Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Knock yourself over with your own "holding pattern"

From the web page of Master Stephen Hwa in 2005 and updated in 2012 for this Blog: "I am pleased to announce and congratulate the first certified teacher of Classical Tai Chi is Jim Roach of Buffalo, NY. He is extremely dedicated and accomplished. Jim has another background in such diverse external styles as Karate and Tae Kwon Do but Jim began his Tai Chi study in 1976. He subsequently studied Yang and Wu's Style of Tai Chi, even while he was studying Tae Kwon Do in Buffalo. He spent much of his time traveling back and forth to Toronto Canada over the years at least once a week, sometimes more to study with very notable teachers. Jim had the privilege to study with and become a disciple of the Great-grandson of legendary Grandmaster Wu Chien Chuan, Master Wu Kwong Yu.  

Jim became actively engaged in study with Master Hwa in April of 2003.  Since that time, Jim has engaged in numerous private instruction classes with Master Hwa as well as group classes. He also assisted and participated in many of the scenes of the DVD "Tao of Martial Applications".  In addition, he appears in several photographs of the book "Uncovering the Treasure".  After only a short time, Jim  was (to paraphrase Master Hwa ) "fascinated with the underlying principles that unified Classical Tai Chi’s seemingly complex movements." 

In addition to  Ken-Ton community education classes where Jim taught under Master Hwa's personal and direct supervision (Master Hwa was in attendance to monitor Jim's classes). Jim is actively seeking out experienced Tai Chi or other Martial Art students in order to conduct further workshops and classes in Classical Tai Chi. While he was an employee of the U.S. Customs Service, Jim conducted self-defense classes at the Federal Building in Buffalo, NY as well as Customs Inspectors at the Peace Bridge.. He has also conducted workshops and personal instruction in Tai Chi to continuing education programs at local public schools, hospitals as well as medical professionals. He has also taught Tai Chi to Karate Instructors and Karate Studios in Buffalo."  Master Stephen Hwa
You can visit his webpage: Classical Tai Chi of Buffalo

Once in awhile I have taught  Tai Chi  to students that have previously studied Tai Chi, Karate, Kung Fu, etc. I have  students now that have studied both Tai Chi and "hard" styles as well.  One of those students is still involved with studying Wing Chun along with his study of Classical Tai Chi.  I recall teaching someone who owned his own Karate Studio and who had become a martial arts legend of sorts.  He saw me practicing the Wu's Sword Form and asked to learn it.  I said I would teach it if he would learn the Wu's style 108 long from from me. He appeared in the “Inside Kung Fu” magazine because of his prowess in several other martial arts and was versed in many weapons forms.   Grandmaster Young Wabu who Master Hwa  states was versed in many martial arts as well as being a master of Pekkwar Monkey boxing when he met Wu Chien Chuan.   The Karate teacher unfortunately did not stick with Tai Chi as did Grandmaster Young with Wu Chien Chuan or learn the sword, as he stated he was “bored” learning the long form.

I noticed when I taught the Karate teacher however that he constantly had his shoulders in a "holding pattern" of being hunched forward and held very tightly.  I also noticed it was very difficult for him to "release" the holding pattern to drop the shoulders, in fact I never saw him able to do it at all.  This gave his back a constant hunched appearance, causing the chin to jut out.  The hunching and tightening seemed to extend to the lower torso where he was unable to loosen the buttocks to straighten the back and thus free the waist to turn freely. 

In thinking of "ingrained" muscular tension as a holding pattern, I also came across this message from a 2004 post in the Classical Tai Chi Forum on a student's previous experience with other arts and its effect on learning Classical Tai Chi:

"I am coming from a karate background.  For me it (classical tai chi ) is like learning karate all over again. Learning how to walk, turn, block and strike. The 'square form' is much easier for me to follow. It is more familiar to me. Coming from a 'hard' style, I find it hard to relax as I do the form. It is ingrained to tense as the blocks or strikes are applied. I can find many practical martial moves in the form. Understand that in karate katas not every move is explained as to application unless you ask the instructor, 'how is this used'? All blocks are also strikes, and all strikes are also blocks. To me it seems Tai Chi is a form of martial arts Qi Gong. This is great as my body can no longer tolerate a 'hard' style.

A comment on “Kata” by Master Hwa from the context of “Yi” in another Forum: “ External martial arts such as Karate also practice a solo form called Kata. Kata allows the practitioner to study movements at full power and speed and allows the student to move with the enemy in mind. So, both Tai Chi form and Kata is practiced with “Yi”. But, Kata is practiced with a tensed up arm moving with power and speed: while Tai Chi is practiced with a relaxed arm and moving at a slow speed. The “Yi” in Tai Chi is therefore purely mental.”

I have a suspicion however that tensed up body parts are not strictly the domain of Karate practitioners. I see them over and over again in students who do not study other martial arts.  I find many, many students who state they only want Tai Chi for "health".  Yet, many of these practitioners are so tense, it looks like their extremities are literally tied into holding patterns. Although, I think in the case of karate there are a number of them with such repetitive movement in Katas where it eventually becomes what is called a “holding pattern”.  In other words their arms, shoulders, backs, chests, etc. get more or less locked into a detrimental position.  I speak not as just a Tai Chi practitioner but as a former Karate and Tae Kwon Do practitioner with an advanced belt.

Master Hwa has talked about how the practitioner needs to not “tense up” during push hands training.  I vividly remember my own push hands training with Yang Style then later at the Wu’s Academy in Toronto.  I was always urged to “sitback” in order to loosen my back and waist, with danger of “getting pushed” ever present.  I was told over and over to "relax", "relax", "you have got to relax or you will get pushed". At Wu’s Academy this often consisted of a free style where one would end up on the floor or bounced off a wall.  This was not the “mean spirited” actions of my fellow student, it was my own body tension and they really only had to apply very little of a very gentle “push” in order to send me flying.  Often I found myself on the floor or slammed against the wall because I was retreating with a tensed up body and tripped myself up…the other practitioner had not even pushed me.

“Holding patterns?”  In all the times I was “sent flying” I did not learn "why". Flailing one's extremities will do nothing for showing where one has excess muscular tension.  It has only been through the study of the Classical Tai Chi Form and Internal Discipline that the fog has lifted. It is anathema to correct practice to use external movements while attempting an internal movement.  It is anathema to correct practice to use extraneous movement while attempting internal movement.  Extraneous movement, tensing a shoulder here, tensing an arm there, etc.  occurs because one simply cannot sense it happening...and  I eventually came to learn I had some extremity that was held tensed or even crooked.  This extremity sent tension into the entire body and provided an easy target, as I proved over and over, ostensibly even knocking my own self to the ground with no one touching me…just my own fear and tension doing the job.

No comments: