Saturday, June 4, 2011

3. Hand Strums the Lute 手揮琵琶 Shǒu huī pípá

The  pípá or the Lute as a stringed instrument is held in a vertical manner in front of the body.  You can see the position of the hands in this video.  Liu Fang plays the PiPa
In Classical Tai Chi "strumming the lute" can be applied to the opponents arm (which presumably is  the "lute" or "pipa").  Noticing the foot position of Master Hwa's feet however shows him sitting back with the front foot pointing up.  From that position he can kick, stomp, step on the opponents foot, step behind the opponents foot, etc. His front foot is free to move, with no weight on it, it can be fluid.

With one hand facing down and one hand facing up, the equal and opposite force can be applied to an opponents arm, the opponents arm can be grasped between the opposite palms, the opponents arm can be encircled.  From that position his arm can be jammed back into him, it can be pulled down, pushed down,  one can attack the opponents neck with the fingers of the front palm, etc.

The word Shǒu means hand, the word huī can mean "wielding", "waving" or even "wiping away".  The character 揮 has one part that means hand and the other means chariots and an army division (but the chariot character is significant for its other part that involves rolling, revolving or crushing)  .  

I think the full implication of the character can be interpreted for Tai Chi purposes as wielding (holding) the opponents arm.  However, the act of wielding here is not limited to traditional thought of how to hold something, except for the fact that the hands have to act in an equal and opposite manner. One could hold something for instance by encircling it with one's arms in that position, etc. 

In the round form, Master Hwa states that the right hand dips down in a quarter body movement which he refers to as a "block".  From that quarter body movement it works into a combination of internal movements.  Whether square form or round form however, it is really noted as starting from its "sitback" position.

  • There are complex foot movements used to transition to this posture and I often see beginners forgetting to pay attention to the demands of the legs and feet.
  • When you turn the left foot to the right, it is quite common to forget to turn it 90 degrees, I sometimes see students only turning 75 degrees or even less, that failure will affect the upcoming posture adversely.
  • Learn to shift the weight to the left leg smoothly using internal discipline from the core.
  • The pulling down of the right elbow should eventually be internal.
  • When you make a chopping motion to the right, keep it at head level.
  • When you lift the right hip and draw the right heel up, do not stand up by flexing the left knee and rising.
  • Don't pull back your right arm and hand when you rotate 90 degrees to the right.
  • Check to make sure your feet are parallel.
  • There is important timing to be aware of as you bring left arm and right foot on a shift to the right...the left hand arrives at the right wrist as the right foot extends onto the heel...both have made a slight shift to the right in mid air.
  • Be aware that there is also implication for the transition move as a tremendous application in itself or even combination of is very dynamic in its own right.  As Master Hwa says, the right hand rising can be used to jab the underside of the opponents neck.  The left arm can be used to ji or press into an opponent as the left foot encircles the opponents leg, etc.

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