First rule of self defense

Postby Bob3 » Sun Apr 15, 2001 12:14 am

Michael, what you say is correct up to a point. My teacher has said that working harder is not effective. One needs to practice and listen to the body. Mental knowledge is helpful to analyze what might be going on, but it is a hindrence when performing Tai Chi itself. The first principle is to relax and relax the whole body including the mind. At that point the mind can be free to listen to the body without interruption of thought.

Practicing single moves is very helpful to understanding the mechanics and energies involved. I have been practicing some of the movements in isolation and find that I can play with the body position and energy involved more intensely. Also, then when doing a set, there is some familiarity when encountering a movement that has been practiced by itself.

The other thing that can help with understanding is to practice at different speeds. From very slow to very fast, always completing each movement. Very slow motion requires some extra attention to every body part's participation in the move. Very fast motion takes some practice to ensure that the body is reacting the same going fast as when going slow, and trying to stay totally relaxed in the process and not use force. By varying the speed of the form in this way, when performed at a "normal" pace, the body remembers better what is required and this frees the mind to listen more clearly. Practice in this way also frees the performance from being "in a rut" when constantly moving at the same pace. This allows the mind to pay more attention to all the parts and joints of the body and enhance the flow of energy.
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Postby Michael » Tue Apr 17, 2001 2:25 pm

Bob3,

I could not agree more with what you say. My use of "harder" actually just means more practice each day. If one does two sets...do three, add some single movement work if you do not do any, do a few more minutes of standing and/or sitting meditation,....
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Postby DavidJ » Thu Apr 19, 2001 8:58 pm

Hi Audi, NickC, Bob3, Michael,

I like your posts.

Concerning special chi claims, and things related to the paranormal: although I might acknowledge the existence of the talents that experimenters have shown statistically, I don't fully accept anything that I haven't experienced.

Michael wrote > If you can create the proper structure, find what they call "sung", and practice hard and practice more, it will teach you all. <

When I was a kid when tests were given and grades were handed out, there always seemed to be an underlying assumption: "This is what you are, and this is all you'll ever be." The idea of developing, of increasing your ability in one area or another, was almost totally absent. The idea that anyone could figure anything out for themselves seemed to be excluded.

In much the same way, people get labeled as clumsy or inept, or as a slow learners, as though that is in an inborn trait. To me this lack of understanding of the truly prodigious capabilities that we have for growth is antithical to being human. We all learn at different rates. And, if you're like me, you too may have an excellent capacity for making mistakes. All things being equal, you are as capable as the next person. Believe in yourself.

What Michael says here is, to me, extremely important. As you get a handle on the structure, your body will show you the way to develop.

It is my experience that if you do what Michael and Bob3 are talking about, and listen to your body, your body will teach you. Be patient and practice intelligently and the answers will come.

In reference to comments about the mind:

In biofeedback training, people who get migraine headaches are taught to pretend that they are warming their hands over a fire. Apparently the development in our species of our manual dexterity coincided with the development of the neocortical area of the brain, so that blood flow in the hands and the brain are linked.

By imagining our hands warming, we can actually increase the blood flow in them (and in our brains) and increase the temperature of the skin. This is measureable. By bringing awareness to every part of our bodies we can more easily become "sung."

This, in part, is one of the 'secrets' of Tai Chi. Bring your mind with you where ever you go. Don't leave home without it. Image

David


[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 04-19-2001).]
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Postby Kate » Fri Apr 20, 2001 12:11 am

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Michael:
Michael said
"...It is always better to LET something happen than to MAKE something happen. You can change something that is happening, but when you initiate it is the other person who has the opportunity to change what you have done. How many times have wished we had not opened our big mouth? You can't take it back. "...
I'm new to this board as well as to the art, but I'm not sure that, when looking at the big picture, it is better to "LET something happen than to MAKE something happen". From a different perspective (call it spiritual / practical ... whatever), the question may be "do we want to Control our destiny, and the environment in which we and our loved ones exist ... or do we want to be "victims" of circumstance, simply reacting to whatever life / the circumstance provides / sends us...?"

Just a thought
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Postby Michael » Fri Apr 20, 2001 3:21 am

Kate,

I understand your viewpoint. When i say not to MAKE something happen, i mean not to FORCE things. I probably should have made that more clear. It comes from taoist philosophy.
By making oneself prominent in a situation, allowing your will and opinion to be the driving force, you put yourself in the position to receive credit and blame, and most likely put a target on your back. It is better to work quietly("Let") than loudly ("Make"). More good comes from it, for yourself and for others. This is a pretty deep subject, I leave it here.

In taiji "combat", initiating the action is "forcing" -- not allowing the other to intiate and commit so you can respond ("Letting" it happen) appropriately. I hope i have explained myself better. In the same vein, the taoist principle of NOT FORCING or not using more force than necessary in taiji are exactly the same.

The most important thing in all life's situations, whether combat, pushing someone out of the way of danger....it is timing. If we don't recognize the moment to act, we end up forcing or being late. Philosphy or martial arts, we create a frame of mind that allows us to respond appropriately at the right time-- sung, control of emotions, flexibility in the body and in ones thinking. this is what we train to accomplish all we want to.

Thanks Kate, you gave me much to think about tonight.

David, I like your example of the bio feedback method. I used to have migraines and did a similiar technique. I imagined a ring of fire closing around me. I was able to raise the temperature five to seven or more degrees on my skins surface. i had not thought of it for a long time. nice.

[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 04-19-2001).]
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Postby Michael » Fri Apr 20, 2001 10:00 pm

Just to put it together in words other than mine...this is the highest level of attainment, which taiji martial and Taoist philosophical training aspires to.

"Indeed, to be able to do something before it exists, sense something before it becomes active, see something before it sprouts, are three abilities which develop interdependantly. Then nothing is sensed but is comprehended, nothing is undertaken without response, nowhere does one go without benefit."

From The Book of Balance and Harmony
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Postby DavidJ » Mon Apr 23, 2001 9:10 pm

Hi Bob3,

I agree about staying out of that rut. I think that it is important that to a certain extent we should continually challange our bodies by varying some of what we do.

Regarding doing the long form at different speeds, I read the following advice from a master, I don't remember whom: Don't do it so slowly that you lose the flow, and don't do it so quickly that you lose the structure.

There is a "secret" here: the slower you can go, the faster you can go. (This assumes that you work on both ends of the spectrum at the same time.)

Generally I take 35 to 45 minutes for the long form. Occasionally I also do sets that take an hour and a half, an hour and 5 minutes, half an hour, 20 minutes,10 minutes, and faster. If I want to work regularly at a pace slower than the hour and 5 minute pace, I don't do the whole set at one time, but will complete it over maybe a week's time.

I would be very interested in hearing the pace(s) that everybody here does. And I'd like to know what YZD and Yang Jun recommend.

Regards,

David
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Apr 24, 2001 6:25 am

Greetings Kate,

You wrote:

‘I'm new to this board as well as to the art, but I'm not sure that, when looking at the big picture, it is better to "LET something happen than to MAKE something happen". From a different perspective (call it spiritual / practical ... whatever), the question may be "do we want to Control our destiny, and the environment in which we and our loved ones exist ... or do we want to be "victims" of circumstance, simply reacting to whatever life / the circumstance provides / sends us...?" ’


This really gets to the core—not only to the core of the way taijiquan works, but also to the core of some perennial philosophical issues in Chinese thinking. The taijiquan classics state that the foundation of the art is to “yield to the initiative of the other.” This does not mean relinquishing control, nor does it mean becoming a victim. It means rather to be attentively engaged and responsive to the other’s movements. A beautiful articulation of this notion can be found in an early Han text called the Huainanzi, compilied around 139 B.C. There is a discussion there of something called “coming behind.” The text explains:

“By ‘coming behind’ is not mean being stagnant, numb, and inert. Rather, it means putting store in always being in accord with that which is necessarily so, and being appropriate to the moment. When a person grasps the principles of dao and uses them to match change, then she controls others whether she is in the lead or in the rear. Why is this? Because she does not let go of the means to control others, giving others no chance of controlling her.” (trans. D.C. Lau and Roger Ames, Yuan Dao: Tracing Dao to Its Source, p. 101)

The same text likens taking the initiative, or taking the lead, as being “a target which attracts the arrows, taking them away from those coming behind.”

So, sometimes “making things happen” is precisely what makes one a victim. Conversely, one can “let things happen,” yet still be in control. Taijiquan is a way to learn how it’s done.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby ken » Tue Apr 24, 2001 4:07 pm

Thank you Louis for a most cogent explanation of "letting things happen" and "come from behind." Although I have not heard it put forth these ways before, it does present what I feel a valid philosphy.

One need not take the lead and potentially escalate matters and become a target in order to control and direct a situation. Rather, one need only position oneself appropriately to take advantage of the situation that may develop.

A simple military example will demonstrate this principle. A situation of "leading" or "making" something happen would be to charge an opponent's position. This can often lead to great loss on the part of the ones that are "making" the event come about. A situation of "letting" or "coming behind" would be to prepare one's own forces so at to be in a position to ambush the opponent if the situation develops where such action can be used to one's own advantage. In the latter situation, the one "letting" things happen remains in control of the situation, being able to either engage the opponent or to withdraw, whatever is more beneficial.

It is not a matter of passivity, but is more a matter of active anticipation. The key is in preparing the assets one has at hand (be it troops, personal skills, or one's relationship to one's surroundings) in a manner in which they can be deployed in the most appropriate manner to deal with the threat that develops. The decision of whether and when to commit to the use of force may become a matter of delicate timing, but the decision that has more correctness is likely to be the one that is made after things have already happened such that dispite one's effort to the contrary there is little or no alternative to the use of force.

Just a few passing thoughts, that I hope contribute to the discussion.

Ken
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Postby Michael » Fri Apr 27, 2001 2:23 pm

Thanks Louis, that is THE qoute that I had wanted to use but could not remember where to find it.

To be in control of the changes says it all. As change occurs one changes with it, therefore adapting and remaining in charge. It is when we do not recognize the changes and/or cannot adapt that we tend to take the initiative (forcing). Here when we lose control of a situation.

Recognition/understanding/timing/appropriate response IS (not "are") the key to all situations. The Sun Zi example is very good. Note that often what seems to be an intiative to an observer is really a response--if your timing is impeccable.



[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 04-27-2001).]
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Postby Bob3 » Sat Apr 28, 2001 12:27 am

Hi DavidJ,

I do agree mostly with your thoughts on the speed of the form. Usually, when I practice, I complete a long form in about 20 minutes. At that speed, I can control the form, breathing and flow of energy at the same time. Sometimes, I also do the form very slowly, taking up to an hour to complete the form. At this pace, breathing can usually not be coordinated with the movement. However, at the slow pace, there is greater control of each movement, and a challenge to remain relaxed throughout. I have found it much harder to perform moves slowly, because each movement takes that much more control over a short distance. Moving slowly does allow one to also move fast, albeit in a controlled manner, completing each movement before going to the next. Currently, I can complete the whole form in about 7 minutes, when moving fast with control. Also, I found that fast movement is difficult to synchronize with breathing, but it is becoming easier to do so.
After taking some workshops with Master Gao Fu, I am also working on connecting internal movement of the dan tien with the external movements. This is also a challenge, to feel the movement of the form, and its opposite balancing movement, all coordinated with the movement of the dan tien. So much to work on and improve, with so little time to devote to such practice!
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Postby ken » Tue May 01, 2001 3:36 pm

I have been thinking on the topic of "letting" rather than "forcing," and I am a little unsure as to how that may reconcile with tai chi saber. Although I am relatively new to the saber form, it stikes me as being an aggressive form. In a some of the positions (such as the transition into white crane), it appears to be taking the initiative rather than letting things happen. How do some of the more experienced players view the compatiability of the letting things happen with the saber form?
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Postby DavidJ » Fri May 11, 2001 11:12 pm

Hi Bob3,

Thank you for answering my question.

The 7 minute pace, with control, shows good progress.

I tried a 7 minute set, and I enjoyed the pace. Sometimes, at similar speeds I like to get rhythmic, and other times I hold a steady pace. It's a good study for me.

I'm glad you bought up breathing because breathing is important.

I think that two general ideas apply to breathing.
The first is to breathe. Holding your breath while exerting effort, as some in our culture do, is bad for the heart, according to all the literature I've read on it. And I think that it's easy to see that doing so puts pressure on the heart.
The second is not force the breath.

I think that breathing in, filling our lungs with air, is similar to filling a glass with water, from the bottom up. The diaphragm does most of the work, but other muscles, like the intercostals, come into play.

When I was beginning to learn Tai Chi I was told some general guidelines for aligning breathing with the form: hands go out - exhale, hands come in - inhale, hands go down - exhale, hands go up - inhale. I wondered at the time what I should do if one hand went up and out, and the other went down and in. Image

I was also told not to try to align the breathing for at least a year. Then I was told that by the time I had a good handle on the long form, if I practiced regularly, the movements and the breathing would align themselves.
Allowing the alignment to happen, and not interfering with your body's calling for oxygen, I think is wise.
Don't worry about it, it can take care of itself.

For the slower speeds: over time the breathing and control will come, and so will the strength it takes to move at a snails pace. I've seen an animal called a slow loris. It's arboreal and it's amazing, moving at pace similar to an hour-and-a-half to two-hour long form, just climbing a tree. Strong little guy!

Regards,

DavidJ
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Postby Audi » Tue May 15, 2001 5:27 am

Hi David,

I normally do the hand form in about 25 minutes. Whenever I have tried to double the speed of the form, I lose all feel for the individual posture definitions or for an energy interchange with my imaginary opponent. I have never seen the long form done at a consciously fast pace and frankly would be very curious to see what this looks like.

Best regards,
Audi
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Postby DavidJ » Mon May 21, 2001 8:35 pm

Hi Audi,

Doing the movements at different paces takes training, and gradual development is the key.

You may have the ability to run the mile in 4 minutes, but without training up to that speed and distance, it might well seem impossible if you just tried it.

If you spent some time doing the long form, or parts of it, a little bit slower and a little bit faster, your capacity would grow. Eventually you could doing the set in, say, 10 minutes, and having it be structurally sound and containing the energy that you want.

Generally speaking, the slower you can go the faster you can go.

All things being equal, doing the form faster differs from the 20-45 minute pace in that there can be quite a bit more momentum associated with the movements. It takes more energy to accelerate and deccelerate.

Concerning development in general, I have an expression, "Anything I can do I can do better."

I hope this clarifies things a little.

David J


[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 05-22-2001).]
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