Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
The bad news is you cannot do just any movement and do Tai Chi Forms, Push Hands, Applications, Weapons, etc. The synecdoche of "Just do it" has sprouted everywhere and one is faced with an infinite variety of Tai Chi Forms. Youtube is the epicenter of the belief that "...any movement is a Tai Chi movement as long as one has the right mental state..." I call this a major foible and although most assuredly ubiquitous, it is nevertheless Woo Woo Tai Chi predicated on belief. If you wonder why there are so many flavors of Tai Chi in 2021, take heart it was not always that way and there is still logical reasoning available. The Woo Woo, unfortunately, is also the bane of modern Tai Chi practitioners to be hoodwinked by belief. Master Hwa published "Uncovering the Treasure" in 2010. 2021 gives us Youtube's panorama of nonsensical belief and wishful thinking as the prime ingredient. I would season the ingredient with the proverbial grain of salt called logical reasoning before giving in to wishful thinking, wasted time and effort.
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
UPDATED on this morning of Inauguration Day, 2021: First lesson: It's hard work to "get it" that "less is more", so do not expect anything from Classical Tai Chi. You will "get" only what you uncover when you engage in "Uncovering the Treasure".
This is meant as a friendly but personal (for me and you) synopsis: What’s the hardest thing about Tai Chi, you ask? Since you are asking me, the hardest part for me has been in gaining a visceral understanding that less is more. That getting small gains in proficiency and understanding is actually "more"...and the best way to learn. It is not a simple thing but in the process which stretches back some 40 plus years I have gradually included Tai Chi into my life.
This has not stopped me however from also gradually learning to understand the struggles of the majority of students I have encountered. Although I studied in Canada with the Wu Family all of my students have been in America. . For the most part, they seem to rebel against following any instruction that is not accompanied by some sort of personally agreeable reasoning as to why they should do it. Fortunately, there have been a number of students who did not react in this manner. Some have gone on to be teachers of the art as well. For the most part, some few get on the path without complaining incessantly about “why?”. I think of Master Hwa's statement when he said "those that wish to be proficient practitioners". I am quite convinced that those with that "wish" put their egos on the back burner because it acts as a stumbling block to being a "...proficient practitioner..." I have to wonder about the folks that balk and fight the instruction however. Has their intuition ever told them anything (like it has told me)? Has intuition said something inspiring...perhaps: "Don’t expect anything, you can only be pleasantly surprised at what you perceive as the worst… and experience as best".
I used to think I needed to have a modicum of structure in order to start my day. I am retired now and that has not been the case for some time. I do still manage to understand however how people need this structure. Tai Chi can provide the structure but even when I was working the “9 to 5” it was not in a manner that gets us flying out of bed in the morning. In doing so, I discovered it is possible to gradually see a palpable tempo to Tai Chi. Will you get a gold star or a series of belts for your efforts? No, and there are no yardsticks to measure how well you are doing.
Look at it this way. Why do you think, Stephen Hwa called his fine book “Uncovering the Treasure” instead of “There is a treasure in Tai Chi” or “Tai Chi is laden with treasure”? It is because Tai Chi shows you the treasure as you “uncover” it, not because you “expect” it. In the demands to get through college, we all had to engage in competitive testing to prove our competence and that testing was measured and evaluated by the powers that be. On the other hand, one only has to take a drive in the country to find places where there are no road signs for where we are, no one to tell us our driving is in the wrong direction. I am reminded of the motorist who stops by a farmhouse and asks the person on the porch: “do you know where bug tussle hollow is?” To which the farmer replies “Yep” with no accompanying explanation. The conspicuous absence of “road signs” such as “now entering bug tussle” puts us in a position where we have to drive slowly. Driving slowly, not expecting any signs of progress in Tai Chi allows us to gain awareness of things in mind and body that we would never have paid attention to.
While there will always be those who wait endlessly for inspiration, energy, etc. There are those few of us who stick with the Tai Chi and begin to see the value of the little changes that are made rather than the earth-shaking ones. There are those of us who come to gradually appreciate, even acknowledge the “discovered treasure” in the little things.
Feeling healthy, small gains in internal strength, acknowledging there is an “other” strength than external. Seeing the gradual fruition of an awareness of our bodies. While I will always agree with Master Hwa on how reasoning abilities are not ubiquitous, I’m quite sure he also urges us to put doing something because we agree with it on the back burner when it comes to enjoying the art and appreciating it simply because it is a good thing.
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
HOW TO MOVE THE ARM AND THE CORE BODY AS A UNIT
We have spent considerable time on the topic of learning internal discipline and how to apply it in the tai chi movements. I realize many of you are still have difficulties in this area. I have been examining my own movements and trying to come up with a better way of teaching this. I think I have found an approach that can accelerate the learning curve. I have tested it out on my students in the class, and it seems to work. I want to share this with you.
(Some of you may already practice what I am going to talk about. After all, you will develop this naturally by just practicing what I have shown in the video. My desire to shorten the learning curve might have been viewed with a disapproving eye by the old masters of the past. They believe in diligent practice and self-discovery: not handheld by their teacher. I hope I am not doing Mencius’ story about a farmer who was impatient watching his seedlings grow so slowly that he went to the field and pulled the seedlings up to help their growth.)
At the beginning of the learning process, you are instructed to relax or forget about the shoulder and the arm, just concentrate on the abdomen and the back for the internal movements. This is to eliminate the common habit of moving from the arm or shoulder. The shoulder and arm just follow the movements from the internal core. (My student Ernie said that trying to relax the shoulder did not work for him, because of the act of “trying to relax” placed too much attention on the shoulder which kept the shoulder in play.) For most people, the difficulty here is to find the neural pathways in the core which can make the internal move you intended.
After you practice the form in this way for a while you will develop some knack for moving from the core. Now comes the second stage of learning that is to integrate your arm with the internal movements and to expanding the circulating internal energy and qi from the torso to the arm, the palm and the fingertips. In Forum 6, I talked about the incorporation of “yi”, or martial art intent, in the movement. With practice, one will achieve the state where the arm and the internal core move as “One” and, that the internal energy and qi flow with the “yi” of the movements to the palm and the fingertips.
By examining my own movements I found that, in this state, my arm constantly exerts a slight stretch or pull on the shoulder. This stretch firmly engages the arm to the shoulder. Since the elbow is always lower than the shoulder, there is a downward stretching force on the shoulder causing the shoulder to sink which in turn connects it to the core enabling the arm and the core to move as “One”. The stretching force involved here is quite subtle and small, just sufficient to achieve the engagement. Those of you who have already achieved such engagement in your practice probably do not even know it. You can sense the difference if you purposely left out the stretch.
Example 1: Hand at the face position such as “walking forward brush knee” (see Figure 1.)
In Lesson 3 and 4 of Vol. II, I describe the desirable position of the elbow and arm in relation to the body. When you achieve that position, you are exerting a downward as well as an outward stretch of the shoulder. Similar situation in the “parting of wild horse mane”, outstretching of the downward-pointing elbow will sink the shoulder and connect to the core. Now, the arm, the shoulder and the core are all firmly connected into “One”.
Example 2: The punch movements with arm at the side of the body, see Figure 2, and the arm at forwarding position, see Figure 3.
If you maintain a constant downward stretch of your shoulder through the elbow, in other words, when the arm is bent, just lower the elbow to engage the shoulder and the core. The arm and the core will be engaged whether the arm is moving forward or pulling back.
Example 3: When the arm is at a downward position, such as the arm in “brush knee”, (see figure 4,) or the folding move after the “single whip”, (see Figure 5,) or the downward rotation of the arm in the “cloud hand”, (see
In all these cases, you just lightly stretch the shoulder using the arm, which will naturally sink the shoulder and engage the core. The arm itself does not have to be straight in order to exert the stretching force.
The above examples show how to engage the arm, the shoulder, and the core to move as a unit, following the “yi”, or intent. Since, in the entire 108 forms, the elbow is always lower than the shoulder, the engagement can be maintained throughout the form. Therefore, the first major goal of practicing tai chi form is to achieve the level that every move is an internal move and that in every move, the arm and core are engaged.
Among arm, shoulder, and core, it is often difficult to tell which part is leading or following. It is best to always keep the shoulder passive as a follower. But the arm, the elbow, or the finger, filled with “yi”, may sometimes give the sensation of leading the movement. The synergistic effects between core movement and engagement of arm and core give unexpected results. When I try the engagement exercise on students new to my class, it seems to help them to learn how to make the core move.
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
And an empty boat collides with his own skiff,
Even though he be a bad-tempered man
He will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
He will shout at him to steer clear.
If the shout is not heard, he will shout again,
And yet again, and begin cursing.
And all because there is somebody in the boat.
Yet if the boat were empty.
He would not be shouting, and not angry.
If you can empty your own boat
Crossing the river of the world,
No one will oppose you,
No one will seek to harm you
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
One cannot do the Form much less the application unless the weight transfer to the right foot consists of a proper step back that lands on the heel first. Concurrently, this proper stepping is not developed unless the student trains in the Classical Tai Chi basic walking. This is dependent on one's skill with basic walking, not the ability to punch and kick. The stepping back and punch in the video link can only be accomplished with absolutely firm footing. Get good at Classical Tai Chi basic walking forward and back before thinking about something like this as an application. In both photo and video link, one can see from this initial position of Master Hwa's foot that the intent is to land on the heel first and not on the toe or even the ball of the foot. There are many reasons to do this, for application and health purposes. For improving balance the training is a panacea. For application, the training of landing on the heel first puts the move into one portion, not two. One does not land on the ball of the foot then heel making it two moves and not one. Internal Exercise for Power and Vitality course https://ift.tt/3kDHye4... Small Circle Tai Chi Form course part I https://ift.tt/3kDHye4... For more info https://ift.tt/36WwzHk Classical Small Frame (Circle) Tai Chi Form has many dimensions. These Youtube videos try to show some facets of it:
via YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Rm41J6QBGI
Sunday, December 13, 2020
Mr. and Ms. Sifu, a beautiful picture with beautiful people: Here is my wish for today, next year, and years to come: Let us do our "Chuan" as a beacon and as an art of peace in an unsettled world where there are acts and potential acts of violence at every turn. It is true as Master Hwa says that although the old masters went out of their way to test the art by asking for fights. there are still "rules" to be followed in our art. "... and the rules form and follow a logical structure with calculated scientific reasoning behind it...". How fortunate, that in Master Hwa we have had a top-notch scientist to guide us along the road to reason. To quote an ARTICLE by Tim Chan: "We live in a different world today. We are more restrained and much less inclined, for various reasons, to using the same approach as these masters. That said, we should be looking for a less violent and more structured approach to understanding the art. And I find we can achieve this objective by expounding Chinese wisdom through Western science such as relying on the discipline of physiology and mechanics."
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
There is no mystery to be good at martial art application. This is discussed in the book, "Uncovering the Treasure" by Stephen Hwa at Amazon and video available at Youtube and classicaltaichi.com. You need to go through three steps: 1. Develop internal energy or power through Form practice, so that one can deliver the power at any angle and position. 2. Practice the form such that the ability of delivery becomes instinctive, no need to think. 3. Practice push hand and sparring to develop sensitivity and finesse. One needs to at least master step 1 as a reasonable start. One needs to aspire to make and use internal discipline in all moves and all angles. One must also aspire to not need to think when you move in doing the form and doing an internal movement. Multiply that by a factor of 10 when it comes to sparring and/or combat. If you have to think even before moving in the form it is no wonder one will always be one step behind, and being controlled by the opponent. Step 3 needs a partner to practice. There is no short cut to that. The traditional method of teaching and the current method of teaching which Master Stephen Hwa is using. https://ift.tt/2OfwbtJ For more info https://ift.tt/36WwzHk
via YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez2AgXMr-1Q
Monday, December 7, 2020
Further: We, of course, have the inevitable referral to the "Tai Chi Classics" as the final authority of what the old Masters required. It is interesting to note however that those same old Masters had to rely on fighting in order to prove their arts. Many, to this day, still feel that fighting is the only way to prove the effectiveness. Yet how does this hold up in today's world? For one thing, most of today's "combat" in Tai Chi is done under controlled conditions. Safety equipment, gloves, footpads, rings, antibiotics, timers for "rounds" and more are required. If that same "combat" is not adhering to "tucking", being "upright", etc. how is it showing the "effectiveness"? In my humble opinion, it looks more like flailing with no glimpse of a tuck to be had. If the old masters had no technology to prove or refine the art, what does it say if it is not being refined or proven in this era of overwhelming technology?
Friday, November 27, 2020
Jim R: Good streamlined lessons available online: classical-tai-chi.teachable.com. In the martial applications of when the opponent comes high and comes low at you, there is a correlation to the practice of Tai Chi Form movements. Accordingly, there is a correlation to Push Hands training. As one does with “coming high/coming low” there is also a correlation to whether one uses a 2 dimensional or a 3-dimensional response. In a 3 dimensional attack or defense, one has to “lean back” sufficiently when pushed and when attacked also train to keep the other hand up and protecting the face. Remember that in going high and going low whether in Form, Application, or Push Hands there is the all-important connection to the core to initiate ALL movements of the arms. The “cloud hands internal discipline as seen from the back” video is a good example of core movement with arms moving up and down along the “Y” axis.
via YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Az-KDi8NN3I