"What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

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

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri May 20, 2016 5:07 pm

GVI,
"Didn't think about it, didn't plan it...I just did it." That's exactly how it works, eventually.
That comes from repetition of practicing the form, the more times you repeat the postures in practice the more they integrate into your everyday movements.
I tell my students that they will only reach TCC in the same way a musician would get to play Carnegie Hall...

As for breathing...
My opinion on tying breathing to movement in TCC has been stated previously on this forum.
So I'm not going to go into detail about it again now as I have already done so, repeatedly. It's easy enough to look up my previous posts, and those of many others, to see what I, and they, have had to say.
In short...
Your body already knows how to breath, let it do so and don't let your mind get in its way.
That is how I learned, that is how I teach.
But...
If your teacher has a specific breathing method that they teach you to use during your practice/performance of TCC...
Do that.

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

Postby ChiDragon » Fri May 20, 2016 6:46 pm

DPasek wrote:
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


@gvi
It seems to me you have been practiced for awhile and have your muscles conditioned to react swiftly with the intent of the mind. Since you have the belly breathing pre-installed for Tai Chi Chuan, it will give you the advantage to speed up progress in your practice.

@DPasek
The article you have cited was talking about how does the body use those movements to issue its maximum power. Actually, it does really helping the body to generate the body strength. In other words, those movements only use whatever strength that the body can provide or generate.

The movement of waist is very significant for issuing the body strength. As you said, the rooting in the legs which was developed from zhan zhuang are more significant. It builds up the muscle tone of the legs to have the body cells to generate the bio-energy to lock the feet onto the ground. To a martial artist, it is footing or grounding. Good grounding will keep the body in place and balance which gives a good foundation for the movement of the waist.

The practice of the Tai Ji movements will condition the body to develop the bio-energy. It gives the ability for the body to generate the energy in a later day. The time that the body will generated those energy is when the muscle contracts. The movement of the waist is only help to execute the body strength more effectively.
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby ChiDragon » Sun May 22, 2016 9:29 pm

Greetings!
It is interesting how we can apply Tai Chi in our daily life. Speaking about turning the waist. Here is something is worth mention. Recently, I was using a ratchet crew driver to drive a crew into a piece of wood with my right hand. However, I got to a point which I cannot turn my hand anymore. It was just whim on me that someone had mentioned to apply Tai Chi in one's daily life. Immediately, I have a stronghold on the handle of the screw driver. Then got into a bow stance and moved my torso from left to right back and forth. Surprisingly, the screw was moving into the wood very easily seems like it was effortless on my part.

This action was using weight of my torso to generate a power torque against the handle of the screw driver. Indeed, this torque is much greater than the force by just turning the wrist. In other words, the weight of the torso is a greater force than the rotational force of the wrist. Hence, it corresponds to the explanation about turning the waist in the cited article above. Of course, the wrist has to be very strong in order to give it a stronghold. There are few moves from Tai Chi Chuan which can strengthen the wrist, such as the repulse monkey, cloud hands and holding the sparrow's tail.
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby Bob Ashmore » Wed May 25, 2016 7:50 pm

Dpasek,
I have finally been able to read the article which you posted earlier.
I have no issues with anything this author has printed in the article. It is a superbly written piece.
His points regarding rou and gang jin are spot on in my PNSHO and help to illustrate a point that I have made ever since I first started posting on this particular forum.
To whit: Training for strength does not impede performance in TCC once you know how to do so properly and, in fact, can enhance it greatly.
Both Yin and Yang are to be embraced in TCC, this is inherent in the TCC Classics.
To train strictly to one side of this integral balance and ignore the other is a mistake that is constantly made by those who do not fully understand the art they are practicing.
Almost everyone that does this falls into the category of training only to the Yin side of the art, totally neglecting the Yang.
At first this makes perfect sense, as almost everyone who comes to this art is heavily balanced on the Yang side.
Think about it...
When was the last time you met someone who came to their first TCC class and their instructor said of them, "They were entirely too relaxed (limp, soft)"?
I'm trying to come up with one student I have had who I've ever said that about...
Nope.
Now I'm trying to remember any instructor ever saying those words in my hearing...
Nope.
I'm quite sure it's happened. Somewhere. Sometime.
It's almost impossible that there hasn't been a single instance of that. But...
I'm going to put forward that it is at the extreme outside edge of that thing called "chance" that it would over occur to me in my lifetime.
So training to loosen and relax people is going to be the overwhelming initial practice taught in most TCC classes.
However...
Eventually those who are mindful of their training are going to reach a point where balancing Yin and Yang will require some training with Yang.
Does that make sense?
Not everyone, in fact I'd say hardly anyone, is going to reach that point in today's world.
However, some do.
The trick at that point is to learn to train for Yang without inducing undue tension in the body.
That's a fairly neat trick, to be sure.
One that I was fortunate enough to learn and, eventually, understand.
I'm not good at it yet, I need more practice.
However training some Yang has vastly increased my understanding of the balance between Yin and Yang and so I have continued down that path in the hope of, one day, attaining that balance.
Whether I've eliminated all unnecessary tension isn't even a question. I have not.
However I have been working on it.
Eventually, and with a LOT of practice, I may reach that goal.
But...
I'm not good yet.
I need more practice.

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

Postby global village idiot » Wed May 25, 2016 9:14 pm

How odd and perhaps timely.

Yesterday at class we spent most of the time working with weights. Not heavy weights - a pound for the women up to about five for the men. Mostly range of motion, or as "stretching partners," but also doing the first set of the slow form with weights in our hands.

The instructor said "Do this for a while and when you do the form empty-handed, you'll feel like your arms are floating."

It parallels my own experience. In 2004 when we were training up for our deployment, we wore our flak vests with Small Arms Protective Inserts (called SAPI plates) everywhere for about two or three weeks. Extremely tiring and uncomfortable; however, the one time I had to run somewhere and I happened to not have my vest on, I felt like I was flying.

I consider what he did an introduction as I don't really feel comfortable introducing weight into my outside-of-class practice yet. Many of the students are farther along in their progress than I am.

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

Postby fchai » Thu May 26, 2016 11:14 am

Hi GVI,
I've been following parts of the discussion with interest. Many wise heads there. However, your latest post has got me stymied. The use of weights in doing the form is something I personally would never contemplate. By carrying weights on your hands, you would immediately add tension and this would prevent you relaxing and flowing smoothly and fluidly while doing Taiji. It would also tend to mask and inhibit your ability to sense/feel the flow of qi/energy. The rationale about then getting a sense of 'floating' is quite bizarre from a Taiji standpoint. We frequently talk of 'rooting'and 'silk reeling', etc., but, 'floating'? Anyway, I'll let wiser heads than mine provide their thoughts on the matter.
Take care.
Frank
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby fchai » Thu May 26, 2016 11:48 am

Hi DPasek,
Your thoughts on the stabiliser muscles was quite interesting. Folks that have weak stabiliser muscles have real difficulty executing the form with grace and ease of movement/execution. This is especially so when they execute the kicking sequences in Part 2 of the long form, or when transitioning from low to high, e.g. 'Snake Creeps Down'' to 'Golden Rooster"or "Seven Stars". My supplementary exercises to augment my Taiji include BodyPump, CXWork and Spin Cycle at the gym. The BodyPump builds the 'bulk' muscles but the weights used are relatively light and so there is no 'bulking', as would be the case if power lifting. The CXWork strengthens the core muscles which are stabiliser muscles and the Spin Cycle is great for the cardio. I also play golf once a week and maintain a 8/9 handicap. I attribute my handicap being that low primarily to my Taiji and also in part to the CXWork exercises.
That you, Bob and other senior exponents and practitioners continue to freely engage and share your expertise on this forum is much appreciated.
Take care.
Frank
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby Bob Ashmore » Thu May 26, 2016 4:30 pm

GVI,
I have had one previous instructor who advocated wearing weighted ankle and wrist bracelets (not sure what else to call them) during form training, very similar to what you are describing.
And for very much the same reasons.
I found it induced and then forced me to hold too much tension to be able to allow chi to flow freely.
And not just during that training, also after I would remove the weighted bands I could feel very clearly that my body was using tensed contraction and not relaxed extension through my muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints to create movement.
I did experience that "floating" sensation you describe, however after so much time working to use relaxed extension rather than contraction I actually found it to be very disconcerting.
For me, and only me, I found using that method of training to be almost the exact opposite of what I needed to allow a free flow of chi to occur.
Allowing chi to move freely throughout your entire body, with no corners or restrictions, is the goal of TCC training, so from my experience this is not a method I would use to train.
Others may have had a different experience and if so then I wish them good training. However I could not use it for its intended purpose.
I am curious though as to how others who have tried it feel about using this method and am looking forward to any experiences or opinions from them.

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

Postby Bob Ashmore » Thu May 26, 2016 4:52 pm

Fchai,
Mindful core stability is one of the greatest advantages of TCC training. It is what keeps us from falling anywhere near as often as others and, even when we do fall, allows us to do so without anywhere near as much fear of injury. It also allows us to move with the grace and ease of motion that you describe.
However "Weak" and "Strong" are relative terms, so I prefer not to use them.
I use simply "Sung". All of my students are extremely familiar with this term.
As I understand and so teach it, "Sung is the happy middle ground where Yin and Yang are not divided when we are at rest (Wuji) and covers the entire range of Yin and Yang during motion (Taiji)".
Kind of esoteric...
But what part of TCC isn't?
Besides, it's fun (well, for me) to watch the looks of confusion the first time a student hears me say it.
I don't let that go on for very long but...
Hey, a guys got to have some fun! Or what's the point in teaching? (Yes, I am joking. Well.. a little.)
When I do explain I like to demonstrate "Preparation Posture" first, as it encompasses the "at rest" portion of Sung. Yin and Yang are not divided, there is no movement nor is there any intent to move. Everything is relaxed and ready to move but also fully at rest.
The very next thing we do is divide Yin and Yang, our intent becomes to move and we then "split" Wuji into Taiji, allowing the energy to move us. I use the transition from "Preparation Form" into "Grasp the Birds Tail" to demonstrate this.
I find it quite handy that the creators of the Yang form (and Wu CC form as well) have given us such clear tools to use for showing these things coming right out of the chute.
Those guys were pretty smart.


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

Postby Bob Ashmore » Thu May 26, 2016 5:13 pm

I kept feeling like I forgot something... and I did.

Fchai,
A good catch on the 'floating' sensation comment.
That's what I found the most disconcerting.
I felt nearly unable to root after that type of training.
That kind of freaked me out, to be honest, after so much time spent training rooting.
How I felt was very similar to when I used my most effective method to train rooting; water TCC.
I used to have a very nice above ground pool when my kids were little (once they outgrew it I was unfortunately not able to keep it clean, have you ever tried to keep a swimming pool clean when only one person ever uses it? it almost can't be done). It was 24 feet around (circular), 4 feet deep on the sides and approximately 5 feet deep in the middle.
In other words, I could stand up in it and keep my head above water.
I used to do long forms standing up in that pool.
In my PNSHO there is almost no better way to learn rooting then when it almost can't be done due to buoyancy.
I found that I had to move very, very, very, slowly. I'm not sure I have enough "very's" there...
And think of almost nothing but rooting while I did it.
It is the single most effective way I have ever found to feel Yin/Yang separation and how to use that to root.
Buoyancy makes you float (obviously) so gravity is nearly negated when you're in that much water, forcing you to use every other aspect of rooting and stop relying on gravity alone just to achieve a fraction of the rooting you are capable of on dry ground.
Once you get back on dry ground you will feel like you are rooting directly to the center of the earth.
It was very effective and...
A lot of fun.
See my statement regarding fun above for further clarity on how much I like that. ;o)
However I did not enjoy feeling like that when I was on dry ground. Not at all.
Tension was the cause of that, the contraction of my muscles would not allow me to open all of my joints sufficiently to allow me to connect my center to the ground.
Nor could I use my waist to turn freely.
And my hip rotations were severely limited.
All of these things are a recipe for disaster in using TCC.
Or at least they are for me.
Others have had different experiences.

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

Postby global village idiot » Thu May 26, 2016 8:09 pm

It seemed weird to me but I try to stay open-minded.

One thing I'm trying hard to do is NOT to rush things, but lately I've been questioning even this.

I've seen all too often what happens when I rush. The result of anything I try to hurry through is slipshod and unworkmanlike. It is the same whether it's a job I'm doing at work, or if it's a project I'm working on at home or if it's learning something.

The way most of the sessions go at our school is as follows: the instructor spends the first half of the class teaching the beginning students, while the more advanced students work together; in the second half, we all work together, whether it's on push-hands or some weapon (a stick or a dao usually). There are occasional differences, as with this week, but usually this is how it goes.

Having shown the instructor that I knew what I said I knew, I was sent along with the advanced students after my first few lessons. I was okay with this; but at the same time I was keenly aware of how long it had been since the last time I'd taken formal instruction. It would take time to re-familiarize myself with the form. In addition, I was (and still am) also aware of the various bad habits I'd picked up along the way, and that it would take time to unlearn them.

The "senior student" (for lack of a better term) was very encouraging with me and is himself a good martial artist. He is also a fair instructor - as a career Soldier I can tell a good instructor when I see one, no matter what he or she is teaching (You see it mostly in the students' ability to grasp unfamiliar concepts and share that understanding back to the instructor). If I had any complaint it would be that he pushed me a bit faster than I wanted to go.

I know why he wanted to do this - it was to bring me up to speed with the rest of the advanced students so we could all work together more easily. I know this because he came out and told me so. I can't say I blame him, but I still felt pushed.

It's a minor complaint, really. After all, re-familiarization with the forms shouldn't take very long. I've got the rest of my life to enhance what I know, make my movement more coordinated and "second-nature." Since we only meet once a week, this means that most of my training (and therefore much of my discovery) will be on my own, using the class as basically a place to receive new instruction and critique.

Lately we're learning the dao form. I'm doing it because the rest of the advanced students are doing it. It's nowhere near what I wanted to do, and in fact I didn't expect to even consider learning the dao form for another year or two. But we're doing it together so I'm doing it. I confess that I don't spend any time at home practicing it.

This business of going faster than I am comfortable with raises a philosophical question for me, and I'd be grateful for your thoughts on it. We read in the Tao Te Ching
"The Sage desires not to desire. He values what is everywhere. He learns what to unlearn. He returns to what the masses pass by."
I'm no Taoist but I am very much a Stoic. If you read about Roman Stoicism you find that it has many parallels with Taoism, particularly with respect to the notion of "desires." I find myself asking if my frustration with the feeling of being "pushed," this desire to go at my own pace, is in fact something I need to let go of - and if so, how.

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

Postby ChiDragon » Thu May 26, 2016 8:50 pm

The principle of yin-yang is not an easy subject to be grasped. The question is which comes first, the yin or the yang? By nature, they are one unity as a whole. When they are applied to human, the yin becomes "soft" and yang becomes "hard".

In the eyes of a Tai Chi practitioner, the yin is before yang. The concept of yin-yang is "the soft subdues the hard." The initial condition of one's body is yin or soft. In order for the yin-body to subdue the hard, it must become yang by going from the yin stage to the yang stage. In other words, at the initial practice one must not begin with any external means like lifting weights. One must not jump the gun by going to the yang extreme. BTW The reason for the slow Tai Chi movements is to bring the body into the yang stage in a progressive manner. Thus the body will be able to handle more weights than one once could.

Using weights in the initial practice is the opposite of what Tai Chi was intended to do. It was having the "hard" to subdues the "soft". Hence, it was totally defeated the purpose of having "the soft to subdue the hard". Again, lifting any weight in the exercise is lifting weight. It brings one outside the category of Tai Chi. Anyone who wants to learn Tai Chi should aware of this.
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri May 27, 2016 4:07 pm

CD,
Sort of like the question, "Which came first? Chicken or egg?" :lol:
With Taiji we actually have an answer though: First there is Wuji, then Taiji
Inside Taiji, which comes first? Yin or Yang?
My reply to this query is always the same: Neither.
Yin cannot exist without Yang, Yang cannot exist without Yin.
They occur simultaneously or not at all.

As to the method of reaching what we call "Taiji" or "Tai Chi"...
One method is to start with Yin.
Another method is to start with Yang.
I have seen nearly equal results, over time, using either method.
Watching top Masters of the styles that TCC players term "hard styles", those who have been practicing for decades, you will see very similar movements and skill levels as those displayed by top TCC Masters with the same amount of time in the art.
Yin will lead to Yang, Yang will lead to Yin.
There are many paths to reach this level.
None are incorrect as long as they get you there.
Some will take longer than others, some will be more difficult for some people and easier for others.
Everyone is different, we all have different bodies, different minds, and because of this there is no single path that will work for everyone.

My point here being that you can start at either end of the spectrum of Yin/Yang and with enough hard work, dedication, and practice you will eventually find that happy middle ground.
Tai Chi Chuan, Taijiquan (tomato/tomato) starts with Yin as do our sister arts (Xingyi, Bagua).
Nothing wrong with that. It's a perfectly acceptable place to start.
Other styles, those we term "hard", start with Yang.
Nothing wrong with them either.
As long as it is the art you love it will be your path.
To chose an art you do not love is a recipe for failure.
Only you can decide.
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Re: "What do you want from Tai Chi Chuan?"

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri May 27, 2016 4:25 pm

GVI,
When I have enough students to do so I also run my classes in a similar manner as you describe.
First we all do form work to relax and open.
Then I work with the beginners while the more advanced students work together.
Once I have the beginners moving in the correct direction then I will work with the more advanced students.
At the end we all come together again for group form.
It's a fairly standard method for running a class.
Right now I only have what I would term intermediate to advanced students, and not too many of those.
I seem to have drained the pool of prospective beginners in my area for now but I won't keep crying about that here. 8)

As for the weight training...
I would never dream of critiquing how an instructor in any school but my own teaches. It's not my place.
Neither will I pass judgement on a training method used there.
If this is the path your instructor is taking you on then it is up to you alone to determine if it is the path down which you wish to journey.
I have laid out all of my reasons both for and against this type of training, as well as my opinion that for where you are in your journey I as an instructor would not use it, and will leave it at that.
My opinion is just that, my opinion.
Others will have different opinions.

Good practice.

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

Postby ChiDragon » Fri May 27, 2016 5:18 pm

Bob Ashmore wrote:CD,
Sort of like the question, "Which came first? Chicken or egg?" :lol:
With Taiji we actually have an answer though: First there is Wuji, then Taiji
Inside Taiji, which comes first? Yin or Yang?
My reply to this query is always the same: Neither.
Yin cannot exist without Yang, Yang cannot exist without Yin.
They occur simultaneously or not at all.


Bob,
By nature, it is very true as I had stated about the principle of yin-yang in the above post. However, when the terms "soft and hard" are applied to human for the Tai Chi practice. Soft is before Hard. What I was saying, in Tai Chi practice, one should not be using dumb bell to begin with. It would be considered a Hard start. A good instructor would start a student with the Soft slow movements until one's body becomes Hard, so the speak. Then, the student may lift weights more than he/she once couldn't handle. BTW Hard body means when the student has build up enough jin(勁) in the muscle to handle any strenuous task.

If the terms Wu Ji(無極) and Tai Ji(太極) were used to describe the condition of the body, I would consider the statements are valid as follows:
When there is no jin(勁) in the body, it would be considered Wu Ji(無極). When there is jin(勁) in the body, it would be considered Tai Ji(太極). Hence, Wu Ji is before Tai Ji.
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