Tai Chi Notes, April 21, 2019

Apr 21 2019

Early notes this week since I won’t be at Tai Chi class on Tuesday. The Lotus Wu Ji is still going well; I’m staying at 20 minutes for now instead of going up to 21 minutes today, since for whatever reason I find it harder on Sundays, but I did make the full time on Thursday and Sunday. And I feel like it’s reorienting my shoulders somewhat, which I hope is good; I’ve actually noticed that I’m swinging my arms more freely when I’m walking, and I’m pretty sure that is good.

On Saturday my teacher went over my form. Notes:

  • I should spiral when doing the Ji to left at the start, I shouldn’t just push.
  • When on one foot before the first Jin Gang, don’t move my right elbow back, it breaks the energy at my shoulder, move my arms out from the body instead.
  • When pounding in the Jin Gang, be a little more full with elbows out.
  • After the second Jin Gang, keep my back full when extending my right arm and stepping back. In general, be more full in that section.
  • In Oblique Posture, lead more with my shoulder.
  • Move left elbow back more when punching, to help with getting energy from twisting my body.
  • When transitioning from Fist under Elbow to Reverse with Spiraling Forearms, strike forward with my left hand. But you don’t do that in the repetition of Reverse with Spiraling Forearms: that comes after The Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg, so you’re pushing up there instead of forward.
  • After the Oblique Posture following Reverse with Spiraling Forearms, don’t lean forward or reach up and over, instead sink and grab an arm right in front of you, doing a Lu on it. And expand out with your top arm in the two blocks at the start of Flash through the Back.
  • In Kick with Two Feet Up, make sure the right arm goes back, up, and over.
  • After the second Pat the High Horse, have the left hand turned around so the back of the hand is on your stomach before starting to turn your foot/body/right hand.
  • In general, I should expand a little more: when bending my arms, don’t bend my elbow so sharply, keep my forearm further away from my body.

Also on Saturday one of the senior students was helping go through the second form. One question I had was which foot you turn on when doing the move where you open and close both arms simultaneously, looking to the left and right. (I need to learn the names of the second form moves!) The answer is that you should be planted on your left foot with your right foot moving in both the turns (the one at the start and the one in the middle).

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Tai Chi Notes, April 16, 2019

Apr 16 2019

In the Saturday class, we talked about stretches that you can do with the help of the spear. You put the spear across your shoulders, with your arms wrapped around it, with the hands coming over from the back of the spear. The stretches are:

  1. Turn your hips from side to side; but always look forward, so you’re effectively turning your neck as well.
  2. Bend over from side to side, stretching the side of your body next to your rib cage.
  3. Bend while making circles with the end of the spear, doing a sort of figure 8.
  4. Same as 3, but with the direction reversed.
  5. Fold your chest forward and back.

I led the Silk Reeling Exercises on Saturday; one of the senior students said that I should avoid having my upper hand block my field of view when doing Hand Maneuvers.

We had the Sunday class this week. In the second form, we went as far as Tame the Tiger. After Beast’s Head, you spread your hands and punch; then let your hands fall down and swing back, doing a flip like when switching sides in the Peng-Cai Silk Reeling Exercise. And then, do a shake and punch, and then you step up with the right foot and block (or punch) with your right hand, then block with your left hand, then step back and go down low, with your weight on your back foot (the right one), your right hand extended up, your left hand under your right armpit, and with your left leg extended. But don’t lean, only go down so far.

I finally got to where I can do 20 minutes in Lotus Wu Ji; not comfortable, but at least I’ve succeeded. Which was my goal before the May class; now the next question is whether to stay at 20 minutes or to keep on trying to push it up? I think I’ll probably do the latter: it’s not like it’s actually comfortable to do it for 20 minutes, but the first 10+ minutes are fine, so presumably if I keep on pushing up my total time then I’ll build up my strength.

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VGHVI Minecraft, March 28, 2019

Apr 14 2019

Pictures from the March Minecraft session:

I didn’t really have a building project in mind, so I flew around for a while taking pictures.

The current state of the mountain, lit up at night.

A top-down view of terraced land in the rain. With, I think, a cave entrance as well?

Looks like these days if a cave roof has loose sand then the sand sprinkles down from it.

Tracks next to Roger’s abandoned church.

A view of my mountain buildings, Dan’s mountain building, and Roger’s church.

A top-down view of the back of the mountain.

A winter moon over the mountain.

 

Steve joined us for the first time in a while, and he was flying around over the train tracks looping from the city. Then he reported something odd, so I went to take a train and follow him; it turns out that some kind of massive glitch had occurred and replaced a chunk of the lake near the city with a jungle biome. It cut through some buildings and the train tunnel; bad enough, it would have been worse if it had been right in the city!

A cow blocking my way when I went to investigate.

Here’s where the tracks ended, Steve had already put a glass wall in place to hold off the water.

Here’s what it looked like up top, with a forest sprouted in the middle of the water.

It’s cutting through the glass castle and the train tunnel.

The fire palace was cut in half.

The tower with the eagle had a quarter removed. (Quite neatly, I should add!)

Here’s the bottom part of that tower, with the lava escaping from its glass enclosure.

The view from inside the glass castle.

Steve and I started working on rebuilding the train tunnel; unfortunately, I don’t think I quite understood Minecraft fluid dynamics, so my solution for rebuilding didn’t quite work. But hopefully I can get that done this month.

 

Dan was working on a pit near the bottom of his stairs:

A dark, deep hole in the sand; if you squint, there’s a figure at the bottom.

Another view, this time during daytime.

Here’s Dan working at the bottom of the pit.

Those pictures were from early on, the pit got a lot fancier. I’m actually not sure it’s the same pit in the pictures below as in the one above; I assume it is but I don’t have any hard evidence for that and the size is different so it might not be?

Now the pit has vines and colors.

The bottom of the pit is yellow.

There are colored stripes on the walls on the top half of the pit.

Here’s the view from the top.

It actually gets a little wider (with stairstep walls?) right under the colored stripes.

 

And Pat and his wife (whose name I am blanking on, I apologize!) were working on the floating city, in particular on the area with floating trees.

A glass pool with a terrace, some flowers, and floating trees nearby.

Here’s a view of the flowers from the side.

And a closeup of the flowers and the wall they’re next to.

A path through the floating trees.

A side view of the whole area.

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Tai Chi Notes, April 9, 2019

Apr 09 2019

I asked about White Goose Spreads His Wings on Saturday, because I was trying to figure out if you should round your back during it. I’d thought that maybe you shouldn’t during the middle part, but it turns out that you should during the whole thing: at the move to the right because you’re doing a peng, then when stepping back while you do a chin-na, then at the end.

And then, following on from that, apparently in Oblique Posture you’re supposed to lead with your shoulder when bending over.

On Sunday, Lotus Wu Ji went much better than it had on previous Sundays; that was a pleasant change. And it went well on Tuesday, too. And, at one point, I felt this strange spurting sensation on my right foot; if I’m feeling optimistic, that’s something related to the bubbling well, but it’s probably not.

In class this evening, I noticed that my teacher was always facing his torso in the same direction (towards your leg) when doing the both arm version of shoulder rotations in the silk reeling exercise; I’d been turning my torso, but I confirmed that turning it was wrong.

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Tai Chi Notes, April 2, 2019

Apr 02 2019

I’m starting to feel that I’m not getting so much benefit from Dantian Rotations any more; maybe I should stop doing those, or dial them down? I wonder if there’s something else I should do while waiting for the train…

I asked on Saturday about your right hand during Pat the High Horse: it is indeed supposed to be extended.

On Sunday, when I was practicing, it felt like my natural speed for doing the first form was a little faster than it had been? Not sure if that’s a change, or if I was just in a different mood than normal.

Lotus Wu Ji is still being a pain: literally, and also I’m still not sure if I’m getting the positioning right, in particular I’m worried that I’m not leaning the right amount and/or not squatting enough. And, for whatever reason, I’m finding it harder to do on Sundays than I am on Tuesdays/Thursdays; not sure if that’s a fluke or if I’m tired after practicing Tai Chi or if doing Qi Gong first (like I do on Tuesdays/Thursdays) helps. One thing I did notice while looking in the mirror is that I feel like my neck is going too far forward; I kind of think that’s a general problem, I should work on that…

I kind of feel like, when doing The White Goose Spreads its Wings, in the middle step I should be straight instead of having my shoulders forward; I’ll try to ask about that on Saturday. And, when doing the form in class tonight, I was thinking that, when standing up in Drop and Split, my weight was a little wrong over my left foot, I should think about that. The other interesting thing in class was that the person leading the form waiting a really long time before starting, and that made raising my arms feel different, I should try that.

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Tai Chi Notes, March 26, 2019

Mar 26 2019

Not a whole lot to talk about this week. I’ve been working on the Lotus Wu Ji a little more than normal; it’s definitely getting harder as I bump up the time. And I’m wondering how much that has to do with me not having the right muscles built up for it, how much has to do with me not relaxing appropriately, how much has to do with my body being in the middle of adapting, and how much has to do with me doing it wrong. It feels right at the start, but I start feeling hunched later on, and also really heavy; maybe the heaviness is good, a sign that I’m setting up my frame well, but maybe it’s a sign that I’m being too rigid?

Also, in terms of my body being in the middle of adapting: when I took the Lotus course last month, the teachers made a point of talking about sinking your shoulder blades; I’d felt I was doing a decent job of that, but this weekend my shoulder blades are starting to ache a bit, in a way that makes me think that they’re actively adjusting more? Which Mitchell’s big book talks about; though there’s certainly a chance that I’m just doing things wrong and messing up my body!

I’m also feeling that I should do more breathing practice; my breathing is feeling forced when I’m concentrating on it, and when I relax, it feels a little shallow?

Nice time going through the form this evening: it felt natural to go faster than I normally do?

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Tai Chi Notes, March 19, 2019

Mar 19 2019

I’m getting into standing practice more and more: I feel like the Lotus course taught me some interesting new possibilities, about my structure and about sinking back into my kua instead of just sideways? At work, I’ve started attending the standup of a team adjacent to the one I spend most of my time with, and honestly their standups are kind of long, so I’ve started doing standing practice during that; I feel like the extra practice is helping, and one day last week I felt super heavy, like gravity was unusually strong, which was an interesting change.

I’ve been feeling for a while that the heels on my shoes are thicker than would be ideal for doing Tai Chi (or standing meditation, for that matter), so I ordered some custom shoes, and they finally showed up last week. Seems like a good choice, though I don’t have anything concrete to report about them yet.

On Saturday, my teacher was out, and one of the senior students was leaded. She mentioned that, in the two kicks with your heel, you should have your arms open up as fists with the palm side ending out upward; it does seem to give some extra force to the move, I’ll have to try that.

While going through the form, I was thinking that, in Pat the High Horse, I should probably extend my right arm a little more; I should ask about that to confirm. And the last step in White Crane Spreads Its Wings still doesn’t feel right; I’m thinking maybe the problem is in the middle step, when you go to the left foot: I’m rounding my back there, maybe my back should be straighter? Not sure, I need to experiment with that more.

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Tai Chi Notes, March 12, 2019

Mar 12 2019

I asked on Saturday about when I should tuck my tailbone. Basically, my teacher’s answer was that I should keep a straight back and not have my butt stick out, so I think pretty much whenever I’m focusing on having my back upright. He also said that I should relax my muscles after tucking my tailbone, and that I should feel a connection in my thighs when doing this.

On Sunday, we had the Pao Chui class; when doing the Chopping Hand, have an opposing energy in your left elbow when you’re going down with your right fist. And we went over Great Red Fist / Little Red Fist (I think that’s the one, the one that’s kind of like hand maneuvers): I was really confused on the timing of that my first time through the form, but it seemed to make more sense this time. The first time, when turning into it, you step with your right foot and then open your left foot, ending with your right hand up and out. Then you do two iterations, turning on the second iteration; and you do two iterations on the other side, again turning on the second iteration. So the two sides don’t feel symmetric: it feels more like you’re moving you hands 3 times on the first side and 2 times on the second side, or maybe 2.5 / 1.5.

I want to do a better job of learning stuff this year, so I practiced Pao Chui, Staff, and Spear some Sunday afternoon even though there was a morning class. Unfortunately, the bit I wrote about in the paragraph above felt a little off, even though I’d just been practicing it a few hours earlier! And there was one place where I wasn’t sure what to do in the staff form, though I had an idea, which I think I confirmed watching other people in the Tuesday class. I definitely have gaps in the spear form, missing a Saturday class a few weeks back didn’t help, I need to work on that too.

I also did some Lotus Wu Ji on Sunday, and of course today. And my body is starting to feel like it’s falling into a good structure when doing that, and actually also when doing Chen Wu Ji and when doing Zhan Zhuang. So I feel like my subconscious is learning something about positioning and relaxing? I’m also noticing that I have a much better sense about when the energy in my legs is going straight down, it’s making me feel significantly more solid.

In the Tuesday class, my teacher was talking about Jin Gang Pounds the Pestle, and emphasizing that your knee should strike; when he was doing it, it seemed like he was having his lower leg go back a bit (to make the angle of the knee more pointed), instead of just having it hang down, I tried that out and it seemed like it did give me more of a feel of a knee strike. And I asked about the Spine Stretch in the Silk Reeling Exercises, specifically whether sometimes your spine should curve back a bit when going up; the answer was yes.

Looks like I will be able to go to the Lotus Nei Gong course in May, though I won’t feel 100% confident until I’ve actually sent in my money and gotten confirmation that it’s been received, the person handling that registration does not seem very organized…

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Tai Chi Notes, March 5, 2019

Mar 05 2019

I asked about the upward hand thrust in Flash the Back on Saturday: I feel like I’m either uprooting myself if I let myself go up or else I’m sinking down into my front foot just as I want to be thrusting up, so I feel like I’m not going high enough. My teacher’s answer was that I wasn’t thinking about where I was supposed to be thrusting: I’m supposed to be thrusting into my opponent’s throat, which isn’t all that high, so it’s fine to stay rooted in my feet.

I was also thinking about the moves before that. In the blocks that lead off Flash the Back, I feel like I should extend my upper arm out more; and in Oblique Posture, I want to think about folding my kua, and maybe fold further back than I’m doing?

One of the other students was asking about Zhan Zhuang, so I decided to practice along with that; my teacher told me to leave more room between my hands (about three fists, I’d thought that it was more like one fist), to have my middle fingers straight horizontal, to have my thumbs curving in (embracing the imaginary ball between my arms) instead of out, and to tuck my tailbone. So lots of little adjustments for me to do.

On Sunday morning, my breathing meditation was getting kind of intense. In a good way, energy flowing a surprising amount, it’s definitely making me feel like I should do that more… And it was raining so I did Silk Reeling and Lotus Neigong stuff inside; just as well, I could probably use the Lotus Wuji practice, and looking at that in a mirror was sort of interesting.

One thing from class today was that, when you’ve raised up in Embrace the Knee, your hands should be turned out slightly: your palms shouldn’t be completely parallel to each other.

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VGHVI Minecraft, February 28, 2019

Mar 02 2019

Pictures from the February Minecraft session:

Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures at the start, but basically I wanted to talk to Dan about how to integrate his stairs and plaza into what I’d been building, and then I wanted to continue on the corner of the mountain that I’d been working on.

The stairs are narrower now, and Dan has built out the plaza. And I’ve started to build up the corner rooms, you can see the ladder sticking up to where the third floor will go.

And here’s the view going up the stairs.

Now the third floor is finished. Or at least the third room on that stack, it’s probably the fifth floor overall.

Looks better with some decorative blocks sprinkled in.

Here’s what it looks like inside the room.

That’s a pretty long stretch of ladder; I bet we could fit another room in there.

The fourth room. Which is, I guess, the four-and-a-halfth floor?

The other rooms connect up to the rooms above the train station, but this one doesn’t; so I put a niche on that wall and filled it with pictures.

Here’s what the outside looks like now.

The bottom was a little messy, so I cleaned it up.

The top doesn’t look quite right, let’s do something about that.

Looks a little better with an extra layer of stone and then a few pieces of dirt.

Here’s a view from slightly farther away at night.

 

That’s what I was doing, and a bit of what Dan was doing; he also worked on some other stuff in the area, in the desert section right nearby.

A tower Dan built in the desert.

Flooding most of the desert.

Here’s a closeup of the tower in the water; new brick types!

The dirt tower was procedurally generated; I like how the two towers relate to each other.

 

Miranda was working on her desert tomb. I’m honestly not 100% sure what all she was doing, she was fiddling around on top when I visited.

There’s a tower of sand inside, that’s fallen down from the surface or something.

I like how the roof is sprinkled with sandstone.

Looking down from above.

 

And Pat added a grove of trees to his floating city.

Ground-level view of floating trees.

The trees in the context of the city.

There’s a flat area on the side that he’ll be working on next.

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