Mind Intention in Taijiquan

Postby Wushuer » Fri Apr 02, 2004 10:36 pm

Kalomondin,
All advice and thoughts are appreciated.
We seem to be in different places in our form practice right now, diametrically opposed in fact.
I'm working on raising my stance. I've worked almost exclusively in low stance, small frame. I'm trying to get myeslf used to higher stance, larger frame.
Among other things, I'm working on quite a bit right now, but I digress.
I have never considered my dantien to be a pool toy before...
I do practice my forms in my swimming pool in water up to my chin for the purpose of learning to root well (if you can root when you're bodies naturally tendency is to float away, you can be pretty sure you've got a solid root on dry ground, or so I believe <WUSHUER DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT CLAIMING THIS IS A TRAINING METHOD THAT ANYONE ELSE HAS TO TRY OR THAT BY DOING SO YOU WILL BE ABLE TO KNOCK OVER OPPONENTS FROM A DISTANCE WITH SUPERLATIVE MARTIAL SKILL JUST BY LOOKING AT THEM OR EVEN LEARN TO SHOOT FIRE OUT OF YOUR BACKSIDE, THIS IS STRICTLY WHAT I DO> thank you for reading my disclaimer, you may now resume your normal lives), but I've never looked at it from that particular point of view.
I'm not knocking it, heck I've invented my own set of TCC stair walking exercises, who am I to knock anyone elses training ideas? I'll have to try it before I could possibly say anything about it either way.
I'll try anything once, if I like it I'll do it twice, but I'd better really like it before I do it a third time because then it's a habit.
I'll give it a whirl and let you know what happens.
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Postby Wushuer » Fri Apr 02, 2004 10:42 pm

Oh, and I think I have worked out that kua thing, thanks for asking.
I bugged my instructor during our last 13 posture form class until he beat the idea into me.
In a good way, jeez, you people...
;-)
He pushed and pulled me around until I started to pick up what he was putting down.
I've been having a lot of fun with it, actually.
Your idea of force going forward and up was something I think I've read somewhere before, then quite forgot. I have still been picturing it as mostly forward, only "up" in my mind when I was doing "peng", though I don't know why...
But I did sneak out after reading your reply and do quite a few single form postures with the idea of forward and up.
It does add a different dimension to the process.
Again, I'll have to play with it.
Thanks.
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Postby psalchemist » Fri Apr 02, 2004 11:33 pm

Greetings Wushuer,

You wrote:
<<Your idea of force going forward and up was something I think I've read somewhere before, then quite forgot. I have still been picturing it as mostly forward, only "up" in my mind when I was doing "peng", though I don't know why...
But I did sneak out after reading your reply and do quite a few single form postures with the idea of forward and up.
It does add a different dimension to the process.>>Wushuer

I tried that process with An...And found a distinct difference between using slightly "upward" and slightly "downward" intentions. In that posture, the downward concept seemed to work better for me than the upward, regardless of the actual physical incrementational lean upward.

I thought that was a bit odd...

What do you think of An, and its energy?

And also, since we are on this subject...

I have noted an upward/diagonal Tso Peng and an upward/vertical for Yo Peng...

Due, I suppose, in part, to the wider stance in Tso Peng and the more narrow stance of Yo Peng. [IN THE FORM]

Is this my own flaw or does the energy, in your opinion actually move this way?

Do you find a difference between the right and left Ward-offs/Pengs?

Thank you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby psalchemist » Sat Apr 03, 2004 10:12 am

Greetings David,

Sorry for the delay, David.

[[That is something novel to my ear..."Acupuncture points as areas of LOWER conductivity...as resistors...Great analogy.
> Just as using gold tipped patch cords improves sound quality on a stereo, by lowering the resistance at the junction?]]Psalchemist

[[It's the other way around: when you lower conductivity you *increase* resistance.]]David

Yes your right..."when you lower conductivity you *increase* resistance."

I had that backwards...But I knew what I meant...smiles...

If theres a block at a point...this should create a resistance to chi passage...and there would be "lines" (between certain points) which would be stuffed up, while others would lack pressure.

If my system is working well...then it would be similar to being hooked up with gold tipped cables of thick calibre which allows free passage with least resistance and more conductivity.


Thank you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.






[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 04-03-2004).]
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Postby Imo » Sat Apr 03, 2004 3:17 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Kalamondin:
<B>Psalchemist,

You wrote: <<I am deeply pondering your concepts of "martial virtue" and "manipulation".>>

I’ve been thinking about it some more myself. It’s been on my mind for much of the week. I’m coming to this conclusion: if you are operating from a place of stillness, if you are working from your center, centered, still, then manipulation (in the pejorative sense) doesn’t play into it at all. If you can just be, with out thought, feeling or remorse, then there is no need to act, no need to verify, no need to analyze, no possibility for acting out of fear or the expression of guilt because you are simply existing with the universe and there can be no wrong that comes from this. Truly, all the great artists manage in one way or another to channel the stillness. This precludes violence, acts of domination and acts of will. There is something to be said for noninvolvement (as in not trying to manipulate). The Tao Te Ching is right when it says that non-involvement leads to mastery (severe paraphrasing on my part—I’m at work and can’t remember what exactly it does say)..

===============================================================

[[P: Although focused on the complete lower body...the results manifested moreover in the Tantien. It became very heavy and full like no precedent similarly with my hands.
K: That’s exactly how it was for me too, except that I was focused on the lower body. But it really did have the effect of filling the Dantien. I think it was allowing these “substances” (light chi? Heavy chi?) to separate themselves (like oil and water) that allowed the Dantien to fill as much as it did.]]

P: Thats a concept I had not considered before...light/heavy chi...interesting, possible...
(When I tried that experiment, I was thinking, empty/full.)

P: Have you heard anything of "quality of chi" before?
Is there any actual documentation on the substance "chi", that you know of?

K: Well, I’ve heard acupuncturists talk of it with different adjectives before: sluggish, hot, cold, damp. I suggest looking at some of the books I recommended for greater detail.

Personally, I’ve experienced chi as hot/warm (ginger tea, a friend with a fever, really great sex, the sun), cold (a tree at night, a mossy stone), imperceptibly fine and smooth (my teacher), pulsing (most people have a kind of fine vibration, an oscillating tremor that I can feel when touching their skin), blasting (my cat when frightened and scratching), prickly (a cactus), buoyant (like practicing the form in a very salty sea), sludgy (my head when hung over).

I don’t know much about whether or not chi has substance. I think Daoist philosophy says that matter comes from chi, but I can’t claim to know anything about it. It doesn’t really feel like a substance to me per se. It feels a little like I am feeling the quality of a substance, the way that you can tell what something sounds like or looks like without the sound waves or light waves being the thing itself. I suspect that chi may be a kind of field or force that the physicists haven’t quite managed to describe yet—but then I’m not up on the latest research either, being a layman with little aptitude for physics (but man, is it fascinating!). I can’t quite describe it either b/c my understanding is not very deep. I feel like I’m just scraping the surface of something.
===============================================================

<<I’ve been instructed to remember that the Dantien is more than just that one point below your navel-rather it’s a belt of energy that surrounds you at that level, and as such, extends beyond the body. Have you ever done standing meditation with your arms in a circle and your hands facing your Dantien? As I breathe into my Dantien when I do this, I can feel the chi pushing against my hands like a balloon expanding and my hands move with my breath, floating on that ball of chi.>>Kalamondin.

P: I tried it myself without results, personally.
I can sometimes feel it between the hands...but not at the tantien...yet, anyways.
Although the sensation felt like a bowling ball...I could not feel it with my hands.
I shall have to experiment with this technique more often.
Are these Qigung techniques?

It can definitely take a while to feel anything, just keep letting go of tension when you try this and try to let go as well of the expectation of feeling anything in particular. I would say that yes, standing meditation is a qigong technique…but you will, of course, find it as a part of many martial arts disciplines, including tai chi, as it can help you develop an understanding of stillness, structural alignment, chi flow, patience, perseverance, rooting, balance, quieting the mind, etc. etc. I don’t think it’s necessary to practice standing meditation in addition to tai chi, but it can certainly be a valuable auxiliary practice.
===============================================================

<<Ah, I just thought of another possibility: your Triple Warmer meridian runs behind your ears. It governs the 3 main chi reservoirs, including the Dantien, so that must be it. It starts at your ring finger, runs up your arm and shoulder, goes around the back side of your ears and then ends at the temple (roughly). It governs your response to allergies and is kind of like the high command of the fighting forces of your immune system response.>>Kalamondin

P: I was considering this...however both ears were affected...
I was under the impression that the meridian point only went behind the left ear???...So this threw a wrench in the initial idea...but I know very little of meridians, so please don't hesitate to correct any blatant errors.

K: Hmm, I don’t feel the least bit qualified to answer this, so don’t take my word for it, but my understanding is that for each organ system you have two meridians that are mirror images of each other on each side of the body. They are generally spoken of as one, as in “the lung meridian,” etc., but one side can have strengths or weaknesses that the other one doesn’t have, and thus different sensations.

Kalamondin</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
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Postby Wushuer » Wed Apr 07, 2004 5:37 pm

Psalchemist,
I just noticed your questions to me, sorry I didn't get to them sooner.
What do I think of An energy? I've always considered it a downward energy, though I've also seen and used it as upward. I guess it depends on what I'd be using it for.
Mind intent, once again.
What is my intent for An during this usage? That will determin it's character.

Do I find a difference in right and left Peng energies?
Nope, not a bit. Well, unless you consider it's on the other side....
But no, the energy feels very much the same for me.

I recall you asked about large rollback and small rollback and do I find them different...?
I think that's what you asked.
Yes, and no. If I remember correctly you mentioned that your feet are closer together...?
I'll have to reread your question, I forgot it's gist.
I don't find much difference between them, they both work very much the same for me. One is a smaller jing than the other, but still the same jing.
If that's not what you were looking for, let me know. I'm popping in here between doing other things and I must be off for now.
Well, I've been off, for a long time, but that's a different matter entirely.
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Postby Audi » Thu Apr 08, 2004 1:29 am

Hi Kalamondin,

On 3/25 you posted a message that I think I never responded to. First let me say that you expressed many of the same feelings that I have during push hands. Towards the end of your post, you asked two questions about circles. The first one concerned “seeking the straight in the curved,” and the second concerned using feelings to improve push hands practice.

As I mentioned before, I think that “seeking the straight in the curved” is probably best handled in a separate thread, because I think we would need to lay a solid foundation that I know I cannot do in only a few words. As for the specific strategy you propose for single hand practice, I think I understand things somewhat differently.

If you want to attack, I think you alter the combined energy in such a way (“Hua Jin”) that you think the opponent will be led to a point of “shuang1 chong2”/“shuang1 zhong4” (“duplication”/“being double weighted”). If such a point is not reached, you should do nothing. If you do reach such a point, you can then add as much Jin to the situation as you want for whatever ends you wish. In reality, however, it should feel like opponents almost have to uproot themselves without your forcing anything initially. You invite them to become vulnerable and then seize the advantage. Neither acceleration nor increased force should be the key to victory; although they may be present.

What makes opponents reach a state of “duplication” is dependent on the interplay of their skill, their intent of the moment, and the physical positioning of their limbs. If you are talking about single arm, “competitive” pushing, I think you can explore this state fairly simply within the Yangs’ system by exploring how circular each of you is being. In the Yangs’ system, the horizontal single-hand circling is intended to be practiced at a constant speed in as large a perfect circle as possible. As far as I understand, it is not intended to be a competitive practice. If, however, you were to explore the exercise in a semi-competitive way or at least in way to explore inherent vulnerabilities in your partner’s technique, you could follow in behind wherever your partner introduces “corners” into the circle. If you follow you partner closely at these points, he or she will be forced out of the circle or forced to push him or herself without your having to accelerate or change trajectories.

You also inquire about how to project feelings into the opponent in order to improve push hands practice. I don’t think I am going to have a chance to go into my thoughts about this now, but let me try to sketch out what I might get a chance to post later.

First, I think one can be quite “successful” in competitive push hands play without establishing a firm basis for learning intermediate or high level push hands skills. Having earlier approached push hands mostly in freestyle modes, I now think that this was a mistake on my part, except as a basic testing or assessment of skills. There are variations of push hands drills that can give you a competitive flavor without allowing you to use too many skills outside of Taijiquan. Some of these drills can help show the futility of push hands play that encourages stiffness, reliance on speed, or the pursuit of power. They can even harness or highlight the effects of fear, anxiousness, timidity, aggressiveness, etc. If you do not use Sticking, Adhering, Linking, and Following, the drills do not work much at all and make the defects obvious. Once you and your partner get the basics down, you can make the drills progressively more and more complex until you begin to verge on freestyle pushing and eventually sparring.

This is all I have time for at the moment.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Kalamondin » Thu Apr 08, 2004 8:43 pm

Hi Psalchemist,

You asked:
Would all of these root structures still stem from the bubbling root?

K: Basically yes. This will be the strongest root, but I think it's possible to root from other places too (though not necessarily useful--it depends on what part of you is in contact with the ground). For example, I had a teacher once who recommended imagining sending chi 3 feet or more below the ground with both hands and feet at the closing of the form. One could conceivably root with the hands there, although I think the purpose was a combination of discharge of unhealthy chi and reconnecting with the earth as part of closing.

You also mentioned:
I have been wondering how the Diagonal Flying (Tsi Feng Shi) posture, which has the substantial leg (left) rotating on the heel momentarily, would handle rooting, while in transition, while losing contact with the bubbling well...

May I ask what you have deduced, personally, concerning rooting in conjunction with the rotating substantial (progressing to insubstantial) heel turn.

K: Like I said above, I don't think that rooting _has_ to be with the bubbling well point, but it's stronger that way. So, in diagonal flying, the "rootball" Image is at first well developed under the left (full) leg. As soon as the right heel touches down behind me, I send out "feelers," or little roots to make contact and find out what kind of ground I'm on before I commit much weight. Then it's a give and take process--as the rootball under the right leg is growing, the one under the left is retracting (I think of roots shrinking, as if growing in reverse--not pulling up) until the bubbling well point is free and there are just residual roots in the heel that then rotate very quickly and establish a new (albeit lesser b/c most of the weight is on the right leg) rootball.

It occurs to me that even when my foot is in the air, I could imagine little roots hanging down from it (like sod), seeking the ground. This would help maintain a sense of some substantiality in an empty leg (because nothing is ever 100% in tai chi, right?).

Well, this has been another picareque posting. I hope you've enjoyed it...stay tuned Image Thanks for your good questions, they make me think things through more.

Kalamondin
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Postby Kalamondin » Thu Apr 08, 2004 9:00 pm

Hi Wushuer,

It does look like we're in very different places right now, but I'm finding enough overlap that I'm happily learning things as a result of our correspondence.

W: I have never considered my dantien to be a pool toy before...

K: Well, no, neither had I, but the strangest things do occur to me when I'm practicing.

W: I do practice my forms in my swimming pool in water up to my chin for the purpose of learning to root well (if you can root when you're bodies naturally tendency is to float away, you can be pretty sure you've got a solid root on dry ground, or so I believe...

K: Nice. I'll have to try that next time I'm in a pool. Some of my other techniques for rooting are: practicing in airports (stressed out people vibes bring the chi up and make it hard to root), practicing in sand or gravel, or with slippery socks (there's a use for nylon dress socks after all!) on a smooth floor.

I liked your warning, so I'll add one of my own: practicing like this can be extremely dangerous. I accept no liability for any injuries or damages sustained while practicing anything I suggest. Including, but not limited to: sand in weird places, small rocks under the skin, and or time lost due to interrogation by airport police as a result of tai chi practice. Come to think of, given the current climate, I do not reccommend practicing in the airport at all!

Can you tell me more about your stairwalking technique? It sounds like it could be very useful for lowering my stance.

Thank you,
Kalamondin
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Postby Wushuer » Fri Apr 09, 2004 3:21 pm

Kal,
I can tell you about it, it's certainly no big secret.
For health reasons I was told by my physician to begin some stair walking. Since I am a student of TCC I decided that it would have to be with TCC principals involved.
The Wu family has an exercise that was always referred to as "the TCC walk", I'm sure it has a chinese name, but I wouldn't know it. It is the second thing you teach a new student in their schools, after their warm ups. You stand with your headtop lifted, chin tucked in, shoulders down and relaxed, chest slightly sunk, back expanded, waist tucked slightly in, knees bent, feet as far apart as the transverse length of your foot between your ankles (standard Wu style beginning posture), you then sink your body weight onto one leg, lift the empty foot by bending your knee and lifting the ankle first and letting the toes follow, step forward, go forward letting your body weight transfer to the now forward leg by allowing your upper body to lean forward as you go forward, then lean back to upright as you transfer the weight and get ready to step with the back foot. (this is easier than the desription makes it sound, if you show it to someone they catch on right away).
You repeat this until you hit the wall (if you're inside, or for however many steps you feel like if you don't have a wall handy), then you do it backwards, always landing your back foot heel first then toe.
I started out my TCC stair walking by simply doing the Wu style TCC walk up and down the stairs, forward up, backward down.
It's extremely effective for strengthening the legs, back and abdomen, not to mention giving you a foundation for Wu style stepping patterns.
As time went on and I got bored with this straightforward approach, I tried to walk forward while going down the stairs, but this doesn't work so well, you tip too far forward and could fall easily, going backward up the stairs in this fashion is also very dangerous. So I thought about the Wu style form and which posture would give me the best stepping pattern for going down the stairs facing forward.
I finaly hit on Wu style "press", which has this perfect forward bow in it which allows you to easily step forward, root, then issue (I want every Wu stylist here to try that, it is superbly suited for this purpose).
I then tried it going upstairs forward and integrating the arms, which form to use for that? I hit on thier Brush Knee and Push. Again, the form is superbly suited for stair walking going forward.
For going up backward the Wu style Repulse Monkey, with a very slight modification, works quite well, though it's still a tad dangerous because your weight goes quite far forward. I have the legs for it, but I don't recommend it if you are a beginner. It takes a brave person to be leaning that far forward over that big of a fall and feel comfortable.
Not too long after these discoveries I began to study the YCF style of TCC.
In keeping with that branch of TCC, I once again began to search for forms that would allow me to do my stair walking routines while doing single form training.
For going up the stairs I have found YCF style Wave Hands Like Clouds to be absolutely superb. For going down the stairs I once again utilized Press, for the same reasons as in Wu style, that little forward bow you use to gather and store is superbly adapted to allow your forward, unweighted foot to drop down to the next step then go forward.
So that was what I did. There are other forms that work well for these things, but they require some modification to make them work on stairs. I recommend playing with all the forms on your own and finding some that work for you.
That said,
A while ago on this thread I posted a question regarding "mind intent" in the forms and referencing a phenomen that I found entirely by accident related to it during my stair walking.
I didn't get one reply to it.
If anyone would like to go back a page or two and read it, and would care to comment on it, I would be greatly appreciative.
I have continued in the practice I mentioned there, it works superbly both up and down the stairs, though I have found that it cuts down on the amount of physical work required in my stair walking. I have to actually up the number of flights I do dramatically to get the same benefit when I do my stair walking in this fashion.
I have found that if I utilize the theory I came up with during that revelation during my form practice, my root is as solid as a rock and my division of full and empty is nearly absolute.
This revelation I had has profoundly affected my form training and push hands practice in both styles.

Have fun looking for it. I dropped the theory out here and got nothing in response, but I am here to tell you, it works like nothing I have ever found for generating power in my movements and rooting like I never have before.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 04-09-2004).]
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Postby Kalamondin » Fri Apr 09, 2004 9:12 pm

Hi Wushuer,

Thanks very much for your detailed description of your stair-walking technique. I’m going to have to print out your description and try it. It’s funny how tai chi moves that can be copied relatively easily if you have someone to show you take so long to describe….

I went back and looked at your description of using mind intention for going up stairs. I’ve never had that specific experience, but I have had a couple of interesting mind over matter experiences. There’s no doubt in my mind that setting a useful mind intention can really boost physical capabilities by putting your body in a place where it can move naturally, effortlessly, fluidly, and with great power.

I think my most similar experience involved Kayaking in an inlet against the incoming tide. I had never kayaked before and was getting tired and starting to worry about being able to make it back to base camp before dark. I decided to see if my tai chi training could be extended to rowing. Most people thing of rowing as pulling the oar towards you (like in crew), but in kayaking, it’s most useful to push the oar up and away from you with the arm opposite to the end of the paddle in the water—like the raised fist in strike the tiger left and right. I quieted myself, practiced breathing from my dantien, let myself listen to the oar and its resistance to the water, and I fell into that wonderful trance state where everything is effortless. I could feel very clearly the distinction between left and right, and how the movements went in figure 8’s. I moved much faster, made it back in time, and wasn’t even sore the next day from using muscles I’d never used before for several hours.

As for your comment about feeling like you had a rope pulling you along, well, I’ve felt that once too. I tend to try these things only when I’m very tired because it just doesn’t really occur to me yet otherwise, unless I’m specifically thinking of training. So, I was tired. It was a long walk home and I was hungry. I made a mental connection between the earth and my home, and imagined that the earth was supporting me, pushing me along by sending energy up through my bubbling well points and out the center of my chest. It felt like there was an invisible rope connecting my chest to my home and that I was riding along it like something being ferried across a pulley. Again, walking was easy, I sped up, and felt refreshed when I arrived.

This leads me to the conclusion that there is energy available to us, so long as we are calm and still and thus able to process it. It’s just a matter of setting an intention in a very relaxed way, without trying to force anything. It sounds like your stair walking experience was much like this: you were already quiet, with your mind in your dantien, so when the unexpected happened, you were able to move from your center with great power. Later centering the intention directly in front of you (and up the stairs) let you move without a sideways loss of balance.

One other technique I’ve heard of that sounds similar is a Tibetan monk technique for covering long distances quickly without tiring. It looks a little funny if you try it, but works nicely, in part because the body is balanced forward, always on the brink of falling, so you transfer the potential energy at the height of a drop into kinetic energy. Here’s what you do: as you inhale, raise your arms up like Opening and move forward as though there were ropes tied to your wrists. As you exhale, drop your arms and push them slightly back behind you, palms facing back behind you as though you were pushing off from leaning against a wall, or as though catching some force that is pushing you from behind. It’s fun!

My last experience with something like this was during hiking down a long slope. My knees are full of rough cartilage on account of high impact sports in my youth, so they hurt. I imagined that there were cushions of chi, supporting, surrounding, and inside each knee. Stepping became painless as I got more relaxed and I suddenly found it was really easy to choose my footwork, that I wasn’t even conscious of choosing it, I just seemed to land and everything was stable. I was avoiding the loose rocks and roots…and before I knew it, I was bounding down the hillside like a goat…until common sense struggled its way in and made me slow down. But I really think that if I’d been able to maintain that sense of calm and connection that I could have traveled all the way down the hill at a full run and not have fallen at all.

OK, all for now. I don’t know if any of that was the response you had hoped to hear on the subject, but that’s what I’ve got.

Kal Image
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Postby Wushuer » Sun Apr 11, 2004 5:29 pm

Kal,
Yep, that's exactly what I was looking for. Thanks.
The tibetan monk exercise you describe is similar to "raise hands" as done in the Wu style. The intent is forward and up as you raise and lean forward, then pulling back and down as you lean back and return to center.
I've been doing this exercise in nearly that fashion for a long time. Same idea of "mind intent", but no muscular force. My mind intent for raise hands in my Wu style forms is not the same as in Yang style forms, and I move differently. My instructor, however, tells me he can still see my energy move forward noticably when I do this form even though my body barely moves, though it still does move more than Yang style forms call for (I'm working on it). My body and mind have made this a forward leaning, forward and upward energy issuing, then a backward leaning, backward and downward pulling energy on the way back, for so long that while my body in not actually doing that very much and I don't "lean" physically anymore, my energy still moves that way because that's how my mind sees it.
Yes, your analysis of my "rope pull" is very nearly what I've been feeling. No energy wasted on sideways motion when what I wish to do is go go up and forward or down and forward. As soon as I image my body moving as if pulling power from my center my energy moves almost on it's own and kind of takes me with it.
If I'm not relaxed, I can't do this very well, though there is still a feeling of connection that does help.
I'm not sure what to make of it yet, though I am integrating this into other aspects of my life.
Opening doors, lifting things, pushing things, pulling things... I approach them all differently now and it's getting easier for me to do these things if I follow the example of the postures and use them correctly.

I better go now. I'm supposed to be cleaning up the house.
If I figure out the proper movements, I hope that gets easier....

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 04-11-2004).]
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Postby Audi » Sun Apr 11, 2004 10:43 pm

Greetings all,

Kalamondin, my heart was warmed by your story about kayaking. This is again a similar experience that we seemed to have shared. I have kayaked only a few times in my life, but I have always thought of it as a an activity that personifies a lot of the struggle that Taijiquan presents: how one has to balance movement and stillness, the true relationship between energy in the arms and energy in the body, and how cannot escape the logic of circulating energy.

You have mentioned ideas of “seeking the straight in the curved” and seem to have mentioned an excellent example of this. Out of the figure-eight pattern used in manipulating the paddle, one propels a kayak in a straight line. On the other hand, if one focuses on trying to paddle in a straight line, even by alternating strokes on either side of the kayak, one usually ends up sending the kayak into a spin that cannot be stopped or controlled by “straight” strokes. To control a kayak, you have to feel both the curves and the straight lines simultaneously.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Kalamondin » Wed Apr 14, 2004 8:31 pm

Audi,

You're absolutely right about the kayak figure eight pattern being just the curve the kayak needs to go straight. I've tried paddling in straight lines--I think most people do before they find out what works, but I think the correction process is so natural that most people don't even notice they've begun to paddle in arcs or figure eights (depending on whether it's a kayak or a canoe).

Neat! Thanks for pointing that out, it hadn't even occured to me.

Kalamondin
Kalamondin
 
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Postby Kalamondin » Fri Apr 16, 2004 8:42 pm

Hi Audi,

Thanks for your response. Do you know how to start a thread on “seeking the straight in the curved?”

Here is my long overdue response—sorry for the delay.
You said: <<If you want to attack, I think you alter the combined energy in such a way (“Hua Jin”) that you think the opponent will be led to a point of “shuang1 chong2”/“shuang1 zhong4” (“duplication”/“being double weighted”). If such a point is not reached, you should do nothing. If you do reach such a point, you can then add as much Jin to the situation as you want for whatever ends you wish. In reality, however, it should feel like opponents almost have to uproot themselves without your forcing anything initially. You invite them to become vulnerable and then seize the advantage. Neither acceleration nor increased force should be the key to victory; although they may be present.>>

That makes sense. I’m at a point where I can usually find the opponent’s center with relatively little difficulty (we are not skilled enough to hide it yet), but I struggle with knowing when they are double weighted. Can you explain to me how you know when this is so? We are getting good enough to start creating little traps for each other, but I seem to spend more time evading them than setting them. Is knowing when they are double weighted a matter of using listening energy to listen down their legs? Do you have any suggestions for how to do this? I guess I don’t really understand what it looks like or sounds like in an opponent. I understand it’s complicated, from what you said below:

A: <<What makes opponents reach a state of “duplication” is dependent on the interplay of their skill, their intent of the moment, and the physical positioning of their limbs.

You went on to say:
If you are talking about single arm, “competitive” pushing, I think you can explore this state fairly simply within the Yangs’ system by exploring how circular each of you is being. In the Yangs’ system, the horizontal single-hand circling is intended to be practiced at a constant speed in as large a perfect circle as possible. As far as I understand, it is not intended to be a competitive practice. If, however, you were to explore the exercise in a semi-competitive way or at least in way to explore inherent vulnerabilities in your partner’s technique, you could follow in behind wherever your partner introduces “corners” into the circle. If you follow you partner closely at these points, he or she will be forced out of the circle or forced to push him or herself without your having to accelerate or change trajectories.>>

K: That’s how I understand it too: as a training to learn how to stick and follow, to make smooth, round movements and that it’s not intended to be competitive. That said, however, I have played at it in a semi-competitive way with partners who are pretty good at listening and sticking. I had fun seeing if I could match speeds with a fast incoming push, if I could use my waist, if I could keep the energy even, if I could find their center and surprise them. But that was only after a few years of training in how to be soft and slow and listen.

A: <<You also inquire about how to project feelings into the opponent in order to improve push hands practice. I don’t think I am going to have a chance to go into my thoughts about this now, but let me try to sketch out what I might get a chance to post later.>>

K: I’d love to hear more about this when you have some time.

A: <<First, I think one can be quite “successful” in competitive push hands play without establishing a firm basis for learning intermediate or high level push hands skills.>>

K: Are you talking about push hands competitions? I’ve heard they can become quite hard in style and execution, but I’ve never seen one. Or are you talking the competition that is inherent in the practice? I can think of at least two types of competition here (and I’m sure there are more): 1) the kind where personalities clash and one or both are trying to assert dominance; and 2) the kind where the competition is more with yourself—to improve and maintain balance.

A: Having earlier approached push hands mostly in freestyle modes, I now think that this was a mistake on my part, except as a basic testing or assessment of skills.

K: What do you mean by freestyle? Step anywhere you want, move any way you want? Fixed step but with anything goes otherwise?

A: There are variations of push hands drills that can give you a competitive flavor without allowing you to use too many skills outside of Taijiquan. Some of these drills can help show the futility of push hands play that encourages stiffness, reliance on speed, or the pursuit of power. They can even harness or highlight the effects of fear, anxiousness, timidity, aggressiveness, etc. If you do not use Sticking, Adhering, Linking, and Following, the drills do not work much at all and make the defects obvious. Once you and your partner get the basics down, you can make the drills progressively more and more complex until you begin to verge on freestyle pushing and eventually sparring.

K: Again, when you have more time, it would be great to hear more about how you think of these things. I’m particularly interested in what you said about highlighting or harnessing qualities that seem linked to personality. I’m sure it’s a tactic that can be used to increase the effects of strikes and blows in combat, and suspect that it can be used to diffuse fights before they begin.

I feel pretty confident in my ability to read people. What’s lacking, as yet, is the ability to stay calm enough to know what to do about what I read and not be unduly influenced by it. I read somewhere about augmenting the emotion in play (fear, aggressiveness, anger, whatever) so as to gain the advantage. From an objective view point, I can see how an overly emotional person will make mistakes—but thus far, when I try it all that happens is that they become scared/pushy/angry and we both get overly emotional: I get scared, freeze up, and then I occasionally get injured b/c I can’t react fast enough. They’re so deep into their emotional response that they can’t listen well enough to stop before injuring me.

(A few days later)
I asked my teacher about some of these things, indirectly, and he suggested that I add standing or sitting meditation to my practice as a way to stay calm. I had done this only sporadically before, but it is helping. He also pointed out, gently, that I’m not reading people well enough because I’m not empty enough. I’m thinking too much and not just feeling and reacting naturally to what’s going on.

I could use some advice on what this process is like (feel free to add your two cents, everyone!): what is it like to empty yourself in the face of what feels like attack (even if the opponent has the requisite self-control not to break things)? It’s one thing to be empty in meditation, or even during push hands practice with someone you trust—but what is it like to be empty in the presence of someone with whom you constantly have to be en guard?

From my experience with people whose energy I mesh well with, I know that everything becomes clear and effortless. I understand that the attack will not touch you if you are truly empty. It is only when there is something there that there can be resistance. If you yield utterly, you become strong. You must stop fighting (in the sense of resisting) and be completely passive. Only then will you defeat the opponent---when you no longer care about defeat.

Of course, the gap between understanding theory and being able to DO it, is what’s getting me. Any advice on how to yield when you are afraid?

Thanks in advance for your insights,

Kalamondin
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