Powerstretching is an often overlooked aspect of martial arts training. Many practitioners understand taiji as a tendon stretching exercise but they might not think of it as powerstretching. Tai chi is much more, of course. Energetic movement is a huge part of taiji that has informed my practice for a long time. It takes time to develop understanding of the many streams of this multi-layered practice. So getting to powerstretching often is not at the top of the list for many practitioners.
When powerstretching was introduced to me, I was training in Lan Shou Quan. My body responded well to the sets that my teachers were sharing. Powerstretching opens up channels and lets the body breathe in fresh energy. Like opening a window on a beautiful spring day and letting fresh breezes in to replace stagnant air, powerstretching moves stale qi out from the body’s nooks and crannies.
Master George Xu exposed me and other students to a little powerstretching back in 2002 through a simple set that was qigong-like in its execution. He still combines stretching with spiraling and internal qigong movement (he focuses on it in his Complete Practice video).
I first started really powerstretching at Master George’s China Camp in 2007 with Master Wu Ji, who gave us a set of stretches from the Lan Shou Quan system. And in 2009, Master Shou Guan Shun gave a group of foreign students his set from the Lan Shou System that we practiced several times a day for several days.
You can perform the postures as gently or energetically as you want, although Master Shou makes you really put yourself into it. I videotaped that set as well in different locales in Shanghai in 2009. Master Shou’s students, Wang Ming Bo and Rose Oliver show their international workshop participants the same set when they came to the US last year and recently this year.
These sets are very good to know and practice when you have sat for long periods of time or have done strenuous activity for a long time. They help open your body up and clean out the stagnant energy and replace it with fresh. You can do as little as three minutes or as much as 10 minutes. You can do one set three times in a row at a time. There really is no limit to what you can benefit from adding powerstretching to your daily practice.
Susan A. Matthews has posted a lot of powerstretching info and learning resources on her webpages at www.taichi-secrets.com or www.susanamatthews.com. You learn about the teachers I learned from there, as well. Her new powerstretching page contains educational content. Look for the Lan Shou page on her video store and scroll down to the bottom of the page and read her text about powerstretching.