Archive for September, 2018

Tai Chi notes, September 25, 2018

Sep 25 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

The first main event this week was actually a book I read: Internal Body Mechanics, by Ken Gullette. He talks about six key mechanics, the ground path, peng, whole-body movement, spiraling / silk-reeling energy, opening and closing the kua, and dantian rotation. There’s a lot to think about there, but the main one that struck me is the ground path: always maintaining a connection from the point of contact with your opponent to the ground. It’s not a phrase that my teacher uses, but it feels related to things he talks about (e.g. uprooting yourself, which it makes sense to me to think of in terms of losing the ground path). And related in a potentially actively useful way: if I can get the feel for what it means to have the ground path, then I can try to maintain that feel.

The other five concepts seem worth thinking about too, though: it seems like a good list? For example, the mention of the kua there reminds me that I have work to do there. I used to sink into my knee too much; more recently I’ve gotten better about that and am sinking into my thigh more. But I should actually probably frequently move that sinking further up my leg, into the crease at the hip.

Anyways, on Saturday, I tried to pay attention to maintaining the ground path while doing silk reeling exercises, and quickly realized that I was constantly uprooting myself: e.g. when doing shoulder rotation, I’d uproot myself on the upward part of the rotation. So I spent the entire time trying to maintain that connection; felt surprisingly low, seems worth working on.

Since I’d led the exercises the previous week, I got one-on-one instruction this week on the form. I got one small piece of advice, that I wasn’t turning my body enough at the start of Dantian Change; and one big piece of advice, that I should stop pausing between moves but instead try to maintain more of a continuous flow, and that I should have the flow led by my Dantian. I went through the form a couple more times, trying to follow that advice; again, quite different! So: two big things to work on.

Also on Saturday we reviewed the Full Marshal in the spear form; Tony showed us a place where we could skip a step compared to how he’d taught us before, but presented that as optional, I think I’m going to stick with the earlier version. (And there were a couple of other little things that I noticed I wasn’t doing right.) And then he showed us the next move in the form, with three chest-high thrusts followed by a shoulder-high thrust; I was doing something wrong with the shoulder-high thrust, though, tensing up too much or something.

And we got caught up back up in the Xinjia first form to where we had been a month or so ago, good that we should be able to make progress again soon. (But, honestly, it’s also been good to have a pause where I could solidify things a bit.)

On Sunday, I practiced as normal; the main thing I worked on was the spear form, the shoulder-high thrust felt better after that.

In today’s Tuesday class, I didn’t have quite the same feel while doing the silk-reeling exercise or while doing the form as I did on Saturday; so clearly those feelings are a little transient (and probably aided by concentrated practice), and I shouldn’t take them for granted: so I expect I’ll have to focus on the ground path and being led by my dantian for a while…

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VGHVI Minecraft, August 30, 2018

Sep 22 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

In the August Minecraft session, I wanted to connect the train station to the main entrance through the mountain. I decided that it would make sense to have a row of shops there, so I scoped out the area with that in mind.

Scoping out the next place I want to build.

Getting rid of mushrooms, starting to regularize the grass.

Making the wall a little deeper (and only stone, no dirt), and starting to put the floor in place.

Do I want a wall in front of the store, like a regular building?

No, a more open layout is better, with counters serving as the boundary.

Here’s the view from the front of the store.

Let’s add in some decoration.

That worked pretty well, let’s repeat the process a little bit further down along the wall.

I’m eventually going to want to connect up to where the light is on the back wall.

Next, I decided to check in on other people. Miranda was working a bit more on the inside of her pyramid (or whatever this crypt thing is); Patrick was wandering around looking at rendering changes in the latest version.

Looking at what Miranda is doing.

A doorway surrounded by darkness.

A forest next to water, with a lava crevasse.

Looking more closely at the crevasse.

A really weird two-level forest: there’s this one-dirt-brick high land with trees on it above a cave.

Some pretty blue flowers.

There’s something vertical underwater.

They’re kelp forests.

A little floating island above some mountains.

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Tai Chi notes, September 18, 2018

Sep 18 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

I led the Silk Reeling Exercises in the Saturday class this week. One of the senior students gave me a few pieces of advice afterwards: when I’m doing the Spiraling from Dantian to Wrist, I should lead with the pinky and end with the middle finger; when I’m doing the punching in the exercises, the punches should be chest height instead of waist height; and when I’m doing the Six Sealing Four Closing in the form, I shouldn’t lean forward at the start.

When doing the form, I feel like my Hand Maneuvers are getting a little better – I’m doing a better job of relaxing the off hand. I’m feeling a little off-balance in the Oblique Posture, when returning to my back foot: I think I need to work on that. And I was feeling a little uncertain about what I should do with my hands between the Protecting the Heart Fist and the Whirlwind Kick; not sure where that uncertainty came from, but hopefully I’ve got it mostly figured out again, but I should probably ask about that on Saturday?

For the spear part, we just reviewed what we’d done the previous week. (Which was a good thing: it’s important, and I hadn’t practiced because the Pao Chui course had taken up my normal practice time. Tony repeated some advice to practice new moves a hundred times; I should probably try that at some point!) And Xin Jia was also a repeat, we’re kind of stalled with that.

After the regular class I reviewed both Dao forms for a bit, and a couple of other students joined me; good to have company. There were a few things I wasn’t quite sure of, but hopefully we mostly figured it out…

Sunday was the last 8 Energies workshop. When doing 8 Energies reviews, I’ve been enjoying the feel of the Lei, feeling like something is stretching between my forearms; I think I need to work on Lu, it’s subtler than I’d been thinking of it as; and Kao definitely needs some work. I’d been doing the Kao in the drill as just moving my shoulder forward, with my arm already down, but I realized that Tony spirals his arm down to set up the shoulder strike, I need to work on that. And the handout translates Kao as torso instead of shoulder; I asked about that, the point there is that the force comes from the torso as well as the shoulder.

Most of the morning was spent on the moving steps version of the 8 Energies drill. Not sure if I’ll be able to remember that, but here are some notes to try to help:

  • In general, moves are done with your hands in fists. And in the first four you slide your feet forward and backward; in the second four, you switch feet and step every time.
  • Peng: both fists curve forward and up, but make sure you don’t get uprooted: it’s important to sink. Your back fist goes pretty far forward, you’re not just expanding with the front fist, and in fact the back fist can turn into an uppercut.
  • Lu: both fists are in a horizontal orientation (in fists), with the front palm up the back palm down; pull back with them.
  • Ji: switch feet with this one; punch forward, with both fists in a vertical orientation.
  • An: pretty much what you’d expect, punch down just inside your back leg.
  • Cai: no fists on this one, you’re grabbing pulling back like in the regular version of the exercise. But think of the foot switch at the end as part of the Cai.
  • Lei: there’s a foot switch right at the start (coming very soon after the Cai switch, so it feels like two switches in a row). And then pull your fists apart while turning, but don’t think of it as a turn, rather as emphasizing the split: bend your front arm at the elbow, with the outer half of your arm vertical, while the left hand goes back. So you can think of it as using your back hand to pull on your opponent’s arm, extending it, while your left hand pushes on the part of the arm above the shoulder, locking their joint. It’s kind of like jump turn after third Pound Pestle in Xin Jia.
  • Zhou: start with a block and strike, just like in Kao. Both elbows are going horizontally sideways, but the front elbow is the important one: unlike Lei, you’re not splitting. (And maybe the back arm isn’t even really hitting so much with the elbow at all?)
  • Kao: it starts with the same block and strike as Zho does; it’s basically just like the regular 8 energies Kao.

And in the afternoon we did a push hands version of that; that was fun, but I don’t think I’ll try to write down notes, I don’t spend much time on push hands. (I should probably start doing more push hands at some point?) And then there was some other push hands thing after that, but I was feeling surprisingly wiped out, so I sat out during the last hour.

I skipped class today: Liesl wasn’t feeling good so I walked Widget after getting home, and I got home late because of train problems. And the combination of those two took enough time that I would have shown up quite late to class.

As to non-class practices, I skipped standing meditation last Thursday (I was at a conference over lunch) but I did it today; only 15 minutes, though. I haven’t been as good as I’d like about the leg strengthening exercise that Tony’s been talking about over the last month or so, but I’m still doing it some; hopefully I can turn that into a regular habit (before I go to bed, probably?), because I’m pretty sure it would be good for me.

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Tai Chi notes, September 11, 2018

Sep 11 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

On Saturday, we spent a lot of time on the spear: we learned the very beginning and the full marshal. I think I’m going to enjoy the spear – lots of spinning your hands around, but it ultimately seems to make sense? Quite different so far from other forms I’ve done…. Because we spent so much time on the spear, though, we unfortunately didn’t have time to do Xin Jia. And I did go through both dao forms during a break.

Sunday was the once-a-month Pao Chui (second form) class. Getting close to the end of that form; there are definitely parts that I’m rough on and parts that I don’t remember so well outside of class, but I made progress on one of the latter areas, I think. And then we did an application discussion on the first form, covering relaxing your arm to get out of an arm lock. Interesting to practice both sides of that one, I wish I’d had a little more time with it.

And then I relaxed a bit while other people did the guan dao (I was already learning enough new forms, so I skipped that one); and then we did Xin Jia practice. (So it wasn’t so bad skipping that on Saturday.) Again, there are a few spots where I don’t quite know the form, but I’m making progress…

Today was the first week of a new session on the Tuesday class, which is always more introductory than normal weeks; so a pretty quiet class. Though that meant that we were working on the moves right at the start, which meant that I got to practice the bit where I’m balancing on my right leg; I think I’m getting better at that because of the 8 energies course, because I’m doing a better job of treating it as a lu, somehow that helps me maintain my balance by drawing my body together. The other good thing that happened today was that I didn’t have much trouble doing standing meditation for 20 minutes over lunch; hopefully I’ll be able to maintain that.

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Tai Chi notes, September 4, 2018

Sep 04 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

In Saturday’s class this week I didn’t get the same feeling when doing the shoulder rotation that I had the previous Tuesday; ah well. Maybe the previous one was partly a side effect of having spent six hours doing Tai Chi a couple of days earlier; we’ll see what happens after the third 8 Energies course?

One thing that my teacher pointed out to me on Saturday was that I was bending my arm too much in The White Goose Displays the Wings; he’d also mentioned that to me earlier in Grab and Tuck in the Robe, I should work on extending my arm more. (I’m better at remembering it in Dantian Change.) The other thing I’m thinking about now is something he’s said about energy going down your unweighted foot in certain moves: he brought that up a few weeks back in Reverse with Spiraling Forearms, and he’s mentioned it before in Grab and Tuck in the Robe and in Dantian Change.) I’m not entirely sure what to feel for there, hopefully I’ll get better at sensing that? (I think I’ve felt something related to that a few times, though.)

We started the spear, specifically learning how to do a half marshal. I scrape the ground more than I’d like, and the middle of the three turns in the half marshal doesn’t feel particularly natural yet, but presumably that will come? And he also recommended an exercise for getting used to your weapon, namely jerking the spear up from the ground, having it slide through your hand, and trying to stop it with your hand right near the bottom of it (without changing the height of your hand, so your hand should basically be near your waist the whole time). That seems like a fun exercise; so far my failure mode is almost always that the spear doesn’t come high enough.

And we got back to Xin Jia this week. I still have significant gaps there, even in the portions I’ve allegedly learned (we’re only up to the first Feel out the Tall Horse): I’m getting something wrong in Teal Dragon Emerges from the Water, and there are some parts after Reverse with Scrolling Forearms that I’m significantly off on. Still, I’m doing better than I was a couple of months ago: Xin Jia still doesn’t feel natural to me, but I don’t feel as completely lost as I did…

Sunday practice is now getting kind of long: I’ve been doing the Lao Jia first form three times, as much of the Lao Jia second form and the Xin Jia first form as I can remember, and both the Lao Jia Dao and the Hunyuan Dao. And now I’m adding in the Eight Energies drill and starting to add in the spear; and I’m just learning three of those, so if I stick with all of that, it’ll just get longer! Still, it’s a manageable length, and all of those forms feel like stuff that will stick with me if I keep at it, so I think that’s the right choice; maybe I’ll start practicing the Dao forms on Saturdays, though, I imagine there might even be other students who would want to keep it going.

This Tuesday was the last day for the Silk Reeling special class; our teacher was answering questions about stuff. Nothing in particular to note, though there was one question another student asked that I was glad to hear: I was thinking this Saturday that the weight shifts in both directions of the four energies Silk Reeling exercise felt like the weight shift in the eight energies drill (which makes sense!), which in turn suggests that I should turn my waist a bit more than I had been while going back; but Tony said that we shouldn’t focus on that: in particular, on the second version of that drill, the focus should really be much more on how we spiral out of our shoulders.

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