Monday, May 24, 2010

How is Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method different from other taiji styles?

The above post points out 4 very important characteristics of Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method.

The Concept of 45 Degrees

Master Chen mentioned in the last workshop about the concept of 45 degrees. He was referring if there was an incoming energy directing at you at 45 degrees, one way to react would be to push at 45 degrees w.r.t to your body. Doing a rotation would be the same thing.

Here is my understanding after thinking about it:
The outgoing energy will be perpendicular to the incoming force. For the rotation part, a tangent of a circle is always perpendicular to the centre, so it is the same thing.

Earlier today, I was doing some gardening at my backyard. I had to create a flower bed, so I needed to remove some existing grass. I was using this half-circular flat shovel usually used to create a nice edge. At first I was using it perpendicular to the ground, trying to cut through the grass and its roots by hammering it or stepping onto it. It didn't really work. The shovel wasn't sharp, and a fair amount of the force going down to the ground was bounced straight up back to my hand. By accident, one of the hits landed at 45 degrees to the ground, and on impact, the shovel slided across horizontally, and it worked much better like a knife this way, and my hand didn't feel any rebounding force. I believed that this could be explained in physics, however, the more important point was that Master Chen demonstrated something quite similar before.

You push on something in one direction, and since the hand couldn't get advancement, it went to a different place.

I found this taiji thought during gardening interesting.

Third Taiji workshop with Master Chen

I just had my third taiji workshop with Master Chen in the last weekend (May 22-23, 2010). I had an extreme great time in this workshop. I was really glad to have him confirmed my little improvement thus far, in particular: my yilu form is starting to take shape, and I am not moving my hand (or at least as much as before).I would need to continue to work hard, so that I don't regress, and hopefully continue to improve.

In this workshop, I felt something different. It wasn't like Master Chen teaching things any differently, it was me who seemed to be able to follow what he said a little better. I got more out of it than previous times. I was fortunate to be able to spend a bit more time outside of the workshop with him as well. The causal conversations with him during lunches and dinners, or in the car gave me a deeper understanding of him as a person. Besides his great taiji skills, Master Chen is a great teacher because he has terrific skills in teaching. He was a teacher of students ranging from kindergarten to Grade 12 in the public school system. He traveled all around the world teaching taiji to people with different cultures, characters, and learning abilities. I was also impressed on how he was able to point out a non-technical issue for a couple of students, and that issue hindered them from making progress. While we are doing exercises or performing yilu, he walked around looking at every student giving advises and correcting mistakes. We only had 13 students in this Toronto workshop, but he did the same thing with 65 students in Italy. I admired his passion and dedication.

He noticed that I asked fewer and fewer questions in each workshop. Part of it was that I was asking questions based on my normal logical mind and non-taiji knowledge, as he pointed out they were basically irrelevant to making progress in taiji. As time passed by, I began to understand that point. Another issue for me was that once I had a question in mind, I wouldn't really listen until I asked my question and got an answer. That obviously wouldn't be good.

The following are notes I took during the workshop:

Day 1
  • Two touched points create a "vertical" line or an axis.
  • Foundations:
    - Single positive/negative left/right
    - Double positive/negative left/right
  • Find two anchor points and aim your push from the waist to the middle of the two points.
  • Let the opponent overpower you and use that as one of the anchor points. The other is the foot.
  • Exercise: Have someone stop your shoulder moving horizontally forward.
  • Eliminate the space between you and your opponent, create space within you to clear.
  • Keep the pressure constant on the opponent (keep engaging the opponent), then add something else.
  • While holding a 100-pound ball, one cannot react to a poke without dropping the ball.
  • Exercise: Touch and keep the pressure while you move.
  • Move the arm/hand to fit, once you can't move, rotate something, e.g. kua.
  • Ying and Yang are two dots on the circle.

Day 2

  • Circle: learn to get stuck at two positions:
    - When the hand is extended.
    - When the elbow is stuck in the ribs.
  • Dantian is like a river. It never moves. The energy from the hand and foot meets at dantian.
  • Rotate when hit (reactive).
  • Everything is at 45 degrees.
  • Keep the missing/invisible side of the triangle in the body fixed/stable.
  • Exercise: Absorb impact and extend the arm and rotate.

Friday, May 21, 2010

First private class with Master Chen

I just had my first private class with Master Chen.

How to imagine the circle without moving the hand:
  • For the first half of the circle, energy travels from the outside of the right foot along the outside of the leg, the back, the outside of the arm, the pinky to the tip of the middle finger. For the 2nd half of the circle, energy travels from the tip of the middle finger, to the thumb, along the inside of the arm, the chest, the inside of the leg, and then to the inside of the foot.
How to find the exact opposite point to create a stretch:
Example 1
  • Hold up the arm like normal when starting the positive circle.
  • Don't move the hand or the arm.
  • Keep the shoulder down.
  • Cave in the chest
Example 2
  • If your opponent is pushing in one direction, stretch in that same direction
  • This is yin yang separation.
  • It is important to keep the base (the lower part of the body from waist down) solid. Keep it front downloaded.
  • Stretch the upper body. This creates the illusion of being long (from the right hand to the left leg).
How to move the chest muscle down and backwards.
  • While moving the chest muscle down and backwards, the spine does not displace, but it may stretch vertically.
How to tuck the buttock towards the heel.
  • The purpose is to redirect the incoming energy to the ground.
  • Point the buttock farthest away from your opponent to the front heel.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Power or no power

I watched the Toronto Workshop 3-4 video today. I got a different understanding on the material presented. Although I was there at the workshop, I didn't really understand much at the time as I was so new to Taiji. I had no clue on many of the concepts. One topic was on Taiji power. According to Master Chen, Taiji practitioner had no real power, but only perceived power. That kind of power was based on the manipulation of length, width, height, weight, speed and angle of the body. We needed to always locate the centre. At this stage, we could regard it as the dantian. Later, it could really be at anywhere inside the body or even outside of the body. If we were able to keep the dantian as the centre all the time, we would be very long (hand to foot). However, a slight touch on our bodies by the opponent might change the centre, as we tried to fight it off. To be better than the opponent, we needed to be longer. We needed to train to keep that in mind.

Another concept I got from the video was to rotate the elbow. In order to lead with hand, you needed to find a spot for your elbow, at which it could be rotated. Once the spot was located, it should not move. Lead with hand, and rotate the elbow. Locating the right spot for the elbow might involve aligning the rest of the body parts.

Foot - striaght to the ground
Knee - rotate empty (meaning no displacement, but just transmit the energy)
Thigh - rotate horizontally
Waist - adjust
Shoulder - rotate down or up
Elbow - rotate sideways and lead in
Hand - lead out