Tai Chi Notes, January 1, 2019

Jan 01 2019

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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