How slow?

How slow?

Postby Simon Batten » Mon May 07, 2007 10:55 am

In Louis' translation of Fu Zhong Wen's book 'Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan' the last of Yang Cheng Fu's 10 points as dictated to Chen Weiming states: '...Even when there is movement, there is stillness. Therefore, in practising the form, the slower, the better. When practising slowly, the breathing deepens and lengthens ...' I used to take about 23 minutes to do the form, as this is the time taken by the Master from whom I learned it in London. But over the last six months, I've been concentrating much more on Embryonic breathing, and making my breathing 'fine, slow, long and profound'. Of all of these, the 'fine' is the most elusive, but I am now able to practise the form without breathlessness while inhaling and exhaling very slowly and finely. I now take 38 minutes to do the form. This may seem a long time, but I hope Yang Cheng Fu's words about practising as slowly as possible validate my approach! Kind regards, T.
Simon Batten
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2006 6:01 am
Location: Brighton, East Sussex, England

Postby Simon Batten » Mon May 07, 2007 10:58 am

Sorry for accidentally signing myself 'T'. I use that on another website. Kind regards, Simon.
Simon Batten
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2006 6:01 am
Location: Brighton, East Sussex, England

Postby Bob Ashmore » Tue May 08, 2007 1:44 pm

Well, the man said the slower the better, so you should be fine.
38 minutes is a LONG form. I don't know if I've ever taken that long to do a form. If I have it was a long time ago.
I generally do the 103 form in about 18 to 22 minutes. I'm shooting for getting in three reps a day though, so I don't slow it down as much as humanly possible as much as I probably should.
Bob Ashmore
 
Posts: 603
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Postby Simon Batten » Tue May 08, 2007 9:43 pm

Bob: three reps a day sounds admirable. I think YCF advocated even up to five or seven, if I remember rightly. I did two reps the other day, though. And thereby hangs a tale. There's a two week festival of the arts, etc., going on here in Brighton at the moment with a lot of street performers. So I thought 'What the hell?', made a little sign saying 'Tai Chi Yang Cheng Fu long form' and started going through the form in the street with a hat beside the sign for donations if anyone felt minded! It was a pedestrianised zone, and by chance I found myself next to a man who was playing a Chinese suspended gong or tam-tam very quietly, which really added to the mood for me and helped me relax. A few people stopped and watched (I could see them out of the corner of my eye), but most weren't bothered. As for the financial side of things: not a single penny, not one!!! Well maybe they're all experts and thought I was rubbish though I think it's much more likely that they were, well - just not bothered. Kind regards, Simon
Simon Batten
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2006 6:01 am
Location: Brighton, East Sussex, England

Postby Audi » Thu May 10, 2007 11:49 pm

Greetings Simon and Bob,

I have heard it said and have read that Yang Zhenduo used to train 45-minute forms in his youth, but do not know whether this is true or not. In general Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun do not seem to have a specific length requirement, but seem to suggest a length of about 20-25 minutes.

Simon, I would be curious to know what you feel you gain with a 38 minute form.

I must confess that I do not take Yang Chengfu's statement literally, but rather as a reaffirmation of the value of doing the form slowly in the face of those who would argue for "application" speed.

If I have extra time or want to train really hard, I do three 25-minute reps back to back. I would highly recommend this because of the difference in quality of the three reps.

Take care,
Audi
Audi
 
Posts: 1137
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am
Location: New Jersey, USA

Postby César » Fri May 11, 2007 7:11 pm

Greetings!

Simon: there was a discussion back in 2003 in a thread titled: "Form in 20 minutes?" http://beta.yangfamilytaichi.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/000051-2.html
There were lots of opinions but basically it was set that no extreme is good (neither too slow nor too fast).

In the Newsletter of the International Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan Association (N° 10), Master Yang ZhenDuo says:
"...Doing the form one time commonly takes about 25 minutes now. In the past, we took 45 minutes to do the form three times in a row session. The transitional time between moves was longer, the postures were lower, and the moves were slower..."
---
(A last interview with Fu Zhongwen, Tai Chi Magazine, December 1994)
"...The fastest you can go with the 85 movements or the 108 would be 18 minutes and the slowest would be 22 minutes. You don't want to go past that. The ideal is 20 minutes exactly. And you cannot do it with some movements fast and some movements slow. It has to be continuous motion. If you do it for 22 minutes but some parts you do fast and some parts you do slow that is not following the Tai Chi Principles...James Fu (Fu Zhongwen's grandson) said that, some people think that slower is good and some people tell him they do the form in one hour or 40 minutes for a set. This is useless. This is not T'ai Chi anymore. This is just movements. The reason that we do T'ai Chi slow is because we want to do it faster. This is the principle.
He said, -You get a different pay from different work. This is the same in martial arts. The T'ai Chi idea is to practice slow but the idea is not to do the movements but to use your mind to control your movements. It is not your movements doing the movements. It is using the inside to do the movement so every movement can be very final...Grandfather used to tell me regarding people doing Tai Chi for one hour for a single set:'Your body is stopped. There is no jing any more. The jing is gone. If you do it for one hour, it is stopped..."

I hope this helps

César
César
 
Posts: 55
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 6:01 am
Location: Barquisimeto, Lara, Venezuela

Postby Simon Batten » Sat May 12, 2007 5:30 am

Cesar and Audi: I can't really work out whether Yang Zhenduo's statement on the form practice in his younger days took 40 minutes or so for one set or 40 minutes or so for three. But I take on board what Fu Zhonwhen said (that slower speeds are useless,) which makes me a bit worried. Maybe I'll have to revert to the conventional 23 minutes, as taught by the Master in London. I didn't consciously try to slow my form down. It just happened as I started to make my breathing finer. I've found, perhaps ironically, that I experience less breathlessness the less I try to breathe externally, gulping air into the lungs, than internally, from the abdomen, making the breathing 'fine, slow, long and profound'. Also, doing the form this slow has really made me concentrate on balance and transitions. It's difficult to slow it down this much from those points of view, at least if you're thinking about the ten essential points every centimetre of the way, as well as the breathing and applications. I'll probably speed it up again soon. I've read elsewhere (but can't remember chapter and verse) that it's good, after learning the form to take a standard length of time, to then vary it by practising really slow, and also practising really fast. I think all approaches are valid. I think it's good to learn the form according to a set time to begin with, and then maybe to experiment with different speeds, which will give different emphases. But I'm still very worried about what Fu Zhongwen said ... Kind regards, Simon.
Simon Batten
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2006 6:01 am
Location: Brighton, East Sussex, England

Postby Simon Batten » Sat May 12, 2007 5:58 am

Cesar, thinking about this again, I'd like to revert to your quotation from Yang Zhenduo, namely: 'In the Newsletter of the International Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan Association (N° 10), Master Yang ZhenDuo says:
"...Doing the form one time commonly takes about 25 minutes now. In the past, we took 45 minutes to do the form three times in a row session. The transitional time between moves was longer, the postures were lower, and the moves were slower..."

This can only be consistent if he is referring to doing one round of the form in 45 minutes and then repeating it a further two times, again 45 minutes each. It doesn't make any sense if he is taken to mean that he used to do three forms in 45 minutes (i.e. fifteen minutes each). Otherwise, why would he say that 'the transitional times between moves was longer ... and the moves were slower' [i.e., than 25 minutes]?. But it is clearly at odds with what Fu Zhongwen said. I'm confused as to precendents!!! I only know, that from the point of view of feeling, I sense that doing the form in 38 minutes approx has done me a power of good (and I do it low, as well). Especially the breathing: this is really fine now, even though I'm having to control the breath obviously over much longer periods. Still, what Fu Zhongwen said ... worrying ... On the other hand, if I'm right in my interpretation of Yang Zhenduo's statement: well, that's reassuring, but then it leaves me with an apparent contradiction between the statements of these two Masters as to appropriate speeds. Kind regards, Simon.
Simon Batten
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2006 6:01 am
Location: Brighton, East Sussex, England

Postby JerryKarin » Sun May 13, 2007 6:43 am

I don't think there is any problem with doing it for 38 minutes/rep. Yang Zhenduo once practiced 45 minute reps. However, I agree with Fu's warning that too slow can turn into disconnected, not circling, not continuing, meandering... etc.

I do 25 minute reps myself. I like the speed and I can still feel the energy of the applications, of the waist whipping out the limbs. Too slow for your level and you can kinda lose that.
JerryKarin
 
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2001 7:01 am

Postby César » Sun May 13, 2007 12:02 pm

Simon: I posted YangZhenduo's and FuZhong Wen's vision just for reference. I don't think there is something wrong with a 38 minutes rep. But personally, like Audi and Jerry, I do 20-25 minutes reps.
Why? Well, I like the way the body feels after doing the form at that speed. I feel invigorated with "everything flowing". I tried a couple of times doing it over 30 minutes and when I finished the form I felt awkward, like too heavy.
I think there is a reason why the masters recommend a certain amount of time. This information is born of practice (A LOT of practice) and we should "listen" to their advicess but we cannot follow them blindly. We must make our own "mistakes" to build our own way (again, I don't think that you are wrong) This is the way to know what fits better for your body in terms of practice, depending on your age, conditions, etc. But always remembering that Tai Chi Chuan is the art of avoiding the excesses (neither too slow nor too fast).
Take care
César
César
 
Posts: 55
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 6:01 am
Location: Barquisimeto, Lara, Venezuela

Postby Audi » Sun Jun 03, 2007 7:58 pm

Greetings Simon,

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Also, doing the form this slow has really made me concentrate on balance and transitions.</font>


My personal theory is that "concentrating on balance and transitions" becomes an urgent requirement as one improves. I think it is critical in order to begin deepening understanding of Jin and how it flows.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I've found, perhaps ironically, that I experience less breathlessness the less I try to breathe externally, gulping air into the lungs, than internally, from the abdomen, making the breathing 'fine, slow, long and profound'. ... It's difficult to slow it down this much from those points of view, at least if you're thinking about the ten essential points every centimetre of the way, as well as the breathing and applications. </font>


My own view is that concentrating on breathing can, paradoxically, decrease the development of internal aspects of Taijiquan. For me, "making the breathing 'fine, slow, long and profound'" has less to do with breathing per se than with a certain type of movement and attitude towards movement.

If you "relax" and calm your mind and spirit, then your breath will naturally tend towards "fine, slow, long and profound." In this way, your breath will be an indicator of how smoothly you are circulating Qi and Jin.

If you control your breath to make it "fine, slow, long and profound" independently of your other movement, I think this will not provide the best result. I think a good analogy can be made with the hands.

It is often said that the hands can express the entire quality of one's movement. Despite this, if you merely focuses on making hand movement even, coordinated, and correct, this would not result in very good Taijiquan.

I attended a few seminars this season where Yang Jun put increasing emphasis on "internal" aspects of doing the form. While he did mention aspects of "natural" breathing that should be expected, he seemed to put more emphasis on feeling the flow of Jin like waves. No sooner does one "wave" crash and expend its force than another begins to rise to take its place.

For me, critical elements of having this feeling are keeping my mind, body, and spirit calm and unhurried. Another critical element is concentrating on the "meaning" ("YI") of each posture and transition and how it relates to my current body positioning.

I find that as I begin to do the form slower and slower, I begin to lose the feeling of waves. The oscillation becomes too tenuous or too subtle for me to deepen the feeling. It feels more like floating in a river, than bobbing in sea swells. I am not sure how slow is too slow, but this is one of the feelings I use as a guide. Doing the form faster and faster also causes problems.

Of course, the difference between inhalations and exhalations would seem to provide a way of connecting on the feeling of waves. I think there is something to this idea; however, I also think that concentrating on the breath would be to do things in reverse. Your breath should follow your intent, rather than the other way around. I also think that the meaning of the postures is too detailed to match any particular breathing pattern. There are waves within waves and patterns within patterns.

I hope this helps.

Take care,
Audi
Audi
 
Posts: 1137
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am
Location: New Jersey, USA

Postby denzuko1 » Wed Jun 06, 2007 8:42 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Simon Batten:
In Louis' translation of Fu Zhong Wen's book 'Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan' the last of Yang Cheng Fu's 10 points as dictated to Chen Weiming states: '...Even when there is movement, there is stillness. Therefore, in practising the form, the slower, the better. When practising slowly, the breathing deepens and lengthens ...' I used to take about 23 minutes to do the form, as this is the time taken by the Master from whom I learned it in London. But over the last six months, I've been concentrating much more on Embryonic breathing, and making my breathing 'fine, slow, long and profound'. Of all of these, the 'fine' is the most elusive, but I am now able to practise the form without breathlessness while inhaling and exhaling very slowly and finely. I now take 38 minutes to do the form. This may seem a long time, but I hope Yang Cheng Fu's words about practising as slowly as possible validate my approach! Kind regards, T. </font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I think how slow is not the most important thing in Tai Chi, but your body awareness to ensure the right move for every stroke.

I find that I have to be slow to become aware of my hands, legs and body movement, the angle I am turning and the the steps I am taking.

There are purpose to be slow, and slowness without purpose is meaningless to me.
denzuko1
 
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2006 6:01 am
Location: Singapore

Postby Kalamondin » Mon Jun 11, 2007 11:51 pm

Yang Jun has advised that students who have been practicing for a long time begin to slow their form until it's about 45 minutes long and has mentioned that three 45 minute sets were a part of his training.

These are some of the reasons, as I understand them:

1) Improved balance:
Slowing the form helps you to really see where you are not precisely balanced or not distinguishing between empty and full. It's harder to compensate for improper structure when you're moving slowly.

2) Improved leg strength:
It's much harder to do the form slowly, particularly if you are in a lower stance. However, you shouldn't press yourself until you are out of breath--the requirement of breathing naturally and easily still applies.

3) Threading:
Going slowly is a bit like driving slowly when you're looking for a new location--you can spot things you might otherwise miss. It helps you check to see where your form "breaks" or doesn't flow smoothly. It improves your ability to track all aspects of your movements and thread them together into an unbroken whole.

4) Checking your postures internally:
If something is difficult when going slowly, there may be a postural error that needs correcting, like footwork angles or width, or a shoulder raised too high. Going slowly highlights these because the form is either more awkward or painful.

That said, I don't think MYJ generally recommends this to those who haven't been practicing long. Sometimes faster movement helps to learn the sequence and get a general feel for the applications.

Kal

One further note: MYJ also mentions that one shouldn't go slowly at the expense of losing the jin, or the sense of the movements being internally connected. If the form feels "broken" or "choppy" he recommends speeding up to rectify this until you have the feeling of connection, and then slowing down again once the connections are well established.

[This message has been edited by Kalamondin (edited 06-14-2007).]
Kalamondin
 
Posts: 309
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 7:01 am

Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Jun 12, 2007 3:47 pm

Great post! Thank you, Kal.
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby denzuko1 » Wed Jun 13, 2007 1:52 am

I have just bought a book written by Wu tu Nan and he has a brief description of how he was taught the skill by Yang Shao Hou.

He raised example of the grasping the sparrow's tail, there are 6 combination of movement to complete the form. At each movement, he has to stop and focus on 6 types of breathing. It therefore took hours to complete 108 strokes. However, the practice healed him from all sickness that he has before learning the skill.

Base on his account, the slowness in Taichi is not only about posture or balance, but internal focus.
denzuko1
 
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2006 6:01 am
Location: Singapore


Return to Tai Chi Chuan - Barehand Form

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest