December 2011 - Editor's Notebook
In this issue, Wang Fengming discusses some important principles and training methods for push hands and fighting. He gives some valuable advice and examples that students can put to good use.
Usually this kind of information is passed on through trial and error, which is an essential part of push hands training.
High levels of skill require Ting Jin and Dong Jin, listening to energy and understanding energy. Without these one cannot understand one’s own energy or that of the opponent.
Ting Jin and Dong Jin are acquired mostly through practice of the key forms. Once you can feel and understand your own energy, then you can better feel and understand the energy of the opponent. This is one of the reasons some remarkable masters spent so much time practicing their form.
For most students, learning a form or multiple forms is the gateway to the art.
Learning a lot of forms is not necessarily a measure of skill because in the pursuit of many forms one may miss the basics such as good alignment, central equilibrium, turning the waist, relaxing the waist and sinking the hips.
These can be learned by steady practice over time, sometimes with just one form..
The key is cultivating correct practice.
Gregory Fong in this issue continues his discussion of correct practice, listing eight standards of correct practice.
These are basics of Tai Chi practice and remain ever important. I find it is always refreshing to read them. At different times in my practice they gain new meaning. I understand that many people do not consider practicing a form important. But with each practice one accumulates a greater understanding that contributes to greater insight, relaxation, internal energy and spiritual understanding.
Of course, without serious practice one can still get many benefits.
Yang Guo Jing writes about push hands comparing it to surfing, “where one must be flexible and well balanced to always maintain an upright position.” In February 1993, he wrote an article in the magazine entitled, “How to Lift the Head and Straighten the Neck.”
A physican then living in Shanghai but now living in Sydney, Australia, Dr. Yang described the curves of the back in terms of X-ray diagnosis. He said that according to Tai Chi theory, the physiological cervical curve and the lumbar curve must be made to disappear in playing Tai Chi, sword and push hands.
Straightening these curves, he said, helps to straighten the spinal column so that the central brain can transmit messages more quickly and sensitively than usual.
When this is achieved, “you will be in high awareness and in high spirits. Your limbs and the skin of your body will have much greater sensitivity.”
Dr. Yang, who studied with Ma Yueh-liang, said that Ma always taught that if you can lift the head and straighten the neck well then the other requirements, such as sink the chest downward and lift the upper back, sink the shoulders and drop the elbow and sink the qi downward to the abdomen are naturally followed easily and may even lead to “stillness, lightness, slowness, exactness and perseverance.”
David X. Swenson has studied Yang style Tai Chi with T. T. Liang, Jou Tsung Hwa, and Stuart Olson. He currently teaches Tai Chi and Bagua with the T’ai Chi Study Group in Duluth, MN. He has written and presented widely on the psychological and physiological benefits of Tai Chi practice, and worked with colleagues in exercise physiology and physical therapy to better explain the mechanisms of the art.
David Longsdorf, MA, is a Mental Health Coordinator in Superior, WI, and has studied and taught mixed martial arts for 22 years. He has studied and has taught Yang Style Tai Chi for the past 12 years. He makes presentations on the health benefits and martial applications of Tai Chi.
Rose Oliver and Wang Ming Bo also give interesting insights into Tai Chi practice based on the treatise of Yue Huan Zhi, who was a teacher of Dong Bin in Shanghai.
In the article they say that dantian exercises are essential to cultivate and concentrate vital energy and pre-natal qi.
Dantian translates as field of energy. There are three central dantians—one is located at the third eye, the point between the eyebrows; the second is located on the chest between the nipples; and the third is just below the navel.
In Tai Chi and related Eastern meditation methods it is often said to place the mind in the lower dantian—below the navel. This process has numerous health benefits as well as creating a sense of well being.
It is not easy to do but with practice over time it can become a valuable resource. In part, it is a matter of balancing the mental activity associated with the self with the feeling of being.•