"What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby global village idiot » Tue May 17, 2016 8:14 pm

Well, I won't drop Tai Chi Chuan completely. I enjoy it far too much.

I am content with slower progress - provided I am making progress - while I'm running out the clock in the Reserves. It won't be long.

After all, I have the rest of my life to work on Tai Chi Chuan :wink:

gvi
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby Bob Ashmore » Wed May 18, 2016 3:21 pm

GVI,
That's the spirit!
TCC is a LONG hike, not a short walk.
The best way to approach it, in my personal not so humble opinion, is to simply enjoy the journey.

You mentioned previously that you had found an instructor who teaches Traditional Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan.
If you don't mind my asking, who is that?
I'm simply curious, no ulterior motive.

Bob
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby DPasek » Wed May 18, 2016 4:07 pm

I am not particularly knowledgeable about weight training and other forms of exercising, but here are some thoughts for you to consider.

Many practitioners supplement their Taijiquan training with zhan zhuang (站樁 standing like a post) practice, and for many this is a way to greatly improve one’s abilities. However, bodybuilders tend to do much worse with zhan zhuang than their classmates. I think that this is due to the training of different muscles.

Stationary postures train the stabilizers, which are typically the smaller and deeper muscles that are responsible for holding our structure, and these muscles can remain active for long periods of time; they are used to support the body rather than to move it, and their actions typically cannot be visually detected on the surface of the body (i.e., they are the internal muscles). By contract, most exercising and weight training build the flexors and extensors (mobilizing muscles) which are typically large, have a visible effect on the surface of the body (the external muscles that “bulk up”), and fatigue fairly quickly.

My understanding is that the stabilizers can be trained by doing numerous slow reps while exercising (e.g., similar to the slow practice used for Taijiquan forms) or weight training. If, instead, your training is for the mobilizing muscles, then the stabilizers can actually be weakened due to the flexors and extensors partially taking over the responsibilities normally done by the stabilizers.

For Taijiquan we want the wiry and sinewy resilient strength (internal strength, if you prefer) provided by the stabilizer muscles, thus freeing up the mobilizing muscles (external strength, if you prefer) to relax and to be available more fully for movement. The stabilizers provide the pengjin while the mobilizing muscles provide the movements.

So, my speculation would be that as long as one has strong stabilizers, and maintains them with proper exercises (zhan zhuang, slow Taijiquan forms practice, numerous slow reps in weight training, etc.), then additional weight training to build the strength of the flexors and extensors should be fine. However, if the stabilizers are allowed to weaken as a result of strengthened flexors and extensors, then weight training could be detrimental to one’s Taijiquan.
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby global village idiot » Wed May 18, 2016 10:52 pm

Hobart Karate & Tai Chi
http://www.hobartkarate.com/
Prop: Mr. Rudy Pavletich

My first instructor was a guy named Dan Pinkowski. He taught a sort of hybrid version of tai chi chuan (I had to unlearn much from him) but had a considerable focus on the "sensing" and "sticking" portion of the push-hands. This was for a few years in the 90s.

Second instructor was a guy whose name sadly escapes me. I think it was Dave. He was a KBR contractor on the post I was at for my first tour in 2005. His reason for being on the post wasn't to teach tai chi - he was the guy who supervised the Iraqi crew cleaning our porta-johns, which in fact made him an extremely important part of the operation of the place. He taught long-form yang family tai chi (no push-hands) as a sort of freebie to those of us who were interested.

There aren't a lot of good places to learn tai chi chuan in my neck of the woods. A few senior centers teach tai chi but without the martial art aspect of it - one place I called had no idea what "push hands" was. To do them justice, they are a yoga studio where one of the instructors also teaches the forms. I didn't bother getting any further into what they did.

This, to date, is my "tai chi chuan biography." Not much but it's where I am thus far.

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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby woodenfish » Thu May 19, 2016 7:44 am

Hi Bob

Thanks for your informative reply. What you actually said about my suggestion that there may have been a martial element in the origins of TCC was:

“It doesn't really matter, does it?
Would knowing the exact origin right down to the date, time, place, who, what, where, why or how TCC got it's "start" make a blind bit of difference to what we're all doing now?
Didn't think so.”

I accept the point, but found the tone rather dismissive — as if you thought the subject unworthy of being brought up at all. I’m glad to know that impression is not correct.

About the many variations in style: as I said, I occasionally modify what I was taught by incorporating minor positional changes picked up here and there, without regard to which school or teacher they come from. As a relative beginner I do this with some trepidation: on the one hand it may make practice smoother, or easier, but on the other it is bound to lead to a personalised, hybrid version which is at odds, to one degree or another, with any of the traditional versions. I don’t “worry” about it, but I am interested in what other practitioners think. Some may disapprove of wilfully introducing unauthorised variations, while others may feel that whatever works is fine. Both may have valid reasons. Your take, evidently based on wide experience, is that divisions in the art (and variations in individual forms?) are not only acceptable, but “necessary”. I find that very encouraging.

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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby ChiDragon » Thu May 19, 2016 9:50 am

gvi
May I give you a clue what Tai Ji Chuan is all about. It is any slow movement regardless what form it is. However, the movements must be coordinated with the slow abdominal breathing. The slow breathing must be coordinated with the slow movements. Indeed, by just doing the slow movements without the breathing, it is not Tai Ji at all.
A deep discussion requires explicit details for a good comprehension of a complex subject.
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby Bob Ashmore » Thu May 19, 2016 5:04 pm

Dpasek,
The only thing I would change about what you've posted is that strengthening the flexing and extending muscles does not weaken the stabilizers, they can and should all work together rather seamlessly without causing any problems.
The problems come in if you train your muscles, any of them, to the point of retaining permanent tension. Which is the basis of weight training for bulk as opposed to weight training for strength. These are different disciplines, yet each is weight training.
The way I understand it is that it is best to maintain a Yin/Yang balance between all muscles groups without retaining, and here's the operative word, UNNECESSARY tension.
It is a fallacy to believe that people who perform TCC use no tension at all.
If we didn't use both tension and extension of our muscles we'd simply fall down and, in fact, be unable to move at all.
However performing bulk building weight training creates an imbalance in the Yin/Yang of our muscles by causing and then maintaining tension in one muscle group.
Since those muscles are trained to tense up, so they'll grow larger and stay that way, they simply cannot relax (extend) to the point of allowing a free flow of energy.
No matter how much you try to relax them they can't, because that's not what they're trained to do.
That imbalance causes our whole body flow of energy to be restricted at the points where those muscles are holding all that tension.

That's the short version anyway.
There's a LOT more to this but it's not possible for me to explain it using only words.
Typically I have to show a student why that tension is a bad idea.
Usually those with that kind of training are a bit more stubborn than others, so the only way to prove to them why what they're doing is a bad idea for the art of TCC is to do it the way Eddie Wu and his teachers did it for me.
By throwing them around until it sinks in.
After I felt my own "strength" get used against me and there was absolutely nothing all of my vaunted "strength" could do to stop it, in act the more I tried to use that "strength" the worse it got for me, a few times...
I could no longer doubt what I was feeling.
Just typing this up and re-reading it myself I can tell that no one who hasn't felt this happening to themselves will EVER believe it just by reading it here.
Which is why I said previously that I usually don't bother trying to explain it in this type of venue.
I cannot tell you how many times I've tried. Here as well as on other forums.
Universally I have been pressed back on about it by those who have never felt it, so they can't understand.
All they see is some crazy guy speaking out against their version of "strength" and then the argument starts.

In fact...
5.....
4.....
3.....
2.....
1.....

GO!
But I'm going to leave any of that arguing to others.
I've already said more than I should have here.

Moving on.
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby Bob Ashmore » Thu May 19, 2016 5:29 pm

GVI,
I will have to visit the Hobart school website from home. For some reason my company restricts access to that site.

You have described a rather typical version of learning "Tai Chi" for most Americans.
It's not like there's a whole lot of qualified instructors running around the streets.
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby Bob Ashmore » Thu May 19, 2016 6:27 pm

Woodenfish,
Yep, that's what I said, because that's what I meant.
Knowing those things wouldn't change what we do now one little bit.
If that's something you're interested in I can certainly discuss that topic.
What were you wanting to discuss about them?

As for variations...
I would recommend, highly, that you perform the postures that you are being taught to the preferred standard of the teacher who is teaching them to you.
And that you continue to do so until the time when you have at least a rudimentary understanding of the principles of the art.
After that you can throw in all the variations you'd like.
Because after that point all the "postures" become simply window dressing for those principles.
Prior to that time...
Any variation of a posture won't encompass the principles.
And the principles are the heart of this art.
How you perform a named posture prior to understanding the principles is the single most vital component of learning the principles, so until you do changing things is only going to slow you down.
Last edited by Bob Ashmore on Thu May 19, 2016 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby DPasek » Thu May 19, 2016 7:26 pm

Bob Ashmore wrote:Dpasek,
The only thing I would change about what you've posted is that strengthening the flexing and extending muscles does not weaken the stabilizers, they can and should all work together rather seamlessly without causing any problems.

Thanks for your post Bob. You could be correct, and since I am no expert on this I cannot really be certain. However, see the following quote:

Many people, especially those that workout often, believe that they are strengthening a full range of muscles while at the gym. However, all too often when I test a stabilizing muscle it is very weak…even more weak in the heavy lifters. In many individuals the movers become strong enough to do the job of the stabilizers. The stabilizer muscles, now not being used, become smaller, weaker, and soon forgetting their purpose in the body.

http://drsunderman.com/stabilizer-muscles/
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby Bob Ashmore » Thu May 19, 2016 7:36 pm

Dpasek,
I see, now that you've quoted me, that I left out a word: "Necessarily"
Let's make that: "strengthening the flexing and extending muscles does not necessarily weaken the stabilizers"
While I have no doubt that can be an effect of that kind of training I don't believe it always will be.
It depends on how you go about it.

Thanks for the catch on that.
Typing things out always makes me goosey because it's SO easy to leave out a word. Doing so can often times radically change what you were trying to express.
Even going back and rereading your post before you hit "submit" isn't always going to catch those omissions either because, I honestly believe, your brain simply puts the words you forgot to type into your head so you think they're in there.

Bob
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby global village idiot » Thu May 19, 2016 11:18 pm

Mr. Ashmore,

One of the things I noticed about most recently taking up formal instruction was how easily I fell back into it; not only with the forms themselves, but also the breathing. As I said up-thread, so-called "belly breathing" and knowing when and how to inhale/exhale goes back - with me anyway - all the way to jr. high school, learning to play a wind instrument.

I assumed everyone did tai chi chuan that way, and had to be told by my instructor that this assumption was mistaken.

A new thing I discovered only recently is that because of my new focus, is that it's causing me to move slightly differently OUTSIDE of the studio.

Take yesterday for example. I have a large container with a filter and spigot that I use for drinking water (we have a lot of calcium in our city's well-water), but it's also perched on a small riser for filling my dog's water dish underneath. I go to fill Sam's dish and because of the position it's in, I'm leaned over in a slightly odd way. When I'm done, I catch myself and laugh slightly because as I straightened up to leave the kitchen I turned on my heel EXACTLY like in "single-whip."

Didn't think about it, didn't plan it...I just did it.

This is just one example, but every so often now I find myself moving slightly differently, and I often don't notice it except sometimes afterward. I'm also more keenly aware - again it's nothing I can put my finger on - when I'm moving clumsily. I don't know why, but sometimes I can just feel like "the way you just moved is not the right way." Maybe reaching for something, standing up or sitting down, or even walking. Maybe this clumsiness is a step along the path, maybe it isn't.

gvi
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby ChiDragon » Fri May 20, 2016 6:27 am

global village idiot wrote:Mr. Ashmore,

One of the things I noticed about most recently taking up formal instruction was how easily I fell back into it; not only with the forms themselves, but also the breathing. As I said up-thread, so-called "belly breathing" and knowing when and how to inhale/exhale goes back - with me anyway - all the way to jr. high school, learning to play a wind instrument.

I assumed everyone did tai chi chuan that way, and had to be told by my instructor that this assumption was mistaken.

gvi


gvi
May I ask what instructor told you that this assumption was mistaken....?
A deep discussion requires explicit details for a good comprehension of a complex subject.
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby global village idiot » Fri May 20, 2016 6:35 am

My current one.

He saw me doing the deep, abdominal breathing throughout my first class or two, and remarked that this is something he usually had to spend time teaching his students to do. His new students either breathed "from the top of their lungs," or else held their breath when first starting out.

I said, "I thought everyone did what I was doing. Just doesn't seem right otherwise."

He assured me that a lot of people, when they first start, have to be taught how to breathe.
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby DPasek » Fri May 20, 2016 1:58 pm

global village idiot wrote:A new thing I discovered only recently is that because of my new focus, is that it's causing me to move slightly differently OUTSIDE of the studio.

Training to habitually power movements from the legs and to control/direct it through the waist is different than typical movement that tends to emphasize the hands. In the following article, a Chen style practitioner attempts to explain the differences:
http://medcraveonline.com/IJCAM/IJCAM-03-00076.pdf
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