Thursday, April 21, 2011

Posture 1: The Preparation Posture

Tàijí qǐ shì 1) The Preparation Form is traditionally thought of as Taijiquan’s “beginning” form, since it is done while standing  on two legs while raising your arms to the front and up.  It is a move that is familiar to students of all styles of Taijiquan.  As such it seems to generate little challenge to students once they feel they have learned the external portion.The characters for Tàijí qǐ shì or “The Preparation Form” are figurative and therefore do little to describe how to do the movement.
The character for qǐ is  

It implies a “beginning” and it does so by the portion of the character that looks like an individual in movement but the other portion is representative of “oneself”.  The individual is in movement but oneself is the entity that initiates the movement, it does not come from outside oneself but is an inner physical movement.  It is indicative of external  physical movement that is directed by internal movement.
Be  Because practitioners in this time are impatient, the movement gets bypassed in the zeal to learn other things. I think in part this is due to a misunderstanding of how to do the movement correctly and subsequently not to enjoy its practice.  As with any of the postures in Classical Tai Chi one needs to first follow the instructions on internal discipline.  In this case, there is a moving (Yang) part of the body which is the upper torso and a stationary part (Yin) which is the lower portion below the waist. The Yin-Yang junction is at the waist.  We won’t dwell on the instructions here except to emphasize a couple important points that one should prepare before execution.   This is after all called the “Preparation Form”.
  • ·         Insure that the tailbone is tucked in from the very start.
  • ·         Insure that elbows are rotated to point downward.
  • ·         Stand with body aligned.
  • ·         Use “Yi” intent to not only lift the arms but to stabilize the feet downward.
  • ·         When using “internal discipline” from the waist to lift the arms, keep the knees bent and do not stand up.
  • ·         Try practicing the movement by itself, uncoupled from other postures, practice it as a “silk reeling” exercise.  You may also wish to practice it as a “Qigong” but go much slower and sync it to the breath.

  • ·         Do not push out the rear end while doing it but keep the rear end under you, just moving from the waist, this is part of keeping the body and feet stable. To test whether you are pushing out the rear, try practicing with your back close to a wall.  You will feel the rear touch the wall behind you if it is being pushed backward.

·         Part of the martial intent of the movement has Peng (ward off or even punch) and another portion of the movement has An (push downward).  Your “Yi” should encompass that as well.  The rising portion (with the fingers drooped and wrist bent) could be used to generate a burst of power strike with back of wrists (Peng) to the soft tissue of the neck under the jaw.  The raised hands can be used to deflect an opponents strike.  The downward motion could be used to deflect an opponents strike with An or push down using the palms.  The list of applications is not all inclusive. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tools for training basic walking in Classical Tai Chi

I must tell you of  additional training tools I discovered while working with my students on basic walking:

 The knee flexes and their body goes up and down with some students during walking practice. Now if they were to face the mirror when they walk, they could see their head rise and fall.  They could put a piece of tape on the mirror at top of their head, then see if their head is going over it. My student Tom K.  tells me he has a piece of string stretched out at the level of his shoulder in his "clean" attic in order to feel bobbing up and down. 

In working with this for some time with my students, I discover some additional ways to train. For one, if one just touches onto a wall VERY LIGHTLY you may be able to feel the hand move up and down if the knees are flexing. We use the wall in my studio to do this and walk the entire floor lightly touching the wall. With a light enough touch, the hand provides an extra tactile sense to feel the movement of knee up and down.

Then I thought, well this is also having ancillary effect of training the hand to sense movement. Training the tactile sense of the hand in this way provides good training for "ting jin". Ting Jin as my teacher Master Stephen Hwa has said,  provides you with the sensory capability in your hands to "listen" to the opponents power "surge and ebb" of movement. It has to be a very light touch however, if you bob up and down, you can feel the hand slide up and down the wall. Also, it trains the elbow not to flex, you need to hold the arm still and not do an extraneous movement where the forearm "telescopes" with the upper arm.  I train myself this way with the wall at home and feeling the sensations in tips of fingers or even touching wall with back of hand or even arm, or one could even touch wall lightly with side of body.  Very enjoyable developing this sense, very enjoyable.