I'm stiff...and jammed.

I'm stiff...and jammed.

Postby Krenn » Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:32 pm

Hey everyone!

My first post here. I'd like to ask help for my problem. I know beginners stiffness and learning to be soft is a question often asked. But I have never found a thread concerning exactly my problem. Also the teachers and students I've been working with have been friendly and listened to me...but somehow I feel I'm missing something 'cause I still feel very lonely and confuced with my problem.

So here it comes...hands up, if as a beginner, you felt that doing the form was torture for you? I've done different martial arts, some harder, some softer. I found TCC about 3 years ago, but changed school two times (Yang all the time), and had long breaks in between. But in no other art, has the solo practice of form got me so jammed, feeling so stiff and unhealthy after training. It's frustrating because I sometimes don't know should I bravely continue, face the problems...and believe that they will be gone...or admit that I have some bodily issues that aren't going to go away by simply training. I need faith.

It doesn't necessarily take more than practicing 2-5min of cloud hands or doing the opening move that I already feel how my forehead is getting tense, pulling my eyebrowns down, having a weird kind of pressure feeling all over my head (especially temple), feeling stiff around neck, having a feeling of the muscles around my spine and chest pressing everything together, making breathing and standing pretty hard while the lower back also being very tense.

Now this doesn't happen at all when practicing tuishou & applications with a partner. Also never happened in any other art I've done. Same problem when I'm doing other solo exercices like Qi Gong...but over 10 years ago when training Choy Lee Fut, I never had the problem with their Qi Gong exercises...many times I try to explain my feelings to other practitioners...they kinda say they get me...but leaving me feeling that they haven't actually gone through what I've been going. I'd feel happier and more motivated if somebody said "Dude, been there done that...it'll go away by just doing it!" or something...

I have a lot of bodily issues when walking, standing in everyday life. Kinda the same places of my body remind me of themselves, but after practicing TCC...they get monstrious. I didn't practice at all for three weeks, I was tired, busy and finishing a school. Now that I have time again I did some cloud hands and the first part of Yang form. Kinda felt good after it, because I always get excited when I have a connection to my body (any kind, also negative it seems), but also my forehead afterwards and right now, typing this message is reminding me that somethings wrong...I also fear that having such tensions in the upper body, neck and head leads to less oxygen and blood flowing to brain...only a theory but one that worries me.

I find TCC an excellent fighting art and the form absolutely beautiful. I love the idea of calming my mind while doing it regularly and the bodily sensations practicing it might produce. These are the reasons that I really wouldn't want to give up, a thought coming to me mind more often than I'd wish.

What to do? I know I'm a very stressed person, working on it...and stressed mind = tension, the way I see it. I must have some alignement issues preventing my body from being relaxed. I do try to pay attention to having my face, shoulders etc relaxed and finding the "sitting" posture and getting the movement to flow from my center. I do have some short moments when practicing the form that it's all fine, everything flows and moves in harmony (I guess), without any noticable tension. These moments are very very short, usually leading to these tension problems again. Should I simply meditate? Is my mind the issue here?

The days that I don't practice, are the days I feel less tension and then I'm more active doing the regular things in life (friends, music I like to produce etc), makes this issue difficult because on those days I fear practicing, kinda like being afraid that the rest of the day is all bodily tension...which then of course also affects my wellbeing. I do feel that there's some progress when I actively train, but often I feel confuced that am I really doing progress..how should I say, one step forward...and more then few steps back sometimes.

I eat pretty healthy, a vegetarian diet and don't drink heavily etc. I'm pretty flexible coming from other arts and I'm satisfied with my aerobic and muscular endurance. I've gone to professionals (osteopaths etc), without any significant help. I understand that it is very difficult for you people to give me help, without seeing my posture etc...but I felt like asking this isn't going to do harm anyway so here I am.

I'm open for suggestions,
and very grateful for any comments,
thank you for listening.
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Joined: Fri Dec 13, 2013 7:27 pm

Re: I'm stiff...and jammed.

Postby Bob Ashmore » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:46 pm

First of all, welcome to the forum. Thanks for joining us.
I'm sorry to hear that you're having such issues when practicing TCC.
I am merely an instructor of this art, not a doctor, as such I will not attempt to give you medical advice.
I will give you the same advice I would give to any of my students:
See a doctor to determine if there is something physically wrong with you that could cause these symptoms.
Either way that turns out you also need to take this issue to your teacher.
Ask him/her for a private meeting and explain exactly what is going on with you after you practice. It is important that your teacher know what you are experiencing so that they can observe your practice to help you determine what is causing this.
If you work with both your doctor and your teacher you should be able to figure this out and move on from it.

I can't stress highly enough that doing both of these things is very important and I recommend you do them as soon as possible.

Bob Ashmore
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Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Re: I'm stiff...and jammed.

Postby Krenn » Sat Dec 14, 2013 7:35 pm

Hi Bob!

And many thanks for your reply! But I should have been more clear in what I said in my post.

See a doctor to determine if there is something physically wrong with you that could cause these symptoms.
Either way that turns out you also need to take this issue to your teacher.

I have talked about this to my teacher a couple of times and he is in the opinion that it takes time to the body and mind to get adjusted to Yang style, and especially the back area might give trouble at start. And I've been to two different well respected osteopaths (they both were also specialized in orthopaedics and treating sport injuries etc), who've been puzzled because they've found nothing wrong in me, except for "normal stiffness" around my spine area, but not the kind leading to this sort of agony. I have also seen a doctor two times in the past three years, not because of this issue, but while I've been there I have also stated about the same things I wrote here without any further help.

This leads me to ask if it really is a mind issue...but not being sure and not hearing the same story from someone else puzzles me.
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Re: I'm stiff...and jammed.

Postby Sugelanren » Sun Dec 15, 2013 7:10 pm

Hi Krenn.

I am by far an expert. I may be going for my Junior Instructor next year, but as far as the big TCC world goes, i am a beginner. I also, like you, both began with external martial arts and took a break from Tai Chi during my time learning it. Let me begin by saying that Bob is who you should listen to, i am just throwing my 2 cents up.

It sounds to me that you're trying too hard. It's easy to think that because you've trained at something to a level before, that you can go straight back in at the same level. Alternatively, when you change style (or teacher) like you did, you jump right in at the deep end and try to emulate those who have been there a while. I'm only guessing at this and i apologise if i'm speaking out of turn, but i've been there myself. If you're feeling pain during training you need to stop doing what you're doing before you do yourself any permanent damage. It's easy to think because you've done martial arts that you can take it, maybe you've just went a little too far to quick? When i first returned to Tai Chi i was still doing Ming Chuan at the time, and overdid it a bit, doing 40 minutes Zhan Zhuang as low as i could go, after doing weights and skipping from my external training. Another time when i was doing Iron Palm training (not with TCC), i punched the board so hard and enthusiastically to begin with that a black belt friend was shocked at the bruises i had on my two main knuckles. I missed the part about starting soft and working up to hard punches...i had to stop altogether till i healed (youth is wasted on the young).

Can i ask how long you train on your own, and how often? Do you train low? If you train low before your posture has been corrected this could cause all the stress to land on your knees or lower back.

I hope i'm not being too presumptuous here, just offering a word of help...Sean.
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Re: I'm stiff...and jammed.

Postby UniTaichi » Mon Dec 16, 2013 6:16 am

Hi Krenn,

Some suggestion from me in addition to those already given. First is stop the tai chi. Why torture yourself since you can do others without the problem ? Second. Since you have already seen western doctors how about TCM doctors or Medical qigong practitioners ? What I think is happening is that you have some 'stagnant qi' or block energy in those area. Which is why western doctors cannot detect any thing wrong with you. In TCM or qigong understanding, these type of feeling were tiggerred by the practice.

It could also be an emotional issue. For that I suggest visiting an EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) practitioner. I am a level one practitioner and have used EFT to help friends and relative and self-help. And please note that the undertaking of these suggestions are entirely your own discretion.

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Re: I'm stiff...and jammed.

Postby DPasek » Tue Dec 17, 2013 4:35 pm

Hi Krenn,

I do not remember experiencing this when learning TJQ, but it does seem to be fairly common in ILiqChuan training (a martial art that shares many principles with TJQ). With most of the ILC group that I practice with (about a dozen participants) it seems to be fairly common to feel more tension and more muscle fatigue when doing solo work (the 15 basic exercises) than when doing partner work (spinning and sticky hands). Our group consists primarily of people who formerly, or still currently, practice TJQ so, with the different training regime and emphasis, even long time TJQ practitioners feel this difference between solo and partner work when studying in the context of ILC.

From your description it sounds like you may be an extreme example of this phenomenon. I do not have any lingering tensions, fatigue or pain from my practice of solo ILC; when I stop or move on to something else those sensations go away for me.

Since the training is different, I’ll try to give you an idea of what I think causes this in ILC, and you can try to judge for yourself whether or not it may apply to your TJQ training.

We try to embody many different principles when practicing ILC solo drills including simultaneously manifesting forward & backward, up & down, left & right such that when practicing solo there is some degree of almost isometric tension (in six directions). However, when practicing with a partner, the energy that they apply to you (and you to them) provides some of the required six direction energy and the muscular response to that interaction may no longer be as isometric as when practicing solo. Perhaps you are producing a degree of isometric contraction in order to feel like you are controlling your solo form movements to the degree that you think is necessary?

My suggestion [note that I am not a medical professional, so you need to take responsibility if you decide to try this – but it seems like your physical condition is fine, if I interpret your comments from you doctors’ evaluations correctly] would be to try practicing your form for some time without worrying at all about making the form ‘look good’ or precisely ‘controlling’ the movements. Perhaps you could even try doing the form as limp and relaxed as you can, perhaps doing it in water in a swimming pool where you could let the water give buoyancy to your arms, etc. Later, if you no longer feel the conditions that bother you, gradually add more conscious control to your form movements. Try to avoid creating unintentional isometric tensions when performing your solo TJQ.

It is possible that your nerves are responding to the form movements when there is actually no real physical damage in progress. Sometimes the way that the movements are initiated makes a big difference in the sensations felt. For example, simply circling an arm from the shoulder joint slowly in a circle to your side (from hanging down at your side to moving forward-up-back-down..., or the reverse) can cause a sensation of pain around the shoulder joint, especially when the arm is above shoulder height. IF you feel the tightness or pain when circling like this, then try the following. Before beginning to raise the arm, start by lengthening the arm (extending the arm down more), and see if this changes the sensations that you feel.

Often the way that a movement is initiated influences which muscles are recruited to perform that movement. As an illustration of this try the following. Lie prone on the floor (on your back) and then raise one of your legs from the hip joint. Most people will have a muscle fire (tense) in the front of the hip joint (if it is not obvious for you, then you can rest your hand there in order to feel it). But it should be possible to do the same leg lift without this muscle firing. To do this, initiate the leg lift differently by first lengthening your leg (think about pushing the heel of your foot away from your body), and then using that motion to continue into the leg lift. If done ‘correctly’ the muscle in the front of the leg that previously fired to lift the leg will no longer do so.

So my second suggestion for something that you could try is to think about lengthening your joints (increasing the space for the joint to move regardless of the amount of bend in that joint) when performing your solo form. I actually often do this in my practice, but I usually do it is an alternating manner; lengthening all the joints when exhaling and letting them return to their ‘normal’ condition when inhaling.

A third possibility that I can think of is that you are recruiting smaller less frequently used, and possibly weaker than desired, muscles when doing the solo form slowly. It is not uncommon for, for example, a strong, athletic, and fit football player to be in agony when being led through the slow TJQ solo form. I think that this has to do with these individuals having well developed muscles that they use for their sports, but that the slow TJQ form recruits the use of other, weaker muscles. Unfortunately there is nothing that I can suggest for this. You will probably experience agony until these weak muscles develop the necessary strength. I am not qualified to tell you what an appropriate level of fatigue for these muscles would be without overdoing it. It is possible that the slower pace of the solo form may be enough to require recruitment of different muscles than you use when you do partner work.

Perhaps if you had a specific movement that produces a specific pain that you could relay to a good bodywork professional, then they may be able to evaluate the condition of a specific muscle to see if lesser used muscle weakness is a contributing factor in your condition.

If you experiment with any of the ideas that I have given above, please post the results. I often do not know if what I feel for myself will translate appropriately for someone else. I would be very interested in the results of your practice.

Best wishes,
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Re: I'm stiff...and jammed.

Postby Krenn » Sat Dec 21, 2013 3:37 pm

Hello dear people who have given me excellent advice.

I've been away for a few days from computer since my vacation started and this is the only moment that I have time to thank you all and tell you that I have made a little progress with my problem, you have given me courage. Right now I am too busy to explain what I have discovered, being at a computer in a cafe from where I soon have to get going. Just wanted to notify and thank you, and as I get back, I will give you a more detailed explanation of the progress.

Take care! :)
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