Archive for October, 2018

Tai Chi notes, October 30, 2018

Oct 30 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ve been doing 20 minutes of Wu Ji practice over lunch; this Thursday, I did a few other bits of Qi Gong after that, I think I’ll probably keep that up?

On Saturday, Tony was talking about Six Sealing Four Closing, and mentioned Peng (when going up on the left side); that surprised me, so I need to think about that. And then when we watched me doing that move, he said I was hopping, so I need to think about that as well! I actually spent a while doing that over and over again when practicing on Sunday, and I still don’t quite know how to put all of that together; for now, I’m concentrating on feeling the ground path more than I had been.

There was another push hands class on Saturday, but I didn’t like it as much as the first one. I was hoping that there would be more people repeating, but most of the class was new, so we mostly covered the same material; that would have been fine, but it also turned out that I was less well matched with the people that I was practicing with than I had been the previous week.

I finished that Nei Gong book; I’ll probably read more books by the author, and I’m still thinking I might go to a workshop of his? Even if I don’t do that, I might well reread the book in six months or a year.

And I’m continuing doing my Dantian Rotations and my very slow squats; Streaks is definitely helping with that. And my number of squats went up from 4 to 6 this week; so yay, if I keep that out, I can dig out of the really pathetic number that I started at.

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Tai Chi notes, October 23, 2018

Oct 23 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

Pretty normal class on Saturday; though I’ve been trying to get into the habit recently of doing a second repetition of the form even when Tony isn’t there to tell us to do that. Two or three weeks back, maybe five other people did it with me; and this week, basically everybody did that with me; I’m sure that it helped that I was standing in the back row, which is the right place to lead when we turn around for the repetition. It’ll be interesting if that stays as a whole-class habit, we’ll see.

In the spear form, my full marshal felt a little messy, so I should work on that. But the good news is that the Xin Jia form is feeling much more natural than it was two or three weeks ago, I feel like I’m making real progress there? Not that I’m great at that form or anything, it’s just that it used to feel very unnatural, but now it’s much less of an active struggle.

After the regular class, we had a special push-hands class. I was curious how that would feel, since I feel like my Tai Chi has improved significantly since the last time I did much push hands. And, honestly, the single-hand push hands didn’t feel too good; but the two-handed form felt pretty different, in a good way. Partly because I felt like I was moving from my legs more than my torso, and partly because I got a little bit of the feeling of energy moving around in my body in ways similar to what I’m feeling these days in the form.

On Sunday I did my normal practice; I worked on the spear a bit more than normal, and I think I should be able to do better at the full marshal. Better in a couple of ways: keeping the spear movement in a plane more of the time, and also sometimes sliding my hands apart instead of always having them right next to each other.

I’m also continuing to read that Nei Gong book; there’s lots of stuff there, too much to absorb right now. (I was thinking I should reread it in six months; the author will actually be giving a course in the Bay Area in six months, though, so now I’m wondering whether I should do that?) There’s some fairly specific hard-to-believe claims about how bodies respond to these exercises, which at least would potentially have the advantage of making some of the harder-to-accept claims more potentially testable by somebody who is willing to put in the effort.

Which I’m not currently, but for now I think I should focus on doing abdominal breathing (and doing that by relaxing my muscles instead of forcing it), and also by guiding my awareness around the regular and lesser microcosmic orbits. (Which I can actually do kind of absentmindedly while riding the train!) Those orbits seem to be something pretty basic that Qi Gong books agree on, and that focus on awareness seems to me to dovetail well with my paying attention to my Dantian when doing the form and with my doing Dantian Rotations, so it’ll probably be interesting no matter what. (And certainly improving my breathing is a good idea.)

Speaking of Dantian Rotations, I’ve kept up that habit, as well as the habit of doing slow squats. (And I just bought the app Streaks to help with that.) With the rotations, I’m trying to put more into awareness and less into physical movements, and also to have the rotations that are on the plane of my chest feel like they’re farther back in my body instead of on the surface on my stomach.

All of this stuff (paying attention to my Dantian in the form and keeping up momentum, doing Dantian Rotations, and being more aware of the inside of my body in general) seems to be paying off. For example, I was realizing during class tonight that, at the end of Grab and Tuck Robe / the start of Six Sealing Four Closing, I think there’s an entire little Dantian rotation that’s completely hidden, where the momentum brings it around one more time when you have your right arm out, leading into you bringing you left arm over to meet it. And I’m actively trying to figure out how I want things to move during the Dantian Change: when am I trying to let everything calm down inside, and when am I going with the momentum?

This might actually be related to why I’m feeling more comfortable with Xin Jia: that form has a lot more circles in it. So maybe I’m now getting better at relating those external circles with internal circles that are hidden in the Lao Jia form?

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Tai Chi notes, October 16, 2018

Oct 16 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

Last week, I’d been wondering about my right arm when moving forward in the first Pound with the Pestle: I thought I was moving it too far back, jamming my energy. So I asked about that in Saturday, and I was indeed correct: I should have my arm more in front of my torso rather than to the right when extending it there.

We had the once-a-month Pao Chui course on Sunday; the application review from the first floor was interesting, talking about Thrust with the Right / Left foot. The details of the foot movements at the start of those moves really matter, if you trap closely it makes a real difference.

I started reading A Comprehensive Guide to Daoist Nei Gong, and it’s super interesting so far. (The author has a more introductory book, and I’d been thinking I should have ordered that instead, but now I’m happy with my choice.) One thing that caught my eye is the discussion on p. 39 of uses of the term “Qi”. Sometimes it just means the quality of an action: a completely straightforward usage. Then there’s Qi of the channels, which he describes as “extension of consciousness through the body”; that’s the part that, I think, we hear about most in the west, with the most mysticism involved; I still have a hard time really believing in, say, there being a particular point (Xia Bai / Lu 4) on your body that “helps a person to start the emotional recovery process that needs to begin after grieving has ended”. And the third version is Qi of standing / martial arts, “the reaction to sinking and changing the body” – that seems directly associated to some of the stuff I’m seeing in my Tai Chi classes.

I really appreciate seeing all three of these described (even the bits that I have a hard time believing in), and also how concretely the author ties that to various both physical structures and sensations as well as how well he presents the analytical framework. I’m dubious about the details of, say, specific points on the body or ties to organs, but I’m a little more on the fence when it comes to channels in general: seems weird, but I can also relate it a little to physical sensations? And then there’s the analysis of muscles / sinews / tendons / “huang”: I’m willing to believe that Western medicine pays more attention to muscles than it should, and it seems not completely ludicrous that there’s some sort of connective tissue that Western medicine actively undervalues? (Huang might be the same as fascia, the author isn’t sure.)

I just finished a chapter on Wu Ji meditation; some potentially useful ideas there on how to experiment with body positioning and relaxing. (Including the question of to what extent I should tuck my tailbone, something that my teacher recommends in that context and that Gokhale actively recommends against!) Another interesting thing is a reminder that the Dantian is a specific location and that it’s inside your body rather than on the surface: I think I’m doing a combination of being a bit vague about it and thinking of it as being closer to the skin, I should change my attention a bit more during the form.

It’s a big book, it’ll be a while before I finish it. (And I might need to interrupt my reading because of a library book being due.) The other thing that’s been going on is that I seem to be reasonably successful in establishing two new habits: I’ve done 50 Dantian Rotations every day this week, instead of the 20 that I’d been doing, and I’ve finally doing the squatting exercise reliably before I go to bed. Starting with only 3 repetitions, which is pathetic, but I’m already up to 4, so at least the trajectory is good.

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Tai Chi notes, October 9, 2018

Oct 09 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

On Saturday, I asked about the leg movement in the transition from Jade Girl to Grab and Tuck Robe. The answer turned out to be that, if your jump is short enough that you have good control, then you can land with a narrower and higher stance, and then should move your leg afterwards, while if you jump farther, then you’ll have to land lower and wider.

I also noticed that my teacher seemed to be turning his hip during Dantian Change during the Xin Jia form; he said that I should focus on turning my Dantian and I shouldn’t turn my knees. So I think that, in practice, that means that I should move more of my body to the right, and turning my hip is okay. And, watching that on Tuesday, it seems like the same thing applies in Lao Jia, too, I’d just been not paying attention and thinking that you should only turn your waist.

I was thinking more about doing Dantian rotations; going from 20 to 50 seemed like a big jump, but if I switch from 20 to 25 on my morning commute and then repeat that in my afternoon commute, then I’ll actually reach 50 pretty easily. So I started doing 50 at home over the weekend and have kept it up on the first two weekdays of this week, and actually things already feel different? So I’ll try to keep that up, I’m very curious how that will develop.

Also in terms of exercises, I’d been thinking I should do that squatting exercise before going to bed, but hadn’t actually been doing it in practice. But I’ve finally started to establish that habit, I have a three- or four-day streak now; unfortunately, I’ve already lost some leg strength from skipping it, so I’m only managing to do three repetitions whereas before I was managing five. But the important thing is establishing the habit, I’m sure once I’ve done that I can build it up more and more.

A couple of other things I was thinking about in class tonight: in the first Pound the Pestle, right after you stand on your right leg, I was thinking about what my right hand / arm does as it moves first back then forward. And I think I was moving in a way that jammed my right shoulder a bit, so I should do some combination of either not moving my right arm as far back and/or waiting to turn my body forward until I’ve started moving my arm; not sure, I’ll have to experiment. Also, during Grab and Tuck Robe, I should probably think about Peng energy when moving my right hand across the top at the end?

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Tai Chi notes, October 2, 2018

Oct 02 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

On Saturday, one thing that came up when the class was going over bits of the first for was that, after the first punch, sink to your left kua; I don’t think I was doing that so much. And, jumping ahead to Tuesday, that also came up right at the start of Six Sealing Four Closing; so it’s clearly something I should think about. And the other move that came up that I wasn’t paying so close attention to the details was in the Diagonal Body-Stroke Fist: I wasn’t really brushing my knees so much in two parts of those moves, I should have my bottom hand be a little lower.

Also on Saturday I noticed a few places where I wasn’t extending my arms much, not in the way that I was supposed to in, say, Dantian Change. But then I thought about it, and realized that at least some of those were moves with Ji energy, and maybe the calculations are different there? So I asked about that on Tuesday, again in the context of Six Sealing Four Closing; and having the elbows significantly bent in the push at the end there is correct, and it is indeed because of Ji energy and having your back rounded. Trying it out, I think I understand the feel: when your back is rounded and so you can feel your shoulders hunched forward, it actually feels a little odd to also stretch out your upper arms.

On Sunday, the one notable thing was that, during one of the times doing the form, I felt energy go from my legs to my shoulder in the shoulder strike in Small Catching and Striking. It would be nice to be able to reliably get that feel, seems important… (It would also be good to get a similar feel in Covering-the-Hand Forearm Fist.)

The other thing that happened on Tuesday was that Tony went over Dantian Rotation. I thought I was doing a good job by doing it 20 times while waiting for the train (or, most days, after getting off the train), and I really do think that that has helped me; but Tony talked about doing it 50 or 100 times, and about really getting a feel for movements starting in your Dantian when you keep that up for six months or a year. Which hasn’t yet happened to me: the feeling that I’ve been getting from the exercise is sensations in other parts of my body when doing the rotations (e.g. horizontal movement across my shoulders or the back of my head at the top part of the first rotation); now that I type that out, it’s probably connected to the idea of movements starting in the Dantian, but I feel like there’s something more fundamental and actionable that is waiting for me. So either I should increase my repetition count or just be prepared to wait for a few years…

(And there’s also the question as to whether I’m doing the exercise correctly, or at least correctly enough; I’m honestly not sure about that, either…)

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