2010 New York Seminar

2010 New York Seminar

Postby Audi » Wed Jul 21, 2010 2:48 am

Greetings all,

I just wanted to post a short note saying how much I enjoyed the recent New York/Connecticut seminar. For me, it was just fantastic. I met some new friends, reconnected with some old ones, and thoroughly enjoyed the teaching. Among the new things I learned and will be spending the next few months or years exploring and practicing are:

1. a more precise understanding of the location and role of the Chinese "waist," as opposed to the hips or the "waistline,"
2. a better understanding of the role of the waist in horizontal movement and arm rotations,
3. a better understanding of the exact role of the waist in movements without horizontal rotation of the torso,
4. the role of the waist and the quality of its movement in explosive movements and also in the delicate, subtle expression of Fajin while doing slow movements,
5. how doing "cheng" and "deng" in the legs cooperate in shifting the wait and supporting explosive movements,
6. a clearer understanding of what type of training is appropriate to support health oriented Taijiquan and what practices are good for more martial Taijiquan,
7. an even better understanding of full and empty in the energy, as opposed to in the weighting of the feet,
8. a clearer idea of various ways to practice Fajin, both in terms of types of movement and quality of movement,
9. a better idea of how "suspending from above" helps to sink the Qi,
10. a clearer understanding of how internal and external must support each other and what effects they can have on each other of one or the other is not strong,
11. a clearer understanding of the importance of deeply exploring and practicing the 10 Essentials.

I continue to be amazed at how such seemingly simple and basic things can have such surprising and occasionally almost magical effects. The above descriptions might sound bland or obvious, but for me, they correspond to very dramatic physical differences that will make a substantial difference in how I practice and teach. I hope to attend some additional seminars this summer season and get a chance to work even more on some of these things.

Any thoughts?

Take care,
Audi
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Re: 2010 New York Seminar

Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:07 pm

Greetings Audi,

I'd love to see you elaborate on each of these points as you find the time. I can see that your points are linked and that there appears to be a progression from one to the next. Maybe you could flesh these out, beginning with point 1, with examples of how these were clarified for you and how you're incorportating them into your practice.

Take care,
Louis
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Re: 2010 New York Seminar

Postby ruben » Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:05 pm

Thank you Audi for being so clear.
I´ve been at Firenze Seminar a few days before you did. Now that I´m reading your post, I realize that I felt something like you. But you can transfer all that sensations to the keyboard in a better way.
I could see the importance of learning directly from Master Yang. Also I felt as If Master Yang began to teach more details (thousands of details) that I didn´t know. But, this was my second seminar with Master Yang so, maybe I am wrong.
All I do know, is that I had to take my very basic principles, erased them, rewrote them and now, I´m still practicing to put them into the form.
And as Louis says, maybe, you can go on explanations.
Thank you again.
Rubén
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Re: 2010 New York Seminar

Postby Audi » Sun Jul 25, 2010 3:59 pm

Hi Louis and Rubén,

It's good to hear from both of you, since the board has been quiet of late.

Also I felt as If Master Yang began to teach more details (thousands of details) that I didn´t know. But, this was my second seminar with Master Yang so, maybe I am wrong.


I have been attending seminars for about fifteen years and so am now down to seeing only hundreds of details I do not know. :wink:

There were actually many other things that I learned, but these were generally of a more personal nature, like posture corrections, and so I did not post about them. I was particular happy to finally resolve a problem with White Crane Spreads Wings that I had been struggling with for a number of years as I addressed other more pressing problems with my form.

I did forget to include in my list some additional push hands theory and techniques I learned, involving Qin Na ("grabbing"), specific counters, theory of counters, and an additional circling technique. More importantly, there was a brief lecture on the importance of "cheng" to the study of Taijiquan. I understood this to be a reference to 诚/誠 (Confucian-derived "sincerity")(See, e.g., this article by Yanming An for more discussion of this word in Confucian and Western senses.)

I'd love to see you elaborate on each of these points as you find the time. I can see that your points are linked and that there appears to be a progression from one to the next. Maybe you could flesh these out, beginning with point 1, with examples of how these were clarified for you and how you're incorporating them into your practice.


Let me give this a shot, starting with a discussion of "cheng"/sincerity, which I probably should have put first in my list.

"Chéng"/诚/誠

I wish I remember the exact thread of the discussion of "cheng,"but it set off so many threads that all I can remember clearly is my reactions. There was a discussion of the true nature of Chinese martial arts, which was not so much about learning how to fight, but being "sincere," making the body strong and health, and helping those in need. I understand "sincerity" in this context to mean: "being true to one's genuine nature as a fellow human." To create the best learning conditions, you need to be true to your nature as an individual, you must respect the knowledge of your teachers and your seniors in the art and in the world, and you must strive for integrity in yourself and in those around you.

When I was first exposed to the teaching in the Association (i.e., traditional Yang Style Taijiquan), I had already studied Taijiquan elsewhere. Some of the teaching, therefore, seemed strange, occasionally silly, and even sometimes plain wrong. As a result, I was slow to make some changes in my practice. After a while, I realized that I was not respecting the teaching and so decided to give it more the benefit of the doubt. I felt that if I were true to myself, the more experience the person in years, the more experienced in the art, the more accomplished in skill and knowledge, the more benefit of the doubt I needed to grant. At the same time, if I had no doubt about the incorrectness of an idea, I needed to be true to myself and reject it. Leaving doubt to one side, sometimes for long years, has allowed me to go down very beneficial paths that I would not otherwise have taken. Being ready to reject things that could only be incorrect, allowed me to avoid pursuing some paths I had begun to take through misunderstanding of the teaching. Sorting this out often seems to require an exercise in patience and courage to see it through. At the seminar, I had a number of important physical and theoretical issues resolved that I had left in suspense for a number of years, and it was quite satisfying to here a discussion of some of the aspects of this very process.

Location and role of the Chinese "waist"


As I saw the movement demonstrated, it became clear to me that the lumbar vertebrae were literally moving like the handle of a whip, although it did not always necessarily force a whip-like motion onto the Jin. I think in the past that I was always thinking either too small or too large. Seeing this and feeling it in myself opened up many more possibilities for movement and many more options for the waist to "carry along"/"lead" (戴 dài)the movement of the rest of the body.

It was also made clear that, although the hips and waist often move together, they are separate and can move differently. I had already understood this, but it was good to see this explicitly confirmed and said in more detail. An example where I feel the difference clearly is in Brush Knee, where the hips stay open to the corner, but I feel the waist helping to square off my upper body. I also feel it strongly in push hands, where moving first from the hips contributes to instability, but moving from the waist feels very stable. To feel the difference, I have started to advise people to stand in a horse stance and twist around and look behind them. Most people can turn joint by joint, first in the ankle, then in the knees, then in the hips, and only then turn the waist. Instead, you can turn first in the waist, then in the hips, then in the knees, then in the ankles. According to my understanding, how the sequence, degree, and timing of the joint turns may vary according to circumstance, but you always want the waist to carry the movement along.

That's all I have time for now, and maybe that can help spur a more in depth discussion.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: 2010 New York Seminar

Postby ruben » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:13 pm

Thank you Audi!
About "cheng" 诚, I remember Master Yang was speaking about spirit. How the body moves, depends on one´s spirit. Spirit says how posture is showed. Actually, shen, qi and esence lives in attitude, trust, honesty, and in that moment, Master Yang said that the exact word in Chinese was "cheng" but he could not remember the meaning in English. So, thank you for you enlightment.
Kind regards,

Rubén
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Re: 2010 New York Seminar

Postby Audi » Mon Aug 02, 2010 1:45 am

Greetings all,

Rubén,

I am surprised to hear "cheng" as being so closely linked with "spirit," "qi," and "essence." I do not recall that from the New York seminar, but it is an interesting idea.

The Waist in Horizontal Movement and Arm Rotations

From the descriptions at the seminar, I think that I had fallen into the habit of seeing the waist as either something too big (the twisting of the torso) or too small (the twisting of a few lumbar vertebrae). At least for now, I think I find it much more effective to feel it as a snake-like region a little shorter than a fist. One of the analogies Master Yang gave at the seminar was to see the waist as one of the gears in a watch. This gear could turn other gears and control all sorts of different movement. Although I had done this before, I am not sure that I was always paying attention to the right gear and probably paid too much attention to the role of the weight shift in the movement.

It was interesting to realize that turning the waist "gear" in a particular direction could cause the arms to rotate in either direction or swing in either direction, depending on how other joints acted as mediating gears. Some of the movements that took on clearer movement for me were: (1) the final weight shift in Lifting Hands, (2) the ward off left at the beginning of Ward Off Right, (3) the opening of the left arm in Fist Under Elbow, (4) the closing of the hands in the middle of Separate Foot (left and right), (5) Strike the Tiger, (6) Bend the Bow and Shoot the Tiger, and many others. I also immediately incorporate this more precise feeling into my Sword Form.

The Waist in Non-Twisting Movement

Even though I could see the effect of the waist as a gear, it seemed easier to feel as a snake-like region, rather than as a wheel. This made it easier to understand the necessary motion to lead movements that do not involve twisting of the torso, such as Ward off Right, Press, Push, the end of Play the Pipa, the backfist in Chop with Fist, and Snake Creeps Down. It also clarified what feeling should accompany movements where the torso is moved backward, such as the beginning of Push, the beginning of the Single Whip transition, the beginning of Play the Pipa, etc. There are also many postures where these types of movements are combined with some twisting, such as Lifting Hands,
Roll Back, Needle at Sea Bottom, etc. I think a way to strongly feel this type of movement is to practice chest circling, either solo or with a push hands partner.

Waist in Explosive Movements and Subtle Fajin

Using this more precise feeling in the waist facilitated the release of Fajin, like the movement of of the wrist in manipulating a whip. As we practiced this in the seminar, I could feel it clearly in fast powerful motions, but more surprisingly in slow and gentle motions. The feeling felt so nice that I think my relish of it threatened to spoil the flavor of my form. I immediately incorporated into my sword form, where it made it almost too easy to show fajin in all sorts movements where I used to feel too much in the arms or the torso as a whole.

That's all for now.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: 2010 New York Seminar

Postby Audi » Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:43 pm

撑 chēng ("supporting") and 蹬 dēng ("thrusting with the sole of the foot")

During the seminar Master Yang gave some very interesting insight into the impact of the footwork on the upper body. He said that although we often talk about the upper body and lower body arriving simultaneously, this is often not true in a strict sense. Sometimes the energy will arrive in the hands slightly later as it travels through the body. As he demonstrated, I could clearly see the impulse of energy travel from his legs, get "flicked" by his waist (like the handle of a whip), and then appear in the hands. It reminded me that the Chinese original of this principle does not exactly say that upper and lower must move identically, but rather that they follow each other.

I also realized that I had already been doing this type of movement to some degree, especially in the weapons forms, but not with complete consciousness of it or of all its components. Keeping my mind on this idea made it very easy to show fajin in the hands and in the tip of the weapons, even in places where I had struggled a little bit before.

Different Tai Chi Practices and Health

One ofthe things said at the seminar was that different Tai Chi practices are not necessarily equally beneficial for health. For instance, health comes from having balance in one's life, and doing Push Hands can help with learning how to achieve balance. On the other hand, practicing Fajin, which is indispensable for martial development can carry some risk of injury. For instance, someone beginning staff practice that does not yet know how to relax can have a high risk of throwing out his or her back.

I do not remember all of the topics, but I also came a way with the feeling that I have been undervaluing the practice of even a few simple movements, especially for people who know no Tai Chi, and do not always have to think of health as arising from the practice of fixed sequences of choreographed movement.

Full and empty in the energy, as opposed to in the weighting of the feet


Something which I had heard before, but perhaps not as clearly and not so firmly linked with the other concepts, was the value of not limiting the distinction of full and empty to matters of weighting, but rather extending it to matters of energy. I used to be somewhat puzzled about how to do the form while distinguishing full and empty in the upper body, but I feel this much more clearly now. I also see more clearly the truth behind the saying that the changes of full and empty come from the turnings of the waist and how the various parts of the body work together to produce the Yin Yang changes in a natural unforced way.
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Re: 2010 New York Seminar

Postby Roberta » Fri Aug 20, 2010 9:55 pm

Thanks Audy, your clarifications are very keen and useful.
Roberta Lazzeri
Firenze, Italy
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Re: 2010 New York Seminar

Postby Audi » Sun Aug 29, 2010 6:31 pm

Hi Roberta,

It's good to hear from you, and thanks for the encouragement.

Let me try to finally conclude this summary.

Practicing Fajin

From the preceding principles and Master Yang's comments at the seminar, it became much clearer to me how to take most postures from the form and use them to practice Fajin. It also became clearer what quality of movement to aim for, rather than just trying to strike as hard and as fast as I could. I think I can also cultivate some of these same feelings even while doing the slow traditional form; however, I do not think this is necessarily a priority. When I have tried this before, I was not so satisfied with the results.

Even though training Fajin has not been a focus of mine, I have begun to do much more than I ever did in the past.

how "suspending from above" helps to sink the Qi

At the seminar, Master Yang talked about the link between suspending from above and sinking the Qi. There is a good discussion of this on the "Lift Head" video clip on this page on this site.

I think I had understood the connection between the principle, at least to some degree, in the past; however, I found the explanation immediately helpful. Basically, as I understand it, in order to apply energy and Qi in our limbs, we first need to store them in our Dantian, at least from the internal perspective. To store Qi in the Dantian, we need to concentrate on sinking it all the time. However, if we only concentrate on sinking, we violate the principle of Taiji, since everything cannot go only in one direction. If on the other hand, we compensate for the sinking of the Qi by raising the spirit, we make both processes stronger and clearer. It is not just a question of sequentially storing and releasing the energy.

From the external perspective, as I draw my head up, this gives me a physical point from which to allow my shoulders to sink and my elbows to "droop." If I allow my head to droop, this automatically tends to make my shoulders shrug and rise up.

How internal and external must support each other

At the last few seminars, I think Master Yang has made a point of saying that Taijiquan is not just about internal things and that thinking only of internal things actually goes against the theory of Taijiquan. If there is internal, there must be external. If there is external, there must be internal. Our role is not to try to exclude one or the other (which is not possible according to the theory), but rather to balance and match them to produce the best result.

Master Yang discussed a number of principles that could be discussed--and probably should be discussed--from both an internal and an external perspective. A good example would be the source of the energy (Jin) we want to use. Externally, we say that energy comes from the root ( and developed by the legs, etc.). Internally, we would say that it comes from the Dantian. From my understanding, each of the Ten Essentials can be further broken down in this way, with external and internal aspects. Each of these aspects can then be further broken down again into further external and internal aspects. For instance, there are external physical things that should be done to encourage the Qi to sink, and there are internal mental things that should be done to develop your root.

Master Yang also indicated what happens when the external is not sufficient. If our legs are not strong enough, it is hard to feel stable. If we are not stable, it is hard for the mind to be calm and allow the Qi to sink. If we do not properly develop the energy in the root and the legs, we will grunt and strain to try to compensate internally in the Dantian. Ideally, you want both external and internal to be strong enough to support each other and harmonize with each other.

I think that this concept has helped my push hands, both as a student and teacher. There are times when the problem with a Ward Off seems clearly external and times when it seems internal. Realizing that both aspects are usually in play gives me better insight into what to examine and what to try to correct. For instance, externally, a person may not be rotating his or her arm sufficiently, so that the palm does not face slightly upward. Internally, the person may be using the shape of the Ward Off arm as a shield and trying to directly oppose incoming energy, instead of "lifting" it. If the arm is a shield, you will feel no reason to rotate it. If you do not rotate it, you will find it difficult to have any lifting feeling.

The Importance of deeply exploring and practicing the 10 Essentials

All of the above has again impressed on me how deep the 10 Essentials can be and the importance of continually returning to examine them. In the course of explaining them, you can touch on a whole host of different concepts that might at first seem unrelated: e.g., breathing, tongue position, Dantian rotation (or not), Fajin, chest circles, eye movement, alertness, etc. I think there is always a tendency to look for the one magic key or secret training method that will take your training to the next level. I think this is often a good thing; however, it can often be bad thing when we "give up the near to look for the far."

Since I began writing this summary, I have seen many of the video clips of the June mini-seminar in Seattle on this page on this site. Since Master Yang says in his own words many of the things I have been trying to say, I would suggest that anyone wanting to hear more should check them out and draw their own conclusions.

I would also welcome any feedback, questions, or further commentary.

Take care,
Audi
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