Tai Chi Class

Welcome to WholenessInMotion. Tai chi is a whole body and mind exercise that combines meditation, martial art and health tonic in one. This particular form is the Yang style, 37 posture short form as taught by Prof. Cheng Man-ch'ing. This fascinating and intricate exercise has many benefits and just about anyone can practice it.

Take a look at this site and consider the study of relaxation and how it can benefit you in your daily life. I look forward to working with you. Tom Daly


 

Archive for April, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – the Perfect Push Hands Form and Why

Posted By Tom Daly on April 27th, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – the Perfect Push Hands Form and Why

If tai chi is based on relaxation and non-doing, what does the push hands form feel like using relaxation and non-doing?  What’s going on?  What is happening?  How does one get there?  Is there any purpose in all this?

My famous stick exercise (ok, it’s not really famous!) contains the secret.  “Stick” here does not refer to “stick and follow”.  Stick here refers to an actual wooden stick!

But I digress, let me make some suggestions head on.

Let’s begin with non-doing.  This may include:

Not looking for your partner’s center.

Not blocking them.

Not forcing any move.

No erratic movement.

Smooth movement.

Not getting away.

Letting them go where they want to go.

Not trapping them.

No pressure at the point of contact.

Not controlling them.

Your pelvic movement mirrors theirs.

Body upright.

 

And so forth.

“Doing” is so habitual, it’s hard to feel.  Mostly we see the partner doing, but never ourselves.

But if you let go of all the habitual “I’m getting you” – “I’m getting away from you” behaviors, something else happens.  That something else is two-fold: You see what is really going on and you see the path that is intrinsic to the push hands form.

I would claim that this path is not a choice.  It is required.  And furthermore, this path is specific to each and every partner.  That is, the path changes with each partner and the path that emerges can be only ONE path specific to that partner.  New partner, new path.  Only ONE path with this new partner. There is no choice here.

The water flows in a figure eight unimpeded, as if two mountains have defined the path of the river.  Like the water, you settle into this path.  You let it happen.  You don’t control it.  It controls you.  You have no choice in the matter, no different than if you are driving your car on a mountain road.  Best practice?  Stick to the road!  It tells you where to go.  No crashes, no falling off the mountainside, no head on collisions.

And if you are not “doing” in your form, but allowing this specific and perfect path to emerge, what is going on?  Once the path emerges, you are FOLLOWING THE MOVEMENT.  Simple as that sounds, we rarely follow the movement because we are so involved in making something happen.  The movement is the organic result of the push hands form and these two particular bodies in motion.  Attention without intention is required.

I would argue that this is the basis of great push hands.  What you would like to happen is find this perfect pathway and then let it move you.  If you diverge, you get pushed. If they diverge, they get pushed.

If you began from this perspective, you would more readily SEE the doing.  Doing is often an unconscious choice, sometimes based in bad habits.

This is not an empty gesture.  We are not agreeing to go along to get along.  We are not just pretending to be nice, nonthreatening, nonaggressive, or worse, kid ourselves that finally we are being “soft”.

We are actively involved in the creation of the perfect pathway, getting in the river, and finding how to let the water move us without disturbing the ecology of the river.  This requires full body awareness, full body movement.

Doors will open once you approach push hands in this manner.

Is this true?  I think it is true and as we all know, whenever we think a thought, WE THINK OUR THOUGHT MUST BE TRUE!  (But that’s another topic…)

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Tai Chi Chuan – Sword Dueling, A Few Rules

Posted By Tom Daly on April 20th, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – Sword Dueling, A Few Rules

I think the kind of sword dueling game my teacher, Maggie Newman, advocates may be a specialty item.  I suspect very few in the tai chi sword dueling world plays by her rules.  And her rules are AWESOME!

Let me articulate a few, perhaps borrowing from the language of others, to indicate the game she advocates.

1.  You cannot leave the sword to make a point.  The swords remain in constant contact.

2.  Stick to your partner’s sword and follow.

3.  You must follow the movement of the two swords in order to make a point.  An “opening” is not enough.  It must come from within the movement that is already in motion.

4.  No clanking swords. (This one drives me crazy!)

5.  Do not attack.  You never initiate your point.  Only your partner can initiate your point.

6.  Do not speed up your movement in order to get a point or create a reaction.

7.  How do you create a game where the possibility of getting a point exists?  You move towards your partner in order to take the space.  By taking the space, they need to be sure that they are not in harm’s way.  This is not the same as attacking.  Another way to take space and create the possibility of getting a point is to point the tip of your sword at your partner as you move forward.  Note that you cannot leave their sword as you do this, nor jab at your partner.

8.  Two good basic moves in dueling come from the sword form itself – Falling Petals Left and Right along with Block and Sweep Left and Right.  There is a bit of technique in using these postures while keeping connected to the partner’s sword while taking the space.  The genius here is that the tip is NOT directly pointing at your partner but falls far to the right and far to the left.  What happens next depends on what happens next!

And this is where the game begins!  There are many ways to work within this context. This straight jacket forces you to be with your partner, not on top of your partner. These rules prevent erratic movements.  In one very real way, you create a game where you want your partner to go to sleep and not be alert.  Then they go too far or miss a change and you have them within your scope.

Point 3 above is very subtle.  It is more than sticking and following your partner’s sword.  It is being with the entirety of your partner’s body and movement.

There is great flexibility here. You can play a game that is very fast or a game that is very slow.  Who knew such restrictions could be so satisfying and so much fun!

I include the link to a unique movement that Maggie has mastered.  I attempt to teach you how!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ymc-b0nPURI

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Tai Chi Chuan – Push Hands, Keep It Real

Posted By Tom Daly on April 20th, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – Push Hands, Keep It Real

Where to begin?

I often hear from various partners about the pushes they have felt or perceived from some master.  They then lament that Master achieved success in three years in terms of learning a great push but that they have not yet achieved this feat.

And I am left with, OK, what next?

It seems this lament leaves you stuck where you are, thinking you too should have this skill in three years.  And in the meantime, these dreamy partners don’t attend to what they are doing right here and right now.  They think that they just need to keep at it.  As if time spent doing it will create success.  Practice makes Perfect (when in fact Practice makes Permanent!)

It is very helpful to be pushed by those that have great pushes.  But the process of observation and self observation in relation to that great push is what is essential.

So here you are working with your classmate and they give you a shove.  You scoff – that was a lousy push, not the push of Master in the least!  We all start from those not very masterful pushes.  Why scoff?  It doesn’t really help you and it doesn’t help them.  Actually, it detracts from the moment and changes the focus to some push far far away in the future, not this lousy push of right here and now.  What is helpful about judging someone’s push?   Does this make you superior?

Think about what you believe are useful skills in pushing.  Think of a way to work on this skill.  Let go of success or getting the push perfect.  Even let go of Master.  Find the pieces that make sense to you today and give it a shot.  Then reflect on what happens.

Some have great skill in executing bad pushes.  They are hard to deal with.  Worse, they think that they are good because most of those they encounter can’t deal with their bad push.  My point here is that a good push is not really measured by your own perception of success. It is measured by the feedback that partners give: did it feel good? Smooth? Inescapable? Inevitable? Rooted?

It is hard to find a partner that can give good feedback.  Mostly they are repeating what someone told them or what they imagine their future push will be like.  Good feedback is also rooted in the here and now.

Scoffing is not feedback.  It’s judgement.  Scoffing at others is a poor way to learn.  Dreaming that Master learned this in three years is a waste of your time.  Look, study, experiment, get feedback, feel what they are doing and how you are responding and be here now with what is truly going on.  Then you may get somewhere.  Don’t judge your partner, or measure their skill.  It doesn’t matter.

I had a most frustrating interaction.  My partner is good at blocking and rooting in order to stop me from finding a push.  And he is fairly strong physically and full bodied.  I lost it.  My response mentally was that I could see his flaws and surely I should be able to push this body.  Not so. I got aggressive, hard, used stiff arms.  He then got harder.  It was a wonderful wrestling match.  After, I felt rotten about the whole situation.  Everything I believed in that moment was thrown out the window.

The alternative (in this case, the road NOT taken)?  Forget winning or “getting” him, give it up. Just listen to what is going on and see what I can see.  Pushing him is not on the checklist for the moment.  I learn much more by letting him win, letting him push, letting him turn me where he wants to turn me.   And then noting how open, relaxed, and smoothly I connect with him.  Or not. That’s about the best I can do for now and that is a way to learn something.  If I want feedback, I might ask for it.  Or I might just feel what is going on now and see how I can integrate principles into the game.

You learn far more from getting pushed than from giving pushes.

“That push sucked,” your partner says.  “Master’s push was so soft, so smooth, like an ocean wave, it was incredible and powerful, it sent me flying.”

“Oh? Can you show me?”

“Well, no, I can’t do it.”

Is this helpful?

I’m not dismissing the great pushes out there. It is crucial to feel a great push. But it’s ridiculous to hold your partner to that standard if you yourself cannot do it.

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