Tai Chi on a beam

Tai Chi on a beam

Postby BBTrip » Tue Aug 17, 2010 1:57 am

I saw a video that reminded me of my early Tai Chi days. (I’m a 20 + year avid Tai Chi enthusiast)
I'm not sure this video is appropriate for this forum but it reminded me of the fun I use to have I dare to share.

The name of the video is Tai Chi wrestling on beam.

This is the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKTSIkgLBmU

This is something my friends and I use to do on curbs and the lips of pools for what seemed like hours.
We called it curbing. It became some we did or wanted to do anytime we saw a narrow ledge.
There was no doubt as to who the winner was. If you fell off you lost. If both fell off no one won.
It was lots of fun, safe and anyone could play. We tested our skill against Karate, Te Kwon Do, etc. and the side benefit was it really tested and improved our balance.
Some even learned to walk around others on the narrow curb.

BBTrip
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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby Audi » Sat Aug 28, 2010 2:51 am

Hi BB,

Thanks for sharing. I have not seen this particular practice before. I think what I do that is closest to this practice is to try to push so that both feet of the other person leave the ground while I, myself, take a maximum of one controlled step forward. I assume that if you can generate enough clean force to accomplish this, you have demonstrated that you were in control and could easily have done much more.
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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby BBTrip » Sun Sep 05, 2010 3:41 am

Hello Audi,

Thanks for your response.

Thanks for sharing. I have not seen this particular practice before. I think what I do that is closest to this practice is to try to push so that both feet of the other person leave the ground while I, myself, take a maximum of one controlled step forward. I assume that if you can generate enough clean force to accomplish this, you have demonstrated that you were in control and could easily have done much more.


I agree seeing the soles of your opponent’s feet usually indicate a good push.

I know that push hands is a Tai Chi training exercise. When engaged in as a competition it frequently degrades into a wrestling match that doesn’t really show Tai Chi skills.

That said I have to admit that I get a guilty pleasure from competitive push hands.

I consider good Push Hands when the winner displays Tai Chi skills. Like staying balanced while the opponent stumbles or is completely uprooted. Or, maybe seeing the use of one of the eight skills, i.e. Wardoff or press or push to uproot an opponent.

In my early days of practice, it was hard to find and keep people to push hands with. Most people will only show the “soles of their feet” so many times before quitting. I saw early on that as the years go by that would mean less people to play with.

I decided to try something new. When challenged or asked how I can defend myself with Tai Chi, I would tell people to attempt to push me down in any manner they wanted. I would not attack. Arduously attempting the Tai Chi principles of sticking and not resisting, I would move in such a way that I could stay on my feet, balanced.

The person pushing or pulling would have so much fun trying to push or throw me down they would break out in laughter. Because they were having fun, they would continue for quite a while.
It gave me great pleasure and tons of practice and confidence against the most unusual of attacks without hurting anyone.

On a side note it allowed a lot of my male and female friends with no training what so ever to play with me and have laugh out loud fun. I found out that you don’t have to knock people down to practice. If I truly upset their balance, they would let out an unconscious giggle.

I started to listen for this unconscious giggle against the most competitive of opponents.

Have you noticed such a thing?

Anyway often during the others attack I would practice roll back or ward-off or whatever technique that fit the bill. Many times just striking the posture would cause them to lose their balance. It seemed like everyone would have fun.

Playing Push Hands in this manner I felt like that line in the classics; I know the opponent but the opponent does not know me.

BB
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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby Audi » Wed Sep 15, 2010 1:45 am

Hi BB,

Code: Select all
I started to listen for this unconscious giggle against the most competitive of opponents.

Have you noticed such a thing?


Absolutely, I think we even had a thread about laughter in push hands. I recall one of my friends talking about a Kungfu teacher who saw members of the Yang family in pushing hands training many years ago and hearing the practice punctuate by laughter.

You seem to have found an interesting way to practice without trained partners. At one point, I was so desperate for practice that I used an exercise ball to push with against a wall. My strategy evolved into training up partners I could push with, since I really wanted to practiced the traditional circles and techniques I had learned.

I would say that most of my practice involves practicing various circles, since we have maybe a dozen or so patterns. You are supposed to do them all smoothly and to switch between them at will while maintaining continuity. As your skill at this grows, you then start practicing applications of the eight energies, variations of the energies, counters, and counters to counters. As your skill grows at this, you start doing the same with moving steps patterns. I find that all of this tends to produce laughter, which is something I experience only a couple of days ago as I was practicing some challenging stepping techniques with a partner.
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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby BBTrip » Wed Sep 29, 2010 8:35 pm

Hello Audi,
Great to hear from you.

At one point, I was so desperate for practice that I used an exercise ball to push with against a wall. My strategy evolved into training up partners I could push with, since I really wanted to practiced the traditional circles and techniques I had learned.


The use of an exercise ball to push with against a wall is great exercise that is simple and easy to use. Another tool for my toolbox. I wish I had known about this earlier.

Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby Audi » Tue Oct 12, 2010 11:29 pm

The use of an exercise ball to push with against a wall is great exercise that is simple and easy to use. Another tool for my toolbox. I wish I had known about this earlier.


Although this exercise in no way can replace pushing with a partner, I was surprised how much it taught me and how much of it has stuck. Basically what I did was use one or both hands to press the ball against a way and roll through wardoff, rollback, press, and push while trying not to let the ball drop and trying to make contact only through the Jin points and the "transitions" between them. Too much stiffness makes the pressure inconsistent and the ball drops too easily. Too little pressure, and it slides around or drops right away. With the right pressure, you begin to feel the control and power of merely "sticking."

One "traditional" solo exercise I know of is to practice wrist and elbow rotations on yourself. These allow you to practice the correct rotations, curves, and transitions to get used to alternating positions. In the exercise, the arms smoothly (or at least one can hope) cycle through opposite positions.
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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby BBTrip » Sun Oct 24, 2010 11:27 pm

Hey Audi,

Once again, thanks for the push hands exercise suggestions. I find them useful especially the use of the exercise ball. It’s very kind of you to share.

I found a Push Hand video you may be interested in.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4UbKAbK4EA

Some might want to watch it with the sound off.
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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby Audi » Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:33 am

Hey BB,

Thanks for posting the link. This is one of the few competition videos I have seen where I can clearly identify the technique the winner uses.

We actually practice this particular technique as a variation of one of our "standard" applications; however, we would probably call it "Press"/"Ji," rather than "Peng"/"Wardoff." Also, we would strongly discourage the kind of disconnecting that the second opponent does. Of course, competition is one thing; and training, another.
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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby BBTrip » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:40 am

Hi Audi,

This is one of the few competition videos I have seen where I can clearly identify the technique the winner uses.


I glad you liked it. I agree with you 100% about being able to clearly identify the use of the winners technique. I search and search and rarely find people who actually use Tai Chi techniques to defend themselves that don’t seem staged or choreographed.

I applaud both winners.
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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby BBTrip » Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:53 am

Hello Audi,
Hope All is well. I saw a 1937 Wu style video with someone playing with a large ball that reminded me of your quote:

Audi wrote:At one point, I was so desperate for practice that I used an exercise ball to push with against a wall. My strategy evolved into training up partners I could push with, since I really wanted to practiced the traditional circles and techniques I had learned.


He begins to play with the ball at the 6:04 mark.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDaV9C0ERP8

Hope you find it interesting.


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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby Audi » Wed Apr 04, 2012 12:18 am

Hi BB.

Thanks for posting the link. I remember seeing this video some time ago, but had forgotten about. I have learned a lot since I saw it and so can see it now with different eyes. The performer is clearer very skilled and very innovative. I do wonder whether the apparatus he used would give a sliding feeling, which would be contrary to the ideal; however, it still looks pretty neat.

I have learned a few things that one can do solo to help with push hands, but have become a firm believer that you need to have a partner with some Tai Chi skill to make real progress, at least with our method. I think this type of practice could, however, be quite helpful and/or interesting once one establishes a firm foundation.

One thing that has changed since I last saw this video is that I have developed a fondness for using objects in my teaching. I find that there are many subtle concepts I wish to convey that are hard to express in a credible way if I leave open the option that I have some mysterious skill that my students do not. To circumvent this, I sometimes use exercise balls, soccer balls, science toys, tissue paper, string etc. to demonstrate my understanding of some of the Tai Chi concepts. My idea is, if the object can show an aspect of the Tai Chi energy as it interacts with me, then a human being certainly can. It is first an issue of understanding, rather than of subtle skill.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby Delmar » Wed Jun 20, 2012 1:57 pm

Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby BBTrip » Fri Aug 24, 2012 8:23 am

Audi wrote:I find that there are many subtle concepts I wish to convey that are hard to express in a credible way if I leave open the option that I have some mysterious skill that my students do not.


I wish more Taiji teachers thought like this.

Audi wrote:To circumvent this, I sometimes use exercise balls, soccer balls, science toys, tissue paper, string etc. to demonstrate my understanding of some of the Tai Chi concepts. My idea is, if the object can show an aspect of the Tai Chi energy as it interacts with me, then a human being certainly can. It is first an issue of understanding, rather than of subtle skill.


I find this fascinating, especially the use of string. Would love to hear more on this, would you mind sharing your use of these objects and the specific aspects of Taiji energy they depict?
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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby Audi » Tue Aug 28, 2012 3:38 am

Hi BBTrip,

Sometimes during push hands, I have noticed that a student's energy does not really come to me, but rather passes by on a diagonal. Usually this is because the student does not really understand how to shift weight and their leg energy is not correct. When I try to demonstrate the difference, the student often cannot tell the difference. What I sometimes do is ask the student to hold a string or a flexible wire under their chin (my Wii nunchuck works well since the nunchuck acts as a weight) while they shift weight back and forth in a bow stance. If the string swings purely diagonally and hits the front leg, the energy is wrong and will miss the opponent. If there is some straightness to the swing, the energy is okay and can reach the opponent.

Usually the problem is that the student does not fully understand the relationship between the bubbling well point and doing thrusting (蹬 deng) and supporting (撑 cheng). Without this understanding, every weight shift and every posture in the form will lack the right power.

A string can also be helpful for those who have difficulty executing a bow stance with the tailbone centered. I ask them to stand and then hold the string under their chin and then look to see whether it hangs centered between the shoulder-width line of the feet and even with the crotch.

I don't have time tonight to describe the various ways I use balls, but I wanted to link to the toy at this site. I use it to help teach why the external method of power generation ("rooted in the feet, developed in the legs, directed by the waist, and showing up in the hands") is important, why it does not work in reverse, and why distinguishing full and empty is important for Fajin. After demonstrating with the toy, I demonstrate a push or Fajin with my body so that my students can see the energy transfer as a wave through my body where the parts make up one whole. I then show what happens when I do the same push, but starting with my arms full of energy. The energy flows in reverse and rather than pushing my partner forward, I push myself backward. If you try to do both methods at the same time unwittingly, the two flows cancel each other out, and the push is merely weak. I then show how this principle can be used in many counters and why it is important to know the opponent's full and empty without letting him or her know yours.

The toy is also a good means to show what happens when there is a break in the energy. When the top ball is not in contact with the bottom ball, momentum is not transferred, not much happens. Sometimes when a student applies an application to a partner, the student introduces a break in the energy and again not much happens.

I hope this helps.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: Tai Chi on a beam

Postby Bob Ashmore » Tue Aug 28, 2012 8:29 pm

Ah, Cheng and Deng.
Probably the most misunderstood concept in Tai Chi Chuan.
At least that has been my experience.
I've never thought to use a swinging string to demonstrate that. I'm going to have to give that a shot.
Very reminiscent of one of the Wu style warm ups I learned but there you observe how the arms swing to determine if you're using correct posture and weight separation.
However, the "test" that I like to use is to have students line up in front of a wall (as flat as possible from the point of contact with their hands to the floor) in bow stance and ask them to push against the wall.
Then I have them tell me where, in their feet, they feel the "weight".
There's a lot of answers, few of them however are correct.

Before I give out what I was told is the "correct" answer, and method, I'll give it some time and let you all give it a try.
If anyone gives it a shot, post here and let me know where you feel the weight in your feet.

Remember, as flat as possible.
This is no "trick". There is no "secret".
Just use the principles of Tai Chi Chuan and you should get this right the first time.
It took me nearly two years to figure it out (I was a complete newb the first time I did it though so stop laughing).
I felt like a complete idiot when I saw how easy it is.

Caveat:
I have only ever seen this "test" administered in one school. I do not know who invented it.
I have used this "test" on quite a lot of my students, none of them has ever "passed" it the first time.
I am not presenting this as a definitive "test" of Tai Chi Chuan ability nor am I presenting it as a Yang family training.
I learned this from the Wu Chien Chuan lineage I studied WAY back in the day and I have found it be quite useful.
I hope you do too.

Now, if you're game start pushing walls and tell me what you feel....

Bob
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