Individual natural rhythm

Individual natural rhythm

Postby rakyat » Mon Jun 13, 2005 12:06 pm

Hi,
As beginners, we are usually advised to do our forms slowly. However, each individual have their own rhythm so some would finish the form in 25 minutes, some 40 minutes etc.

If you initially finish the form in 25 minutes, should you try to force yourself to do it even slower to finish it in 35 minutes or should you just let your body/system decide for you?

In classes, it is very common for the instructor to play some music and then the entire class will do the form in unison according to the instructor's rhythm.

Are such forced change to your own rhythm bad for health?

Thanks.
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Postby Anderzander » Mon Jun 13, 2005 3:18 pm

Ahh music.... <shudder> :-)

I think when you are a beginner by suiting your timing to align with those around you, you develop a consistent pace.

When you have a consistent pace then going through the form a little quicker can encourage a looser practice.

Whereas going slower increases you awareness of what is happening and gives you more chance to work on things.

When your movements start to become a reflection of internal changes then I think you should just follow the changes - ie use whatever timing suits your internal movement working. Varying the pace according to what you want to emphasise.

That said when working in a group there seems to be a certain synergy that comes about through synchronising timing - new ages descriptions could abound...

In truth I don't realy know - except to say there is some deeper effect that I can't put my finger on.

This aside it has more mundane benefits - such as being a form of practicing following, balances and develops the internal timing etc etc.

hth
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Postby Kalamondin » Tue Jun 14, 2005 12:38 am

Hi Rakyat,

The only way that I could see a forced rhythm change being bad for health is if your mind is resistant to going at that pace. Resistance in the mind can create tension in the body, leading to blocked chi. If one sets the intention of going along with the class, whatever speed, the body can relax more and gain the benefits of group practice. What are the benefits? My feeling is that the group, when moving together, generates a field of chi that can amplify the chi sensations for individuals in the group. This is just my sense of things, I don't know if others experience this.

Class practices can sometimes go faster than one would practice at home so the instructor can have more time for instruction. At home, you can use your own judgement. Remember the mind guides the chi, not the other way around. I used to make the mistake of going the speed the chi in my body seemed to dictate (fast when agitated, slower when tired), but my teacher said I ought to use my mind to guide the rhythm instead.

So at home, I recommend: go as slow as you possibly can without breaking the ten essentials. No sensation of unbroken movement, no excess of tension. If the form feels choppy, speed up very slightly or pay attention to fixing the "breaks." If your legs tremble because you are going too slow (it's a greater strain when slow, but builds gong fu), adjust your stance to be smaller for now (an excess of tension just creates chi blocks, better to increase strength gradually) or speed up slightly.

My teacher recommends we aim at 45 minutes for the long form, although about 30 minutes is standard at the school I attend. Going slowly really tunes your sense of balance and body awareness, it builds strength (internal and external), and helps calm the mind.

Best wishes for your practice,
Kal
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Postby rakyat » Wed Jun 15, 2005 10:51 am

Thanks Anderzander and Kalamondin.
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Postby tai1chi » Thu Jun 16, 2005 1:58 am

Hi rakyat,

fwiw, I think that continuity is more important than actual speed. The rhythm should accord with the intention of the movement, but it should also be (relatively) smooth, continuous, and circular.

regards,
Steve James
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Postby rakyat » Thu Jun 16, 2005 4:33 pm

Thanks Steve.
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Postby Audi » Fri Jun 17, 2005 12:12 am

Greetings all,

Kal,

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Remember the mind guides the chi, not the other way around. I used to make the mistake of going the speed the chi in my body seemed to dictate (fast when agitated, slower when tired), but my teacher said I ought to use my mind to guide the rhythm instead.</font>


I think you make a very important point here and one that not everyone seems to accept in practice.

Take care,
Audi

[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 06-17-2005).]
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Postby Kalamondin » Fri Jun 17, 2005 7:47 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>

fwiw, I think that continuity is more important than actual speed. The rhythm should accord with the intention of the movement, but it should also be (relatively) smooth, continuous, and circular.

</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hi Steve,

You've summed up what I tried (and failed) to say very neatly. I agree. Thanks!

Kal
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Postby Kalamondin » Fri Jun 17, 2005 8:24 pm

Thanks Audi, and hi everyone,

A couple other thoughts about rhythm that aren't directly tied to the duration of form practice:

MYJ spoke recently about the small internal circles that link one movement to the next. Externally, they are not/barely visible. He amplified the circle size in the transition at the right corner from ward off right to roll back so that others could see, but said that these transitions are almost too small to see (IMO it takes some experience to see them because one has to learn what to look for).

There is a word in Chinese for the tail end of a calligraphic brush stroke that he likened these transition movements to. (Sorry, I forget the word.) When brush writing in Chinese there is a small flourish, a small curved movement that one uses to connect one character to the next. Even though the brush leaves the page briefly, the continuity of movement is unbroken.

He brought this up because I was asking how to control the transitions internally. I'd just discovered that if I allowed each movement to expand or contract (open or close?) to its full extension with my intent, then yang naturally transformed to yin and my body easily moved into the next movement...but it was too flowing and my transition movements were getting too big and flowery, relatively speaking (counter to Yang style).

I'm also working on not letting anything stop moving, except at transition points between one movement and the next. There are still places where one arm stops and hangs out for awhile (like the left arm, going into single whip) without doing anything for a bit.

Does anyone have any sugestions for controlling the transformations between yin and yang at transition movements? How does one let go and release energy completely without becoming too loose? How does one control transitions without feeling too tight? Is it about honing the intention and the timing exactly? Or is it about gauging the power of the release so it doesn't expand outward so forcefully? Or is it about linking and opening internally enough so that what's released doesn't jar the body off its course and into extraneous movement? Am I on completely the wrong track?

Sorry for the digression. I'm really good at those Image

Kal
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Postby Audi » Sat Jun 25, 2005 10:08 pm

Greetings all,

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">There is a word in Chinese for the tail end of a calligraphic brush stroke that he likened these transition movements to. (Sorry, I forget the word.) When brush writing in Chinese there is a small flourish, a small curved movement that one uses to connect one character to the next. Even though the brush leaves the page briefly, the continuity of movement is unbroken.</font>


Kal, I think the word is cuo4 (Á). My dictionaries define this as "defeat; frustrate; subdue; deflate," but I can speculate that the core meaning is something like "cause to reverse." In The Taijiquan Classics: An Annotated Translation, Barbara Davis translates this word as "break" where it appears in the Taijiquan Jing ("Classic"). (See, p. 96). She translates the passage as follows:

"If one intends to move upward, then send the yi downward. If one wants to lift something up (xianqi), then a 'break' cuo must be added. In this way, the opponent will sever his own root, ruining him quickly; no doubt about it."

Davis goes further in her commentary, saying:

"NOTES: then a break must be added. Yang Luchan explains, '...shake him like a rootless tree and destabilize his stance, then he will certainly fall over naturally.' Zheng Manqing describes it as the 'power comes by first pulling and then pushing, meaning that you first give way before you attain it. It is similar to squatting first to get the power to jump.' In Chinese calligraphy the same term cuo describes a similar 'breaking energy or action' done by pressing downward slightly before shifting direction of stroke or lifting the brush. A more contemporary explanation is that it is like a skateboarder who 'bounces' the board downward in order to make it lift up."

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Does anyone have any sugestions for controlling the transformations between yin and yang at transition movements? How does one let go and release energy completely without becoming too loose? How does one control transitions without feeling too tight? Is it about honing the intention and the timing exactly? Or is it about gauging the power of the release so it doesn't expand outward so forcefully? Or is it about linking and opening internally enough so that what's released doesn't jar the body off its course and into extraneous movement? Am I on completely the wrong track?</font>


I am facing the same challenge in my current practice. One thing that I try to do is have one moment during the transition where I switch mental frameworks from the end of the previous posture to the beginning of the next posture, but without changing anything physical. In this way, I try to understand what is necessary for the position to have the dual character. I then use this knowledge to gauge what to do. Since I am not very good at this yet, I find that I cannot express much power at the culmination of a posture without throwing things out of wack.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Is it about honing the intention and the timing exactly?</font>


I find that this type of language has two meanings: one that is good and one that is very bad. The good meaning has to do with recognizing that "intention" and "timing" are important and linked, whether we like it or not or whether we are even aware of it or not. The bad meaning has to do with being more and more precise about external patterns without feeling for the internal drivers that should control them. In other words, I find "precision" to be necessary, but not at all sufficient for creating the feeling I want.

Take care,
Audi

[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 06-25-2005).]
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Postby Bamenwubu » Sat Jun 25, 2005 10:53 pm

Kal,
Your statement,
"I'd just discovered that if I allowed each movement to expand or contract (open or close?) to its full extension with my intent, then yang naturally transformed to yin and my body easily moved into the next movement"
Sums it up very well in my book.
As long as you maintain the principles in your form, then this "exchange of full and empty" starts to become clearer all the time. One of the students at our Saturday morning practice said last week that she felt a "void that needs to be filled, it almost seems to pull me the right way" when she was in the proper position to move into the next form.
Once Yin changes to Yang, or vice versa, the next movement just seems to come of its own accord.
I don't know a darned thing about caligraphy, I can say with perfect humility that if we were writing this out by hand no one would be able to read a word I've written, but I do see this same transition represented clearly in the Yin/Yang symbol.
These things take a long time to feel and if you try to rush it you are defeating the purpose. You've got to train at your own pace, your own time, not someone elses.
As my push hands partner said last week (he may have been quoting someone but if so I'd not heard it this way before), "Tai Chi Chuan form is a long journey, not a foot race. Instead of trying to rush to "win" it and miss everything, just relax and enjoy the scenery on the way".

You've got some very good insights into this type of thing. Thanks for sharing them.
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Postby Kalamondin » Thu Jun 30, 2005 12:50 am

Hi Audi and Bob,

Bob,

Thanks for your comments. I liked what that student said about a "void that needs to be filled, it almost seems to pull me the right way" because I sense that too—the trick is to align one’s intention with the void or the void shows up in entirely the wrong place and pulls me off course. The intention still has to set the course.

Audi, thanks for expanding on cuo. I hadn’t seen that before. Been meaning to get Davis’s book for ages…

As far as transferring intention from one movement to the next goes, I’m finding it really hard to stay present in the movement I’m doing when I’m thinking ahead to try and get the trajectory/timing right for the next one. Of course, the goal is complete and utter presence in each moment, without thinking ahead or anticipating anything…yet it’s all to easy to get lost in the present moment and allow the movements to become sloppy on account of following movements past their natural endpoints. I think the trouble for me lies in sending my mind/intention too far out and forgetting to come back.

About the “dual character” of transitions—can you talk more about that? I think this is where tai chi gets slippery because I think that each movement has to be completely and utterly itself, even if it’s a transition, or something in transition. And that trying to hold two movements in the mind at the same time is a form of mental division that’s counter to the spirit of tai chi. Distinguish between one movement and the next, yes, hold the whole of the two in the mind as one movement gradually transfers into the next, perhaps, but like yin and yang the movements should be inseparable even as one distinguishes between them.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
I find that this type of language has two meanings: one that is good and one that is very bad. The good meaning has to do with recognizing that "intention" and "timing" are important and linked, whether we like it or not or whether we are even aware of it or not. The bad meaning has to do with being more and more precise about external patterns without feeling for the internal drivers that should control them. In other words, I find "precision" to be necessary, but not at all sufficient for creating the feeling I want.
</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Audi, I can’t do precision without feeling. Feeling is how I get to precision. I can’t do it the other way. Image

Kal
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Postby Bamenwubu » Thu Jun 30, 2005 3:32 pm

Kal,
Yep, I'm glad you mentioned that about "intention", I had forgotten that point in my post.
I did my best to point out to her that without the proper intention she could be moving in the wrong direction.
I did my best to keep them calling it an "empty space" instead of a void, as I feel "void" gives more of an idea of nothingness, where empty space gives the idea of something that needs to be filled.
Semantics, I know, but it seemed important to me that we try to keep the terminology straight.
However, you made the point very clear for me and I appreciate that.
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Postby Audi » Sun Jul 03, 2005 5:00 pm

Greetings all,

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> About the “dual character” of transitions—can you talk more about that? I think this is where tai chi gets slippery because I think that each movement has to be completely and utterly itself, even if it’s a transition, or something in transition. And that trying to hold two movements in the mind at the same time is a form of mental division that’s counter to the spirit of tai chi. Distinguish between one movement and the next, yes, hold the whole of the two in the mind as one movement gradually transfers into the next, perhaps, but like yin and yang the movements should be inseparable even as one distinguishes between them.</font>


There are many aphorisms of a dual nature, like “Opening is closing, and closing is opening” or “Releasing is storing, and storing is releasing” which, in my opinion bear on this issue. If the end of a movement is not the beginning of the next, then there is an end and there is no continuity. This violates one of the Ten Essentials.

On the other hand, Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun emphasize, perhaps even more than other similar teachers, that each movement should have a definite endpoint. We probably show more of an external pause between postures than many other “schools.” The problem is How do we pause and still respect continuity?

I have asked about this difficulty and have been told that the issue is not so much about the duration or timing of the external pause, as about showing internal continuity of intent.

Let’s look specifically at the conclusion of the First Paragraph and the interface between Deflect Downward Parry and Punch (“DDPP”) and Apparent Closure. This is one of the transitions where I have difficulty.

If I do the end of DDPP with a clear and definite expansion of the joints to show a suggestion of Fajin, where should the release lead to? I find that the easiest thing to do is for my fist to extend outward and then relax backward toward my body, as if “recoiling.” While this feels good, it is completely at variance with the transition into Apparent Closure, which requires that the fist extend further from the body and begin a circle to the left. The last thing it should be doing is recoiling back into my body.

One solution is not to vigorously expand into the punch, but then this omission just hides the internal problem of linking the jin flow of the two movements. The only other solution I have found is to find the moment at the end of DDPP and at the beginning of Apparent Closure where I should be indifferent to the opponent’s actions. This is where I think of “holding to the center” (Zhong Ding/Central Equilibrium) and of forcing the opponent to choose or to adapt to the changes. If he or she does not adapt, then I end the movement with the punch. If he or she adapts, even at the very last moment, then I should be able to modify the natural jin flow into the pattern of Apparent Closure.

This is essentially what I try to do between each posture (when I do not have to concentrate on avoiding tripping over my feet.) I agree with your thought about not dividing the mind, but I think the “Taiji” of Taijiquan implies an inherent oneness in dualism that must be ever present. I also think that an aspect of Zhong Ding (“central equilibrium” or “settling on what is central”) implies an indifference to right and left, beginning and end, etc. that both encapsulates all extremes and denies their independent relevance.

An example of what I would think is an impermissible division of the mind and intent would be extending the right arm into the end punch of DDPP, but trying actively to see this movement as the beginning of the circle that begins Apparent Closure. What I am trying to do is find the moment where the extension is consummated/finished, but can still be turned into the circle that begins the next movement.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Bamenwubu » Tue Jul 05, 2005 2:09 pm

Audi,
I don't seem to have the problem with continuity between forms anymore, though I used to.
I used to use the image of a river always flowing, never stopping though sometimes surging in different directions according to the geography, when I did the forms. This seemed to work for me at first but I have since found a better way, for me.
Now, I use mental visualization to help me with having what I have heard called a "sense of opponent" in my form work. Using this technique, I visualize how it would feel to have an actual opponent, actually multiple opponents, applying against me as I do each form. I picture their movements, feel their energies as they would combine with mine to try to recreate the movements as they would occur in a "real" confrontation.
This takes any idea of a "stopping point" right out of your form work. Since you have an idea in your mind how your opponent is moving to counter your movements, you find quickly that if you "stop" you can then be controlled by your opponent. If you keep moving then this does not happen.
Now, I know this technique will not work for everyone. Some have no experience in a combat setting, not even push hands, so there can be no clear concept of how it would feel to be engaged with an opponent. However, if you do know the feelings of having an opponent engaged with you and you have a clear focus on the martial intent of each form, then it can be a powerful technique. (Having MYJ's DVD helps a lot, since he gives us an "intent" for each form to use)
For the specific transition you are referring to, I actually use the forward moving transition of energy into my opponent to keep the movement going properly, rather than picturing a point at which I make contact and have to stop to fa jin. Instead of visualizing a point at which I "stop", I instead think of it is a point at which stopping would be very detrimental to the progress of the conflict.
I visualize in this instance that my opponent has melded with my punch and neutralized it. It is then easy to imagine that your opponent has a good grasp on your right wrist and is attempting to pluck you forward with it using your own energy. If you have broken with principle and overextended for the punch, you will be easily offset and at your opponents mercy at this point. If you have addressed the principles and have only extended far enough then his foward pluck, or pull, will only enhance the next movement in your favor.
Using his forward pull I concentrate on keeping my stance solid, but allow my waist to turn freely to my left with the energy, circle my upper body to follow his energy then redirect it back towards me with the turn of my waist back to the right and the energy of my front leg pushing backwards combined to set myself in a position where I can peel his wrist off of mine with the form movement. Think Roll Back, only to the left, and this might help. Same type of energy.
In this way, there is no break in the movement. It is one continuous flow of energy, which includes the fa jin aspect of issuing and combines it into the circling of the upper body before the energy is withdrawn to disengage his grasp of my wrist, then turn into the Push that follows.

I hope my explanation makes some sense? It might not, but I gave it the old college try.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that by thinking of every movement in the form as a continuous loop of combat, never ending, never stopping, it makes it easier for me to disregard any idea of a starting or stopping point to an individual form. If you think of the entire long form as one big choreographed combat sitation, and forget any idea of any one form being a beginning or ending point in and of itself, then the continuity seems to come of it's own.
At least for me.

Again, merely one guys perspective at this time.
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