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.