I have been using a method of mental imaging that has been enormously helpful to me in maintaining balance in the form, particularly in the separation of right and left foot, and the sole kicks, and the lotus kick.
I imagine a heavy ball (my first image was of a bowling ball) positioned in the dantian area. This ball has a vertical axis about which it rotates. When I weight my left foot, the ball begins to rotate left. When I shift to a right foot weighting, the ball immediately begins to rotate right.
I carry this imaging throughout the form. During Grasp the Bird’s Tail, for example, the heavy ball attains little rotational velocity, but I do imagine it to be spinning alternately right and left as I weight those sides of my body.
Later in the form, as I ‘rise up’ for the separation of right foot, I imagine the leftward turning heavy ball to ‘disengage from the drive’, so to speak, and then spin freely about the vertical axis at a rather rapid rate. This becomes, for me, an internal gyroscope which makes the kick more stable and comfortable.
I am amazed how much this mental imaging has helped me throughout the entire form. I see the following advantages:
1. The mental process forces one to concentrate on and distinguish not only which side is weighted, but also to ‘allow’ the ball to spin with a momentum according to the degree of ‘weightedness’.
2. Although the gyroscope effect is most noticeable during the time when one foot is lifted off the ground and is in transition to be placed in another spot, it has been helpful to also imagine this effect when both feet are on the ground, (for example during the transition of lu through ji, etc.).
3. One can also imagine that the ball becomes heavier with every breath, facilitating a ‘heavy’ lower body. I initially imagined a small bowling ball in order to easily image the weight I wanted to feel. In the future I intend to play with imagining the ball to become heavier and smaller (a lead grapefruit?), and eventually by degrees ever smaller and heavier. (A black hole in the dantian?
I would like to know if anyone else has successfully used mental images of this type.
(By the way, I do not pretend that any of this has anything to do with dantian rotation, which I have heard referred to in relation to the Chen style. I know nothing about the topic.)