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