Master Hwa tells me that he receives a lot of discussion after people see his DVD’s and the Youtube videos. During a recent workshop he talked a bit about this and the question which seems to be central to the discussion: “Can I incorporate internal discipline into MY form”? I have “incorporated” some great deal of what he said on that subject in this blog and it is almost verbatim.
“Can I incorporate internal discipline into MY form”? Now there is a question that shows practitioners want to get into the real “nitty-gritty” of the movements and not just have ethereal discussions or talk of whether MMA can beat Tai Chi, etc. He also talked about this with me when we shot the DVD called “ Tao of Martial Applications”.
The conclusion is one really cannot “incorporate”, like some have asked this , even those who do Wu Style. At the time of the initial discussion on the DVD, we really did not pinpoint why you cannot do this. Why can’t one incorporate internal discipline into other people’s forms?
He tells me that when he wrote the book “Uncovering the Treasure” and he had to rethink this discussion, he found that you really have to have the correct body structure to incorporate the internal discipline into other people’s forms. The reason why people cannot do this is that they have the wrong body structure.
There is also a misunderstanding of not only what is wrong with their structure but also what is the most important component of the body structure. This most important component is the forward lean and it is really central to the discussion. It is so important to your health that one has to constantly insure the body structure is correct. Outside practitioners do it with the body perpendicular and the spine is compressed too much. The correct way is to lean and stretch out the body.
He wants all of us students to experiment with variations from this leaning posture. One variation is certainly bending your back and making yourself perpendicular. Now you do not have the stretch. Another variation is to turn your rear foot, like most practitioners do, 90 degrees to the side. You do not have the stretch here either. Another variation is to raise your rear heel.
As I do these experiments (very carefully) myself I am reminded of my many early days of studying “Yang” Style, “Taoist” Style. In those studies, I recall vividly and somewhat painfully how my knee pains were a result of turning that rear foot 90 degrees to the side. It seems now as it did then that this conclusion was not a result of “rocket science”. Yet, there seemed to be no teachers who would agree with me. Perhaps it did not bother those teachers who had started Tai Chi when they were 6 years old. One wonders how long they can continue down that path however. Like the great dancers who started (turning out the feet) when they were young and speak now in their middle age of aches and pains in the joints. I have met a few who tell me they are grateful for this body structure where one does not turn out the back foot.
Sorry, I digress but the second point besides the stretch is that the body weight has to really be on the front foot during the forward lean. If you shift back a little bit, you lose some of the stretch. So with all of these slight body posture variations, you will not achieve the result.
Also, we usually start going to this posture from a sitback posture. If we do not lead into the leaning posture correctly, we do not achieve the stretch. To lead correctly, the front foot pulls with the abdomen pushing in to itself, the “internal discipline” of the movement. Once you reach the endpoint, you naturally have that stretch. A variation of this is to do it incorrectly by pushing from the back foot and you will not reach the “endpoint” correctly. The corollary is when you have the stretch, you feel like your body is connected as well as stretched from the top of the neck to the heel. You feel that you have no break in the stretch, when you stand perpendicular, you have a break in the small of the back.
Now when you are stretched like this and there is a force coming at you that force will go down to the ground without absorbing in the middle of the body. If you are perpendicular, the force will absorb in the middle of the body and likely hurt your back. Also, if you hit someone from leaning and stretched, the rebound force will go through your body and into the ground, not so if you stand perpendicular. So the stretch becomes/is the indicator that your body is the right posture for both delivering and receiving the force.
This is really more important for the health viewpoint, this forward stretch. If you give more work through stretching thusly, lower back problems will gradually improve. If you tuck your chin in , you also stretch your cervical vertebrae. It is good for cervical spine problems to stretch in this manner.
So this is almost a central theme that you will be able to have your energy transfer from the neck down to the heel. The energy can flow through the middle of the body without stopping at the spine. This will just transmit all the force to the ground. Do you see how this lean is such a very important component of the body structure?