The Dao Bums
  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

About Taiji218

  • Rank
    Dao Bum
  1. For people wanting to learn some respectable taiji on their own, I recommend checking out Ian Sinclair's "Tai Chi Central" over on YouTube. He teaches a pretty decent 24 form via YouTube postings and has some pretty good video postings which show some of the application side of the form. To supplement Ian's teaching, I'd also recommend checking out Mark Rasmus over on YouTube. He gives a lot of the internal instruction that having a personal "closed door" teacher might provide. In that light, I'd also recommend viewing his Wing Chun lessons as well. They transfer over to taiji perfectly. Richard Clear is also on YouTube with some videos that highlight his commercial DVD's. Richard is sincere and also shows some good closed door material; the only caution I would throw out is that his commercial material is fairly expensive. It is however, a respectable substitute for having an actual teacher to learn from. As a quickie intro to taiji for folks who are new to it: Taiji is an "internal" rather than an "external" art. What that fundamentally means is that taiji is based more on your internal feelings and sensations than on what it looks like from the outside. This is the biggest mistake most teachers make: they continuously work to improve the "look" of a given student's visual form than teach the student the internal kinesiology of the given movement. Taiji is based on four fundamental "energies" or "jins": the usual order they are taught is bing, liu, ji and an, which are usually translated as "ward off, rollback, press and push." I find both the order and the English translations misleading (also, "bing" is usually transliterated as "p'eng" or "bung," whereas "bing" is closer to the actual Chinese pronunciation. Plus, "bing" as in cherry is more pleasant than "bung" as in "bung hole"--the drainage hole in a whiskey cask that is stopped by a cork but which in English slang is another term for anus). Taiji is based on the natural energies we use everyday in walking. As we begin a step we let our forward foot "fall" forward. This is "an" (按). As our foot meets the ground it "compresses" into the earth ("ji" (擠) which literally translates as "squeeze"). As soon as we've compressed our forward foot into the earth, we experience an immediate recoil of energy which, if we allow it, travels up our body up through the top of our head without any "effort" on our part, resulting in perfect posture as a side benefit. This is "bing" or "float" (掤), a Chinese term which literally means "arrow" or "quiver" and which technically refers to the "effortless" feeling of releasing an arrow from the bow. The arrow shoots through the air without our having to "do anything" to propel it (storing the energy in the bow is equivalent to the storage of energy in the foot and leg's tendons and ligaments during compression although it's achieved in the opposite fashion). Finally, if we're relaxed when we're walking and allow our arms to swing back and forth in a natural fashion. we'll feel centrifugal force drawing the weight of our entire arm into our hands. This is technically referred to as "liu" (捋) although my teacher preferred the term "shuai" (甩) and I prefer the term "bai" (擺). "Lu" literally translates as "stroke" as in "stroking a beard" and refers to the actual movement called "liu" found throughout the form, where you deflect an attacking arm by "stroking" it, usually along the outside although you can also "stroke" the inside with similar effect. "Shuai," which was the term my teacher preferred, refers to the internal feeling of "flinging" the hands or arms in such a way that you feel the centrifugal force of the arm going into the hands. "Bai" translates as "pendulum" and is the most descriptive of the internal energy, which is why I prefer the term over both "liu" and "shuai." So for physiological accuracy, I prefer the order of an, ji, bing and liu over bing, liu, ji and an. The traditional order relies on the "Brush the Bird's Tail" move, whereas my order refers to the natural occurrence of the energies while walking. All of the taiji moves are based on these four "jins" or energies (勁). I prefer to call them "skills," as in taiji we learn to cultivate these energies throughout our movements and to rely on them in any self-defense applications. I should also mention that, in terms of bodily structure, we use "bing" or "float" energy to align our heads while using "an" or "falling" energy to align our pelvises. While the usual instruction to students for the head is to "imagine your head is hanging from a string," I prefer to encourage students to "imagine your head is filled with helium, and the only thing keeping it from floating into the sky is your neck." Instead of encouraging students to rotate their pelvises forward as is the usual practice, I follow Richard Clear's suggestion to "imagine your back is rounded like the shell of a beetle." This has the effect of flattening out the lumbar curve and naturally aligning the pelvis better than the usual suggestion, which I've found usually results in too much tension in the pelvis for the average student (not to mention that Richard's "beetle" suggestion hollows out the chest and shoulders pretty well also). Rounding out the small of the back releases the Ming Men, the power spot on the back which is second only to the Dantien, the power spot just below the belly button. Most of the action in taiji occurs in the feet. The illusion is that the action is all in the arms or hands. In all of the motions we rhythmically fall-compress-float, and if we remain relaxed, we notice the pendulum feeling in all that we do with our arms and hands (or with our legs and our feet if we're executing a kick). Proper taiji movement can be likened to a fishing rod, with the handle of the fishing rod being the feet and legs, the body of the rod being the torso, the narrowing of the rod and the tip being the arms and the hands, and the lure being cast being the energy that is "thrown out" by the hands. The Western biomechanical term for this entire process is called kinetic linking. You'll see it easily in major league baseball, where the pitcher throws 95 mph fastballs, not with his pitching arm, but with the transfer of his entire body weight from his back foot onto his right foot. You'll also see this in batting (and in golf and hockey), where the batter in addition to shifting his weight at the moment of the swing from his back foot onto his front, but also allows centrifugal force to bring the weight of both of his arms down into the "sweet spot" of the bat as he hits a line drive out of the park. When attacked, we taiji ren mostly meet our attacker first with float, so that we raise his center into his chest. Then we help him fall a bit so that he compresses into one foot or the other as he attempts to regain his center and balance. Then we compress into both the ground and into the attacker to exaggerate his upcoming float. Conventionally in practice, we then observe our attacker being "uprooted" into the air (ba gen 拔根) with a feeling of little or no effort on our part (bing). The attacker feels as though he collided with a Swiss ball and was bounced or rebounded away. In other situations we might meet an attacker straight off with falling energy (an), either to uproot him from there right away or to immediately take him to the ground. A beginner can familiarize him or herself with these energies on his or her own and then go on to learn a conventional form. Again, I'd recommend Ian Sinclair's YouTube instructional videos as very respectable as well as free for the viewing. Ian's taiji style is quite different from the one I teach, but that is of little import in the overall scheme of things. But I'd generally avoid any taiji class that does not teach the martial applications. Generally speaking, if the instructor doesn't know any of taiji's martial applications, he or she will probably be ignorant of taiji's fundamental energy patterns. Taiji in that case will be largely a dance routine, and a pretty wimpy one at that. It's overall qigong benefits will largely be absent, as will its benefits in terms of rooting, balance and breathing. I hope this helps!
  2. Hi everybody, I found this forum via serendipity: somebody emailed me and asked me about a post of mine that somebody else has cut and pasted into this forum from the forum I made my original post onto. Aside from the complement of having been cut and pasted into this forum, after checking it out I thought this forum seemed pretty neat! My basics are pretty basic: I work in a university counseling service as my day job and have practiced/taught a very old style of taijiquan for the past 38 years. I did a bit of aikido (Tohei's school) back in college and also practice/teach Systema (Russian martial art) alongside of the taiji (I used to teach it independently but lost my training hall when the ROTC kicked all non-ROTC activities out of the building. Anywhere else I could find wanted an arm and a leg for rent). I'm married with three (mostly) teenagers, three cats and one dawg. I'm originally from Ann Arbor but now live in the Upper Peninsula, specifically in the little finger that juts into Lake Superior in the northwest corner. Hope to say 'hi' to all of you as I navigate around and about this forum. All the best, Larry
  3. Welcome, nice to met you...Mel