Waist Turns

Waist Turns

Postby DavidJ » Sat Mar 24, 2001 12:41 am

Greetings,

During the last few months reading from this board I've gotten the impression that I might do waist turns differently from others. Here, then, I will try to describe what I do.

"Waist turns" involve changing the spatial relationship between the shoulders and the hips.

There are two basic rules regarding the alignment of the shoulders and the hips.
1) When the hand opposite the forward foot is back, the shoulders are neutral, in line with the hips, as in the final posture of 'Single Whip;'
2. When the hand opposite the forward foot is forward, the shoulders are offset, turned in relation to the hips. By this I mean that the shouders are at a different angle from the hips, as in the final posture of 'Brush Knee, Twist Step.'

OK? Now:

Stand as you would to begin the first move, 'The Arising'. Have someone hold your hips while you turn your shoulders to the right and to the left, and pay attention to the muscles used. Then have them hold your shoulders while you turn your hips to the left and to the right, and pay attention to the muscles used. Now do it again, but use both sets of muscles: when you turn your shoulders to the right, turn your hips to the left at the same time; when you turn your shoulders to the left, turn your hips to the right at the same time.

When being taught 'Draw Back' after 'Ward Off' you may have been told that there is a general rule in shifting the weight back: that you should pull back the hip of the foot that is forward. Here the right foot is forward, so when shifting the weight back it's as though the hips turn to the right. In 'Draw Back' the shoulders also turn to the left while shifting the weight back. This then is a case of "shoulders left/hips right."

When being taught 'Cloud Hands,' you may have been told to keep the hips facing the same way while stepping and turning the shoulders left and right. This necessitated "shoulders left/hips right" and "shoulders right/hips left."

In some cases this "shoulders one way/hips the other way" is done as a gentle pressure internally, with little or nothing shown outside. In other cases the waist turns more fully.

Waist turns done this way are effective in connecting the upper and lower body, and in issuing power. Watch Tiger Woods drive the ball sometime.

I'll leave off with one example.

If you're less than satisfied with 'Snake Creeps Down,' then try this: from 'Single Whip' where the left foot is forward, stand 'shoulders right/hips left', as you turn your feet to the right for 'Snake Creeps Down,' switch to 'shoulders left/hips right' and carry that through to 'Golden Cock Stands on Left Leg.'

Comments and questions are welcome.

David Salvia


[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 03-23-2001).]

[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 03-23-2001).]
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Postby Audi » Sat Mar 31, 2001 7:52 pm

David,

This is an interesting post which I still need to consider some more. As for the hip and shoulder movements you describe, I do not believe have been taught any postures or transitions where these rotate in contrary directions, or at least where I should focus on such a feeling.

The hips and shoulders do not, of course, always face the same way. At the beginning of Roll Back (Lu), for instance, where the body twists to the right, I think I have been taught to keep my hips and legs square to the front and then to use my waist (lower spinal muscles) to twist or carry my upper body rightward. I am still uncertain as to whether there should be any rightward movement of the hips in doing so, but I do not believe I am supposed to actually rotate the hips to the left (counterclockwise), even internally.

I am also somewhat uncertain as to the role of the waist in movements such as Push (An) or the heel kicks (Deng Jiao and Ti Tui), where there is no rotational movement I am aware of. Do you see any role? In such moves, I focus on changes in my pelvic tilt, speculating that this is connected with "adhering qi to the spine," but frankly am uncertain as to what orthodox teaching is.

Also, after the final step in Single Whip, do you believe that the waist rotates only to the left (counterclockwise) to power the left hand push (an), or does it add a final rotation to the right (clockwise) to power the strike. From what Louis posted on another thread about the whipping action of the left hand, I would presume that the waist should rotate only leftward, but have seen so many finish off the move with a counter rotation to the right, I am puzzled about what to do in orthodox performances of the form.

As a general rule, I think I have been taught to pay attention only to the set of muscles you describe as being used when the shoulders are held in place. These muscles do, of course, actively connect with the hips and the upper spinal muscles, but for me these are distinctly secondary effects dependent on the movement of the lower spinal muscles, and not moving independently or in an opposing direction.

What you seem to describe sounds like a sophisticated analysis of spinal movement that reminds me of something I heard during a one-hour Ba Gua (Pa Kua) seminar given by B. K. Frantzis during one of the annual Chang San Feng Festivals at the T'ai Farm in New Jersey.

He had the impossible task of teaching 20-30 people the basics of Ba Gua during one-hour and so chose to focus on how he thought T'ai Chi theories differed from Ba Gua. One of these differences in his view was that movement in T'ai Chi was guided by the waist, but in Ba Gua by the orientation of the stepping foot.

A major role he assigned to spinal movement in Ba Gua was in imparting spiral movements to the rest of the body. He demonstrated this by vigorously twisting and snaking his spine in a vertical spiral and his shoulders and outstretched arms backward, forward, and around his head past the midline in a predominantly horizontal spiral. By the way, he went to great pains to say that this was not what orthodox T'ai Chi taught, or at least the importance of such spiral movement in Ba Gua and its intensity were not at all characteristic of T'ai Chi.

I am curious to hear what others have to say about your post and the additional questions I have posed.

Good luck and good practising,
Audi
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Postby LarryC » Mon Apr 02, 2001 3:34 am

Hi Audi, Hi David

I have an observation about the waist in relation to the hips.

(A) Imagine if you will a straight line extending from hip bone to hip bone.

(B) Can we assume for this discussion’s sake that the waist is defined as the lumbar spine with associated muscles and tissues? If so, then define a “neutral” position of the waist such that the ‘waist line’ is parallel to the hip line (such as in the opening stance of the set).

At the beginning of the an push, when the hands are back toward the chest, I believe that my ‘waist line’ and hip line are parallel and perpendicular to a forward vector. However, at the end position of an, with arms extended in the bow stance, I notice that while my ‘waist line’ (and therefore my shoulder line) is still perpendicular to a forward vector, my hip line tends to be very slightly ‘twisted’ to the left.

I find it interesting that, for me, the ‘waist line’ remains in position while the hip line in effect twists left due to the motion of advancing into the bow stance.

I find the matter of the waist the most interesting in Taiji. Whereas I formerly considered the waist and the hips coupled, with their orientation only sometimes different, I now seem to consider their independence more important, although they sometimes happen to be congruent.

Regards,
Larry
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Postby Michael » Mon Apr 02, 2001 5:02 pm

Audi, Larry...

Besides your rollback example, one other instance comes up conerning the non alignment of hips and shoulders is in the transition in single whip. Also if you have any comment on a new method I have become aware of...I can't remember if Yang Jun is experimenting with this now, or did in the past. It may even be something His grandfather had been doing before. Jerry should be able help me out here.

First, when bringing the waist around in single whip to the right, the shoulders travel past them (Hips) to almost 90 degrees before returning to the left.

Second, and this is hard to describe. The "new" technique? When one is turning to the left (with the waist) from push, and one shifts into the left leg, your weight remains there without turning the left foot while the upper body continues on with the shoulders and hips being perpendicular before the upper body motion continues back to the right. The hips then revolve to the left with the waist, revolving on the ball of the left foot and the weight shifting to the right leg. This creates a scissor action that delivers more power toward the right. Almost the same alignment (half way through) occurs in the standard way but the power is delivered to the left instead of the right. and the angle is smaller at the end of the rightward movment between the shoulders and hips.

In the first example you are "cocking a gun" and "firing" and the second is a follow through. In your rollback example it might be the same, as you could be "loading" or "cocking" the energy for the rollback technique. The difference between the hips and shoulders in these intances seem to deliver a little more power. I can't think of anywhere else this applies or is done.





[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 04-02-2001).]
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Postby DavidJ » Tue Apr 03, 2001 12:27 am

Hi Audi, LarryC, Michael,

Please understand that I'm telling you what I do. Whether or not you do it is up to you. I'm only trying to get the idea across, and I don't think that I'm succeeding.

There are difficulties here in describing it in general because each move is individual. And there may be difficulties in trying these ideas because inclusion of the hips can feel awkward when someone is used to doing shoulders-only waist turns.

Larry wrote, " Can we assume for this discussion’s sake that the waist is defined as the lumbar spine with associated muscles and tissues?"

Please don't make that assumption. Though many may define the waist as being located in the lumbar area, and my definition includes that, I define the waist differently.

If you mean the lumbar only waist definition, please specify it each time, so as to avoid confusion. Here I am specifically talking about the shoulders as well as the hips.

I see the waist as that part of the torso that bends and turns, or twists.
I define 'neutral' as: the line through the hips and the line through the shoulders are parallel.
I define a waist turn as changing the angle of the shoulder's line to the hip's line. I use both sets of muscles.

Part of what I am getting at here is within the idea of Tai Chi being a whole body exercise.

Maybe try a few of the following.

Application: moving from 'Raise Hands, toward 'White Crane.' The hands move downward, when the left hand passes your midline, keep your hips at the same facing and turn the shoulders left. If you use the lower muscles to include the 'hips right' part you should find your leverage better, and your lower body more stable.

Application: moving from 'White Crane,' towards 'Brush Knee.' Standing 'shoulders left/hips right' your right hand comes down in front, the left hand rises. As the right hand pulls back turn 'shoulders right/hips left.'
If you have someone pull on your right hand from in front of you, you should be able to feel the coordination of your left hip and left leg as the pressure of the pull goes into the ground and increases your root, and you should be able to feel the connection from the left foot to the right hand.

Audi, in terms of the kicks, the hips are not turned in relation to the foot on the ground, in the way that I think you mean. If you're kicking with the right foot, you're standing on the left foot with your left hand back, that would be 'shoulders left/hips right,' this places your right hand at ease in front of you. Again, this is an incomplete description.

I think that I do 'Single Whip' similar to the "new" way discribed by Michael.

In 'Single Whip' (where the right foot is forward initially) at first everything but the left leg turns left. By this I mean everything, and the hips and shoulders are neutral. When the hands reach the furthest point left they come back to the right. When shifting the weight to the right foot, the whole torso turns to the left, the hips and shoulders are neutral. Step out with the left foot, then during the weight shift forward, at one point, the internal pressure is 'shoulders right/hips left, and the hips and shoulders remain neutral.

How are you squaring your hips to the front when shifting your weight back, especially when the shoulders turn away? How do you keep your hips facing forward in 'Cloud hands' if you do not use both sets of muscles?

Without the internal coordination of these muscles people have particular trouble with 'Parting the Wild Horse's Mane' and 'Repulse the Monkey.'
I do this kind of waist turn throughout the long form. There are many, many places where this 'cocking' (that Michael mentions) occurs.

There's more to this.

David
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Postby Audi » Tue Apr 03, 2001 4:24 am

Hi David, Larry, and Michael,

This is a very interesting thread and probably very important for my practice, given the importance of the waist.

Larry, I agree 100% with your distinction between the waist line and the hip line. I have been coming to the same conclusion, and it has forced me to reconsider what "song yao" (loosening the waist) means. I also find that it has "messed up" the "perfection" of my form as I now begin to pay much more attention to the orientation of my torso in various postures and reconsider how I should perform the transitions.

In the recent newsletter, I was gratified to read Yang Jun clarifying that the orientation of the torso was not the same in Ward Off Right, Press/Squeeze, and Push. I had suspected as much from looking at pictures of Yang Cheng Fu, but do not recall being explicitly taught this. I am now busily readjusting how I perform the various transitions, since I no longer have the same amount of waist movement I had before. Chop with Fist is another move where the waist connection and torso facing have become uncertain for me, as far as the back fist is concerned.

Michael, I think I may understand your "new" version of Single Whip, but I am not certain. Is the cocking you are describing connected with an imaginary right hand wrist strike? If so, I do indeed have the same feel as in the end of Roll Back. If, however, you are indeed talking about a follow-through type of feeling, I guess I have deliberately tried to eliminate that sort of feeling, on the basis that it seemed to lack power. Everything I do with my waist is something I feel I could do against substantial pressure and in slow motion. A follow-through feeling seems contrary to this.

David, the more you write, the more you remind me of what Kumar Frantzis was talking about at the one-hour Ba Gua seminar I mentioned in my earlier reply. Please do not take this as a criticism, because I mean it as quite the opposite. While Mr. Frantzis showed a clear love of T'ai Chi, he seemed definitely to imply that he considered Ba Gua to have more sophisticated principles. I think what you are describing is only subtlely different from what I think I am doing, but I think there is a clear difference in intent. Without hearing more from someone who is doing my form, I am leary of adopting your suggestions in the performance of "orthodox" form.
In Cloud Hands, I make no attempt to keep my hips square to the front. Instead, they follow the twist of my waist, but to a lesser degree. I do the same in Parting Wild Horses Mane. When my waist rotates in one direction, there is no part of my body that is attempting a counter rotation. The feeling is that my foot is initiating a vertical spiral throughout my body that remains relatively consistant throughout, even though some parts of my body rotate more than others, as Larry mentioned in his reply. My only point of uncertainty is whether I should, for example, allow the spiral to pull my knees out of strict alignment, or whether I should "freeze" my lower body in order to cultivate stability.

As for whether I use both sets of muscles, I believe I do, but not in the way you describe. Twisting your spine implies that there is some point where there is a vertebra that is neutral, while all the vertebrae above twist one way and all the vertebrae below twist another.

My mental image of what I am doing is trying to rotate all the lower vertebrae in the same direction. The joints below (pelvis, kua, etc.) are carried along by the waist turn, and the joints above are pushed along. In trying to copy your directions, I feel that the movement is initiated much higher than I am used to, and that my upper and lower body are trying to rotate in opposite directions.

As for the kicks, if all T'ai Chi movement is supposed to be guided by the waist, what does the waist do to generate the power of the kicks? As I perform the heel kicks, I do not alter the orientation of my torso and hips. I even wonder whether the straightening of the standing leg is supposed to contribute to the power of the kicks.

Best regards,
Audi
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Postby DavidJ » Wed Apr 04, 2001 1:19 am

Audi,

I am surprised that you weren't taught to keep your hips square in 'Cloud Hands', but this might only be a difference in how it's taught.

I've seen people do 'Parting the Wild Horse's Mane' where the waist turn in not there, so they do them at an angle.

I feel that the movement is initiated in the dan tien, and that's the whole point - to initiate the shoulders turning from the dan tien. Doing the waist turns this way, I don't feel that I'm going in two directions at once, but I know that it can feel that way if you're not used to it, and think of it only that way.

One last description: before 'Lotus Kick' standing on your left foot, your hands are to your right and your right foot is on your left. Here, I stand 'shoulders right/hips left'. In sweeping the hands to the left and the foot to the right I switch quickly to 'shoulders left/hips right'.

There are a few things I could say about the other kicks, and maybe I will if the 'Lotus Kick' application makes sense to anyone. At this point I feel that I'm making hash with these descriptions.

I think that it important to continue what you're doing with the Yang Family. I don't know whether what I do in waist turns is different from what YZD or Yang Jun do or not; that's part of the reason I posted this: to find out. I have only seen a little of what they do, and I liked what I saw. At this point the fact that you are practicing regularly, asking good questions, and have, in the Yang Family, a good model, is all to the good. Stick with it, get a good handle on it.

David
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Postby Audi » Wed Apr 04, 2001 4:32 am

David,

Perhaps language is indeed getting in the way of my understanding. I have enough difficulty understanding what I myself am doing and so should think twice before assuming I can divine what you are doing across cyberspace.

After reconsidering my previous reply, let me amend my statements so that you can better see if my terminology overlaps with yours. First, I have not heard before that waist movement was connected with stability, per se, only the control of movement and "jin." Your statements about your waist movement contributing to your stability made me wonder about other uses for the waist.

In many movements, the amount my shoulders waist and hips turn to one side or another is certainly different. Perhaps, this is what you mean by the hips going one way and shoulders another. You mentioned that White Crane Spreads Wings is one posture in which you have "shoulders right" and "hips left." In this posture, at the pausing point ("ding shi," I think), my waist, shoulder, and hips are all neutral, since no movement is required. As I move into the beginning of Brush Left Knee, my waist turns first, which allows my shoulders to turn more, but which leaves my hips pretty much behind. Larry's point is important for me here.

In Brush Left Knee, Cloud Hands, and the beginning of Roll Back (lu), I try hard not to change the orientation of the knee of my substantial leg relative to the foot, which does indeed restrict the amount of rotation my hips can perform, but the feeling is that my lower body provides a stable platform to allow my waist to pull my torso and hands into position.

In the Lotus Kick, my waist and shoulders do indeed have counter rotations; however, it feels as if my waist is necessary to power the kick and that my arms and shoulders are relatively empty. This is what I mean by saying that my lumbar spinal muscles are really the relevant ones.

Do any of these clarifications help?

Audi
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Postby Michael » Wed Apr 04, 2001 6:42 am

I just got back and find things have gotten very interesting. I can't add much as what Audi describes is pretty much the way I have been taught and practice.

David, what you describe seems to be what I was trying to describe with the "new" single whip. Am I correct that you do the Tung family version? What you have been describing, is that from the Tung Family set or their YCF one, or both. I have not seen them done in person as of yet(I hopefully will this summer in Montana).
From what you describe in the opposite movement of the hips and shoulders i am even more interested in seeing how it is executed. So very often it is hard to accurately transfer words from this medium to physical experiment--seeing is believing/understanding. There are power implications in what you describe that are rather interesting along with the harmonies of opposite sides/high and low.

The "new" version of single whip may indeed be an older one if it is what the Tung family does. I know of another variation that is described in Fu Zhong Wen's book.

Audi, you are right about the follow through feeling toward the left. My word choice was probably poor. My comparison was really concerning intitial contact and shortly afterward. The "follow through" would probably be better described as "continuation". If you can try it from the pitiful description you will see two different type of "energies". Each appropriate to the directions in which they are moving. The version with the emphasis back to the left however is more powerful. My "cocking" could also be described as "loading". Davids description may help in clarification.

Keep this up, I will be very interested where this all goes.
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Postby DavidJ » Wed Apr 04, 2001 5:37 pm

Audi,

The clarifications helped a great deal.

I see the waist affecting stability a couple of ways. In 'Cloud Hands' for example, the way I do them, with the waist facing the same way while stepping and turning the shoulders, allows each foot to be placed once with no adjustment, and allows the legs to be consistant with no torque on the knees. Another way I see it is in the smoothness of the coordination, ie. the leverage I apply with my upper body and arms doesn't "throw off" what my legs are doing, and vice versa. In these cases there's a certain consistancy that I attribute to the use of the waist.

You wrote that I mentioned that in the "ding shi," of 'White Crane' I have "shoulders right" and "hips left."
Actually I have 'shoulders left/hips right' at the 'final posture' of 'White Crane.'

You wrote, "In many movements, the amount my shoulders waist and hips turn to one side or another is certainly different. Perhaps, this is what you mean by the hips going one way and shoulders another."
You're on the right course with this, as this is part of what I mean. It's HOW that "amount my shoulders waist and hips turn to one side or another" is done, ie which muscles are used.
You mentioned, "As I move into the beginning of Brush Left Knee, my waist turns first, which allows my shoulders to turn more, but which leaves my hips pretty much behind." That's exactly it. Though your hips are indeed left "pretty much behind," that's where the leverage is, kind of like holding a bottle still with one hand and unscrewing the top with the other. The hand holding the bottle won't wander too far if you put no effort into it, but you can brace the bottle or twist that hand and greatly increase the energy applied to the bottle top. The picture of bracing the bottle fits the stability idea, and also points to those applications where the hips are not moving at all, but the muscles in the area are contributing torque.

Michael, Yes I do the Tung Family version. You are right about the "new" 'Single Whip' being old. There are videos that can clarify this. This 'Single Whip' Tung Kai Ying can be seen doing on his tape, and it is much the same as the single whip that his father Tung Hu ling, and his grandfather Tung Ying Chieh, can be seen doing on the "Dong Family History" tape. Tung Ying Chieh learned from Yang Chen Fu, so if I were to guess, I'd say that it is fairly likely that YCF did single whip this way at least some of the time.

Most of the applications that I've seen for 'Single Whip' are for dealing with two opponents. Michael notes two different energies and directions, perhaps seeing them applied to two different problems helps.

I should have titled this thread, "The waist is a terrible thing to mind." Image

David
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Apr 04, 2001 8:46 pm

I know the thread is titled waist turns but one thought that occurs to me reading this is that sometimes it sounds like the only waist movement is a kind of twist, where the upper and lower body move in opposition or the lower stays while the upper turns, etc. The waist can also move and come into play by bending or rocking forward/backward, or initiating a wave through the body with a slight bending or rocking motion. The kind of force generated by this looks a lot like the way very small children use their waist in a toy called an 'exer-saucer' if you have ever seen that. There are some good video clips of Vincent Chu, I think, doing some push applications on the Chu Gin Soon website which utilize this type of waist movement.
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Postby DavidJ » Sat Apr 07, 2001 12:49 am

Hi Jerry,

Trying to describe these aspects of waist usage is a real challenge. Once I saw the footage you mentioned, the descrption you gave was good. Pictures help a great deal...if only we could trade film clips! HA! I've no idea what I look like nowadays.

The footage at http://www.cnnservicesys.com/users/karenvs/phils/phils.htm
is interesting. I can see how he uses his waist as you described. Part of what I really like about the footage is how relaxed he is.

Thanks for the tip.

David
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Postby Audi » Sun Apr 08, 2001 5:15 pm

Hi Jerry and David,

Jerry, thank you ever so much about adding this component of waist movement. I have always suspected this, since so many postures do not involve significant rotation of the body, but frankly have never heard it said forthrightly.

Do you or others have any comment about how this bending/rocking motion of the waist relates either to the positioning of the coccyx (wei lu) or adhering qi to the spine? I find that movement in my coccyx (or altering the tilt of my pelvis) is important for natural movement in my form. I have been reticent about this, however, because so many talk about keeping the wei lu vertical that I am reluctant to see movement at this point as an important source of movement energy. I do feel that it is important not to allow the coccyx to point (downward and) rearward, especially while absorbing energy or emitting it, but alternating between neutral and "curling under (and forward)" seems good. Any comments?

David, thanks for the link to the footage, which was very intersting. I was wondering if you (or anyone else) had any opinion on the spinal alignment Vincent Chu uses. In my opinion, his applications illustrate very well the dynamics of having a slight forward lean in applying power to the front. I have difficulty, however, imagining the same sequences with a spine that does not depart from a vertical line.

I would also like to note that Vincent Chu has an apparent lean during the 270 degree transitions in Fair Lady Works the Shuttles. I note this for several reasons: (1) on the surface at least, this is a clear departure from all T'ai Chi theory I have read or heard in any style, (2) his execution is very natural and relaxed, (3) the spinal bend he shows seems to store "jin" in the curve that is clearly expressed at the culmination of the strike, and (4) the spinal bend also appears to reduce his vulnerability in what could be viewed as a blind turn into any opponent.

In all, it looks to me like someone who feels the appropriateness of what he is doing, rather than artificially trying to copy a standard divorced from actual usage. I am stating this not to imply that all T'ai Chi practioners should now copy Vincent Shu's details, but rather to suggest some of the possible dangers of reading some of the classics too rigidly or too literally, without reference to one's own internal energy dynamics.

Respectfully,
Audi
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Postby JerryKarin » Mon Apr 09, 2001 12:34 am

Thanks David for the link. Those are exactly the pics I was thinking about. I showed the first of Vincent's 'push' application clips to Yang Jun once and Yang Jun agreed with me that he was not using muscle or juo li.

A couple of years ago at the New York seminar Yang Zhenduo demonstrated an fast a number of times for us. I had the good fortune to be well positioned to see it and had a small satori then about an jing. That alone was worth the price of the seminar.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 04-08-2001).]
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