Mind Intention in Taijiquan

Postby psalchemist » Fri Mar 19, 2004 10:55 pm

Greetings Kalamondin,

It's a pleasure to address your posting.

You wrote,
<<I'm wondering if anyone can shed light on the relationship of strong emotion, particularly anger, to tai chi theory and practice.>>Kalamondin

Although I have nothing, really, to contribute to the concept, I cannot assist you with answers, I find it all very interesting.
Definitely something to consider when I work on my forms. It is not something I HAD considered before. Interesting idea. Image


<<I have been told that it is a bad idea to practice when angry, in much the same way that it's bad too practice during a lightning storm (the energy is too wild, the body cannot process it--for lightning, anyway). (Sorry, can't remember my source.)>> Kalamondin

Hmmm...That is a very intriguing idea.
I have also never heard of this...Do you have anything more to contribute on the subject?

<<Anger can cause physical tension and speed up the chi flow.>>

Now theres an interesting concept...speed up the Qi flow...May I inquire from where you have you gleaned that issuance?

Do you know more concerning the speed of Qi, personally?

Are you saying that tension works on the meridien system as it does on a water hose...tension-narrowing the tube and thereby intensifying the flow. ???

I am interested in any information you may be aware of concerning momentum of Qi...and theories on why it is slowed down or speeded up.

Thank you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby psalchemist » Fri Mar 19, 2004 11:08 pm

Greetings Audi,

<<Psalchemist, let me address some of your points. If I missed something important, let me know. You first asked about spinal curves. I fear I may have made a hash of this. As I understand it, almost all the Taiji commentators agree that the spine should remain straight. I have been told that a noted practitioner in the U.S., Zhang Lu-Ping, advised overt bowing and unbowing of the spine to store and issue power, respectively; however, he is the only one I have heard of who advocated this and I only understand a little about his purported reasoning and training method.
In the T’ai Chi Boxing Chronicle, Kuo Lien-Ying differentiates between the “back” of the bow and the “handle” of the bow, but I do not fully understand the significance of his terms. I think he means that the “back” is the part that “bends” and stores energy, where as the handle is the anchor point that makes this possible. The spine is described as the “handle” of the arm and body bows and thus does not itself bend. According to Kuo, it stores energy and “pulls the bow” primarily by “revolving” (rotating?). In order for “Qi to stick to it,” it must be straight.
As for other body parts, my own view is that curves and straight lines are seen not only in their shape, but also in how they move through space. Consider, for instance, a rod and reel>>AUDI


<<I also would hesitate to look for a simple relationship between bends in the body and power. Certainly, the classics talk about storing energy in curves and releasing it in straight lines, but I do not think this translates directly into body shapes. For instance, in the manner in which the Push posture is performed, as taught by the Yangs, I would not think that the arms are ideally positioned to contribute Jin until one has an opportunity to unbend the elbows somewhat towards the end of the posture. On the other hand, they begin the “push” in a position where they are still very stable and able to support the Jin generated by the legs. This position prevents your elbows from constituting a weak point in the posture. As you use you lower body and spine to get the opponent in motion, the arms can then add their Jin on top of this. For me, the feeling is that the Jin is integrated throughout the form and I do not consciously isolate any muscle groups; however, logically I think the body mechanics probably work out this way.>>AUDI


<<I think that the Jin generated by the various parts of the body varies from moment to moment and that this is one of the reasons we practice slowly. By moving slowly, we begin to appreciate that the limbs work as a whole and that the mind cannot focus on one particular set of muscles to the exclusion of other ones. In other words, there is no one right way to position or hold a particular joint or limb that works for all circumstances. For instance, even the shoulders and elbows must rise on occasion. Your overall feeling of circulating Jin will remain constant overall, but will vary within each joint.>>AUDI

<<The whole notion of curves storing energy and straight lines emitting energy is a rather deep topic that probably requires its own thread. If you are interested in this, you may want to start one.>>AUDI

THANK YOU AUDI...YES, I AM JUST BEGINNING TO REALIZE THE MODERN AND PROFOUND NATURE OF SOME OF/ALL OF THE TAIJIQUAN PHILOSOPHIES...

THANK YOU FOR YOUR REFERENCED INSIGHTS AND OPINIONS INTO CURVED AND STRAIGHT IDEOLOGY.

DEFINITELY SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT...MAYBE I WILL START A THREAD...STRAIGHT AND CURVED....IT DOES CERTAINLY SEEM AS COMPLICATED AS YOU ALLUDE


<<You asked whether I was referring exclusively to “gravity” when I mentioned the “impersonal forces of nature.” Actually, as I believe I have posted before, I think that the direct importance of gravity can easily be overstressed. Our limbs generally exert more force on the local interchange of energy than gravity. I was referring to the fact that energy has a tendency (a meaning included in “Shi”) to travel in particular patterns. This is one of the meanings I understand to be inherent in the philosophical term “Li3” (which means something like “cosmic order.”) This is independent of one’s will or wishes.
Water flows downward. Fire burns upward. Joints open and close within certain parameters. Tendons have great flexibility, while bones have almost none. Revolving circles spin off or gather in energy in straight-line “tangents.” If you move the revolving circles along their axes at right angles to the plane of revolution, you can reel energy off in spirals. All these relationships exist independently of one’s mind; however, one’s mind can design relationships that harness these realities. If you move in accord with these principles, you move according to the Dao and according to the doctrine of wu2wei2. The universe helps accomplish your movement. If you do not move in accord with these principles, your movement can never be perfect or “effortless.” >>AUDI

REELING CIRCLES GATHERING FROM STRAIGHT TANGENTS, AND SPINNING OFF IN SPIRALS...A NATURAL CONCEPT...THAT'S VERY INTERESTING INDEED.

VERY INFORMATIVE INSTRUCTION IN ITSELF.

THANK YOU,
BEST REGARDS,
PSALCHEMIST.
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Postby Kalamondin » Tue Mar 23, 2004 12:36 am

Hi Psalchemist,

You asked if I had anything more to say about practicing during lightning storms.

Well, IIRC, it’s like this, and I’m sure you know this part already: the atmosphere is highly charged with ions during lightning storms. When the electric potential reaches a certain threshold, it discharges in the form of lightning. We are affected by the energy/chi of the storm ourselves. I’m not saying that electricity and chi are interchangeable, but I do think that electricity and other manifestations of energy like light, heat, etc. can be used to gauge chi to a limited extent, without being chi themselves. Now, when we are affected by a storm we can feel it in different ways. One might feel a “quickening of the blood:” excitement, an elevated heart rate, anticipation, or the hair on the arms standing on end in response to the electricity in the air.

Now, when practicing tai chi, one of the main principles is to relax. It’s very, very hard to do this if you are experiencing any of the above. Moreover, there are startling lightning flashes, the thunder is crashing, and if you’re outside, there’s the potential for death--all of which are antithetical to relaxation.

One can make the analogy that the body’s meridian system is like a complicated electrical circuit. (See Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis of Bioenergy Therapies
by James L., Ph.D. Oschman ,Candace, Ph.D. Pert) If the meridians are the wires, then the acupuncture points are the resistors. In fact the acupuncture points actually are areas of lower electrical conductivity. This is where my understanding gets foggy, but I think the body lacks the equivalent of fuses, since if the energy stops, you die (but the body does have multiple back up systems). So, in a storm, it may be the case that the potential energy built up around you can be enough to disrupt your system if you are deliberately trying to bring it into your body during tai chi. (Psalchemist, I’m not even saying you, personally, I just got tired of the older “one could” construction and am now using “you” as a third person construction, not a second.) Practicing tai chi correctly naturally gathers chi into the body, much like re-charging a battery. It’s possible that the transition of chi and electricity in the air passing through the body could be enough to disrupt the chi, even without actually getting struck by lightning.

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Kalamondin:<<Anger can cause physical tension and speed up the chi flow.>>

Psalchemist: Now theres an interesting concept...speed up the Qi flow...May I inquire from where you have you gleaned that issuance?

K: It’s personal experience on that one. I’ve just found that when I’m angry there’s a real temptation to practice more quickly, that if I allow my chi to move me, it goes very fast, but it doesn’t go smoothly. If you think about what it’s like to be angry, you may know what I’m talking about. Our culture has terms that describe some of anger’s manifestations like: fast and furious, frantic, flustered. You might have noticed how being angry can make people’s movements short and jerky—knocking things over by accident, throwing things, driving erratically, making spur of the moment decisions—there’s the saying “act in haste, repent at leisure.”

There’s a tendency for short, abrupt movements that indicate that the chi isn’t flowing smoothly. If I really give in to the impulse to let my chi do what ever it wants when I’m angry, I might end up punching the crap out of something soft and inanimate. It’s a trick to stay relaxed enough not to hurt myself. Anger really makes me tense. I often end up wrenching or spraining something anyway b/c I’m unable to adhere to the principles and my technique goes to pot, so I don’t recommend it at all!

P: Do you know more concerning the speed of Qi, personally?
I am interested in any information you may be aware of concerning momentum of Qi...and theories on why it is slowed down or speeded up.

K: I know a little bit, but I’m just a beginner at this—more at the level of observing what’s going on than able to control this consistently—but I have noticed that thinking about doing something a certain way can have a strong effect on making it happen. Say, for example, you want your movements to go more smoothly. Instead of concentrating very hard on this with all your mental power (a kind of clenching or grasping energy), try setting the intention (yi) that it is already so, that your form is already smooth and effortless, and then let your driven, grasping mind go on vacation while the smoothness just happens. You may experience that it works…for a little bit until you get excited that it’s working and try to examine the experience to find out why it’s working and then it collapses until you can let things happen of their own accord again.

I think I’ve heard that chi is moves more slowly when you are sick, tired, or old, and that it moves more quickly when you are healthy, lively, and young. Or maybe that was just the quantity not the speed? I think that the cumulative effect of practicing tai chi naturally speeds it up in addition to increasing the quantity and quality of the chi. I wouldn’t think about trying to increase the speed of the chi during practice. Let it flow as it wants until you understand it internally. I think it is dangerous to accelerate the chi without being properly prepared—and like love, you’ll know it when you feel it. Sorry, let me try to explain further.

So, you’ve probably heard the analogy of the meridians as highways, and blocked chi as a traffic jam, etc. The average tai chi practitioner just isn’t very relaxed. Tai chi is definitely relaxing, but the level of relaxation necessary to do fa-jing safely is hard to get to and maintain. So, if you think of blockages as obstructions on the meridian freeway, it makes sense that you don’t want to go too fast until these are removed (through relaxation and regular practice). When you are completely relaxed, the chi won’t have anything in the way, and will naturally be able to handle freeway (or Autobahn!) speeds without difficulty. If you try to go too fast too soon, well, that’s just asking for an 18-car pile up. But the more relaxed you are, the more you’ll understand this on a personal experiential level. You’ll get it because you’ll be able to feel it, or see it, or whatever your preferred mode of sensing is.

Back to anger for a moment in light of the car analogy: being angry is like stomping on the accelerator. It’s hard to control your vehicle at high speeds and you’re more likely to crash into something (like a chi blockage).

P: Are you saying that tension works on the meridien system as it does on a water hose...tension-narrowing the tube and thereby intensifying the flow. ???

K: No, I would say that tension constricts the energy flow instead of intensifying it. Much like a kink in a water hose—or more accurately, like stepping on it or parking your car on it. The resulting energy is weakened, if it gets through at all—like water trickling out one end and the water stopped at the other. This can be like water growing stagnant in a blocked hose. If you are trying to fa-jing through a chi blockage/kinked hose, this might result in something like a leak at the hose-faucet junction, or worse yet, a leaking pipe inside your house. The chi is forced somewhere it’s not supposed to go, it’s wasted, and can damage whatever it spills over into.

Another analogy could be that forcing chi through a blockage on a meridian might be more like the flash flood that comes after a dam breaks. I’m on the verge of being out of my element here—I hope that others can elucidate more.

You mentioned “narrowing the tube and thereby intensifying the flow.” I have read about something like this, but to my knowledge it can only happen in the absence of tension. Waysun Liao talks about this in his translation “T’ai Chi Classics.” He has a section on condensing energy into the bone marrow that sounds something like what you mentioned. I think you would find his section on kinds of energy fascinating. I read it a long time ago and most of it was beyond me. I understand a little more now, but much of it I still don’t understand.

I hope I’ve helped a little. My ability to explain is hampered by my relatively rudimentary understanding of these things. I certainly hope that you and others will correct me where I am wrong. I also hope you won’t be offended by my consistent use of the word “you” when describing mistakes, errors, etc.. Again, I don’t really mean you, Psalchemist, at all—it’s just easier for me to think that way.

Thanks for raising those questions, it was good for me to think about them.

Kalamondin
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Mar 23, 2004 3:32 am

Greetings Kalamondin,

Thank you so much for addressing my queries with your thorough and informative post.

You have certainly assisted in enlightening, developing and reinforcing some of my impressions of these matters.
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About lightning storms, you wrote:
<<..the atmosphere is highly charged with ions during lightning storms. When the electric potential reaches a certain threshold, it discharges in the form of lightning. We are affected by the energy/chi of the storm ourselves. Now, when we are affected by a storm we can feel it in different ways. One might feel a “quickening of the blood:” excitement, an elevated heart rate, anticipation, or the hair on the arms standing on end in response to the electricity in the air. Now, when practicing tai chi, one of the main principles is to relax. It’s very, very hard to do this if you are experiencing any of the above. Moreover, there are startling lightning flashes, the thunder is crashing, and if you’re outside, there’s the potential for death--all of which are antithetical to relaxation...
...So, in a storm, it may be the case that the potential energy built up around you can be enough to disrupt your system if you are deliberately trying to bring it into your body during tai chi.“Practicing tai chi correctly naturally gathers chi into the body, much like re-charging a battery. It’s possible that the transition of chi and electricity in the air passing through the body could be enough to disrupt the chi, even without actually getting struck by lightning...>>K


Well explained.

Relaxation deprivation and Energy disturbance...

So, in essence we are inhaling the energy of the storm in the air, as we do with the Qi in the air?...Fascinating.

Very interesting comparisons...Something I will definitely ponder.

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<<One can make the analogy that the body’s meridian system is like a complicated electrical circuit. (See Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis of Bioenergy Therapies
by James L., Ph.D. Oschman ,Candace, Ph.D. Pert) If the meridians are the wires, then the acupuncture points are the resistors. In fact the acupuncture points actually are areas of lower electrical conductivity.>>K


That is something novel to my ear..."Acupuncture points as areas of LOWER conductivity...as resistors...Great analogy.

Just as using gold tipped patch cords improves sound quality on a stereo, by lowering the resistance at the junction?

So...moreover it is the state of the actual points which is pertinent...not the meridian channels themselves...thought expanding.

I had considered these points as simply continuing upon the meridian line...the resistor concept lacking...Thanks for highlighting that distinction.

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Kalamondin:<<Anger can cause physical tension and speed up the chi flow.>>

Psalchemist: Now theres an interesting concept...speed up the Qi flow...May I inquire from where you have you gleaned that issuance?

K: It’s personal experience on that one. I’ve just found that when I’m angry there’s a real temptation to practice more quickly, that if I allow my chi to move me, it goes very fast, but it doesn’t go smoothly. If you think about what it’s like to be angry, you may know what I’m talking about. Our culture has terms that describe some of anger’s manifestations like: fast and furious, frantic, flustered. You might have noticed how being angry can make people’s movements short and jerky-knocking things over by accident, throwing things, driving erratically, making spur of the moment decisions-there’s the saying “act in haste, repent at leisure.”
There’s a tendency for short, abrupt movements that indicate that the chi isn’t flowing smoothly. If I really give in to the impulse to let my chi do what ever it wants when I’m angry, I might end up punching the crap out of something soft and inanimate. It’s a trick to stay relaxed enough not to hurt myself. Anger really makes me tense. I often end up wrenching or spraining something anyway b/c I’m unable to adhere to the principles and my technique goes to pot, so I don’t recommend it at all!>>K

Thanks for providing your personal knowledge and experience stressing heed against strong emotion while engaged in Taijiquan.

Although I've no experience while performing the form "angry", per se, I have experienced the "fast and furious, frantic, flustered--*jerkiness* " you allude to...nerves the cause, rather than anger...has the exact same effect...form speeds up substantially etc..etc...

Have not found a cure for it yet, though...Tried everything known to man...though I have never hurt myself, my form does dissintegrate, root is lost etc...etc...not an effective manner to train, I agree.

So you believe that the Qi is also revved up faster when the body is prompted or compelled to move faster?

I had not thought of that!...Sometimes we make thinks more complicated than they are...That could very well be. Image

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<<I think I’ve heard that chi moves more slowly when you are sick, tired, or old, and that it moves more quickly when you are healthy, lively, and young.
Or maybe that was just the quantity not the speed?
I think that the cumulative effect of practicing tai chi naturally speeds it up in addition to increasing the quantity and quality of the chi.>>K

Nice to hear confirmation of existance of quantity and quality and speed of Qi...hopeful. Image

Quality of Qi?
Very interesting... Image

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About increasing speed, you wrote:
<<So, you’ve probably heard the analogy of the meridians as highways, and blocked chi as a traffic jam, etc. The average tai chi practitioner just isn’t very relaxed. Tai chi is definitely relaxing, but the level of relaxation necessary to do fa-jing safely is hard to get to and maintain. So, if you think of blockages as obstructions on the meridian freeway, it makes sense that you don’t want to go too fast until these are removed (through relaxation and regular practice). When you are completely relaxed, the chi won’t have anything in the way, and will naturally be able to handle freeway (or Autobahn!) speeds without difficulty. If you try to go too fast too soon, well, that’s just asking for an 18-car pile up. But the more relaxed you are, the more you’ll understand this on a personal experiential level. You’ll get it because you’ll be able to feel it, or see it, or whatever your preferred mode of sensing is.>> K

Good advice...Makes alot of logical sense.

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P: Are you saying that tension works on the meridien system as it does on a water hose...tension-narrowing the tube and thereby intensifying the flow. ???

K: No, I would say that tension constricts the energy flow instead of intensifying it.

<<Much like a kink in a water hose-or more accurately, like stepping on it or parking your car on it. The resulting energy is weakened, if it gets through at all-like water trickling out one end and the water stopped at the other. This can be like water growing stagnant in a blocked hose. If you are trying to fa-jing through a chi blockage/kinked hose, this might result in something like a leak at the hose-faucet junction, or worse yet, a leaking pipe inside your house. The chi is forced somewhere it’s not supposed to go, it’s wasted, and can damage whatever it spills over into.
Another analogy could be that forcing chi through a blockage on a meridian might be more like the flash flood that comes after a dam breaks.>>K

Thank you...Yes, I can appreciate your explanation about blockage, and the slow down effect..That WAS the answer I was looking for.

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<<You mentioned “narrowing the tube and thereby intensifying the flow.” I have read about something like this, but to my knowledge it can only happen in the absence of tension. Waysun Liao talks about this in his translation “T’ai Chi Classics.” He has a section on condensing energy into the bone marrow that sounds something like what you mentioned. I think you would find his section on kinds of energy fascinating. I read it a long time ago and most of it was beyond me. I understand a little more now, but much of it I still don’t understand.>>

AH! YES! That IS probably what I am seeking...storing energy...in bone marrow!?
Deep...yes, very!

Waysun Liao---Tai Chi Classics...I will inquire.

Kinds of energy... Image ...I WAS thinking of that in the lightning section. Image

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I really appreciate all your efforts, opinions, knowledge and references.

You've been a big help, thank you Image

Take care,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby DavidJ » Tue Mar 23, 2004 6:54 pm

Hi Psalchemist,

> That is something novel to my ear..."Acupuncture points as areas of LOWER conductivity...as resistors...Great analogy.

> Just as using gold tipped patch cords improves sound quality on a stereo, by lowering the resistance at the junction?

It's the other way around: when you lower conductivity you *increase* resistance.

> Although I've no experience while performing the form "angry", per se, I have experienced the "fast and furious, frantic, flustered--*jerkiness* " you allude to...nerves the cause, rather than anger...has the exact same effect...form speeds up substantially etc..etc...

> Have not found a cure for it yet, though...Tried everything known to man...though I have never hurt myself, my form does dissintegrate, root is lost etc...etc...not an effective manner to train, I agree. <

Right before you begin your form simply acknowledge what's on your mind and put it aside. This leaves you free to focus on the form, and aspects of the form.

You may also do something like taking three slow deep breaths to settle your emotions.

If, during the form, your mind strays, don't fight the thought, just let it go and bring your focus back.

Regards,

David J
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Postby Kalamondin » Thu Mar 25, 2004 6:08 pm

Hi Audi,

Some of the things in your post on circling and harmony struck me and I wanted to respond to a few of them.

You wrote: <<The whole notion of curves storing energy and straight lines emitting energy is a rather deep topic that probably requires its own thread. If you are interested in this, you may want to start one.>>

K: I would love to see a topic on this.

A: <<You asked whether I was referring exclusively to “gravity” when I mentioned the “impersonal forces of nature.” Actually, as I believe I have posted before, I think that the direct importance of gravity can easily be overstressed. Our limbs generally exert more force on the local interchange of energy than gravity. I was referring to the fact that energy has a tendency (a meaning included in “Shi”) to travel in particular patterns. This is one of the meanings I understand to be inherent in the philosophical term “Li3” (which means something like “cosmic order.”) This is independent of one’s will or wishes.>>

K: I agree. An awareness of the vertical (gravity, head-top suspension, what-you-will) is necessary for maintaining your center, but there are generally more demanding forces being exerted by/upon the limbs. Energy does have tendencies and patterns and the only way I can successfully move along with being pushed and pulled without losing my balance is to surrender some portion of my will. I have to let go of the part that wants to focus on the details (The part that says, “If he does this, then I’ll do that” or “Wait, wait, I really wanted to push there!). When I am able to do this, then I can sometimes ride along as an observer while my body reacts to my opponents’ pushing with extraordinary and miraculous (at least to me) agility and evasiveness.

A: <<Water flows downward. Fire burns upward. Joints open and close within certain parameters. Tendons have great flexibility, while bones have almost none. Revolving circles spin off or gather in energy in straight-line “tangents.” If you move the revolving circles along their axes at right angles to the plane of revolution, you can reel energy off in spirals. All these relationships exist independently of one’s mind; however, one’s mind can design relationships that harness these realities. If you move in accord with these principles, you move according to the Dao and according to the doctrine of wu2wei2. The universe helps accomplish your movement. If you do not move in accord with these principles, your movement can never be perfect or “effortless.”>>

K: If I try to observe what’s going on too closely, I often lose the flow, my connection to the Dao. I wonder, is it possible to get to the point of integration where you can be completely aware of the nuances, structural details, hows and whys of every movement AND still move with the Dao? Probably. I’m just not there yet. I can move close to the Dao for a time, but only if I allow whole sequences of events (my opponents various attacks and deflections, rapid-fire images of seemingly inconsequential and unrelated things) to pass unnoticed and unrecorded by my rational, cataloging, analytical mind.
I liked what you said here:

A: <<Your mind does not impose order on chaos, but rather can make decisions to act in accordance with the order immanent in any situation.>>

K: Perhaps trying to understand is too much like trying to impose understanding (a kind of order) on chaos.

You talked about circles and I’m wondering if you could elaborate a bit more. I’m wondering in particular about storing energy in the curved and releasing it in the straight (I’m probably misquoting here).

I’ll tell you a bit about how I understand things. Using your image of incoming and outgoing tangents, my feeling of things is that energy can be “stored” in the curve because as your opponent pushes toward you (I’m thinking of single-arm push hands here) you are yielding and trying to match their trajectory exactly. If you manage this, then there is no particular gain or loss of energy in the pre-outgoing-tangent part of the circle. The energy is merely “stored” for use later (or in a moment, depending on your experience of time). If you were to yield too quickly then the energy is dissipated off in the wrong direction too late for you to turn it and use it properly. If you resist, then some portion of their energy gets cancelled, tangled in yours, and less of it is available even if you manage to circle some of it back at your opponent. But if you manage to match their trajectory very closely, then it only takes the proverbial four ounces to send all of their energy right back at them.

Furthermore, if you time it correctly, (figuratively speaking here) you can augment their 1000 pounds of force with your own 1000 and really send them flying (provided they don’t know how to do the same thing).

So now I’m wondering about timing: in this single-arm scenario, if you were to try the above, would you augment his force gradually, accelerating subtly in hopes he won’t notice? Or would you maintain the matched speed, only guiding the circle back towards them until you think it’s too late for them to change and then augment the energy quickly (fa-jing, if you can)? Visually, I think of the second question of a circle with an incoming tangent (their force), an outgoing tangent (their force turned back on them) and a straight line from outside the circle (your energy, channeled up from the ground) that joins with the outgoing tangent in the exact same direction.

Now I’ve got a more esoteric question about circling your opponent’s intent back at them.

You said, <<For instance, what do your eyes tell your opponent as he or she confronts you? Do they say that you are determined, eager, timid, prepared, uncaring, contemptuous, oblivious, etc.? Depending on your bearing (again, your Shi), you can provoke, send warning, intimidate, threaten, or baffle. What is the tendency in your opponent (again, Shi) that you want to combine with and strengthen?>>

K: I practice with people who manifest all of the above. I would also add occasionally frightened, unwilling to lose, desperate, excitable; and on the positive side: rock steady, calm, and fluid. It’s easier for me to figure out how to “combine and strengthen” their weaknesses, but as a fellow student, I don’t really want them controlled by their anxieties as it tends to make them harder and we both lose the flow because I’m just not that good at deflecting anger yet. So, if my intention is to increase their understanding of softness, even as I try to increase my own understanding, what tendency would you send at them to achieve this? I’m trying to figure out a balance of how to challenge them enough to lead both of us to improve this without being so challenging that they interpret my actions as a gauntlet thrown down—to which they tend to react with more strength, more force, less listening, and less ability to stick, yield, and follow.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these matters.

Thank you,
Kalamondin
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Mar 25, 2004 11:16 pm

Kalamondin,
Just a quick response to the last portion of your post, regarding which character you should show others when pushing hands.
Are you familiar with the five character formulas of the Wu family? I don't think this is exactly what you had in mind, but it's what I thought of when I read your posting about teaching others.
There are actually two five character formulas that would apply to this. I learned the first one when I first started training the Wu style, it is the five character formula for the slow form.
The five characters that you should strive for when doing their slow forms or beginning (fixed) push hands and weapons forms are: calmness, lightness, slowness, exactness and perserverance.
After you have trained to the point where each of your postures emulates these characteristics in your slow forms, beginning push hands and weapons forms, you then move on to their fast form, more advanced versions of the weapons forms and advanced (stepping) push hands. These also have a five character formula that is slightly different.
For the fast forms the five character formulas to strive for are: calmness, lightness, agility, exactness and perserverance.
So I have no idea which emotional characteristic you would wish to show in your scenario, these are the characteristics I have been trained to strive for in all my forms and these are the five character formulas I have always taught to others in their transmission. If you display these five characters, then you have reached a high level in your training indeed.
Not sure I've quite made it yet, but I'm still working on it.
Hope this helps, at least a little, with your quandry.
I will now step aside and let others answer the more specific question who will have a much a better grasp of what you are asking. I have never tried to alter the feelings of my push hands partners by trying to project a feeling to them, mostly because the vast majority of people I was pushing hands with didn't have enough listening jing to hear my intent of even my movements, they sure couldn't pick up my emotions.
Those that could were well beyond my needing to try to alter their perception and I likely couldn't have if I'd wanted to.
My students who exhibited the qualities you describe got offset repeatedly and if they were up for it forcefully into the ground while I repeated the five character formula over and over again with a particular emphasys on calmness until they either listened or gave up.
Since "perserverance" is the last in the list of each character formula, if we reached that point there was no use in continuing anyway.
Good luck.
Wushuer
 
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Postby Kalamondin » Fri Mar 26, 2004 10:10 pm

Wushuer,

Thanks for your explanation of the Wu family five character formulas. They’ve already added some fascinating dimensions to my practice. I have not seen them before, but I have heard similar things. It reminded me of some characters for breathing that one of my teachers taught us: calm, deep, steady, slow, unhurried, even (IIRC). I can’t remember where he got it, but it might have been a Yang family thing.

Yesterday during my forms practice I concentrated on “lightness.” It would be great if you could relate your understanding of that one. I have been told to try and make my upper body light and the lower body heavy. So I set the intention of letting that which was light in me float to the top, and that which was heavy sink to the bottom. Wow, what a difference! Before, when I tried to sink the chi, it always felt forced and I gave it up as a bad job and concentrated elsewhere b/c I could tell I wasn’t doing it right. This time, allowing the light things to rise made way for the heavy to fall and there was no need to force anything. It also made me aware of areas of tension in my arms and shoulders that I had become so accustomed to that I didn’t know they existed. I could then feel my arms had the sensation of floating, of moving through some dense liquid. I tried to get my torso to feel that, but couldn’t quite manage it except in glimpses. I’ll have to practice more.

Then, I wondered if lightness had anything to do with light in the sense of brightness. So I imagined that I was radiating light and it increased the sensation of chi at the surface of my skin. In fact, it increased all sensation at the surface of my skin. Interesting. It reminded me of the idea that you should be so aware that even an insect alighting on your skin should make you adjust the balance in your entire body. I had a glimpse of how that would be possible.

I’ve been thinking about your post a lot. One of the things I keep coming back to is this general principle: master yourself before you may hope to master others. To which end, calmness is the one of the five characters that I most need to focus on during push hands right now. Certain of my practice mates are perfect for challenging myself to work on this.

You had a phrase in your post that gave me pause.

You said, “I have never tried to alter the feelings of my push hands partners by trying to project a feeling to them….”

I read it and I started to worry about the virtue of trying to alter someone’s emotions. After all, isn’t that terribly manipulative?

But on the other hand, I think that manipulation is a central tenet of tai chi.

From the Webster’s 7th Collegiate Dictionary:
Manipulate: 1. To treat of operate with the hands or by mechanical means esp. with skill 2. a. to manage or utilize skillfully b. to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means esp. to one’s own advantage 3. to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose [F. fr. manipule: handful of herbs, fr. L. manipulus]

Every time we practice push hands we’re trying to gain the advantage. Tricking the opponent into a trap is considered a skillful use of the art.

It’s a fascinating dichotomy that the virtues of the art include an upright character, honesty, loyalty, and kindness--no one lacking in martial virtue will be taught the high levels of the art--and yet, much of the practice of the art depends on deceit: tricking, trapping, concealing the center, concealing intent, diversion, distraction, deflection.

What do you think of this? What I want to work on varies from day to day. Sometimes I practice calmness and gentle them like horses until they relax. Sometimes I push all of their tight, locked up places until they are off balance and frustrated and then try to practice calmness in the midst of their agitation.

Your sentence in its entirety was:
<< I have never tried to alter the feelings of my push hands partners by trying to project a feeling to them, mostly because the vast majority of people I was pushing hands with didn't have enough listening jing to hear my intent of even my movements, they sure couldn't pick up my emotions.>>

I find that it doesn’t matter how good their listening jing is; the chi can be manipulated. The body and its chi have certain responses that the mind does not control when it is unaware (I think that’s a big part of what practicing the form to know yourself is about). For a physical example, if you push someone who lacks listening jing, they often stiffen up in response to your pushing, while remaining completely unaware that they did that, or even that you pushed at all (in extreme cases). So, they don’t have to “hear” your movements of your intent in order to respond. They just don’t respond appropriately, mindfully, or relaxedly. So, speaking of emotional manipulation, I think there’s always an emotional response whether they are aware of your emotion or not. Energy has its tendencies, and to borrow from physics (IIRC) when two waves collide they can either go into entrainment, merging together into one wave with a higher amplitude but the same frequency as the one that was strongest originally (?), or they can cancel each other out and flat line. (This is so sketchy, I’m sorry, my understanding here is pretty vague.)

It’s kind of similar with emotional states. When two people meet, the one with the stronger emotional energy tends to pull the other person into a response to their emotion (“misery loves company,” “happiness is catching”). I’m speculating here, but I think you can stay calm by being on a different wavelength entirely, or by trying to figure out how to cancel whatever’s coming at you that you don’t like. This second idea seems like a waste of energy though. I think that going for calmness is the way to go—then you have the space and energy to redirect, deflect, absorb, reroute, whatever you want. The other way seems entirely reactionary. It’s what I’ve been doing, but it’s not right. I get that now.

You said:
<<My students who exhibited the qualities you describe got offset repeatedly and if they were up for it forcefully into the ground while I repeated the five character formula over and over again with a particular emphasys on calmness until they either listened or gave up.
Since "perserverance" is the last in the list of each character formula, if we reached that point there was no use in continuing anyway.>>

Thanks for all your insights, you’ve been very helpful. I’m going to try your method above, striving for calmness before attempting any manipulation, physical or emotional. I’m an order of magnitude better at push hands when I am calm and centered. Curbing my impatience at their “deafness” will just have to be part of “slowness” and “perseverance.” Sigh.

Finally, you said:<<Those that could [perceive emotions] were well beyond my needing to try to alter their perception and I likely couldn't have if I'd wanted to.>>

You’re absolutely right—those who can tell what I’m feeling are so adept that I do not attempt any such manipulation—it’s not necessary and I do not think it’s possible. I think this is what the classics talk about when they mention the opponent being unable to attack because there is no place to enter.

Thanks again!
Kalamondin
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Postby Wushuer » Fri Mar 26, 2004 11:13 pm

Wow, you sure ran with the five character sets. That's great to hear.
I would say that your first thoughts on lightness most closely match my own, though I'm certainly not expert on the subject. I think of it as meaning pretty much how you described it, light above, but I don't think of being "heavy" below, I think of that more as "rooted" and solid yet able to shift between substantial and insubstantial with no breaks.
The word "heavy" has certain bad conotations with it that I prefer to avoid in my practice. It makes me think of moving clumsily, like I'm tired or have "heavy" weights attached to my legs.
I don't know that I've ever tried to imagine "light" coming out of my body...
Well...
In a sense, I have, but...
I don't know that it's a bad thing, especially considering your results, I just have never thought of it in quite that context before.
That said, I do image chi as being a viable thing I can feel and control, and I do frequently picture it as imbuing me with a "force" all around my body, sort of like an "aura" in a sense. So in that sense I guess I have.
I'll have to try your second take on it and see where it takes me before I could respond to it.
You never know.
As far as what I said about transmitting a feeling to my opponent.
I was wrong.
I do that. Again, I just never thought of it in that context before.
I do use my listening jing to sense everything I can about my opponent, and then if I can, I use different jings to send chi into my opponent in the form of Nian and Lian. So my original statement was not really accurate.
I have been thinking of coming back here and correcting myself, but your post finaly got me to do it.
Sorry, I was thinking more along the lines of things like anger, or calmness, not things like push hands skills.
Wushuer
 
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Postby psalchemist » Sat Mar 27, 2004 2:54 pm

Greetings Wushuer and Kalamondin,

Your discussions have been very interesting to follow.

Kalamondin,

There are many interesting, seemingly progressive ideas you present.
New facets for me to consider.
Excellent posts.

I tried one of your suggestions...
You described a light/heavy, light/dark yi...that turned out to be a fabulous key. It worked immediately and effectively. Image

Although focused on the complete lower body...the results manifested moreover in the Tantien. It became very heavy and full like no precedent similarly with my hands.

And I developped two pressured points, one behind each ear, that I had never felt before?

Just taking a moment in setting the idea in motion...it continued of its own volition for at least half an hour after...the ears for an hour.

Do you find, personally, that it affects your ears?

Thanks for sharing that insight into awareness! That is very valuable.

Presently I am quite involved with the TaiChi punch.
WOW!
And I am beginning to see how it applies to, is the basis for, the rest of the postures in the form. I have alot of experimenting to do in those areas.

I will certainly be returning to address some of your other valuable input shortly.

Thank you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 03-27-2004).]

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 03-27-2004).]
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Postby psalchemist » Sat Mar 27, 2004 4:51 pm

JUST THOUGHT IT WOULD BE INTERESTING TO ADD THAT I FIND THE TAICHI PUNCH, **A NON-CROSS SUBSTANTIAL POSTURE** TO BE SO EFFECTIVE.

SO...I CAN SEE MORE CLEARLY NOW, WHY OTHERS HAVE PAID NO PARTICULAR ATTENTIONS TO CROSS-SUBSTANTIAL MOVEMENT.

PERHAPS THE NON CROSS-SUBSTANTIAL MOVES ARE EVEN MORE POWERFUL...

BEST REGARDS,
PSALCHEMIST.
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Postby Wushuer » Sat Mar 27, 2004 6:37 pm

Psal,
Had I known the five character formulas were going to bring so much to so many, I would have posted them long ago.
I have known them for so long I just assume everyone does. My bad.
I have no idea whose original formulas they are, I learned them from the Detroit Academy Sifu, but never heard them attributed to anyone.
Work on them all, not just one, and you will find much more.
Enjoy.
Wushuer
 
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Postby psalchemist » Sat Mar 27, 2004 7:05 pm

Greetings Wushuer,

Thanks for all your input.

As I mentioned...I am absorbed with the punch...

I find it bypasses almost all the upper body.???

It goes (or seems to)directly from the hip to the fist...

Do you note this quality yourself?

Thank you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Wushuer » Sun Mar 28, 2004 5:58 pm

Psal,
I haven't replied to your inquiries along those lines, because I've never paid much attention to "cross substiantiality" until I got to this board.
No, I'll put that more correctly. I'd never heard of it before.
If this was a concept that Wu style paid a lot of attention to, I never had anyone mention it to me. I've looked, but don't find it in their literature, or at least none that I have.
It is my understanding that the power from the punch comes from the back ankle through the hip, to the waist, to the shoulder, to the palm.
This is how I feel the jing progress when I do a punch.
Wushuer
 
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Postby psalchemist » Sun Mar 28, 2004 8:00 pm

Greetings Wushuer,

<<I haven't replied to your inquiries along those lines, because I've never paid much attention to "cross substiantiality" until I got to this board.
No, I'll put that more correctly. I'd never heard of it before.
If this was a concept that Wu style paid a lot of attention to, I never had anyone mention it to me. I've looked, but don't find it in their literature, or at least none that I have.>> Wushuer

From what I understand...it is a basic dynamic of body movement/mechanics. Not a TaiChi specific...simply a body specific.

In Tso Peng for example the power goes up the right leg to manifest in the left arm/shouder. (cross-substantial)

The punch goes up the right leg and out the right arm. (not cross-substantial)

Just observations, really.


<<It is my understanding that the power from the punch comes from the back ankle through the hip, to the waist, to the shoulder, to the palm.
This is how I feel the jing progress when I do a punch.>>

Yes this is the threading process I am knowledgable about...however knowledge and execution are two different matters.

In the punch it feels...directly from the hip.

In Lo Tsi Au Po it feels...directly from the shoulder.

I must be missing a certain awareness of the passages from those points to the palm/fist.

Actually I am probably more focused on simple body mechanics rather than jing flow.

Working on structure.

Thanks for your feedback.


Best regards,
psalchemist.
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