Practice

Practice

Postby Michael » Tue Sep 09, 2003 5:59 am

Hello all,

Don't know if anyone will be interested in this thread but here goes.

Each of has different ways. And it is obvious that on this site we all at times learn something from each other. I know I sure have. It maybe in the form a revelation or from one's own questions that come from considering anothers take on things. I know there has been a number of times that though I did not quite agree with what was being said, I was forced to think in a different manner and came up with a whole "NEW answer".

I cannot remember this subject ever coming up before, but I am very interested on how "you" practice. Maybe numbers of sets, time of day, do you do right and left sets, single movement work, chigung, weapons, sitting or standing meditation, methods, tips etc. We have had many different teachers, maybe different styles, with a broad range of experience. We are not able learn from them all but maybe there is something in our training that others have not had the good fortune to be exposed to. Is there anything that you do that you would recommend? What works for you?

For myself, I can't add anything earthshaking. I find that single movement work where you alternate one form--with an appropriate transition--on the right and lsft in a long string. For any new people to taiji I would recommend that you do not undertake this until you have learned the enire set and are fairly comfortable. This is early internal work, but really shouldn't be undertaken too soon.

A left set also has value for me. Though I am only "comfortable" with a third of the 108. I can do the rest but it doesn't flow yet. I do slack off on this and should be farther along, but you can't do everything, not with barehands, sword, saber, and staff/spear.

The last thing that I will mention tonight is sitting meditation. I do do standing, not as regular as I should, but I find the sitting has more value for me. If I really want to get "deep" and do a slow set,45 minutes or so, I do fifteen or twenty minutes of sitting before beginning (At other times as well). Regular meditation however will get you to the same place whether you do it before practice or not. One can arrive at this state with just regular "hard" practice, but sitting or standing will help one get there a little faster in my experience.

Any thoughts or recommendations any of you would wish to share I am sure would be appreciated by all.

Thanks,

Michael
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Sep 09, 2003 7:18 pm

One 108 Wu form every morning, then as much of the YCF forms as I know (I just picked up Fair Lady Works Shuttles last week). A Yang 13 posture form three or four times a day during the time everyone else uses for smoke breaks.
At least three times a week I do the Wu 108 Saber form. When I do this form I finish up with as much of the spear warm ups and exercises as I know, which isn't too much.
I only know the first third or so of the Gim form, but I do it as often as possible, usually two to three times a week.
Another 108 Wu form every other night shortly before bed, all of the YCF form that I know the opposite nights.
I practice push hands as often as I can find a partner.
I go to a YCF class once a week.
I practice Chi-kung as part of my warm ups, but that's about all.
That's about all time will allow me at this point.
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Postby Audi » Fri Sep 19, 2003 11:56 pm

Hi Michael,

I do a 20-25 minute form once a day very early in the morning, after 35 minutes of aerobic workout and about ten minutes of stretching. I do the sword form only about twice a week, and the saber form about three times a week, usually all at once before class. I try to do push hands about once a week with some friends, working on horizontal circling, vertical circling, switches, and specific applications and counters to the four primary energies.

We often to the 13-Posture Form in class, but I haven’t figured out how to work in the 49-Movement form on a regular basis and only do it when I am otherwise pressed for time.

My main issue now with my practice is quality, rather than quantity. Michael, from your posts, I would guess that you bring a physical and mental intensity to your form that I strive for, but that some others do not seem comfortable with in such a “gentle,” “easy,” “flowing” art as Taijiquan. Since I approach form in quite an intense way, I find that I "use" it quite differently from some of my Taiji friends. For me, the form feels much more like a live performance with varying and surprising results, than a repetition of set positions.

In just about every posture, other than the Preparation Posture, I feel I have a significant and very specific defect that needs correcting. About 70% of the time, I feel I know what must be done, but have problems accomplishing this “on the fly.” About 30% of the time, I am not sure which of many possible solutions is the correct one and so dither around too much without doing much of anything. The easy and lazy thing to do is simply to leave my form as is. Too often, this ends up being my choice.

When I do work on single postures, one of the techniques I use is to “look for” force vectors in the mirror. For instance, in the vertical circles in the Saber Form, I try to see what mental command I am giving to my arm that does not allow my saber effortlessly to line up horizontally and vertically at the correct moments. Some others might describe this as a failure of “relaxation,” but I perceive this to be an incorrect use of mind intent. In other words, I feel I must ferret out the incorrect command I am giving to my wrist, elbow, etc., that makes the movement complex, instead of simple. I find repetition or “drilling” to be useful only after I have invested enough time into understanding how I need to move Jin through the posture. Otherwise, my form becomes too external, complex, dead, and inflexible.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Michael » Sun Sep 21, 2003 5:42 pm

Audi,

Good to see you back.

When everything is working out I will do two sets in the morning. The first is more of a warm up and used to discover "defects"---especially concerning the "ten essentials". In my second set I look a bit "deeper" and try to fix the "defects". I never have to worry about finding something to work on. As soon as I "fix" one thing, others appear. Then at sometime in the day I will do a section of five or six forms, maybe more, to work on intent and "spirit". Some times this involves visualization, sometimes not. I may repeat this short section four or five times. IF time allows, I carry the last part onto another repetition of the entire set. Or I just do the set to "see what happens".

Three sets, one after another have great value. But unfortunately I can not always accomplish this. I don't use lacking "time" as an excuse but rather me lacking the proper "determination". Even with the consideration we must show our families etc., there is more time than we think. I hope no one thinks that this is a lecture to any of you. Rather this is how I feel about my own practice. The "needs" and demands on each of us are different and cannot be judged by anyone else.

On one day/week I will work on the left side. I know this is may be a little strange but if I have to go from one end of the house to the other I often just use single movement to get there. I would not think of single movement as "drilling", but rather a means to look for "disjointedness" in movement, for inadaquacies in structure that does not allow for good flow and the expression of "power". I find that often in normal set practice some forms often get overlooked in a sense. But by using the single movement you can really focus. I recently read in Tai Chi magazine that some master did not like this practice as it overlooked certain things that you only get in the set, probaly flow and transition-----I think that would be true if one just focused on doing a right side High Pat on horse, for instance, over and over. There would be no transition, no flow, nowhere for the sinking of energy, etc.,etc.. I would consider this to be "drilling". This is useful in the "hard" arts but less so in taiji I believe.

I do think that "drilling" applications has value however. I will do this a few times a week with my son or a classmate. We vary the direction of the incoming energy and work with the differences, making sure the principles are being applied, not force. THis has helped me quite a bit in overcoming my lapses in this area. It is pretty much the same type of practice as push hands is more varied as we are using joint locks, stikes, etc. I also need this type of practice as I cannot usually do push hands for as long as I would like or that often due to a back problem (which is getting better slowly).

There are many approaches to the way one practices and that depends on what wants from it. The same depth of intensity can be brought to the health side or the martial side. I think where the difference lies is in intent. here I am not really talking about "why" but "how". Movement needs purpose. Coupled with "looseness", "spirit", and proper structure you have taiji. I have seen people doing beautiful form work with angelic smiles on their faces. I have seen the same with a "look that kills". It seems to me that both are lacking something, or have upset a delicate balance. I have heard that the spirit should be "lively". I think that this is a good description of something I cannot find words to describe. "Spirit", for me, might be the hardest thing to maintain throughout the set. This aspect is where my sitting meditation seems to have the most value. Maintaining "intent" comes in second. ANy thoughts on a definition and actual expression or use of "Spirit"? Or methods of working on, developing this aspect? This really the type of thing that I had in mind for this thread this thread? "HOW".

I think you are may be on to something conerning intent being the cause of some flaws or defects. I have not thought about this in exactly those terms. I'll have to look at this some more.

Thanks,

Michael
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Postby Audi » Fri Sep 26, 2003 1:17 am

Hi Michael:

You made an interesting point about the battle for time to do Taijiquan. You inspired to eliminate, at least temporarily, one excuse for me to skip my morning practice. At the moment, I can practice only on my deck, and when it has rained overnight and left it wet, I usually have skipped practice for safety reasons.

A few days ago, I was disappointed to wake up and find the deck wet and challenged myself to consider whether skipping my practice was really the best course. Because of the poor light conditions under which I normally practice (I currently have a wonderful view of Orion and the Pleiades, now that the Moon is not so bright), I have fairly often begun my practice on slippery wet wood or even wood covered by frost. Once I have gotten going, it has seemed pointless to stop. Using this logic, I went ahead on this particular morning and did my set with very satisfying results.

Michael, you have mentioned several times that you routinely do left-side forms. I have heard conflicting things about the wisdom and/or appropriateness of this. Do you know what, if anything, the Yangs have to say about this? In the very first form I learned, which I think descended from Cheng Man-Ch’ing, it was assumed that after one mastered the regular form, one would then learn the entire thing from the reverse side. I have fallen away from this practice as I have concentrated on the Yangs’ form, but am curious to know if you have any particular “authority” for doing left-side forms or if you have just decided to do it on your own.

On the subject of “drilling,” let me clarify exactly what I mean. First, from what you have generally posted, your views on Taijiquan seem more or less similar to mine and so I would be surprised if our views on this differed. I do not consider that single-movement practice necessarily involves “drilling.”

When I have mentioned “drilling,” I have been referring to practice that are intended to render complex movements automatic so that they can be executed on command with little or no thought. I have found such practices to be of enormous value in many activities, including Karate (e.g., repetitive punching and kicking) and playing the piano (doing scales). In Taijiquan, however, I understand the goal to be to acquire conscious awareness of the principles of movement and never to commit to set courses of actions. In such a context, I consider an attempt to render movement “automatic” to be inappropriate.

In single-movement practice, just as in repetition of the form itself, each round can remain live and fresh, without any attempt to eliminate conscious awareness of each aspect of movement. As I understand it, this is a long-standing practice with Taijiquan. My personal practice does not focus on this, but that is not because I have anything against it on principle. It is simply out of a desire to focus on other things.

As for spirit, this topic appears to be popping up on other threads, where I may attempt to lay out some thoughts in greater depth. In a nutshell, I have been arriving at the conclusion that this is one of the areas in which my practice is most lacking. I recently had the experience of trying to do the form for testing purposes and was quite surprised to realize that in many ways, I hardly knew the form at all. As I tried to exercise every movement perfectly and really tried to focus, I realized that I had “under-exercised” my control of “shen” and almost had to make up things as I went along. This made the entire form very strange.

In a nutshell, I think the best way to exercise “shen” is by focusing the gaze with a large degree of intent. By this, I do not mean that one should stare or even develop a killer gaze, but rather that your eyes should reflect quite clearly and precisely what your body is doing and why it is doing it. Some masters are said to have eyes that sparkle.

As I understand it, the gaze should generally be focused on the part of the opponent’s body that you are primarily working with at the moment. For example, in Cloud Hands, the gaze should slightly lead the progression of the ward off hands, with the intent of connecting with the opponent’s incoming arm. In Needle At Sea Bottom, the gaze is on the target of the right hand, which in practical terms means that one looks at the floor where your hand is pointing.

This is all I have time for at the moment.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby psalchemist » Sun Sep 28, 2003 11:08 pm

Greetings Michael,

You said:

< Each of us has different ways. And it is obvious that on this site we all at times learn something from each other. I know I sure have. It may be in the form of a revelation, or from one's own questions that come from considering another's take on things. I know there has been a number of times that though I did not quite agree with what was being said, I was forced to think in a different manner and came up with a whole "New answer". > - Michael

What a wonderful sentiment. Image

This, I believe is a very open-minded and generous concept. Embracing change eloquently, constantly and consistently is a lifetime task and art in itself which ultimateley harvests the rewards of superior and rapid evolution.

I agree with your philosophy.

However, you state that you <were 'forced' to think in a certain manner>. If I may contradict...

I believe it is always a "choice" to think in a different manner. A "choice" to accept new ways, ultimately it is a "choice" to evolve efficiently. Noone can "force" an individual to learn, grow, or change unless he decides to make that choice for himself.

This does not mean that one must change at every new stimulus presented, but rather, that one must be broad-minded enough to consider all new input and see how it factors into one's own present reality and opinions.

Then one must be flexible and determined enough to accept and implement the change and actually adjust one's thoughts and actions accordingly, make the new adjustments.

To summarize, I believe this to be a noble character trait, sign of a finely evolved and educated individual.

I have certainly learned much from these discussions and am always eager to expand my education and views to reach further limits.

Thank-you for all the help,
Best regards,
Psalchemist. Image
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Postby psalchemist » Mon Sep 29, 2003 12:38 am

Greetings Audi and Wushuer,

You both mentionned on this topic board performing a thirteen posture form originating from the Yang Family style.

Does either one of you possess a source, reference or link where I might find the specific list of commands for this form in either English or Pinyin?

Is this merely a shorter version of the long form or is it a completely different entity to be reckoned with?

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist. Image
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Postby psalchemist » Mon Sep 29, 2003 2:36 am

Greetings Michael, all,

You requested feedback on personal practice methods.

I find that to be a difficult question to answer, myself, really. My routine changes constantly to suit my growth and development advances. I adjust according to my present priorities. As you said, there is always something to work on...a lifetime of corrections ahead, for sure. Image

If I had to explain some sort of semblance of my routine, to answer more precisely...

I like the three 'times' a day idea. Morning, afternoon, evening...

The full form once or twice in a row at a time.
I find three times in a row, as you suggest, very trying for my concentration, however, on my level. Endurance in concentration is something I am working on.

Sometimes I do an hour a day, others I do several hours...

But mostly I make it a point to do something everyday-I take few Taiji vacations. At my student level it is easy to start forgetting details and sequence.

I practice at different speeds for different purpose.

I drill, but with longer sections...for example, starting from Chuan Shen, moving through Ye Ma Fen Zong, continuing through the Lanchiao wei sequence to resume the looping effect from that point...I can go twenty or thirty consecutives once I start getting into the rhythm of it. It becomes very focused as you mentionned, but without the strain of the sequence memory to worry about, it actually becomes easier to concentrate on.

I play around with the spear/staff and sabre a little.

I find intense stretching routines to be useful and have decided to incorporate the stretching exercises I learned in gong fu to my routine lately, to strive for more flexibility.

I pick up my squeezer once in a while to strengthen my grip (I figure that will probably end up being useful in Taijiquan one day).

Michael, I like your idea of practicing once for the essentials and then a second for corrections, I will incorporate this into my form as practice as well.

You also mentionned working on intent and spirit which I will work on, once I have a more clear Idea of these notions.

This reminds me of a funny little intention technique I sometimes work on, for fun.

I inject the qualities of the four elements into my intention, therefore my movement. I find this occasionally delightful, amusing and therefore motivational to practice when my determination is perhaps lagging.

Each element has a different feel, with individual qualities to train.

For example, doing the full form like 'water'...Fluidly, smoothly, calmly, forcefully moving heavy mass(like a wave),no breaks, slowly yet powerfully.

Fire is more lively, snappy, more intense and 'looser' than the water feeling,more rapid in execution, alert( feels distinctively more martial).

Air would be lightly stepping, floating, meditational.

Earth is more focused on sinking and grounding aspects, moving the mass solidly, more precise than the fire, a different momentum control than the water element...etc.

They each have their own special qualities and inject different intent into the form.

Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Michael » Mon Sep 29, 2003 7:03 am

psalchemist and Audi,

First I only have a minute. I have been on a mini fishing vacation and I see I have much to catch up on. Just a few comments for now, I'll get back later for more.

psalchemist,

"forced"? I suppose I this not very clear. I am implying that when new info comes up that seems contrary to "my" way of thinking I don't see myself "choosing". New information "demands" that I consider it. So in a way I am "forced" out of my subjective way of thinking. That is the goal, to be open, so that one may deal with all that comes---in an "appropriate" manner.

Audi,

Just a brief comment on "left side" practice. I asked Yang Jun if the Family did left sets? He said that he did not but made no comment on if this was "good or bad". My use of left side comes from my Kwang Ping Yang style training. I understand that this is found in other Yang branches as well. I do think that one must have a pretty good base first to begin this practice. Beacause you are developing "wiring" on the left side you spend less time in the more in depth training on the other side. You know the sequence but it is like learning each individual form from the begining.

The advantage, I think , is that in actual use one may just as easily perform Deflect Downward,....on the left if called for, BUT I think you will be able to do it "faster" if one has trained that side as well. If the nerves have been "wired" so to speak, things go more smoothly.

I think also that it helps us overcome our "preferred" way of doing things. Some of us are incredibly right or left handed, the rest of us are some place in between. Sometimes to use the "other side" is a real chore, sometimes close to impossible. I ask anyone out there to get up from the computer and do Fist under Elbow, Deflect downward,..., Turn and Chop, Grasp sparrows tail, on the left side. Does it flow well? It sure didn't for me. I would like for it to do so.

More later.

Michael
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Postby Michael » Mon Sep 29, 2003 7:18 am

psalchemist,

Yang Style 13-Position Form

1. Preparation (opening)
2. Wave Hands Like Clouds (3X)
3. Single Whip
4. Fist Under Elbow
5. White Crane Spreads Wings
6. Brush Left Knee
7. Play Lute
8. High Pat on Horse
9. Turn and Chop
10. Step Forward Deflect Downward...
11. Grasp Sparrows Tail
Ward off Right, Rollback, Press and
Push
12. Crossed Hands
13. Close
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Postby psalchemist » Mon Sep 29, 2003 4:48 pm

Greetings Michael, all,

Firstly, I would like to clear up any misunderstandings which may have incurred from my posting. I see no disagreement at all, my own awkward manner of communicating, perhaps.

You clarified by repeating the gist of your conveyance in a different manner..." I am implying that when new information comes up that seems contrary to 'my' way of thinking I don't see myself 'choosing'..." (Michael), you alluded that you feel "forced" into assimilating the new information, despite your present opinion.

This is a very delicate thought that I have been pursuing for quite some time now. I was discussing similar philosophy concerning the subject of "patience".

Question:Are we still BEING patient if we are BEHAVING patiently, but are actually feeling the stress of FORCING ourselves to be patient?

I am still considering this idea.

It coincides with your posting containing reference to 'open-minded behavior', and also with the subject of 'double-weighting' within the Taijiquan theory system.

Please indulge me in my penchant towards "psycho"-analyzing everything. Image

Without delving into the ethics or morals, right or wrong, good or bad of it, I would like to approach superficially the merging of your posting with my ponder of patience and the double-weighting theory of Taijiquan on a more psychological level. I think this will advertantly clarify the situation.

Change,I guess, is the 'big word' here, and how one feels about it.

There are three levels in my view, and of course all the degrees in between, to "adapting to change".

1)Change, completely free from doubt or hesitancy, full acceptance of change.

2)Changing but feeling FORCED to...trying.

3)CHOOSING NOT to change, stagnancy.

Similar to the example of 'patience' I mentioned, I believe there are degrees of 'acheivement and maintenance' along our evolutionary paths towards excellence.

Taiji theory seems to point the finger towards #1 -Fluid, efficient change, liveliness, the ability to change easily to adapt to and accomodate the opponent and exterior stimulus without effort; with ease and efficiency, and leans against the idea of non-change or stagnancy; avoidance of 'double-weighting'.

This state of ability is something to be striven for, not something that one can always implement.

To organize my thoughts...

Pertaining to 'Patience'
1)At times we are truly patient, feeling like a saint.
2)Other times we digress and demonstrate patience, whilst cursing softly to ourselves under our breath...but we try.
3)At our worst, we unleash our impatience upon others without restraint.

Pertaining to 'Double-weighting' in Taijiquan,
1)At times we are truly 'lively' and feeling exceptionnally 'nimble'.
2)Other times we digress and demonstrate momentary double-weightedness', but recover quickly...but we are trying.
3)At our worst we become fully double-weighted and cannot, or will not remedy the situation.

Pertaining to 'open-mindedness',
1)At times we are truly open minded, feeling like we could understand the universe.
2)Other times, we digress and demonstrate 'stiffness' in listening or understanding another's point of view...but we try.
3)At our worst we reject completely with disregard other's opinions without even considering the concept. We CHOOSE to reject change or new ideas.

Maybe this clarifies?...

Really, I was just trying to convey my thought that you seem to be open-minded, patient and accepting of change.

It was meant as a compliment and attestation to your good character and 'open' nature.

Best regards,
Have a nice day,
Psalchemist. Image
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Postby psalchemist » Mon Sep 29, 2003 5:19 pm

Michael,

As for the second posting you provided, containing the commands for the Thirteen posture form, all I can say is...
Bless-you
Thank-you
Excellent

I am relieved to see that all are postures from the Traditional long form, it would have been quite useless to me had they not been. But, since they ARE...well great then, I'll have the challenge of attempting to link those movements together. Transitions. That should prove enjoyable...and being the same movements, it should not interfere in my 'Traditional' practice.

Good-stuff!
Thank-you,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Wushuer » Mon Sep 29, 2003 7:31 pm

Psalchemist:
Michael gave you the breakdown I see.
Good.
I have a video of one of YZD's disciples, Han Hoong Wang, doing the 13 posture form.
I do understand that since the video I have was made the form has been modified slightly. If I remember correctly, the Wave Hands Like Cloud is transitioned into differently now.
I have only been shown this change one time and don't exactly recall it, so I practice it the old way.
Anyway, you might want to look around for a video of this form, since the transitions are slightly different from the long form. I believe if you look in the teacher database at the yangfamilytaichi.com website you'll find a way to contact Han. I feel confident that she would be able to help you find a video of this form so you can practice it.
I really, really like this form.
I took the 13 posture form class originally so I could check to see if the person who was teaching at the YCF Center here was legitimate or not.
Believe me, there are a LOT of people out there who are teaching something they call TCC, but it isn't. You can't be too careful.
So I took the 13 posture form class as a good way to find out. It was a short class and didn't cost that much, so there wasn't a lot of time or money invested.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the class was legitimate, and so was the instructor.
Anyway, I use this form whenever I want to get in some practice, but don't have a lot of time. I can sneak away to my stairwell, where I practice when at work, and do this form in less than five minutes. It's a complete form, so you have a definite beginning and ending to work with.
I find I like to have that feeling of completion that comes from doing a whole form as opposed to just doing single form practice. It's a personal thing.
Anyway, it's a nice little form for a quick rejuve during the day. If I have extra time, I just run through it twice.
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Sep 30, 2003 12:22 am

Greetings Wushuer,

Thank-you for the feedback.

Your enthusiasm for the 'Thirteen Posture Form', I find very inspiring.

I do appreciate the reference provided for video instruction,

However,

Being the totally incorrigable individual that I am, I believe that I will attempt the process on my own first.

And will most probably continue to strive towards this goal until I arrive at the realization that I have indeed 'banged my head' sufficiently, before seeking more professional advice or assistance.

It's a personal thing Image LOL

Thanks also for the warning about 'different transitions'...That is definitely very helpful information...less head banging, ultimately less brain damage Image

Best regards,
Psalchemist.

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 09-29-2003).]
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Postby Charla Quinn » Tue Sep 30, 2003 5:33 am

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Michael:
[B]psalchemist,

Yang Style 13-Position Form

1. Preparation (opening)
2. Wave Hands Like Clouds (3X)
3. Single Whip
4. Fist Under Elbow
5. White Crane Spreads Wings
6. Brush Left Knee
7. Play Lute
8. High Pat on Horse
9. Turn and Chop
10. Step Forward Deflect Downward...
11. Grasp Sparrows Tail
Ward off Right, Rollback, Press and
Push
12. Crossed Hands
13. Close

Hi, Isn't there a "Piercing Palm" after the High Pat on Horse? Also, when we were doing this form at the Redmond Ctr. last spring, there was only one Clouds Hands. Has it changed since then?
Charla
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