Saturday, February 23, 2013
Most things we do have to be learned. Babys start out with some basic skills, however, even things like eating and breathing are not as natural a part of their behavior as we assume. Development is a process of lifelong learning.
I have completed my Taiji form several thousand times and each time through I make small refinements. I am currently adding some movements to the end of my form and working through the front part making adjustments. I typically select a short section, last night I looked at Double Spear Hand and Arn. These are the eight and ninth movements in my sequence. It must be noted that Taiji is not really a series of movements it is a long continuous movement. Even where there appear to be stops or pauses there are state changes, compressions, and meaningful adjustments happening in the body, hands, feet, etc.
My process at present is to review a master doing the section I am working on. This typically involves watching the movement in the context of the longer sequence, a process of seeing what leads up to and what follows the target sequence. I also do a review of a very detailed set of instructions that includes the compression and stretching in the body that lead to the little turns and twist. The position of the than hands and feet related to the body and the ground. Finally I review some of the possible martial intensions of the movement.
To give you a sense of this I will outline a bit of what is involved with Double Spear Hands. It begin following Low Chee. This is a double handed strike into the east. From that strike the hand rebound a little and hands, arms and shoulder just hang in a very sung (loose or relaxed state); weight has moved forward onto the right foot with the Low Chee strike. As the arms rebound the weight begins to move towards the back left foot. There is a slight compression on the left side of the waist and an opening on the right side that turns the upper body towards the South East (right). The hands appear to scoop back and around. (There is a p’eng block and strike with the right arm as if blocking a low punch to the right midsection). The weight continues towards the left foot, but energy plays between the two legs. The hands continue to circle around and then move towards the front in a stabbing action. These represent to finger tip strikes to attackers Liver 13 points. These are driven from the back leg, and by an alternating compression of the left then right side of the waist causing the body to twist right and then left. As the weight moves forward there is another set of compressions that drive two elbow strikes to Gallbladder 24 just below the nipples. Finally as the weight come 70% forward the palms turn over and again the twist of the body and this time the sinking of the energy also drives strikes into the eyes or clavicles stomach 11 points.
This is not really about self-defense, it is about energy movement, the details help me understand what intension of the taiji solo form movements are about and where the Chi (energy) is going. I typically will work through the martial sequence emphasing all the movements and strikes intended. I will move through the Taiji sequence starting a few movements earlier and continuing a few movement further along. I might start with Chee and move through to Single Whip.
After a few of set of both the Martial Application and the Taiji form I will then do the complete sequence with a small focus on the section just reviewed. I will then go through the form from start to finish, with no special focus on the section just reviewed.
My Taiji practice is a just a part of my practice, and it is not only about Taiji. It informs me about other things. It informs me about how to progress in learning new things at work, about learning about food, about learning about living, etc.
The extreme detailed review of the section informs me about the things I cannot see the master doing in his form. It is why it is difficult to learn Taiji from a book or DVD. Sometimes it is about becoming aware in your body what is happening in a masters body.
This level of detail is interesting to me, it is often the case that a master cannot define all that he does. At one time I worked on modeling an exceptional teacher. We spent a couple of days videotaping in his class room. One of the things that showed up on video as he completed an interaction one on one with a child, he would begin to match things in his behavior with the child he would go to next. This might be a postural change, a breathing changes, etc. It was quite systematic, however, the teacher was unaware of this. It was a natural unconscious report building skill.
My Taiji practice is to slip in as many of the things as I can about a give sequences and then let them find their own place. We do the same when teaching Chi Running and Chi Walking. I do the same when teaching computer user skills. In fact, this is who babies learn to go from completely dependant beings to independent being in such a short time. They mimic, the model, they test, the rehearse and then they find a way to make a behavior part of themselves.