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.