Archive for January, 2019

Tai Chi Notes, January 29, 2019

Jan 29 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I was in India on a business trip last week, hence the lack of notes here. And it meant that I missed a Saturday class and a Tuesday class, though I did make the Saturday class on the day I got back, at least.

I didn’t practice Tai Chi much while I was there: the air pollution meant that I didn’t want to spend much time outside. Though there was one day where rain had cleared out the air, so I went through the form a few times that way; it was drizzling then and I was practicing on fairly smooth stone, so it was kind of an interesting test of my stability and of the concept of walking on thin ice. Also, I felt slightly uprooted that time, and with slightly hunched shoulders; I don’t think I was doing anything more wrong than normal, I’m probably just getting more sensitive…

I was hoping to do some Qigong and Silk Reeling practice in my hotel room that week, but I didn’t do either nearly as much as I’d have liked; I was feeling surprisingly off that week, alas.

This Saturday, we spent a while on Push Hands; I should probably start doing that more, maybe on Tuesdays after the form? One or two of the other students expressed a similar sentiment, so we’ll see. And fortunately I didn’t seem too far behind on either spear or Xinjia practice, despite the missed week.

The main thing I noticed in the Tuesday class was that I’m not standing quite straight in Grab and Tuck Robe after extending my right foot.

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Tai Chi Notes, January 15, 2019

Jan 15 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Back to normal this week. On Saturday, I asked about your hands during the push at the end of Six Sealing Four Closing, wondering whether I should push with my palm or the heel of my hand; the answer was that the push should start with my palm but I should be spiraling more (starting with my elbows more to the side than how I currently do it, with the elbows then spiraling down) and with energy spreading from my palm out to my fingers. Which is definitely not the answer I expected!

While doing the form on Saturday, I noticed myself getting uprooted during The White Goose Displays the Wings; and in the beginner’s class today I noticed myself getting uprooted right at the very start of the form. So that continues to be something that I seem to need to pay more attention to right now. (The other thing I noticed from today’s beginner’s class was my teacher saying to move my hands back while moving my left foot forward after raising my left leg in the Jin Gang Pounds Pestle; I probably do that some already, but worth thinking about, and maybe thinking about in contrast to Xinjia?)

We did a review of the parts of the Xinjia first form we’ve learned so far on Saturday, which was a useful opportunity to refine my understanding. During the opening, I’m not supposed to do a Ji at the end of raising my hand, though my fingers should extend and rise some while the heel of my hand sinks when bringing my hands back down. When doing the push in the Xinjia Six Sealing Four Closing, I should be pushing more down rather than straight ahead. When my arms are spread at the end of Oblique Posture, my weight should be somewhat to the left. And when I’m pushing out my hands and lifting my knee very shortly after that, I should be pushing my hands down somewhat.

This week was the Sunday class, and with the new year we restarted the second form. Which I’m looking forward to: I only learned about half of it last year, and even in the parts I did learn I’m sure there are tons of details I got wrong. The main detail I noticed on Sunday was that, in Turn Around, I should sweep my feet twice, like a standing version of the move later in the form where you sweep your leg with your hand on the ground. And during the first sweep your right hand should be on top, horizontal at maybe a little below eye level; and your second hand moves on top in the second sweep, while your right hand smoothly comes up and pounds down at the end of the second sweep.

I’ll be on a business trip next week, so no class; and it’s in Delhi, where the air quality is quite bad, so I don’t think I’ll practice outside, either. I’ll try to find time to do silk reeling and Qi Gong in my hotel room, though…

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Tai Chi Notes, January 8, 2019

Jan 08 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I was doing Dantian Rotations in the shower on Saturday, and they felt significantly different from the way they normally feel: I first felt a fairly localized area where parts of my body were twisting together, and then I felt an honest-to-god hard ball inside there. And, to make matters weirder sometimes I felt a weird vibration in part of the rotation, and sometimes I felt a sort of click at the end of the rotation; though I’m not sure if the click part came from my Dantian or from the stomach muscles on the surface.

I think there are two reasons why I felt this in the shower. One is that I’m not feeling through layers of clothing: it makes sense that I can feel stuff inside my body better if I’m touching my skin. And the other is that my Dantian is noticeably lower than my navel; so my upper hand should be covering my navel and my lower hand significantly lower than my navel; and, if I’m wearing jeans, I can’t do that effectively while remaining decent.

So now that I’ve had that experience, I’m trying to move my hand and attention a little lower while doing Dantian Rotations normally. I don’t get the full experience, in particular the feeling of a ball is pretty elusive, but it does feel somewhat different, especially in some rotation directions.

I’m really curious what the underlying physical structure is that I’m feeling: clearly there’s something there, I just don’t understand what…

Anyways, on the Saturday class, my teacher talked about the turn back at the start of Kick with Two Feet Up: there’s a shoulder strike in there. And I asked about the Silk Reeling Exercise Hand Maneuvers; I was wondering if you should extend your hand during the top part, but his answer was a little more oblique, and he talked more about leading with your thumb and involving the shoulder. And I also asked about the different parts of The Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg, but I still don’t really understand what’s going on with the different energetic bits there; I think I’ll probably just try to figure it out for a while and then ask again in a couple of months. Also, while he was doing the form, I was looking at his footwork during Push the Mountain: your right foot should be pointing straight to the right while you’re pushing.

On Sunday I again did 15 minutes of breathing exercise while Liesl was walking Widget; I had a harder time focusing than the previous week, for whatever reason, but I did start to notice the diaphragm moving at the start of the breath. (Which makes sense, that’s how breathing works!) And actually this morning I snuck in a little bit of time to practice that while I was working from home; I’m thinking I should also work that in on evenings when Liesl ends up walking Widget, that’s probably a better use of my time than reading Twitter.

Sunday was quite wet outside, so I didn’t practice outside; but I went through the full set of Silk-Reeling Exercises inside and the new Qigong set I’m trying to learn. And I had a good Qigong practice today over lunch. The Tuesday class hasn’t started yet, but a few of us went to hang out and practice anyways; I did the full Silk-Reeling Set and went through the first form six times. Which, unfortunately, didn’t loosen up the same way it had in some prior weeks; it loosened up a little, though. And the main thing that I’m noticing now is the way sinking into my kua lets me store up energy while moving a little past where I normally will, and then pushing with my leg lets me release that. So I feel like I’m starting to get that; I still don’t understand storing energy in my Dantian, though…

I’m also trying to register for Damo Mitchell’s Neigong seminar in May; I haven’t gotten a response to my query about that, though, so I’m not signed up yet.

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Tai Chi Notes, January 1, 2019

Jan 01 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Quiet week at work, so, if I’m remembering correctly, I not only did my Wu Ji practice on Thursday, I also did it on Friday? Normally I play board games at lunch on M/W/F and do Wu Ji on T/Th, but there wasn’t anybody around to play games with on Friday.

On Saturday, one thing I noticed during Silk Reeling practice was that it felt right to extend my top hand during Hand Maneuvers to get a similar feeling to how my arms are extended during, say, Dantian Change. I’m not 100% convinced that it is right, though, maybe I’ll ask about it next week, and also ask about how much my hand should extend during the version of Hand Maneuvers in the Laojia form? Also, Horizontal Circles are starting to feel more interesting; in general, I’m starting to notice elasticity in my arms more? I wonder if that’s the “silk-reeling energy” that gives the exercises their name; who knows… (I’ve got a book on the subject in the queue, so maybe I’ll find out.)

I’d also been feeling weird about my left foot in Push the Mountain and the subsequent Six Sealing and Four Closing: I turn it in past 90 degrees for the former, but that makes it too far in on the latter. So I asked about that; it turns out that I should only turn it in about 90 degrees, which is still a little tight on Six Sealing but I can absorb that by sinking into my kua. But when practicing at home later I realized I’m still confused about Push the Mountain, because I also don’t know where my right foot is pointed, and whether I should push straight to the right.

I’ve been reading Damo Mitchell’s introductory Nei Gong book; I was wondering whether it made sense to read that one given that I’d read his Comprehensive Guide, but I’m glad I decided to do so. I’ve gotten to the section on breathing exercises and on an introductory Qi Gong routine, and both of those seem actionable; I’m thinking of maybe attending a workshop of his in May, and trying to learn one of his routines seems like a good way to prepare for that?

So, on Sunday, I tried a basic breathing attention drill that Mitchell recommends while Liesl was walking Widget; I’m glad I did that, something about the way he phrased things got me paying attention to the flow of my breath in a more concrete way. And it was interesting watching my chest undulate slightly in response; also, I feel like I’m probably not breathing nearly deeply enough, I need to learn more about my diaphragm. So continuing that exercise seems like a good idea; just doing it once a week doesn’t seem like enough, but I don’t really know how I could work it in daily… Also, it was a lot easier to stick with it for 15 minutes than it is sticking with Wu Ji for 15 minutes, I was surprised about that. Not sure if it was the fact that I was lying down or that I had something a little more concrete to focus on?

On Sunday afternoon, I did my regular practice, including doing the middle part of the Silk-Reeling Exercises; those are getting better, so I’ll probably stop doing that soon, though I might throw in other parts of the set? And I went through the form six times; I still didn’t have the same switch flipping of “suddenly I want to do the form really quickly” that happened a couple of Tuesdays ago, but I’m definitely start to notice the inside of my body respond over the course of my practice and the course of the day as I do more: more exercises, more repetitions of the form, etc. (E.g. I was also noticing that my third set of 25 Dantian Rotations at the end of the day felt very different from the way the first one feels in the morning.)

I’d been feeling better about sinking into my kua while resting recently, and I noticed myself doing that more when walking downtown on Monday morning: it’s still not an unconscious habit, but it’s getting much easier to remember and trigger. And I’m noticing some of the same physical sensations in my legs when walking too, if I try to be a little relaxed and open; it’s honestly a little odd, there’s a kind of tingling that isn’t completely different from the way my body sometimes feels when I’m coming down with a cold, but I’m pretty sure it’s a good tingling rather than a bad tingling?

I’d been worried that I’d do less Tai Chi this week because I wouldn’t have my regular Tuesday lunch Wu Ji practice and then Tuesday evening class, so I decided to take advantage of the holiday break to practice on Monday as well. So I went through the form; I ended up going through it six more times, and, like I said above, I’m really starting to notice the difference if I put in a bunch of practice. Also, one of my neighbors came by with her sister; her sister does Tai Chi (though a different style, Yang style instead of Chen style), so we had a nice conversation.

And I decided to keep on doing some of the Damo Mitchell book stuff: I did the same breathing exercise as on Sunday, and I tried out a short Qi Gong set that he gives. And I’m definitely glad that I started the Qi Gong set: my teacher teaches lots of individual Qi Gong exercises but I’ve had a hard time putting them into a set, so I end up mostly just doing 20 minutes of Wu Ji, so the prescriptiveness of Mitchell’s set is useful. And, actually, based on Mitchell’s description of how to finish it off, it would flow well into Wu Ji; and I think it’s short enough that I can do Mitchell’s plus Wu Ji over lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays?

Also, the feel of the set was interesting. For example, when describing how you open your hands in the first exercise, he says “The feeling is like lightly stretching the tendons across the palm so that the bones can open up, a little like stretching elastic until it is only just held taut rather than stretched out to its limit”; when I experiment, I feel like I understand the feeling that he’s talking about, it’s just not something I’d been actively doing in my hands that way, and it fits into the stretching I’d been noticing in my arms above. And another thing was how some of the exercises made the center of my palms feel: I’m use to having tingling in my hands when I do Tai Chi (or Silk Reeling or Qi Gong), but not that particular localized feeling on the center of my palm. (I guess that’s the Lao Gong point? If so, that concept is getting a lot more concrete to me.)

And today I did pretty similar practice to yesterday (including doing the Mitchell stuff), though I only had time to make it through the form four times: I even ran into a neighbor and talked about Tai Chi again! (Different neighbor this time.)

Besides having my body feel different from practicing the form 16 times over three days (and doing lots of other exercises), I’m getting an increasingly long list of questions that I’m wondering about. Current questions and things I’d noticed while doing individual moves:

  • As mentioned above, I’m a little confused about Push the Mountain right now.
  • As mentioned above, I’m wondering about the top hand in Hand Maneuvers, both in the Silk Reeling version and the Laojia version.
  • In general I feel like it’s pretty natural to dissipate energy after doing Fa Jin (more energetic moves, punches and stuff), but in Jin Gang Pounds the Pestle I wasn’t so sure what to do. At first I was wondering about what to do when your hand is coming down at the end, but now I’m thinking that if I focus more on the foot then it’s fine. But now I’m wondering about the elbow when stepping forward in the middle; that doesn’t feel super natural to me right now.
  • There are a bunch of bits in a row in Golden Rooster that I think of as Fa Jin, but I can’t really do them all successfully with energy; should I work on trying to pull that off, or are fewer of them Fa Jin than I think of?
  • The way I do Kick with Two Feet Up is pretty anemic.
  • When doing Dantian Change, it’s starting to feel natural to shift my weight significantly more to my left foot at the end. (Which, I think, matches something my teacher mentioned a couple of months ago?)
  • When doing Step Back with Spiraling Forearms, I should pay attention to the weight shift: if I do that, it feels good, otherwise I’m constantly uprooting myself.
  • At the end of Six Sealing and Four Closing, it usually feels wrong in one of two different ways: either I feel like I’m uprooting myself or I feel like I’m hunching too much of my spine instead of just curling my shoulders. So I have to work on coming up fully (instead of having my legs come up but not my torso, which is what leads to the extra hunching) without uprooting myself.
  • My teacher said a few weeks ago that I should push with the heel of my hand in Six Sealing, instead of pushing with my fingers; now that I’m starting to feel more sensitive around my Lao Gong, though, I’m wondering if I should push through there? (I.e. lower than my fingers but not necessarily all the way down to the heel of my hand.)
  • I’m noticing myself uproot myself slightly at lots of different points in the form. So I should pay more attention to that; but I also feel like I’m getting more sensitive to uprooting, and in fact I’m noticing this while just walking around in general.

Sorry for the long entry, if anybody actually reads these; it’s been a quite eventful week for me in Tai Chi!

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