Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Progression in Taijiquan

The progression of Taijiquan practice can be seen in this way: in the first stage practice is like moving at the bottom of water; in the second stage it is like moving in water; and in the third stage it is like moving above water. This represents the progression of Taijiquan from substantial to insubstantial. In the beginning the practice is focused upon weightedness and substantiality. As skill increases movements become insubstantial- light and agile - until movements ...appear to glide in the wind.
Practising at the bottom of water the feet constantly seek the ground. When the body moves the water resistance is constantly felt. As one progresses and the body starts to move in the middle of the water, the feet do not need to seek the ground at the bottom and the resistance of the water become lesser; until the third stage when movements are above the water and resistance from the water is no longer felt. The body is extremely light and agile. The expression of Taijiquan is “vacuous, loose, whole, alive”. How does one achieve this? Taijiquan demands that in training movement principles, begin from denseness-heaviness towards lightness-agility. People achieve this in different degrees through their lifetime training.
The Taijiquan principle that says “feet planted like putting down roots” is a metaphor to pay attention to the stability under the feet. Ultimately for health and functionality the body needs to be free and nimble.

Friday, 3 November 2017

The role of breathing on qi circulation...

When correct Taijiquan practice is achieved, the joints and muscles move unimpeded and the Qi flow is no longer blocked. There’s a saying “in order for the water to flow first build the channel". Qi is a subtle abstract substance that makes up and sustains human life activities. It is difficult to observe directly, but its existence is perceived through the senses of the body and according to the various changes of one’s environment.
Qi can be compared to water; abdominal... breathing is like a pressure pump; the dantian is the pressure container; all meridians are water pipes; the limbs are larger pipes; and the heart (mind) is the generator. The mind is on to adjust the breathing, which facilitates filling the dantian and strengthening the pressure. 
Breathing must be deep, long, fine, gentle, smooth, soft, and in step with movements. Through the breath Qi can be distributed through the meridians to the limbs. The distribution process being - using intention, 60% of the water travel upwards, spiralling through the shoulders to the elbows, the wrists, the palms to the fingers, first the little finger then in sequence to the ring, middle, index fingers and the thumbs. 40% travel downwards, spiralling through both kuas into the legs, knees, ankles, feet and into the digits of the feet in sequence.
The flow of Qi follows opening stretching movements and exhalation of the breath. Even as internal Qi reaches the extremities, the internal strength must be full - “Qi must be present in every possible place”.
The key is awareness-guided breathing. Through the reverse abdominal breathing method the rotational movements in the dantian strengthen gradually. In between the in-breathes and out-breathes the little pauses make the abdominal region full like an air-filled balloon, to become “outside soft like cotton, inside strong as steel”. The whole body is imbued with Qi feeling. When pushing hands ‘peng’ energy is fully present and with it the ability to ‘zhan-liang-nian-sui’ (stick-link-adhere-follow). In every part there is the possibility of connecting to an opponent. In time a strong jin develops for attack and defence, as well as the potential to emit power.