Tai Chi Notes, October 15, 2019

Oct 15 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I continued my tour through Damo Mitchell’s books with The Four Dragons. I’d put it off because, in his seminar that I went to earlier in the year, he mentioned that the sequence that he was teaching us there gave a lot of the same benefits as the Dragon sequence. But still, I like his books so I figured I’d give it a try, and it was interesting. There was this discussion of “Jing Jin”, which are pathways of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue that stretch a fair distance across your body (up a specific line of your arm and to a specific area in your chest, for example); seems interesting from a point of view of broader connectedness, though I’m not sure the specific pathways spoke to my experience. There were some isolated exercises which pointed out the importance of not just expanding individual joints but expanding them along a line (e.g. your entire arm) in concert. There was a general explanation of Dao Yin, which made me wonder which stuff I see in my Tai Chi classes could be classified that way: are Silk Reeling Exercises examples? Are some of the Qigong exercises from that class things that Mitchell would classify as Dao Yin? There was a discussion of breathing, which I feel like I should get better at. And it did get me a little curious about the Dragon exercises; maybe I should try out the steps? Probably I should try applying some of the stuff from that book to the Four Animal Frolics…

I tried it out in a few of the Silk Reeling Exercises on Saturday: in particular, stretching my joints more uniformly where that made sense (e.g. in Hand Maneuvers), and even sometimes visualizing expelling bad qi in the few such exercises where that made sense at all. The stretching was an interesting experience, and I actually felt that it helped my breathing; I’m not 100% sure that I’ll try always doing the Silk Reeling that way, but I’m glad I tried it.

Also on Saturday I was noticing that my knee was hurting less than it had been; it was never bad, but there had been occasional twinges, and those are now getting rarer, I think. And I’m also managing to keep my shoulder wells a little more open; having that pointed out in multiple contexts is getting me to pay attention.

Some pointers that came up in the form: when raising your right arm near the end of the first Jing Gang (right before the uppercut), have both of your arms near your center line, so you can imagine trapping your opponent’s arm between them. And, when turning to the right in Push the Mountain, brush your knees with your hands before moving your hands back up to the back of your head.

On Sunday, I was doing lots of punching practice; still doesn’t feel great, but sometimes I felt like I was storing something a little bit in my kua and then circling out of that? I’ll have to see if I can access that feeling in the middle of the form.

Unfortunately, my Wu Ji was going really badly this week. Which I blame on being tired: my sleep has been interrupted more than normal for some reason. And I guess Wu Ji is one of the places where I’m most affected by that?

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Tai Chi Notes, October 8, 2019

Oct 08 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Towards the end of last week, my back was aching more, in a way that made me think stuff was moving around in there and sinking more. But then, on Sunday, when we had the final two sessions (six hours!) of my Tai Chi teacher’s Qigong workshop, I just felt low on energy; in particular, I was slipping into rigid postures way too much, locking my knees when just standing around. And, thinking about it more, I think in retrospect I’d been a little low on sleep; so maybe the back aches were part of that, though I’m not entirely sure?

The silver lining is that I’m getting a little more sensitive to how my body was behaving? Because I don’t think I would have been aware of this if I weren’t spending as much time in standing practice, wondering why it was getting harder… And it’s certainly something fixable.

One thing that came out of the class (and out of a book I was reading) is that I should pay more attention to my shoulders while doing standing meditation – e.g. my Tai Chi teacher says that my shoulder wells should be over my bubbling wells.

The book I was reading was The Joy of Living, by a Tibetan master. One thing it recommended is doing lots of short meditation periods – dozens a day, of 3 minutes or even 1 minute. I’m not going to meditate that frequently, but I am trying to work in some more short periods.

I’ve been feeling out of balance when doing Embrace the Knee; in class tonight I experimented with shifting to my back foot more before lifting up, and that seems to work. So I leave my left foot mostly down while shifting; reducing the weight means that my toe naturally comes up and my foot naturally turns, but I don’t start lifting it until I’m almost entirely over my right foot. Seems to be an improvement?

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Tai Chi Notes, October 1, 2019

Oct 01 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I’ve apparently been doing these notes for over a year (over 13 months, in fact); yay.

On Saturday, I asked whether your weight should be forward or back at the start of the first form; the answer was a little forward, like doing Wu Ji meditation. Also, when doing the two Kick with the Heel moves, have your hands in fists, palm side up, then strike out with them with more energy in the foot on the opposite side from where you’re kicking.

Part two of my Tai Chi teacher’s Qigong workshop was on Saturday; nothing particular to report that day, basically going over Hunyuan Qigong moves.

I’m feeling that, in the various moves in the first and second form where you’re supposed to be shaking, I’m really only doing that with my arms, I should figure out how to get my Dantian involved more…

Kind of rough time doing my Lotus Wu Ji on Sunday; probably because I was a little lower? Or maybe I was just too sleepy. Certainly I was lower than I was told to be in during the last workshop, though I’m not 100% sure that’s a bad thing… Sitting meditation went well on Sunday, though, and it also went well this morning.

When doing my Lotus Wu Ji today, I was letting my shoulders relax out a little more, as well as sinking my shoulder blades, and I realized that that felt like what happens around my hips when I both sink back into my Kua and sink out to the sides. Not sure if there’s anything to make of that, though.

In the class this evening, I learned that, in Six Sealing Four Closing, your left foot should be slightly forward compared to your right foot; I’d been placing it next to my right foot, but that’s apparently wrong.

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Tai Chi Notes: September 24, 2019

Sep 24 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

My Tai Chi teacher is giving a Qigong seminar for the next few weeks; the first class was on Saturday, covering Wu Ji. (The version he teaches, which is different from the Lotus Nei Gong version that I do in my daily practice.) Some things that were different from my mental model of that version of Wu Ji:

  • You should sink back into your kua, not just sideways, in fact he uses a different term (rounding your something) for the latter. Not as far back into your kua as the Lotus folks do, though, because you want to have your Huiyin back in the middle after tilting your hips forward.
  • When relaxing your shoulders, you want them to stretch out on the top away from your neck.
  • Twice, when correcting my form, he told me to relax my chest more.
  • You should stretch your fingers out somewhat.

One thing I noticed is that my back doesn’t stretch and relax as much when doing Wu Ji this form; my Live Gate doesn’t feel as open, my shoulder blades don’t sink as much. I would have naively thought that standing more upright would make things sink down more, but apparently leaning my torso forward helps with sinking stuff on my back? Unexpected.

I also felt stuff gathering in my hand an unusual amount. (Especially the first time, when I wasn’t stretching my fingers.) Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…

We had the monthly class on Sunday; I was surprised how the second form felt, I might actually learn that this year? I was worried because I’d missed at least one class, but I feel like I’ve caught back up, and we’re pretty close to the end and I’m not feeling lost.

And I spent some time at the end of the class on Sunday working on my Jian; and I was pleased to feel how visceral the circles felt in one bit, I’ll have to see if I start feeling the more of an effect of using the Jian in other places in the form.

I’m up to 32 minutes of Wu Ji practice on Sundays. I think I’ll stay at 30 minutes for Tuesdays and Thursdays, though: I only have so much time over lunch, and I do want to leave time for Qigong and/or Five Animals. But I’ll try to reach 40 minutes on Sunday, and then re-evaluate. I wasn’t super looking forward to spending 30+ minutes doing Wu Ji and another 30 minutes doing seated meditation this Sunday afternoon, but when I actually did it, it was fine. I’m not getting quite as much out of seated meditation as I’d like right now, though; when I first started doing the relaxing part of Sung breathing, it seemed like there was some interesting stuff going on, but I haven’t really felt that the last few times.

In class tonight, in the first half of Grab and Tuck Robe, when my right arm was going to the right, I realized I was lowering my shoulder as it went down, which raised the question: should I be raising it in the first place? I think the answer is probably no, so I’m working on keeping it sunk. Also I noticed my teacher doing what looked a little like a shoulder strike in the second half; and he actually talked about it, the second half could be a shoulder strike or an elbow strike or a hand strike, depending on where your opponent is.

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Tai Chi Notes, September 17, 2019

Sep 17 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Thursday I was at a conference, so I didn’t get to do my normal extra lunch Nei Gong stuff, but at least I did the regular daily practice.

In Saturday’s class, my teacher was talking about Dantian Change, and mentioned that, at the end, you sink while on your right foot before sticking out your left foot / arm. I thought I was waiting to sink until after stepping, but actually, observing myself later, I think I was mostly doing that okay? He also mentioned looking left after sinking and before stepping left, which I need to work on, and one of the senior students reminded me to step left with my heel.

On Sunday, there was a Tai Chi marathon; my first one, basically doing the form for two hours straight with a 5-minute (10-minute?) break in the middle. I ended up going through the form 11 times, if I kept count accurately; didn’t get any sort of obvious breakthrough feeling or anything, but I’m glad I did it. And, while doing that, I was working on the two Kick with the Heel moves, and I think I’m getting better at keeping my balance: I started sinking right at the beginning instead of waiting until I was up on my leg, and that helps. Also, one of the senior students pointed out that, in the throat strike in Flash the Back, I was curving my fingers, I should work on keeping that straight.

Up to 28 minutes in my Lotus Wu Ji, and the limiting factor is boredom rather than physical constraints, so I’ll keep on pushing that higher. And, in general, I was feeling sunk today; not sure whether that’s the Wu Ji or the marathon or what, but it’s good.

In class tonight, I was wondering where my weight should be during the opening posture: a little forward (like in Wu Ji), in the middle, on my heels? I’ll probably ask my teacher about that on Saturday. And, in the first Jin Gang, I realize I’m pausing after lifting my leg, I think I should keep moving there. (First continuing to turn right, then circling smoothly into the step forward.) At the start of the second Jin Gang, I need to think about weight more; I sometimes feel like I’m going too far left, and while I think I understand basically what I need to do, it still can feel a little off.

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Tai Chi Notes, September 10, 2019

Sep 10 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I skipped all of my usual practicing during the week after I had nose surgery. I’d been planning to resume some level of practice after the first half week or so, but I just didn’t feel like it: e.g. following my breath while meditating is not so great while I’ve got tubes in my nose that are making themselves pretty strongly known to me and that are making it very hard for me to actually breathe through my nose! So I didn’t practice; I figured that would mean that I had backslid a bit, but I could deal with that.

When I got the tubes removed, though, it actually didn’t feel like I had backslid at all: I felt very similar sensations in my body to how it feels for a while after I’ve had a good Wu Ji / Qigong session, or something. I think probably what was going on was that my body was feeling happy getting more oxygen again? Not sure, but at any rate I was happy that I didn’t feel like I’d really lost anything. (Poking at it a bit more over the week, my tolerance for Wu Ji had maybe gone down by a bit, but only a little bit.)

And, jumping ahead, in particular all week I’ve felt good in the curve from my Huiyin to my Live Gate. I’m not saying that I’m starting to open up the bottom of my Governing Meridian, but those parts of my body feel freer, more relaxed and open. This is why I want to stick with doing Lotus Wu Ji, daily if possible: I really do feel like parts of my body are relaxing more, and I like how that feels. It’s kind of weird to describe how it feels, because it’s not pleasant in a traditional sense: part of it actually feels like I’m starting to come down with a cold, or that the hairs on my body are sticking out, or something. But it feels like that in a good way?

Anyways, I went to Saturday class like normal. My teacher told us to try to feel a connection with the ground right at the start of the form, before lifting your arms; I should work on that. And I should turn my torso during Hand Maneuvers. Also, I’ve been experimenting with sinking my Qi to my Dantian during Silk Reeling (using the “gathering the energy” bit between exercises as a trigger for that), and it was starting to give a strange sensation on Saturday, where my consciousness felt rooted lower, but my vision was still based on my eyes, so I almost got an impression of looking out from a bucket? Not visually, the whole field of vision was still there, it just felt odd.

On Sunday I tried to do an hour of sitting meditation, but that was a bit ambitious; I did get 40 minutes in. And today I did my regular Wu Ji over lunch (25 minutes, pretty much where I was before surgery, and I could have gone quite a bit longer), followed by the Animal Frolics. I need to reread my notes on those, I feel like I’m not doing them quite right…

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Tai Chi Notes, September 3, 2019

Sep 03 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Not much to say this week: I had surgery for a deviated septum on Thursday, and while it’s pretty minor as surgery goes, I did skip Tai Chi this weekend and today. I should be back on Saturday, though.

Lotus Wu Ji was continuing to go well before the surgery, at least. But I’ve been skipping it as well, as well as skipping meditation; hopefully I’ll restart both of those on Friday, since I’m getting the tubes out of my nose on Thursday?

My Tai Chi teacher is giving a Qigong seminar later this month, it’ll be good to go through that as well. My guess is that I’ll end up sticking more with the Lotus stuff, but who knows, maybe I’ll see something that seems like a good fit.

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Tai Chi Notes, August 27, 2019

Aug 27 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

From the Saturday class: after the second punch, when you’re transitioning to Six Sealing Four Closing, I’ve been shifting weight right, opening my left foot, and then shifting my weight back left; but another possibility is to skip the weight shift and just step right. This is more direct but potentially harder on your knees; also, you can work in a right shoulder strike when doing it this way.

My teacher looked at my form after class. He told me to slow down a bit and try to integrate my movements more; the main example he had for the latter was Cover the Hand Punch. I should focus on where I’m hitting, then hit that point, integrating my push/turn with the lower body and with my punch, everything going to that one point at the same time. Also, when doing that move, I should have my left hand a little higher (but still sinking my elbow and shoulder), and my right hand should be a little closer to the body. I should do similar integration ideas in other striking moves, e.g. Teal Dragon.

When doing the form recently, I’m not super happy with my balance when kicking, and (sometimes) when doing Reverse with Spiraling Forearms; I should work on that.

Lotus Wu Ji is being a lot easier now that I’m changing my positioning; up to 26 minutes and I’m positive that I can hold it for another 10 minutes after that if I want. I should probably spend some time treating it more like regular meditation, right now boredom is as much of a problem as physical stress / pain. (I do think it’s still doing good things to my body physically, though.)

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Tai Chi Notes, August 20, 2019

Aug 20 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I spent Saturday through Monday at a Lotus Neigong workshop, focused on standing positions. And I’m glad I went, because my Wu Ji posture was significantly off: way too low, and too far forward. And, interestingly, too far to the left: apparently I’m favoring my right leg some? I’ll have to look at myself in a mirror to understand that better. (Spreading my stance somewhat helps, apparently.) And I don’t spread my palms as much as I should, and I don’t sink the heels of my hands enough.

We also learned a seated version of Wu Ji: lean forward more than normal, have your feet at a reasonable distance for standing up, and lift your heels so your weight is on your Yongquan. I doubt I’ll do that much, though.

And we learned / practiced lots of other standing positions. I don’t think I’ll spend too much time in the different ones, though: I feel like focusing on Wu Ji is going to be more helpful. I was pleased that I did okay with the ones that had me holding out my arms; in particular, I remember the first time I saw Zhan Zhuang in my Tai Chi class, my shoulders were in pain the next day, whereas in the class this weekend, I held it for much longer and my shoulders were just fine. (So partly I’ve gotten stronger, but also in that posture in particular the way I’m relaxing my shoulder is apparently effective.)

Having said that, the class as a whole was pretty stressful: I made it through all of the first day, but I bowed out halfway through the second afternoon and skipped the third afternoon. Spending so much time holding standing postures hurts; it actually didn’t hurt my legs so much (largely because I wasn’t going so low), but my back was not happy. Not horribly in any one session, but it added up. (And some individual sessions were hard, but those were in more standard “push yourself for how long you can hold a position” ways.)

I probably could have stuck it out, but I don’t feel too bad about leaving; I pushed myself to some extent, I learned some mistakes that I’d been doing. And, compared to the class I went to in May, I can understand why this one was more stressful: that one did some static postures but also had lots of moving postures, and some lectures and some meditation. And that sort of mixture is a lot easier to deal with; this specific class had a little bit of moving and meditation, but it was a lot heavier on static postures. So it makes sense that it was rough; and, given where I am, that’s okay.

Anyways, back to Tai Chi tonight (for the first time in a week and a half, since I missed last Tuesday and Saturday); mostly going over Silk Reeling, which was pleasant enough.

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Tai Chi Notes, August 13, 2019

Aug 13 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I got back from my trip on Tuesday evening; I skipped Tai Chi and Wu Ji on Wednesday, because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t causing problems with my allergy shots, but I got back to practice on Thursday. So on Thursday I did the form five times; on Friday, I was a little more tired, so only three times, but still, enough to start making up for the classes I missed. And I did Wu Ji both days; I’m not reliably reaching my target every day (21 minutes was my target last week), but I’m sometimes doing that.

And I’m glad I’m doing Wu Ji more. My legs are having problems, but I can feel changes in my torso. I’m relaxing more, my shoulder blades are continuing to sink, and I can get some of that feeling while I’m just sitting / standing around as well. I’m going to a three-day Lotus seminar this weekend, focusing on standing postures, and I’m definitely looking forward to that, to get in some focused practice and to get my form refined. (And I’m glad that I’m over my cold and my weird burst of allergy symptoms.)

We had the regular class on Saturday; the one thing I noticed there was that, after the second Pat the High Horse, your right hand moves first, not your left foot, and your weight is on your right foot after the turn, only shifting to the left foot when you strike with your left hand.

On Sunday, my teacher’s Tai Chi group had a picnic; lots of Tai Chi. And I did sneak away to do some Wu Ji at the end of that, and I also did some at the end of work yesterday. I didn’t do my regular lunchtime practice today because I had a lunch meeting at work, and I skipped Tai Chi class tonight because there was a special one-day showing of Millennium Actress that I wanted to go to, but I shifted my allergy shot to today so I could avoid weird potential problems.

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