Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby charles on Sat Feb 03, 2018 9:09 am

willie wrote: if I remember correctly on several occasions, I had mentioned sinking that qi and you stated that qi didn't exist or at least was irrelevant or overrated. Then I mentioned whj talking about it quite often and so did CXW.


Ah.

In the 1990's, while CXW was touring and teaching seminars, he stated that one did not have to believe in qi to obtain skill in the practice of Taijiquan. On occasion, I have reiterated his statement.

Over the years, I've met many Taijiquan practitioners who go on about qi-this and qi-that but don't have even basic physical skills. Maybe they have some qi development, maybe not, but for those, anyway, it doesn't translate into anything very practical. (The things they attribute to "qi" might equally well exist only in their own heads.) I've found that discussion of "qi" isn't much of a yardstick of anything - anyone who wants to can talk about qi, independent of any basic skill or understanding of Taijiquan. Lots of people can tell you all about the theory, but have little practical ability. In short, one can talk about qi, but doing so doesn't necessarily mean they have any. I prefer to look at what one can do, rather than what one can talk about.

I also believe that you had said something about it even when Adam had spoke of it?


I might have. For me, he generally talks too much and shows too little. It is a difference in personal "style": I prefer less talk and more doing.

What I am talking about is the functional upper Dantian, the opening and closing of the chest and back.


Since different people classify "dan tians" differently, it is much clearer to simply say, "opening and closing of the chest and back". Then everyone knows exactly what is being discussed. For the sake of clarity I have tended towards using more everyday terminology rather than the more esoteric traditional terminology/jargon. (Opening and closing is also jargon, but, for the sake of brevity, is necessary.)
Last edited by charles on Sat Feb 03, 2018 9:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby charles on Sat Feb 03, 2018 9:55 am

willie wrote: It's probably not the case this time, but it is possible to just use the opening and closing of the back and chest independently.


In the first video, Volume 1, I went to great lengths to identify and isolate individual components of whole-body movement. The first exercise in the video isolates the action of opening and closing the chest and back. It is one of Feng's qigong exercises that looks like flapping one's arms. It teaches the basis for using the torso to move the arms horizontally. (After sufficient practice, it can lead a practitioner to "finding" moving the abdomen (dan tian) forward and back, or as one teacher used to refer to it, "qi to the front, qi to the back".)

Personally I thought that Charles did a pretty damn good job on that video.


Thank you.


Chen Style is the hardest of them all in my opinion


In my opinion, what makes the art difficult to learn is when physical actions are performed very small and without sufficient instruction on what are those small actions. So, there are two parts to it. First, small actions that are difficult to see, and, second, detailed instruction on what is the physical mechanics. Far too many students just learn a sequence of choreography without ever being made aware of the "small stuff".

I met a Yang stylists - a student of Dong/Tung senior - a few times who insisted, "You are not a master, you must do the actions large". When done as he did it, large, it was very much like Chen style. Unfortunately, he died before I could spend much time with him - he lived on the opposite side of the country.

Chen style is often performed with very large actions. For that reason, I have found it easier to learn than other styles. However, even then, without detailed instruction on the "small stuff", it is difficult to progress. For example, a common Chen silk reeling exercise is to roll the backs of the hands against the abdomen. CXW used to teach that in seminars, as an example of his "Technique #2" - moving the dan tian forward and back. He did the action large for the duration of time that it took him to say, "move the body like a snake". He never did it large again during several seminars I attended. If you weren't watching him at the exact instant he said that, you missed it - seeing the chest open and close, the spine bow and un-bow, the abdomen extended and retracted. Otherwise, it was just a guy rolling the backs of his hands against his abdomen. (I included detailed instruction of this exercise in my Volume 1 video. Someone who had purchased the video, wrote to me saying that he had been teaching that exercise for years and never new what its purpose was.)
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby charles on Sat Feb 03, 2018 9:56 am

Ozguorui wrote: My endorsement is worth nothing, but I give it anyway!


It's worth something to me. Thank you.
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby charles on Sat Feb 03, 2018 10:43 am

Bao wrote:Charles, just out of curiosity... Do you believe that dantian rotation have a place in these exercises and how would you describe the dantian rotation you would suggest practicing?


That's a tough question to answer.

I've never had a teacher who used the terminology "dan tian rotation" (or its equivalent in Chinese). I've had numerous teachers who demonstrate movement of the dan tian in various ways in solo exercises, forms, push hands and applications.

I suspect that many people using the term "rotation" envision a ball spinning 360 degrees about an axis. That isn't the motion of which the abdomen (dan tian) is capable. For example, one can't make the forward-facing part of the abdomen face one's back, spinning about a vertical axis.

Instead, I prefer to think of motion of the abdomen (dan tian) in general, rather than being restricted to circular motions. You can move it linearly forward and back, right and left, up and down. You can combine these to move it in more complex and combined actions, rather than just linearly. These motions can be circular, elliptical, etc. The specific shape, in and of itself, is irrelevant.

In Chen style, specifically, the fundamental concept is whole-body motion. Whole-body motion can - and is - implemented differently depending upon the Chen sub-style. Regardless of sub-style, the basic principle is, "When one part moves, all parts move", or Chen-specific, "When the dan tian moves, the whole body moves". If one adheres to that basic principle, than all movement starts and finishes with movement of the dan tian. It is central to the style. CXW explicitly teaches that there are three techniques for achieving that basic principle. These are Technique 1, moving the dan tian left and right, Technique 2, moving the dan tian front and back and Technique 3, a combination of the first two. Collectively, this method of achieving whole-body motion is referred to as "silk reeling" (chan si). (Feng's style doesn't explicitly teach this but is filled with exercises that demonstrate and reinforce this. Hong's style approaches it quite differently, beyond this discussion and what's on my video.) In answer to your question, every single movement in Chen style Taijiquan involves the use of the dan tian. It's use should be part of the practice of any aspect of Chen Taijiquan. One often hears that the dan tian is the "engine" that drives the rest of the body, or that the body is likened to a gear train where the driving gear is the dan tian: when the dan tian moves, the whole body moves. This is the core of Chen style Taijiquan.

Solo exercises, often called silk reeling exercises (chan si gong), are usually individual actions extracted from forms that allow students to learn and focus on specific actions that form the foundations of the body method.

Beginning students have no physical concept of "dan tian", what it is or how to move it, or move from it. One can start with circular type motions, or one can start with something simpler and more accessible, such as just moving it back and forth in one linear direction. In my experience, the dan tian is something that each student must "find" for him or herself. A simple, explicitly chosen exercise that is well explained and demonstrated provides the student with an environment in which the student can be lead towards finding a specific thing the exercise was intended to help the student find or experience.

As I state in Volume 2, the challenge in teaching this stuff to beginners/those new to it, is that few have any physical awareness of the abdomen/dan tian and how it is used in (Chen) Taijiquan. One approach is to have them work specifically on the actions of the dan tian. Another approach is to have them work on other actions that, if practiced sufficiently, will lead them to an awareness of and involvement of the dan tian. When that occurs, students often find a break-through reversal - an action that had an influence on the dan tian, becomes an action driven by the dan tian. For total beginners, I prefer the second approach, and is what I've used in Volume 1.

Given that everything in Chen style is driven by the dan tian, nearly any action or exercise can be practiced over, and over and over again to gain and reinforce the use of the dan tian. I suggest that the simpler the action, the easier it is to understand and progress. For example, any action that involves the vertical circle is a good one, with ruler, sphere or empty hands. The choreography matters less than the foundational core being worked on. That is, the same basics underly a wide variety of motions. It isn't the choreography that matters, it is what drives the choreography.

Most Chen teachers I've met start students with either forms or silk reeling arm circles. (Many also include standing, a different subject.) That is starting in the middle and, it seems, relatively few students figure out the underlying foundation - opening/closing, rotation, translation. The focus of my Volume 1 video is an attempt to provide some of that foundation. What I've presented there, is what I would use as the starting point for beginners and provides a good foundation for use of the dan tian . The traditional "arm waving" circles I present in Volume 2 would be presented later.

It is important to understand that there is more to coordinated whole-body motion than simply moving one's abdomen around - stirring one's breakfast, as one teacher used to say. Each part of the body has a role in it and needs to be trained to do so. This includes the spine, the chest, the upper back, the hips... A gear train that consists only of one gear is of little practical value.
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby Bao on Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:06 am

Thank you for taking time. 8-)

Regardless of sub-style, the basic principle is, "When one part moves, all parts move", or Chen-specific, "When the dan tian moves, the whole body moves"


This is my concern exactly. Why train to move the dantian separately from the body when everything should move together from the center (with the dantian as the absolute center)? I have nothing against body awareness practice, but this seems a bit off, contradicting and even counter-productive.
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby charles on Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:37 am

Bao wrote:Why train to move the dantian separately from the body when everything should move together from the center (with the dantian as the absolute center)? I have nothing against body awareness practice, but this seems a bit off, contradicting and even counter-productive.


I agree, generally, if someone is just "moving their breakfast around" (i.e. moving the abdomen in isolation).

Perhaps putting it in a different context will help. What musicians often do when "practicing" a piece of music is to just go through the entire piece of music over and over again. Often some parts/passages of the music are more technically difficult than others and each time the musician "practices" that piece of music, he or she just fumbles through that passage. Practicing that way, the musician repeatedly performs what he or she can already do well, and never really concentrates on improving what he or she isn't doing well - the more difficult passages. A more effective way to practice is to just repeat the parts that are difficult, focusing on the skills and abilities required to make that part work.

In Taijiquan practice, one can follow a similar approach. Rather than practice a long, complex sequence of choreography, such as a long form, one can extract specific more difficult aspects of the form and concentrate on those - isolating and working on the difficult parts so as to better understand and improve them. That's all that silk reeling and related exercises are.

Music of Western culture is based on eight-note scales. Classical musicians practice scales apart from any music they play, as an isolated practice. One could argue that practicing isolated scales is a waste of time, since it is not the playing of music, but is only a subset of the playing of music. However, It is a foundational exercise that aids in the development and maintenance of their technique. It develops strength, speed, coordination, and agility.

If one understand that nearly every action found in a Taiji form is one of 8 common combinations of two arm circles, practicing the arm circles - the foundation - makes a lot of sense to me, similar to a musician practicing scales. If one understands that each of the two circles is comprised of opening and closing the chest and back, opening and closing the hips, etc. it makes sense to me to work on understanding and being able to open and close the chest and back, open and close the hips, etc. One can attempt to work on all of those things all of the time, or isolate some of the things and work on those explicitly. I'd recommend doing both at different times or different days.
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby Bao on Sat Feb 03, 2018 1:48 pm

Music of Western culture is based on eight-note scales..
... nearly every action found in a Taiji form is one of 8 common combinations of two arm circles,


Chinese characters are all based on eight basic brush strokes. Xingyiquan is based on five basic fists.
I am all for simplification and drills practice. But the question is if some types of practice can become counter-productive or teach bad habits.
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby charles on Sat Feb 03, 2018 3:08 pm

Bao wrote:the question is if some types of practice can become counter-productive or teach bad habits.


I'm sure some types of practice can, depending upon how they are practiced and for what purpose.

Perhaps a better question is what types of practice should one engage in to help one reach one's goals? That, obviously, depends upon one's goals.

I don't think there is a pat answer. The Yang style teacher I mentioned previously, stated that everything one needs is in the form. As he taught it, that was probably true. Feng, on the other hand, stated that if one is short of time, practice neigong.
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby I-mon on Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:10 pm

Charles I look forward to watching these, I enjoyed very much what I saw of volume 1 several years ago, and I always appreciate your (mostly quite successful) attempts to communicate these supposedly esoteric ideas in a clear and systematic, organised way.
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby windwalker on Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:22 pm

Bao wrote:I am all for simplification and drills practice. But the question is if some types of practice can become counter-productive or teach bad habits.


Which usage would tend to correct very quickly... JW "fist meets face"
If one wants to practice qi gong and confuse it with something that was created for a direct function
ie taiji or IMA,,,they may find they've made a bad mistake when called into use...

Just as those claiming qi abilities to those wanting to know about this may also be mistaken
although this mistake will not lead to "fist meeting face"

Context in this sense is very important if one is intending use as intended..
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby Ozguorui on Sun Feb 04, 2018 2:33 am

Charles, re CXW and terminology - I only met him twice, maybe 1988, when he first came to Australia. One funny thing - he was talking about levels of skill - someone in the class piped up and said "in our school, we call those earth, metal, fire, water and air" ..... CXW listened to the interpreter and his reply came back "a, b, c, d, e 1,2,3,4,5 - it doesn't matter what you call them".

It was right before his "fame" in the west. If I knew then what I knew now, I would have asked a lot more questions!

BTW, maybe my memory is bad, but in 1988, his power was truly awesome.
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby middleway on Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:57 am

Charles, I enjoyed your video. Thank you for taking the time and effort to put your interpretation of things out into the world.
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby wayne hansen on Tue Feb 06, 2018 6:26 pm

You quote me wrongly there oz
I just asked if it was related to the 5 elements
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby Ozguorui on Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:24 pm

Told you my memory was bad Wayne!
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Re: Taijiquan Foundations, V2, Introduction to Silk Reeling

Postby charles on Wed Feb 07, 2018 8:54 am

middleway wrote:Charles, I enjoyed your video. Thank you for taking the time and effort to put your interpretation of things out into the world.


Thanks for watching and providing feedback.
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