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 May, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – A Push Hands Thought

Posted By Tom Daly on May 27th, 2015

Tai Chi Chuan – a Push Hands Thought

None of the following is all that original – I am borrowing heavily from a greatly admired tai chi colleague and teacher.  I’m not sure if I have it right.  But I’m OK with giving it a shot!  I might add, there is more to say on this topic.  Because this is complex, I’m more than likely to miss the mark…. Ready, Aim, FIRE!

I have an exercise where your partner A is trying to trap you.  This is done in a slow deliberate manner with one hand.  This partner A can go left or right, or in a straight line, but always moving forward.  He is slowly “doing” and trying to trap you.  I call this the “cat and mouse” exercise because so many partners try to trap you like a cat that controls a mouse.  These partners do not listen to where you are going; they do not follow the movement.  They try to force you into a corner.  This is doing.  For most beginners, this is bewildering.  If this partner is clever, they may be trapping you in a soft way.  Soft or hard, they are trying to control you.

There are a few considerations here.  Some tend to think of Push hands in terms of strategy.  But there is a much more satisfying and challenging way to engage the art.

Strategy can lead to doing and not really listening to the partner.  Therein lays the problem.  A subset of strategy is preparing for what you think is coming your way.  This can give your partner the push you are trying to avoid in the first place.

If you see where the partner is taking you, can you get out in front of it and move somewhere else?  Is it “strategy” to dodge the line of attack?  I would agree this is strategy but I feel it is legitimate.  Others might not.  You can dodge a punch. It goes left, you go right.  But this situation is not cat and mouse where it is slow and they try to toy with you…

The other way to deal with it is to let them tell you where to go.  You don’t solve the problem by getting away from the threat; you let THEM solve the problem by letting your body be moved as if it is a ping pong ball in water.  They are responsible for the movement of that ping pong ball.  The ping pong ball does what nature requires.  It really doesn’t have a mind of its own.  However, it has access to three dimensional movements, a buoyant connection to the ground and the laws of physics.  Eventually the doing partner goes too far and (s)he loses their own connection to the ground.

There are a few elements in play here:

1. the point of contact (their hand and your body),

2. the line from the point of contact into the ground,

3. the whole body,

4. the mind.

When you put your mind in 1 and/or 2, you weaken your ability to respond.  Yet you can’t ignore the point of contact and you need the connection into the ground.

You might observe the point of contact, but then you put your attention into your whole body.  You don’t ignore that hand, but you don’t engage with the hand as a solitary threat. The vision here is too small.  This is like “doing” in response to their hand.

The line to the root is a necessary but insufficient part of the picture.  It is not something you do, it is something that exists if you are structurally aligned and relaxed.  If you mentally isolate this line, it gives you little room to navigate.  You have a line going from the point of contact to the root.  You don’t ignore that line, but you don’t engage that line at the expense of the whole body.  Ultimately, this doesn’t really require any mental effort.  It exists like your toes exist.  Toes don’t need special attention.  You don’t “do” your toes in order to use them.  They just function as they should.  That being said, it might help to give this line of connection a bit of isolated attention to have a strong tactile sense of this line.

It seems that if your whole body is listening to the instructions of the partner’s hand and the mind is not trying to solve the problem, then you are fully engaged not as an exercise of strategy or manipulation, but as a body response.  The mind/strategy/preparing disappears.  There is a natural place for the body to move, under the direction of your partner’s hand.  Whether that hand moves you in a straight line or if your body rotates around that point of contact, it has to be the whole body that is involved.  Listen to what your body tells you.

I might add that even here you might be “doing” the body in order to respond to the partner.  The movement of the body is the result of what your partner commands, not a strategic choice. So taking your mind out of the body may in fact be a way to avoid “doing” a body response.

Remember, you are not trying to trick your partner or manipulate the situation.  They are already doing that for you in this exercise!  What does it mean to take your mind out of your body?  Well, here we get into what works for you and world of words.  One player might say the mind is EVERYWHERE.  Another might say the mind is NOWHERE.  Another might want to focus exclusively on the tan tien.  Other creative options may come to mind.  The word(s) you choose matter in that something may help you… or not!

If the whole body is responding, going where that partner’s hand tells it to go, you have the answer.  You might feel the partner’s hand is YOUR hand and you are directing movement to yourself. If you were a ping pong ball in water, the entire ball rotates. Getting as close to this dynamic is where to start.  Here there is no separation, and that is the key.  Ping pong balls don’t predict, nor are they late in responding.  They respond as they do.  Ping pong balls lack guile.

No strategy, no predicting, no preparing. Give partners control and they will lose (they are doing.)  Take control and you will lose (they see your strategy.)  Let them move your body and your body will be in charge of the outcome.  Let your mind get in the way and your partner will be in charge of the outcome.

Try to have the mind solve the problem, and you are too late.  Let the body solve the problem, and then you are where you need to be.

Which leads us to a deeper dynamic: You and your partner are one.  This may sound corny or cliché.  But it is this physical dynamic that creates solutions where before there were only problems.

You simply “be” with your partner and “be” with the movement that is generated.  Now you are scaling the Buddha mountain!

And how does this all take place?  You may be a genius and – snap – it happens.

Or you slog it out as slowly as you need to.  I’m still slogging

Posted in Philosophy
Comments Off on Tai Chi Chuan – A Push Hands Thought