Nei Gong Notes, June 27, 2023

Jun 27 2023

Really good week, in multiple ways. On a Nei Gong note, Wednesday’s practice was the best practice I’ve had in a few months; it started to feel good when I did the stretching, I decided to spend a little while squatting with feet flat on the ground, and I got a pretty good stretch across the bottom half of my back, with noticeable feelings of energy. And then I did the Spinal Dao Yin; I’d been getting a little bored of that and was thinking that maybe I’d pause doing that, but, presumably as a result of my back doing better, my back felt significantly more active than normal. There’s definitely still work to go there, there’s still a place maybe two thirds of the way up my back where I feel Qi getting stuck, but it really seems like improvement. And then I did two different seated exercises for about 40 minutes each; I can’t remember what the first one was (maybe Advanced Dantian Gong?), the second was my usual one of the Hui Chun exercises. So it’s really nice to have energy to do more than one standing plus one seated exercise on my days off, and to feel that the exercises are going well.

And then I again managed to do a second seated exercise on Friday. I won’t say Friday was quite as exciting as Wednesday, but still, an improvement over my previous norm! The weekend and start of the week weren’t quite as good, partly because I was busy and partly because my sleep was a little off, but actually I think my energy level was holding up better than it had been in the past where I hadn’t gotten quite enough sleep? So I think I’m finally making progress there; my TCM doctor agrees that I was doing well (and that my back is relevant to that), though he still sees more room for improvement.

And I had been worried that, with the switch to doing Hui Chuns four days a week instead of two, I wouldn’t have enough time to make progress with MCO prep stuff; but if I can get two seated exercises on some days, then that helps with that concern. And I think the MCO prep stuff is doing decently well: I’ve had times when Bellows Breathing and the Ming Line were more exciting, but they’re doing okay, and I’ve been getting into a state where Advanced Dantian Gong feels like it’s packing something in there. (Though I haven’t been feeling energy up my spine after that like I did a month or so back.)

In terms of Tai Chi, I watched Damo’s lesson on Taiyi Standing, and that’s aligned with my interests, since I’m curious about power / movement via release. (Mostly for Tai Chi purposes, but Rick talked about it some in a Nei Gong seminar.) So I did that exercise several times this week. And my Tai Chi practice during the week is on a pretty good footing right now: I’ve gone through all of the forms I know at least once over each of the last two weeks, and I’ve practiced the forms I’m shaky on (the spear, the Guan Dao, and the staff that we just started) multiple times a week.

In Saturday’s Tai Chi class, I was reminded that, in Kick with Two Feet Up, your left fist should be higher than your right fist. And when doing Push Hands after that, we did the one hand version long enough that my shoulders would normally be telling me to give up, but this time it ached but I was doing fine pushing through it; my shoulders could feel it the next morning, but hopefully that means that I’m strengthening things? Or maybe it just means that I’m not relaxing and using Peng enough…

And then on Sunday we had another Push Hands workshop. I was worried I wouldn’t like it because our teacher said he’d talk about applications, and often that just leads to yet another technique that makes sense but that I won’t internalize. But this time he was just introducing us to competitive Push Hands (instead of just going through the patterns), and that was much more interesting than I expected. I really liked the fixed step version of that; after experimenting for a bit, I got to where, when my opponent reached out to push my chest, I’d manage to grab the back of his arm in a way that immobilized his forearm and mostly prevented him from pushing me off balance and where I could even twist him off balance; once I developed that instinct, I was losing a lot less. I also got to situations where we’d be pushing around some and then I’d suddenly see a bit part of my opponent’s torso that was wide open and manage to push him off balance then. And also I felt like I was doing noticeably better than my opponent at keeping control of his hands / arms by having my hands on top. So I won’t claim to be a big Push Hands expert all of a sudden (it’s not like my opponent has lots of competitive Push Hands experience either, and in general I think our experience levels and weight and strength are well matched), but it was nice to develop a couple of instincts that turned out to be genuinely useful. And it made me want to do more competitive Push Hands; I might even look into tournaments for that at some point over the next year?

I still wasn’t getting any real idea that I was doing the kind of stuff Damo talks about; this is mostly the wrestling style of Push Hands, I think. But I also (when experimenting with that partner and with another one) got the feeling that my body is getting more integrated, in ways that actually do have a martial benefit. We spent some time just doing the regular cooperative moving step sequence, and I was pretty reliably able to spiral through my partner in a way that got them off balance much more than I would normally expect my arm to be able to do through what looks like pushing to the side; and my partner initially just was not moving me in the same way, but I could also kind of feel where his force first wasn’t hitting me at all and then was only partly affecting me, in ways that I don’t think I could have sensed earlier?

We also did some competitive moving step Push Hands; that one wasn’t nearly as good. Our teacher is very good at moving in and stepping in a way that uses your foot / leg as a lever for putting your opponent off balance, but neither I nor my partner could do that particularly to each other. I felt like I was doing a decent job of pushing my partner around, but we were just practicing in a park, so we didn’t have a ring with a dividing line that I could win by pushing him past and we didn’t have enough cushioning for me to feel comfortable about really trying hard to knock him down, so it was hard to say whether that pushing him around would actually help me much if it had been a tournament situation.

We’re getting a new puppy this weekend, so we’ll see how much that eats into my practice time. But puppies are good regardless.

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