t'ai chi force and application will increase their function.
Bristol 24.1.09

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Sinking

Sinking is the internal, downward movement of ch'i. It occurs as a result of relaxation and allowing a change in the substantial solidity of the body - the body softens and melts. It has a direct effect on the increase of substantial, solid accumulation, or storage, of force.

When a substance melts it transforms its state from a solid unmoving state to a fluid movement influenced by gravity.

The key ideas are : Relaxation, Transformation, Melting.
Bristol 22.1.09

T'ai Chi force is directly related to the Substantial.

What is the substantial?

When relaxation is sufficient and the body functions as a unified whole, when the ch'i is able to flow throughout the body, then it is possible to practise internally and move the substantial with martial application.

It is necessary to have a good habit to move according to t'ai chi principles in order to be able to pay enough attention to the internal experience. When the body is a unified whole and is able to move from the feet there is a quiet unified sensation. When the body movement lacks harmony the internal sensation is like noise. To bring complete quiet to the internal sensation requires a great care.

The substantial becomes apparent after accumulating as a result of sinking. There is an increase in the sensation of heaviness moving down towards the ground or to the feet. From the foot the solid heavy sensation can be directed to the appropriate place according to the application. When we practise we keep awareness of the solid feeling of force. It is moved using the mind intention.
Bristol 22.2.09

Contemplating the seven features of T'ai Chi

Dr. Chi Chiang-Tao recommended that we contemplate yin, yang, full, empty, open, close and central equilibrium.

You can say that yin, yang, full, empty, open and close are all aspects of the same principle of dynamic opposites. They have no meaning in isolation and are defined in relation to each other. One leg may be full in relation to the other. Central equilibrium is the central axis around which the other six qualities manifest.

How do we contemplate these opposites? In some traditions of chi kung it is important to separate yin and yang and it is true of t'ai chi. This means that they approach their extremes in practice. When one side of the body becomes full the other side is empty and we cultivate this difference so that the full becomes more full and the empty becomes more empty. At the beginning this separation is slow to manifest. It requires a very good level of relaxation and the patience to wait until the process of becoming full has reached a natural conclusion. Although this is a slow process there should not be any stagnation or stopping.

When taking a step it is a common mistake to try to move the leg before it is completely empty. If you do this you will need muscles to move the leg on its own, separately and not be able to move with the body as one piece. This fault creates clumsiness and prevents speed in martial application.
Bristol 22.1.09

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Coordinating the two sides of the body

When my opponent stikes I empty his or her force with sticking and neutralising on the appropriate side. In some postures the force can be taken into the body and returned through the opposite side. To achieve this the waist must be the commander and the feet rooted. As the body turns, the back is relaxed and open and the orbit of the turn contains the force and feeds it through the other arm.

The muscles at the top of the back need to be loose and the shape of the body through the arms will contain the forces if you find the circle.
Bristol 17.1.09

Forming the fist : punch down and brush knee punch

The coordination of brush knee punch downwards is timed with the stepping leg. The fist should not be formed too early. Every movement is timely. When deflecting and sticking the hand does not begin to form the fist. When stepping the left wrist is substantial as you stick to your partner, as the substantial feeling moves through the leg as you shift your weight, the puch is formed and the force increases as the weight shifts.

In brush knee push, again it is the hand that brushes the knee that has a substantial force during the step. The force for the push arrives during the weight shift. When the shoulder relaxes the elbow feels substantial as the hand moves forward. The downward movement of the elbow creates a spiral to the hand movement.

The spiral force moving through the forearm is common to many postures although has different functions - not always when a force moves through the arm to produce a strike.
Bristol 17.1.09

Moving the Sword with agility.

In the sword form some of the transitions between one posture and another require long steps. It is often an unconscious habit to bring awareness to the stepping leg and break the connection with the t'ai chi force.

The correct way is to move the force from the foot and extend beyond the end of the sword according to the application. The mind intent moves the force and does not pay attention to the stepping leg. If you pay attention to full and empty move the substantial feeling from the ground the stepping leg will follow the body movement and be directed by the waist. In this way the movement will be agile.

If you move the body before it is balanced and before the substantial has sunk through the standing leg your movement will be clumsy and the force will break. The body will have external force not internal.

At a later stage it will not be necessary to sink before stepping. When the body and mind are relaxed and the headtop is lifted the body is naturally sunk.

White Crane Spreads Wings

Thursday, 15 January 2009

From 'lifting hands going into shoulder stroke.'

When the arms come down from lifting hands position they do not move independently.

Our habit is often to experience the arms as something separate from the body. When they move this feeling of separation can be increased. This is a mistake.

We should adjust the feeling sensation in the body and arms so that, on a feeling level, they have an unbroken sensation. The body and the arms do not feel as distinctly different. This adjustment can be achieved in part by making the arms feel a little bit more solid or substantial and the body lighter or less substantial - so they feel roughly the same.

When you wish the arms to come down to begin the pull before shoulder stroke, sink the substantial feeling in the body towards the feet. As you begin this allow that force to transmit to the arms and hands. There is a slight delay. First the substantial feeling sinks and then slightly later the arms move.

The arms function as an expression of the downward sink that you have created in the body. If the arms feel different from the body you will not be able to transmit the force through the hands to pull down.
Bristol 15.1.09

Question : what does "drawing out the bones" mean?

"drawing out the bones" is part of the technique to get the ch'i. It literally means that you extend through the body in such a way that the bones are separated.

To achieve this there is a feeling of extending outwards from the centre of the body in all directions. First the body must be 'rooted.' This means that the weight is allowed to sink after body alignment and deep relaxation. The downward sensation accumulates in the lower body centred around the lower tan tien (roughly three finger widths below the navel and three finger widths distance into the body). This creates a heavy feeling that one can draw from in an upward direction through the top of the head. The spine is lengthened in this way, or you can say the bones are drawn out in an upward direction.

In a similar way the body is opened laterally - so the upper body feels broader. The arms are lengthened away from the spine, through the shoulder, elbow, wrist and finger joints and out beyond the fingers.

All of this is achieved using the mind because it is important to extend in a linear way, outwards and upwards simultaneously. After you have done this the body feels expanded and is relaxed into this expanded state.
Bristol 15.1.09

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Anticipation

When we anticipate we lose openness.

We expect things to be the same as they were before but they are not. We cannot rely on events unfolding the way we suppose they will because they will not.

Our brain sees patterns and similarities otherwise we would be bombarded with sensory overload and yet, at a deeper level of perception, nothing is ever the same as any previous moment. We cannot see these changes and so our unconscious conclusion is that they do not change then we have a habit to think things do not change.

From a martial point of view and in our daily life this is a dangerous view. If an opponent does something that we do not expect then we will be surprised and may not be able to respond appropriately. Therefore it is better to not expect anything in particular. If our friend behaves in a way that we do not expect then we can be disappointed if we find it difficult to adapt and be flexible.

When practising the form, at the end of each posture move the mind to begin the next movement. Avoid anticipating the next posture until the posture you are practising is complete.

In daily life follow Dr. Chi's guiding principle 'Every way OK.'
Bristol 13.1.09

Yielding to the left and attacking on the right simultaneously

During the class yielding to your opponent's application of 'Fair Lady Weaves Shuttle,' some students were able to increase the force of their response by connecting the two sides of the body.

When yielding on one side, the force is emptied from your opponent, fed through your arm and body across your back, and out through the other arm. To achieve this it is important to relax across the back and control the movement with the feet and waist.

The students who were successful with this were able to stay connected to their opponent's force and not block their own. The difference was quite dramatic.
Bristol 13.1.09

Application of the movement after the first Fair Lady Weaves Shuttle.

From the final position of the first 'Fair Lady' the substantial feeling is brought down to belly and the feet as you empty your arms and bring them to a lower position. Here, you empty your opponent's grasp above your left elbow, and follow their force, turning to your right. As you turn, bring the back of your right hand onto your opponent's grasping arm and stick to their force whilst removing your empty left arm from their grasp.

Your left arm can now bring force to elbow as you turn to the left towards your opponent's head. This movement is not shown in the actual posture as practised in the form.

Bristol 13.1.09

Lifting hands

To achieve the application of 'lifting hands' you must pay attention to the rotation of force in the body.

During the first part of opening the posture the arms rotate as the elbows are lowered. The thumb side of the hands move up and the little finger side moves down. The force in the body moves up the front and down the back.

During the 'close' part of the posture the rotation of the elbows is reversed and the force moves down the front and up the back.

It is important to stay connected to the internal feeling of rotation of force and not get distracted by arms and legs. The force is finally directed through the hands towards the midline on the horizonatal plane. To achieve the direction of force the elbows must be raised.

If all this is little complicated try to recognise the movement of the forces in the body when you sneeze !

Standing on one leg

What can we do to correct unsteady balance?

The question can be answered in different ways depending on how you experience your practice. For a person new to t'ai chi it may be a physical issue. You try to get the body aligned over the foot and use muscles to hold the position rigidly. The problem with this is that it blocks the ch'i and if there is any leaning the muscles become tired unevenly and this causes more difficulty.

The second approach is to get a rough alignment of the body and then relax in a downward direction and sink the ch'i through the legs into the ground. This is still not ideal since the mind is preoccupied with method and cannot cultivate a natural expression of t'ai chi force.

When the body is aligned and you sink the ch'i, then suspend the headtop. Suspending the crown of the head is not achieved using muscles in the neck but comes from putting some awareness of feeling there which has an upward direction. The body feels as if it hangs down from this upward force at the crown. In this position, relaxed, with the bones gentle drawn out, you must get the ch'i. The ch'i enables the awareness to experience the body as one-piece; it is then possible to generate internal force. The intention moves the force - the balance of the body becomes effortless.
Bristol 13.1.09

Friday, 9 January 2009

Using t'ai chi force in step back to repulse monkey

With the left foot forward and the left arm raised, contact your partner's strike to the head with the outside of your forearm and lead their force down by emptying the whole of left side and sinking through the right foot. After rotating the left elbow anticlockwise, bring the left hand on top of your partner's right wrist and use the sinking force through the right foot to provide leverage for a pull as you step back. As the body turns to the left the root is transferred gradually to the back foot. As a result of the storage of force from you opponent an upward force begins to arise as you add the force of the turn of the waist to channel the combined t'ai chi forces from the back foot to the right hand.

It is important to listen to the movement internally. First as you empty you lead your opponent's force through your body to foot. There is an accumulation before you are able to direct the upward force to the hand.

At the beginning it is helpful to practice slowly and wait for the force to manifest but you need to understand how to maintain dynamic movement even when slow otherwise the force will stagnate.
Bristol 8.1.09

High Pat on Horse

A question arose about the difference between the two variations of 'high pat on horse.'

Stepping forward, adjusting the back foot, going into the posture : joining with your partner's punch from your right side, make contact above the elbow with a deflecting force into the path of the left hand. The waist is constantly turning to the left. Then whilst still turning to the left moving the weight back to the now adjusted right foot, apply a force to your opponent's elbow.

In the variation where the weight goes back, without any adjustment to the feet, the elbow is contacted without deflection. The movement backwards is evasive.

With both variations the ball of the foot contacts with the ground and enables the final turning of the waist to be controlled from the feet.
Bristol 8.1.09

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

How to gain insight into 'Natural.'

When we learn t'ai chi postures for the first time we need to think and get the body to move in the correct way according to the instructions from the teacher. Or, we may look and copy what we see. Later, when we have learned postures and know some of the principles of movement and can 'get' the ch'i and create forces in the postures we cannot think how to improve any more.

How do we develop our understanding? We pay attention to what we do but at the same time open ourselves to what we feel how the ch'i is moving when we practice. If we know that a spiral force passes through the arm when we lower the elbow in push we can bring awareness to that potential. If we feel something we can let go, relax more, and allow the sensation of force to manifest more clearly. Subtle sensations of force become more powerful when we become more aware of them and adjust our practice to stay connected to them. This does not require much thinking but relies on subtle sensitivity and carefully controlled practice.
Bristol 7.1.09

Sword

The sword form is very dynamic. This is not something that is expressed externally but comes from correct internal practice. Just as in the short form or any t'ai chi form, the movements originate in practice from the foot and are directed by the waist and expressed through the hands. When holding a sword there is a further extension to the flow of movement.

At the beginning the movement is loose. It is only as the dynamic force passes through the body that gradually the bones are drawn out and, in the final position of a posture, reach their greatest extension. In this way the body becomes quite stretched but not with the idea of stretching. It is a result of allowing the dynamic movement of the t'ai chi force to pass through the body and express through the sword.

Remember to relax the neck and shoulders.
Many postures have the sword held high and the shoulders will lift if you are not careful to develop a habit to relax and loosen them before moving from low to high. This mistake will bring the ch'i up.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Main Points from the Class

When we begin t'ai chi our experience is physical at a gross level - just arms and legs and so on. We use t'ai chi principles of movement to enable the body to move as a coordinated whole. Why is this?

The function of moving as one-piece is to allow the mind to experience the ch'i as an unbroken sensation.

To feel the ch'i you will need to relax deeply, draw out the bones and use the mind intent. To achieve the desired result is not straightforward and requires careful tuition with demonstation in support.

If the movement is coordinated from the feet then the body can function as a whole and will permit the mind to stay connected with internal feeling of force. Then it is possible to move the mind intent and direct the feeling of the force. Slowly the practice enables the body to follow the force. Therefore it is very important not to use external muscular effort in such a way that the ch'i is blocked.
Bristol 5.1.09