<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">When I do issue somewhat succesfully I feel more of a connection to the ground at the moment before I issue, along with a general downward sinking of chi to my torso and my legs feel filled up with spiraling energy, coiled and ready to go.</font>
I feel this to some extent as well, but wanted to clarify something. Whereas I used to visualize a spring coiled at my feet, I now feel one at my Dantian. As I issue, it springs both up and down. This leaves me feeling very stable and without a sense of springing out of my feet or out of my root. It is like I am pushing hard with all four limbs, but the actions cancel each other out, leaving me still in the middle. I also want to clarify that I am talking about a momentary sensation associated with specifically issuing energy and not with the normal stability we cultivate in doing form.
As I consider it, I think a feeling of pushing and expanding in all directions is characteristic of how Yang Style issues energy in the form, since I can think of very few instances where both feet do not press into the ground. The few contrary instances still seem to include offsetting motions to balance the Jin (e.g., the wrist thrust of Single Whip balanced by the left shoulder and Hiding the Lotus Blossoms in the leaves of the Sabre form that is balanced by the left knee).
This balancing may also be why issuing soft energy is somewhat different from issuing hard energy. Whenever you issue by yourself, something must always counter the energy according to Newtonian physics. With hard energy, you have to concentrate on a counter contraction. With soft energy, you can concentrate more on compensating elsewhere in your body.
César, I think the material you quote also addresses the apparent contradictions in where the qi is supposed to go, but perhaps from a slightly different point of view. An additional concept I can add to the apparent confusion is the idea of "sticking qi to the spine."
How can you send qi to the root in the feet, sink it to the Dantian, and stick it to the spine all at the same time? I think that these are best approached not with a scientific mindset, but rather a mindset focused on subjective feelings.
If your feet do not feel rooted and pressed into the ground, it has hard to feel that you can propel your torso. Without power sunk into your core (i.e., dantian), it is hard to feel that you have anything to transfer to your periphery. At least for me, there is a feeling of dependency and cause and effect, but not much of a feeling of time delay. If you squeeze on one part of a balloon, this increases the pressure throughout and may manifest in a deformation in a distant area of the balloon. This "movement," however, does not rely feel as if it occurs in a clear time flow. It is more simultaneous. To expand power into your hands, you want first to feel it condense against your spine.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I don't know that I would describe the feeling of the chi sinking as dropping a heavy weight, though I sure would like to because that sounds a lot more powerful, it's actually more like sand sifting down and settling.</font>
I mentioned the bowling ball because I have less of a sense of Qi settling and more of a sense of it dropping. It's like everthing goes splat. Imagine stamping on a banana and have the insides fly out. If the qi is not sunk, it feels that issuing energy will make me leap upward or forward and lose control of my body mass.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>Though I'm not quite sure what you are referring to when you talk about issuing "short energy"...
and about bouncing ones energy off the floor and shaking it...truly at a loss...any elaborations would be kindly welcomed.</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Most demonstrations of applications of Push Hands show long energy, since this is usually more visually dramatic. This energy feels as if it flows through a long path in your body, perhaps a foot or two. This long path continues into the opponent, typically causing him to bounce away a correspondingly long distance. The opponent will actually feel this length, perhaps like the building of a powerful wave. The wave builds and then carries him off with its force, typically without harm or even discomfort.
Short energy feels as if it develops over a short range, perhaps over a few inches or less. Although it can penetrate into the opponent, it feels as if it expends all its power over a correspondingly short range. The opponent feels a more explosive type of energy discharge, rather than a soft, but powerful wave. This energy is hard to receive and neutralize without harm.
If you explode energy forward out through your hands, you must balance this by exploding it out somewhere else. Some people talk about bouncing energy off the floor. In my experience, people who can demonstrate short energy well, will make a gym floor shake just as if they had been jumping down from a height. If their qi is sunk, you will see a tight connection between the energy sent into the floor and what is expressed in the hands.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>I suspect I'm not the only one on this Board who's ordinarily stuck practicing on their own. I think it's possible (if slow) to self-correct some things, once one has a "feel" for what's right. "Sink chi"--I haven't yet been able to find what that refers to. So thanks, all, for trying to convey your experiences!
But don't worry, I won't actually believe anything you say! (until it happens to me)</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Well said! I have any idea about maybe how to feel the difference between sunk and not sunk, although the mechanics are probably not useful for actual training purposes. In other words, this might be an exercise in gaining enlightenment, not an exercise in learning alignment.
Assume the Push Posture with your hands against a wall. Spread your elbows out horizontally and explore what it feels like to push. You should feel the energy immediately rebound back at you. You are unable to apply more than the energy in your arms. Pushing appears senseless.
Now try it with your elbows down, or even pointing slightly towards each other. It should now feel like you might be able to take the wall on (i.e., contend with the wall). Intellectually, you know you cannot push the wall back, but it feels like you can test it a little bit. You feel as if you can apply the energy in your legs and back. As you apply pressure, all your joints change shape in the same proportion.
If you have trouble with this, try pushing with your arms already at maximum extension (naturally straight, but not locked) so that it is impossible to push just with your arms. Then concentrate on pushing with the mass of your torso by pushing with your legs.
So far this may feel only like an exercise in alignment. Now move a way from the wall and try to capture the same feeling. You should feel your shouders flatten and elbows drop slightly. Your pelvis should feel like it tucks under and in in the same proportion, causing your spinal column vertically to drop in the same proportion. (I am talking centimeters or millimeters here.) Your knees and ankles should also change with the same overall pressure. The soles of your feet feel like they do just before you execute a two-legged jump, with pressure throughout the bottom of the foot that is trying to transfer to the ball of the foot. It is the same downward pressure that you feel when you plant your feet to jump up and spike a volleyball or to dunk a basketball, except that you feel it while you are still standing tall and keeping your gaze steady.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">"Internal force is very similar to the ordinary force."</font>
I find this is a very difficult topic and very confusing to discuss, especially for people still trying to find their way among conflicting advice and approaches. I could both agree and disagree with this particular statement, depending on context and intent. If we are talking science, I mostly agree. If we are talking experientially, I mostly disagree. I generally find in my practice that what I feel is more important than what I might know intellectually or academically and so think of external and internal force as very different. "Throwing" a punch feels different from "releasing" an arrow from a drawn bow.
Before I end another endless post, I wanted to talk a little about language and add some reflections on some additional Yin Yang pairs.
Although we talk about "elbows down and shoulders down" for short, I think it is also worthwhile to consider that the injunction is actually to "sink" the shoulders and "droop" the elbows. I find that the two joints actually do something a little bit different. The Twenty Character Motto is wonderfully thought provoking about this.
Han2 xiong1 ba2 bei4 means to "Contain the chest, pluck up the back." When you contain the chest, you do not fill it with air, but rather have the feeling of collapsing it to form a semicircular container that is empty in front and full towards the back. The Tao Te Ching (Daodejing) talks about usefulness calming from emptiness. A room or a box is useful because of its emptiness. In Taijiquan, my hands and arms will be useful only if I can first empty them and move the fullness to my back and legs. The idea is not to make everything empty, but rather to distinguish full and empty by making my front empty and my back full.
When I relax the waist, it is in order to open the joints in my lumbar spine. Only with the "empty" space between the vertebrae can I make it truly useful, flexible, and adaptive. To open these joints, I have to pull at two ends, not just one. I must thus not only drop my pelvis, but also push up the crown of the head. I can only sink qi well, when I have my spirit lifted?
Keeping all these Yin Yang pairs mutually supportive seems to be one of the things that defines Taiji.