Thursday, April 26, 2012

Some Nostalgic old posts

Here are some old posts I found from an older version of this blog.  I probably should have just deleted them as they are not current, but thought - what the heck - I haven't posted anything for a while and its a bit of nostalgia...

Learning the sword form

Originally posted SATURDAY, JANUARY 28, 2006

This is the wrap up photo from the tai chi weekend at queenscliffe, melbourne, Australia.

Whilst others worked on their regular forms, Barrie and I worked on the new sword form. I learned it from scratch and got about 4/5ths the way through it.

Finally I can do the same "professor's sword form" with the guys at morning tai chi practice

Advice on creating a tai chi video

Originally posted WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12, 2003

A film (non-fiction or fiction) is a story with beginning, middle and end.   If your objective is to make a one-minute Tai Chi demonstration video then it may work to choose something to demonstrate that takes less than a minute.

Then you could spend seconds of footage before and after the "body" of the film showing fluid and unexplained movement and form as visual introduction, you could have titles over the beginning fluid footage and credits over the end fluid footage and/or a relevant Tai Chi quote or voice over dialogue speaking a quote.

In the middle of that you could have your 40-50 seconds of step-by-step demonstration.

Do you want to script it?
A minute of film generally equals a page of script.

About the main tai chi styles

Originally posted FRIDAY, AUGUST 20, 2004

I recently wrote an email of complaint to someone who had written an article on tai chi and did not list CMC as a major form of Tai Chi. (It was said that: There are 5 internationally recognized styles of Tai Chi Chen, Yang, Woo, Wu, Sun). He replied saying that although he respected the CMC style, he needs to respect the official Chinese party line on the history of Tai Chi, which apparently says that either CMC doesn't exist or that CMC is just Yang.

Hmmm.  When I see Yang style tai chi people and Chinese Beijing 24 style people demonstrate their form, they do not seem to be following the deep principles of our CMC style and seem to me to be coming from another culture - another planet! They don't clearly separate the weight, don't have beautiful ladies hands and seem to move the arms independently of the body/waist. I guess they are upright, though sometimes I don't think they are always relaxed, though maybe usually they are.

So its ironic that CMC is excluded from the main tai chi classification system by this guy - yet its the style that most closely follows tai chi principles!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The foot, balance and body programming

Balancing on one leg and raising the other leg is a real test of balance. In professor Cheng Man Ching's form there is what I call an "acrobatic section" - starting about a third of the way in. Its a challenge for beginners and an ongoing challenge to anyone to maintain their balance skills.

I'm not going to talk about the elements of balance, and how important relaxation and posture are. I'm not going to talk about relaxing the bum and lower spine when lifting a leg. And I'm not going to go on and on about doing things slowly in order to let the body learn the structures it needs - nor about needing to breathe and relax into each portion of the movement.

I'm going to talk about the foot.

Here are some principles that often get applied to the foot, in order to get good grounding and improve the stability for tai chi postures:
  • Think of the bubbling well, the centre of the foot, connecting with the earth and your body sitting on top of the bubbling well.
  • Try William Chen's theory of the three nails, where you imagine three points on the sole of your foot - like a tripod.
  • Keep the foot flat, don't roll the foot
  • Relax the toes, don't grip with the toes
  • Put a little more balance emphasis on the outer edge of the foot to prevent the foot rolling inwards due to an unsupported arch of the foot [that one is mine].
Trouble is, these ideas are not necessarily perfectly compatible - do you focus on the three nail points or on the bubbling well point? Do you concentrate on keeping the foot completely flat or do you visualize bit more weight on the outer edge of the foot to prevent the foot rolling in?

Like anything in life, there are multiple perspectives and truths. Some of it consistent and some not quite consistent. Such are the hazards of post modern, multidimensional (multiple perspectives) truth seeking. As I concluded from my university days doing philosophy with some seriousness, just because there is a bit of relativism around doesn't mean we should throw the baby (objective truth) out with the bathwater.

So actually try this: Run each of the above principles through your brain as you prepare to stand on one leg. Allow each principle to take effect, then move onto the next. After applying all the principles, lift your empty leg off the ground. You should find that your balance is much improved. The brain figured out a way to combine all the principles together.

Well, that's my theory.

Just because there are discrepancies between tai chi principles doesn't mean that the brain can't use them. Each has its own bit of the truth. Logic cannot strictly reconcile them, but the brain and the body can. You just need to "program the body" with the ideas - in a slow thoughtful, exploratory way.

This goes for most tai chi practice. Its quite intellectual - you should apply some idea or set of ideas to your form - each time you do the form. The classic five principles
  • relax
  • body upright
  • separate the weight onto each leg clearly
  • flat relaxed hands and
  • turn with the waist without twisting
are meant to be applied all at the same time - as you do the form. They are not incompatible principles, so applying them is a little easier that applying principles with slight incompatibilities. But even when you have supposedly compatible principles e.g. relax vs. body upright - there are questions - if you relax too much you can't be upright. If you are too stiff and upright, you are not relaxed.

So the point is, principles combine in deep mysterious ways and generate results and learning. Even slightly incompatible ones.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Just watched a video Interview: Josh Waitzkin. He's a nice guy and touches a lot of interesting areas - static vs. dynamic learners - catering to personal learning styles - learning from loss - accepting and learning from all emotions being encountered - analysing random breakthroughs for their technical basis - infinite learning - using someone's strengths against them - creating and taking advantage of micro patterns of behaviour in others - deconstructing and unlearning one's own knowledge and habits - recognising that repeated failures may have a root cause that is manifested both technically and psychologically - beginners mind - less attachment to ego and more focus on the value and struggle of the constant learning process - taking advantage of (as my tai chi school puts it "double weighted") stances in an opponent - about being in the zone blending unconsious and conscious minds - technical prowess integrating into a flow at a higher level.

He was a little abstract throughout but no doubt nails it down a bit more in his book. There is more that he could have emphasised, like the importance of listening. And body posture. He didn't mention relaxation, which is a huge component of my thinking in this area. His mention of yin yang interplay treated "retreat" as a tactical creation of a micro pattern rather than as part of a more postural, positional and Taoist advantage - though no doubt he knows about that stuff.

I'd love to see a video of his push hands sessions to see how much force he actually needs to use, or whether, as we believe in the Cheng man Ching school, that the lightest touch can deflect a thousand ounces.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Internal Technique and old engineers

One thing about the term "internal energy" is that it is a bit mysterious. The term energy as well as the term internal - both combine to befuddle.

Whilst it may take many years to decode this sort of thing by practicing tai chi and having a curious mind, it also makes sense to read Mike Sigmund, who explains some of these concepts in a way that is more like physics, rather than mysticism. Its not a replacement for your own practice, but its a bit more down to earth than your usual learning material.

Mike talks a little more like an internal energy engineer - without actually crossing the line and talking like an regular engineer trying to make the world fit into his old mechanical engineering concepts. There is more than engineering and physics involved - lets call it internal physics :-)

Here is a video example of Mike talking about Internal_Strength, which was emailed to me recently. He goes on a bit with the detailed locks but the core idea of a “ground path” – or some sort of postural structure – whilst being relaxed is at the heart of internal strength as I understand it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sharing Knowledge

Doing Tai Chi means you have a body of knowledge that you can share with other Tai Chi practitioners. This has opened up a lot of doors and magic moments.

Just up the road the other day was a family practicing Tai Chi. It was a different style to mine, but still it was Tai Chi.

I respectfully watched (much to their astonishment, as they were Asian and I am a "gwailo" westerner). Then I did my form - again to their astonishment. I could hear the father occasionally commenting on something.

Later as we talked (the daughter translating for the father) we swapped a few ideas. The daughter was the more talkative. What is the difference between our forms, she asked. I replied: We don't lean. Oh? she exlaimed and started thinking hard.

I've had dozens of these magic moments in my Tai Chi career. Might tell some more stories later - there is a classic of me in Taiwan approaching a big Tai Chi contingent in the park. Stay tuned.