How to Know if Students are Relaxed

Re: How to Know if Students are Relaxed

Postby maria.j » Sat Jan 06, 2018 8:38 am

Before we do the tai chi form, we do a few breathing and stretching exercises which I find very relaxing. I assume that most Tai Chi schools do this to help loosen up and warm up if need be.
I find a lot more relaxed after we do this, although I suppose relaxing as a student possibly comes with experience I guess. :D
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Re: How to Know if Students are Relaxed

Postby global village idiot » Sat Jan 06, 2018 9:33 pm

There's "relaxing" and then there's relaxing.

It's one thing to feel nicely loose and limber prior to starting the form, and this is indeed necessary to focus the mind and put all the "stuff" we were worrying about out of our thoughts. I see our class's qi gong exercises as a sort of "opening ceremony" that sort of closes off the outside world and leaves us ready and receptive to the work.

There's a different kind of relaxation, I find, that comes with familiarity. From my own experience, here's an example from about 13 years ago...

January 2005 found me and about 20 of my closest friends in a huge tent in Kuwait, waiting to go up-country into Iraq. All of our training and fitting-out had been completed, and we were basically waiting on a flight, with little actual work to occupy our time. One day, a Senior NCO from another unit was challenging the Soldiers around him to a contest of skill and speed: while hoodwinked, could they disassemble their rifle and put it back together quicker than he could?

Any soldier, I suspect, from any army in the world can take his service rifle apart an put it back together blindfolded - it isn't hard at all. I noticed as the senior NCO beat the first guy handily, that he was wasting a lot of time in haste - he'd fumble for the parts he had put down, having never thought about where they went.

I reckoned I could do better than this and took up his challenge. So there we were on the floor of our tent, our rifles in front of us, with stocking caps pulled over our faces. At the word "GO," I could hear rattling and frantic activity from him as I began methodically putting the rifle's pieces in a nice little row so I knew where they were by feel, something he wasn't doing. The Soldiers watching us noted how "slow" I was going - because of course I could hear them - but then they noticed I was way ahead of him in terms of the procedure. I wasn't so much going slow, you see, as I was relaxed...I knew exactly what to do, just as everyone else did, but I didn't get hung up on being in a hurry so I just went and did it. The Soldiers said I looked like I was in a Japanese tea ceremony afterward.

I could hear my "opponent" moving more frantically as he heard how far ahead of him I was, and this only made him fumble even more. I was relaxed and had the rifle back together and function-checked while he was still fumbling for parts. His rifle was not-quite halfway together when we both pulled off our stocking caps and he looked at mine, then at me. Being something of a smart aleck, I gave him a polite bow, got up with my rifle and silently walked away feeling a bit like a Jedi knight.

I said relaxation of that sort comes with familiarity, but in retelling that story, I realize there's more to it. I recalled that the key to my being quicker than him in this silly contest was the method I had of putting the pieces in order so I could find them by feel. It really was the only difference between us, because he and I were both equally good at the task itself, which becomes mindless after you've done it for many years. The method I applied is not taught by anyone in the Army, because why should it? We don't encourage Soldiers to clean their weapons in conditions or in ways that make losing parts easier. So I not only knew what to do, I knew how to adapt to the circumstance. I can truly say I "own" this skill (a claim I can make on very few skills besides this one).

In this sense, relaxation with tai chi can be thought of as similar to the relaxation of a master craftsman with his tools. You've seen old masters who can get more work done, better and quicker, with simple tools than new tyros can with fancy gadgets and buckets of elbow-grease & sweat.

Same thing - mastery and ownership of the skill set.

global village idiot
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Re: How to Know if Students are Relaxed

Postby Bob Ashmore » Tue Jan 23, 2018 8:34 pm

Your explanation of "relaxed" is simply the best, most on point description of both the method and it's execution that I have ever read.
This is exactly what I keep trying to teach my students.
I'm going to steal this from you...
I mean "Borrow"...
No, I was right the first time. :lol:
Bob Ashmore
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Re: How to Know if Students are Relaxed

Postby ChiDragon » Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:42 pm

Please excuse my ignorance for sticking out my nose again to clarify the term "鬆, song." It would be perfect to translate as "relaxation" for an English speaker, but relaxation has a very broad meaning in English. Unfortunately, the character (song) in its native meaning was emphasized for muscles only. For example, when the muscles was uncontracted is considered to be (song). In this case, we can say the muscle was relaxed. However, (song) cannot be said to the mind is because the mind was not and cannot be contracted.

In Taiji, it is important to (song) the whole body. The emphasis, here, was to loosen up the muscles. So the muscles are not too tight. Since the muscles are in motion, the movements have to be slow in odere for the muscles to be in the (song) state. In the contrary, the muscles will be contracted if the movements are too fast which will put the muscles out of the (song) state. In a higher level like fajin, the movements are faster and muscles are contracted during the execution. The muscles become (song) again after the execution. In other words, the sequence of fajin, the initial state of the muscles is "song", contract, then "song."
A deep discussion requires explicit details for a good comprehension of a complex subject.
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