In my view, I have always considered chousi (drawing silk) to refer to the way practice feels, more than how it appears. Are there spirals and rotations in my form? You bet. But I find something in the chousi image that really gets to a tactile, experiential aspect of practice. I strive to maintain a feeling of continuity of jin, by which here I mean a tactile feeling that matches my focus of intent as it threads (sorry, but that’s the word that works best for me) throughout my body, for example from the heel of my foot through my legs, torso, shoulders, arms, and out to my palm at the end point of my ulna. From joint-to-joint, posture-to-posture, I strive to maintain this sensation, and when it’s “on,” my practice feels right. This may just be me, but the “reeling” imagery of chansi lands on me as more of a visual, mechanical sort of thing, and hence it seems useful with regard to the outer manifestation of movement, but is not as evokative for me of this tactile sensation. Most of the classic taiji texts strike me as records of experience, or records of what training feels like, so I’ve always found the chousi imagery to fit that category. I’ve never pulled a silk fiber from a cocoon, so I can only imagine what it is like, but the whole notion of not pulling too hard or too abruptly, or avoiding not engaging enough, calls up experiences that are probably analogous, such as the feeling of holding a kite string and flying a kite. You have to set up a connection with the kite through the string, and you need to be sensitive to changes in the air current.
Somewhere on this board I once quoted a passage from the Liezi about a man who was able to catch a fish from a rushing river using only a single fiber of silk as his line. I won’t repeat it here, since that wouldn’t be using my own words, but it sure did sound familiar to me when I first encountered it.
[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 03-02-2006).]