Sunday, January 8, 2012

Do not touch your body when performing "Tight Compact Form"

Video of Linear Compact Form followed by (Circular) Tight Compact Form

Seasons Greetings

I have been working more and more on the Tight Compact Round Form, not because I "want to" but because it has become a kind of physical necessity and a natural extention of the Compact Linear Round Form.  I feel myself fully grown into doing tight compact form, like shedding my skin or being able to stretch further.  I feel it as a natural progression and demand of the process. When I do the tight compact form, I do not have to struggle to maintain the integrity of the form; or in other words be concerned if  everything is being done correctly. I can concentrate on maintaining internal discipline and  not worry about doing the form wrong.

Recently I asked Master Stephen Hwa about something he said in an article as well as a problem I experienced in doing tight compact form.  The problem is  where I still touch my own body in light of how tight the space becomes when moving arms near one's own body. On the article he wrote I said: "You said this following statement in an article that Eva wrote some time ago".

He said: "For the advanced T' ai Chi practitioner, the form itself becomes less expansive externally (so-called "small circle" or "compact form"), and more angular. As such, Yi takes on increasing importance in playing the form. There is less movement and more Yi. Also, to have smaller external movements and yet reach to all angles in the form requires greater internal movement, more stretching at the Yin- Yang junctions, and more internal energy flow. This is the next level in T' ai Chi."

I told Master Hwa I was intrigued by the statement "to have smaller external movements and yet reach to all angles in the form requires greater internal movement, more stretch at the yin-yang junctions and more internal energy flow".

I said to him, I think I understand this statement on a visceral level as I try first a compact form movement then alternate with a tight compact form movement. On the concept of reaching to all angles in the form, the Yi starts to play an even more important role. I surmise it might be any movement where I
want to attack the opponent on a particular angle that compact form could not reach but tight compact could.

I'm thinking largely of course where the opponent is already in contact with you and as an example, you want to palm strike to acute angle of their body with fajing ;  I see tight compact being of real importance in such close quarters. With such close proximity, it would seem only such angles provide viable attack venues do they not?

I said I have another question although it is by way of observation rather than conjecture: I notice when I do brush knee push during the tight compact form, I have such a hard time not touching myself because things are so tight in there.  For example when compact brings brush knee hand across body then down to groin before turning over the  knee, tight compact brings the brush knee hand tight into chest area and very close to the other arm, it is extremely difficult not to touch myself with it so tight?

Master Hwa  wrote back with :Jim: Your question " tight compact brings brush knee hand tight into chest area and very close to other arm, it is extremely difficult not to touch myself with it so tight? I see that the problem is the move"brush knee hand tight into chest area ". He continued "In tight
compact form, that move is different from compact form. I think I explain that in the Disc 4, that move is more circular, that is the elbow stretch more forward with the hand comeback to the body."

I responded to Master Hwa with:  " I have to say I looked at the Disc 4 numerous times and see that more circular move and more forward elbow stretch.  However, in regard to touching oneself when doing the compact form,  I have to say as being taller I have to take a little longer step size when doing compact.  Also, I find I have to still take a little longer step size when doing tight compact. There is no way I can do form and maintain good balance when I try to take same size as you for instance. So I am thinking perhaps the question of touching oneself still has one's size as an exacerbating factor."

I continued with: "So many different body types are doing this, I am surprised the question I raise has not come up before now. Not just with tight compact, for as far as I know I am only one doing tight compact.  But I am surprised no one says, in spite of their best efforts they find themselves touching their body even during compact and more linear movements. Some people's arms are extremely long, one wonders how does one deal with this without compromising the form."

He responded with the suggestion that perhaps this might indeed be a good question to ask the group of Tai Chi players in the Classical Tai Chi Yahoo Email Group.  I did just that and received a couple of responses. 
I have some good news to report on how things have improved here, thanks to encouragement from Master Hwa, a few great students and the wonders of technology.  I hope what I discovered will help everyone else as well. Originally my wrists were bent at almost a 90 degree angle which is similar as well to what another student  says he experienced,  in order to avoid hitting the arm. I think the expression is that the hand and wrist are "seated". Note the difference in this "seated" position of hand and wrist from other positions of hand and wrist in the form. I think hand should be seated but I do not think it is correct in this to have such an angle that the wrists lock and Qi is blocked.
I also experimented with NOT having the hand pointing up, seated, and/or locked but with the hand pointed down as it passes close to the chest and other arm. In other words, I fold the wrist down much like single whip in order to try getting it past the arm and close to the chest. In both cases I still end up touching my shirt. I'm not sure if even a skin tight, as my wife calls it "tight as a doll's shirt" would keep me from touching something, it just seems too tight in there. In both I will admit however if I took it at a literal snail's pace, watching my hand and fingers I can do it without touching but this is uber slow. It is very "obvious" and hardly "formless" when one has to go to that much trouble.
Then some good news:  I watched Disc 4 and the Compact (Tight) Form sequence, that I provide here with Master Hwa's permission,  once again in slow motion. I find in watching Master Hwa's arms and upper arm elbow, that I was bringing the elbow of the upper arm too close to my body. In a sequence of moves where every inch of space becomes important, the potential to create more space is important. See the Form sequence  to see what I am referring to as  he does the brush knee sequence . I now find that I have more room in which to avoid hitting the "seated" hand as it passes by and touching my body. I don't have to "lock" the wrist. In order to see this as I describe it, I used the KMPlayer and put the video at 50% of speed to view things in slo mo. I see that the elbow of his upper arm is actually at a significant distance from his chest on the side. A rough estimate of distance, no pun intended would be one hands length if you touch your heel of palm your own chest side and extend the fingers, the angle and distance is more than I could observe when the DVD was in regular speed.
I find now that I can do the move without watching my hand and am able to speed it up a little more without touching myself. I look forward to more practice with the arm and elbow at that increased angle and distance from the chest. The elbow is still pointed down on the upper arm and as the palm strike proceeds forward, I can then bring the elbow in toward my center of body in a circular fashion instead of linear as in the Compact.
Well, one thing about tight compact form is that I did feel it as a "natural progression" (p. 74 Uncovering the Treasure , Stephen C.P. Hwa,  or as I call the book : "UTT".  My jury is still out on how "easy" it is because I have to work for consistency in keeping that elbow the same distance from the chest.  To other people who do Classical Tai Chi particularly  if  you are a tall person;  we have this commonality of long limbs, legs, arms, torso, hands as well when we talk about it.
My next conundrum is being able to shrink my step size and still stay balanced. When I started Linear Compact Form Master Hwa urged me to slightly increase my step size because of my tallness, I was losing some balance. Like I said, Tight Compact has a smaller step size p. 74 and a larger step size would create slowness and obviousness...however what we are after is instantaneousness and effortlessness. Then,  "From Form to Formlessness".
Thanks for the encouragement one and all.

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