Regarding questions about the alignment of the spine in Tai Chi, below is a statement taken from a longer article on my website.
Read the full article at http://www.keithroost.com/keiths-blog.html
In the Golden Rooster School, Wu Dang Tai Chi Chuan practice involves the correct alignment of the spine to facilitate the optimum bio- mechanical use of the body commensurate with the movement or action undertaken.
Therefore in Single Whip we move the hips to a mid position to lengthen the lower spine, facilitate opening the hips, and align the spine to support the rotation of the waist and issue and consequent absorption of forces through the use of Fa Jin.
Different movements may require different alignment or indeed several different alignments throughout the technique
"In judging our progress as individuals we tend to concentrate on external factors such as one's social position, influence and popularity, wealth and standard of education ... but internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one's development as a human being." Nelson Mandela.
So how did the great man manage his doubts and trepidations, how did he martial his energy, and keep the clarity of his vision?
You have no doubt heard the sad news that one of the worlds most charismatic and loved leaders Nelson Mandela has sadly passed over, our thoughts go to his family and a whole country in mourning for a father figure. Mandela faced more difficulty than most because of his chosen stand against apartheid, and campaign for democracy, no doubt his 27 year internment and subsequent role as president was not lacking in difficulty either. So how did the great man manage his doubts and trepidations, how did he martial his energy, and keep the clarity of his vision?
Nelson Mandela on Meditation!
"In judging our progress as individuals we tend to concentrate on external factors
such as one's social position, influence and popularity, wealth and standard of
education ... but internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one's
development as a human being: honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, purity, generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve your fellow men - qualities within the reach of every soul - are the foundation of one's spiritual life ... Regular meditation, say of about 15 minutes a day before you turn in, can be fruitful in this regard. You may find it difficult at first to pinpoint the negative factors in your life, but the tenth attempt may reap rich rewards. Never forget that a saint is a sinner
that keeps on trying."
- Nelson Mandela, excerpt from Mandela The Authorised Biography by Anthony Sampson - Thanks to Bill Douglas at World Tai Chi Day for drawing my attention to this.
Mandela used meditation as a tool to achieve great things, what will you do?
"You may find it difficult at first to pinpoint the negative factors in your life, but the tenth attempt may reap rich rewards."
Find a comfortable position sitting or lying down. Begin with a few deep breaths, breathing deep into the belly, to help you relax and bring you to the present moment. Now close your eyes and simply be present . Notice how your body feels, as well as the activity of your mind and emotions. Experience without resisting or trying to change anything. Continue this for a minute or two.
Next, expand your awareness to everything in your surroundings. Feel the ebb and flow of the breeze, the warmth of the sun on your skin. Notice the sounds around you — bees, birds, grasshoppers, the sound of water flowing. . , For the rest of the meditation, continue to experience these feelings and sounds. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the experience of nature.
When you are ready to stop, simply rub your hands together until they are warm, then place your palms over your eyes for a few seconds, gently open your eyes and look at your palms, as you slowly move them away from you. take a few quick breaths, stamp your feet and rub or gently pat yourself on the arms and legs to ground and be fully aware again.
Mandela used meditation as a tool
to achieve great things,
what will you do?
Its almost the weekend, and I am reviewing the past weeks classes and training, yesterdays class was described as serene. Also looking at progress on many different fronts, Gloria has started a new painting of a seated horse with some exciting ideas for the background, I can't wait.
For many people the weekend is the only time they feel they have to relax, yet relaxation can take many forms, feet up in front of the tv with a beer or cup of tea, or Tai Chi Jian, or maybe base jumping? Here is something to kick off the weekend on a great note of exultation… I hope you enjoy it !
The essence of Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art is responding to change. Mimicking the Taiji Tu (symbol) we accept and accommodate the need for change, sometimes gradual, sometimes with devastating speed, It is this ability to respond and adapt which characterises the art. So I have no hesitation in requiring my regular visitors to adapt to the many recent changes to this website. If you are one of those informed people, perhaps you will consider this an opportunity to practice change outside the training hall. As mentioned elsewhere, I was recently required to undergo a period of R&R following a significant lapse of attention resulting in my breaking both legs. This has provided the time out from my otherwise busy schedule to revue the goals of my website, they are always a work in progress, consequently I have decided to incorporate my varied interests under one site, as much for ease of administration as anything. Hopefully as the site and associated navigation develop, you will find it easier to access the aspects the you seek, and perhaps are intrigued enough to venture off the subject that brought you here.
Feedback is always welcome, unless you are a Troll, please use the form on the contact page, for feedback and other enquiries.
I hope you enjoy your visit
Today is one of those days where deadlines are looming, the pressure is building and time is precious. At times like this, it is easy to loose focus, fall behind and begin to fret.
This is when, a simple technique we teach to new students, can offer space, composure, and clarity.
This is when, a simple technique we teach to new students, can offer space, composure, and clarity.
Internal means - U sing the soft internal force of Qi (energy) combined with Yi (intention) and Shen (the raised spirit ) to produce what is sometimes termed Peng force (ward off power) although I prefer the term Jing (educated force).
Jing requires skill and subtlety in execution and has many forms. It is exemplified by the Tai Chi Classic advice “let the Yi lead the Qi and the Jing will follow". Jing is trained through the application of conscious movement with a relaxed mind and open body (unrestricted, free of unnecessary tension) moving fluidly through precise attitudes or postures. The mind set is one of calm alert patience, again the intention is crucial.
The mind set is one of calm alert patience, again the intention is crucial.Smoothness, and softness are used.
So let us now look at some other distinguishing features of internal martial arts;
Smoothness and softness are used to overcome hard force, which can all occur in one swift movement, or in a series of linked actions, this process can be viewed as evade control and counter. A number of differing tactics may be employed to control the opponent prior to his launching a committed attack.
The techniques tend to use diversion rather than blocking and frequently appear circular or spiraling. The variety of techniques encompasses the full range of methods available at all ranges, yet used with extraordinary skill and sensitivity as the need to be able to change technique according to circumstances is paramount, thus all techniques hold the Yin within the Yang and vice versa.
Some other aspects of Internal Chinese martial and health arts.
Internal is - Secret - knowledge is restricted to those within the family - group -clan - sect or society. For example students may need to become disciples (Ren Men or inside door students) to access the more advanced levels of a system.
Internal is – indigenous - ie Not foreign, so influenced more by the native philosophy of Daoism, not the imported philosophy/faith of Buddhism.
NB. the descriptions above may not sit quite so smoothly with Xing-Yi practitioners, please accept my apologies, this is not an in depth article.
Hello, I am interrupting my current series on Yin and Yang etc to respond to a post on our Facebook page.
If you practice these counters, or the wrist lock, be cooperative to begin with until you have the feel of it. Remember to tap out when it hurts, I suggest 1 tap for its on, 2 for thats enough. Joints, bones, and muscles etc can easily be damaged by unskilled over-enthusiastic practice, be gentle, be safe, gradually increase the resistance to each other as you learn, I would suggest over months, rather than hours. If you have to force any Chin Na technique, or counter technique, you haven't got it right, go back to the beginning and pay attention to the principles, above all, have fun.
The video below was shot in about 15 minutes without rehearsal, we somewhat rushed editing, and we had to make it small so it would fit, I hope its helpful. Have fun.
See the video here.
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 !
Yin and Yang, the emblems of duality in relation to the internal arts. Part 3, The Sin of double weighting in the hands, and ways to avoid it
Distinguishing the weight in the hands and feet. Keith and Gloria.
Double weighting is referred to as a sin in Tai Chi Chuan because the fundamental principle upon which the art is based involves the interaction of Yin and Yang. Failing to distinguish the weight in the legs, impedes the speed of your reactive stepping, whether evading or following up. This is easy to understand, just as the differing actions of the hands/arms in the applications and pushing hands are also comparatively obvious. Yet for some people there is still the difficulty of how to translate the process of distinguishing weight in the hands, to form practice. There are many reasons why this can happen and almost as many answers, here are some:
For a beginner, the simplest way to incorporate a distinction in the way the hands are used in the form, and elevate it from the mere physical reproduction of an ideal posture, is to simply visualise an appropriate application for the movement as you perform it. The more detail you can visualise and the better your understanding of the application, the better your practice will be. Furthermore because you are visualising distinctive actions with your whole body, your circulation of Qi will be better, remember the Yi (intention) leads the Qi, so visualising the action of intercepting and deflecting with one hand will lead the Qi in one way, punching in another.
Of course this requires that the beginner has a clear understanding of the applications, something that some find difficult as they expect the application to mirror the movement of the form exactly. Generally this misconception that the application and the form should be the same, arises from not realising that the application was created first, and the form was developed as a way to teach some of the skills, and coordination required by the application, other skills are taught in other aspects of the syllabus; through push hands, Nei Gong, conditioning, meditation, and discussion.
In some schools the fact that a teacher has not practiced realistic applications is obvious from the fact that they can only reproduce an application from a set up, and that when reproducing the form as an application they do not take account of seemingly obvious things such as leaving an opening in front of an opponents unguarded hand, or leaving a leg where it will obviously be trodden on or fallen on if the technique happens to be successful. Such situations often occur where the martial tradition has become separated from the form practice and someone attempts to re introduce something, happily, this is not the case with WuDang.
A similar difficulty arises when a correctly taught application is practiced incorrectly, this usually has two causes:
The solution to both causes are focus and attention during the many aspects of training, often problematic for those who only wish to relax, or get fitter through their Tai Chi. Advancement in the internal martial arts is achieved through a great deal of focused study and practice, of all aspects.
Keith, Expressing Qi through the arms in different ways is necessary in form and application. Visualisation helps the Yi lead the Qi.
In the position above, both arms are expressing Qi in different ways, the right arm is feeling the speed and direction of an incoming blow, whilst turning the wrist and waist simultaneously deflects the blow and moves the target, allowing the body to reflect that energy and return it through the leading edge of the left hand.
The energy of the right hand is following the Peng pathway while the energy in the left is executing a form of Ji depending on the angle and application visualised. Although both arms might be seen to be expanding when analysed independently, observation of the whole body principle clearly shows that the action of the waist, informed by the information received from the deflecting arm causes one to be withdrawing, whilst the other is expanding into the opponents energy field. You can clearly observe the differing state of tone in the muscles of each hand and arm.
Part Four will discuss the perspective of an intermediate practitioner.
Yin and Yang, the emblems of duality in relation to the internal arts: part 2 - Yin and Yang in the hands.
Left hand lifts and pulls, right projects forward and down.
Yin and Yang are also present in the hands, having the weight in both legs is called the ‘Sin of double weighted-ness’ in the Tai Chi Classics, because it delays, or inhibits movement, Similarly in the hands, we do not deliver equal amounts of force through both hands at the same time. When one hand pushes the other stabilises, pulls or waits, one lifts up the other presses down, this is why in the ‘empty hand’ forms the hands are so often facing in opposite directions.
Right hand lifts, left hand presses and pulls.
When we make a strong counter attack (Yang) we must always be ready to change technique and avoid over commitment. When we are defending (Yin) we may be soft or even avoid contact, but when challenged our defence must be able to withstand pressure, thus we hold the Yin within the Yang and the Yang within the Yin, just like the Tai Chi symbol.
Avoid the ‘sin’ of double weighting in the hands and the legs and your practice of form, pushing hands, and applications will improve.
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.