Yin and Yang, the emblems of duality in relation to the internal arts. Part 4 - Marvel at a thousand miracles
Gloria in cloud hands, observing the many changes in the hands.
For the intermediate practitioner there are a number of additional ways to enliven forms practice, and avoid double weighting. Obviously you have the options mentioned in the previous instalment, but there are a number of other options, which require more or less sophistication from the practitioner.
Analysing the form from the perspective of the 13 tactics.
In particular the 8 powers of the upper body, but also the five steps (or processes if you prefer) are a useful way to increase your understanding of what action is being reproduced in your form. For example if you can see the way that Peng and Lu interchange, or that An is followed by Ji in a technique, it provides an obvious focus for your practice. These later techniques occur in just that sequence in Grasping birds tail, so providing an easy and obvious correlation, other techniques require more thought and imagination to produce an analysis through the 13 tactics.
Of course the stumbling block is that the techniques of the form may be representative of several differing applications, almost none of which will be a direct translation of all of the movements as they are shown in the form. A slight hurdle also exists if one doesn’t remember that the weight or energy is seldom emitted equally in both hands at the same time. If you need more clarification on that point, re-read the earlier articles in this series.
Observing the processes of the first principle.
Another useful method is :
Observing the process of the first principle within your own body.
For those of you who have not studied with me, do not have a copy of my book ‘WuDang Tai Chi Chuan’ or who have forgotten, I will reiterate that the first principle of Tai Chi Chuan is ‘Tai Chi’: in other words the interaction of Yin and Yang. In this instance it is absolutely imperative that you have raised your awareness to a level where you are able to observe the state of tone, and the action of the body, and, that you are working with a sufficient level of tone and relaxation accordingly. It is not uncommon in the Nei Jia circles to hear the front of the torso described as Yang, and the back Yin, similarly the outside and inside of the limbs respectively. Whilst this may be a convenient and simple classification it is perhaps over simplistic to be of much help in deepening awareness of the way the body is used in the form. More effective is observing the relative actions of complementary muscles initially in the limbs, and later throughout the whole body, as you perform the movements.
To begin this practice, it is helpful to take a small section of form, and repeat it, observing first the action of one set of muscles in a limb, then the opposing set. When you remember that all muscles work by the simple action of contraction, or lengthening in harmony with their antagonist counterpart, it becomes a simple deduction to realise that excessive tension in one part, the bicep for example, reduces the ease with which its counterpart, the tricep, can extend the arm, thus reducing both the speed and force generated. When we use the body in Tai Chi chuan we aim to use the whole body to generate the force behind every technique. This requires that whole chains of muscles operate sympathetically and sequentially to execute every technique, and that the corresponding counterparts are relaxed so as not to hinder the potential. The fantastic by-product of this process, is that it makes the act of listening and responding to energy easier, clearer, and faster to adapt, all essential to advanced Tai Chi Chuan practice in all aspects of training. By adopting this method of practice consistently in some of your training, you will deepen your awareness of how the actions of the muscles spiral around the body to produce a technique, and truly marvel at a thousand miracles.
Part 5 will cover advance practice.
Good training !
Keith has studied the Chinese Internal arts for over 40 years. He lives in England and Portugal with artist, designer and writer Gloria Dean and teaches in Portugal and the UK.