In taiji we are doing two things at a time. Maybe four. All require and active and present mental awareness. We are moving physical and energy and we are tracking both with the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Don’t ask me which because I’m not neuroscientist. Susan Matthews could answer that question.
All I know is that you are moving physical body and the qi flows through the body and outside of it and it is as though you must separate the brain’s halves to track each. I know that we are capable if it. Our human resources are infinite if we are willing to step beyond perceived limitations.
I learn different things from George Xu and Shifu Matthews but they are in alignment on at least one thing that I have learned from both. The fundamental universal thing common to all martial arts. Maybe you know to what I refer. Hopefully it resonates in some wordless part of you, because words fail me when I try to describe what it is exactly. That is no doubt the key and we all are looking for the key that unlocks the mystery.
For so long we have referred to “qi,” without actually describing what qi is so that we all know what were are talking about. Lifeforce, energy and so on are words. Through experience we interpret them, but if you have no experience, defining qi becomes more elusive.
Qi is change. Not like “spare change” as in money, but shifts that occur in the position of the body, for example. In order to shift you probably need a shift in the mind. Perspective has to change. You need to discern more subtle positions of the body and the feeling of flow. Qi flows. One way to identify qi is to seek out places in the body that have nothing flowing through them. This understanding is achievable by everyone who tries, I believe.
A (serious) beginning tai chi student must remember and practice a number of things. For example: dantian, zhong ding, spiraling, structure, energy, chi, harmony, opposing force, yin-yang, mind, and spirit. That’s only the beginning.
Work on refining these things continually and you will eventually experience the greatest rewards for practicing this ancient art. Many people feel the difference even after only a class or two with a good teacher. Practice with a friend(s). Obstacles exist. Forget them.
It’s sounds like a lot. You better get started today. Look on the bright side. Have fun.
The secret to standing in zhang zhuang or yi quan is not in how still you can be, rather how you adapt and adjust subtle energies in the body so that you will be relaxed yet strong, calm yet alert. Trying not to move can create tension and defeat the purpose of standing. Start with the muscles and look for where energy is not flowing freely. If not, then you are holding on to something that hinders flow.
Another secret is to understand the concept of “two bodies”; one energy and the other physical. Separate them as yin and yang separate, but remain as one.
You can incorporate standing principles when you pause in a posture in the form; then maintain the sense, or sensation cultivated in standing, as you move through transitions from one posture to another. That alignment, central equilibrium, zhong ding, qi going through and circulating through everything is the essence of taiji. Susan A. Matthews refers to this as “stillness in movement.” Wuchi never goes away even thogh you ar moving. Very yin-yang.
Don’t know what standing, or Zhang Zhuan, refers to? You can learn more by reading The Way of Energy by Lam Kam Chuen. I downloaded recently it as a pdf here.
free the muscles
when wiping a wet glass off with a towel after washing it I found myself with tension, stiff neck, tense shoulders and all the associated muscles … kind of frozen, no qi flowing through or very little.
to catch this in the midst of it happening is an opportunity to let yourself release that tension and let the qi flow … go deeper into your marrow to open the jar, wiped down the countertop or clean the windows.
Ever since my teacher, George Xu, first talked about the concept of two bodies, I’ve wondered what he meant exactly. Intellectually I thought I knew what he was referring to. But, since little in taiji is as obvious as it first appears, I had to ponder it over time to understand more clearly.
My “pondering” took place in my practice, in the movement of taiji itself, not in “thinking” about it, which is word chatter in the head. So I arrived at this articulation: Two bodies refers to the physical body and the energy body as two distinct units of our total beings. What I have since clarified, at least in my own mind for now, is that the quest of the tai chi practitioner is to distinguish between the physical and energy bodies, then learn to direct their activities separately. For example, while moving the body up, while moving energy down. Or the other way around. This touches on the concept of “opposing forces” in tai chi, which isn’t really accurate because “opposing” suggest going against and that is not what is intended. It means, as the yin-yang symbol shows, that there is an up on any down motion and vice versa.
With extended practice, you learn how to remerge them into a new, more powerful entity.