USWA Coach Pei's Corner
Keeping the Water Clear
Listening = tīng 听 (traditional = 聽)
In Chinese, the character for “listening” includes the ear (ĕr耳)，the mouth (kŏu 口) and the heart (xīn 心) . When someone opens their mouth to say something, you have to use your ear to hear what they are trying to communicate. But most important is to use the heart (xīn 心) to hear.
The word “listen” in Chinese has multiple meanings, first is the physical act of hearing. Second is to follow or obey a command. And third is to go deeper to analyze the information that is received. These are three different levels of listening.
When we practice Taiji, we listen inwardly. The question is how does one listen inwardly? It is only when we are physically quiet, when your heart, your xīn 心, is not disturbed then you can allow yourself to really listen.
For example, when you want to find something in a pond and you step in violently, the mud comes up. The water becomes cloudy, and you won’t be able to see clearly to find what you are looking for. The only way you are going to find what you wanted is to move quietly to let the water settle down so it becomes clear. Let it calm down, then gradually the water will become clear and you will find what you wanted.
This is the same as the emotions that go through our mind during our practice. When we practice Taiji, we need to calm our emotions, to loosen and let go of our tension, and then we can listen inwardly to our heart, listen inwardly to our body. In Taiji we say qing tīng 倾听. Which means you listen clearly to yourself. You don’t practice and then become calm, the practice is to achieve that calmness by loosening tension by sinking first and then beginning to move. At the end of every move you will let go of tension, you will readjust your calmness and therefore you can continue to the next frame. Remember, everything starts in the mind; when the mind thinks, the qi flows and then the body moves.
Energy Flows in Twelve Directions
Today I want to talk about the spiral motion that we should engage the whole time when we do Taiji. Only when we can see in our mind that our body moves in a three-dimensional spherical rotation, then the body will become alive.
In Taiji, there are twelve different directions. Because Taiji is based on Yin and Yang, you will always have opposing forces when one of the energies is present.
With forward motion, you will have the opposite backward energy. When you have the left side, you will have right side. These four directions make one plane of two-dimension movement. When you add upward and downward motion, you have a three-dimensional sphere. These first six directions create our three opposing energies, which don’t change its shape or domain. But if you want to change the shape, then next six directions become very important.
For example, the chair you are sitting on is a three-dimensional shape that you can pick up with two hands or even with one hand if you find the center balance of the chair. You can move it, but you cannot affect the shape of it. A person is exactly the same. You can move in all these directions, but you are still the same figure. Therefore, when I know where your center is, then I can disrupt your center and move you.
The next six different directions make you alive and make it more difficult for others to find your center or to move you.
When we can change our frame from big to small, we are expanding or compressing our energy. Additionally, when we can move farther away than normal or make a smaller step, this changes our range of domain. These are the next four directions.
But the last pair of opposing forces is the most powerful one. That is when you can rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise. As soon as you rotate plus all the other directions, you become unpredictable and there is no way for me to know where your center is.
These twelve directions are six oppositional pairs of energies.
The first three pairs of directional energy create a fixed shape. When you add the next three pairs of energy together, you become an unpredictable sphere, which can change its shape, size, and domain. Your body, your energy comes alive. The more you practice, the more you gain a deep mental understanding of these twelve directions.
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Heart = xīn 心
The meaning of “heart” is not just about the physical body part, but also about the emotions. News is changing like the wind right now, we have no idea what will happen in the next 30 minutes or 90 days. Uncertainty can bring up many negative emotions, but it is important at times like these to do what we can to calm the chaos. Keeping a regular schedule can help with that.
It is important that we keep our emotions calm and our minds clear to help make the right decisions. If the mind is clear but emotions are stressed, it is hard to make a good decision. Our breathing and our looseness will determine how we handle stress.
When breathing, focus on the exhale, on letting go. When we let go with our breathing, the body can be loose. Pay attention to not disturbing your center core from your băi huì 百会to your huì yīn 会阴 at the same time learn to let go.
In our practice, pay attention to the spirals in your body. They are more subtle in Yang-style than they are in Chen style, but they are there. The three-dimensional spiraling movement originates from your center core dān tián 丹田, not your extremities. Before each step, feel the corkscrew originating from your center core, spiraling down as your kuà 胯 loosens, your knees expand slightly and your legs are solid. You feel yourself sinking a little bit lower. This corkscrew creates a pressure that is then redirected to power your next step.
Connection = lián jié连 接
In Chinese, lián 连 means to connect or to join, but jié接 means to receive. In order to really connect, one has to be willing to receive, to listen. If there is no listening, there is no connection.
Everything we practice in Taiji is all connected to our lives. If we only practice Taiji as an exercise, it will only be a physical exercise, but if we apply what we learn in Taiji to our daily lives, it creates a deeper connection.
In this universe, everyone and everything is interconnected. We all affect the people around us – those we know and those we don’t know. The mind is the beginning of this connection. The mind moves the qi and the qi moves the body. If we think positive, we will see a positive outcome.
When the mind begins to understand, the body will change. With this pandemic, at first some people thought it only pertained to “other” people, but as they began to understand that it affects all of us, their actions changed.
Single Whip is one of the most repeated techniques in both Yang-style and Chen-style Taiji. Practicing this move gives us an opportunity to play with the connection created by tensing and loosening while spiraling. The spiral tension created in the arms and legs is taken to maximum tension when the frame is almost complete, then loosened just at the end. Similar to shooting an arrow, we pull and let go, but don’t hold for long. We build tension, it reaches its maximum as the frame is completed, then we let go.
As one part of the body changes, everything else has to adjust. Developing this sensitivity to the connection between body parts and their spiral motion will deepen our understanding of the form. If we don’t pay attention, the parts will be disjointed and un-connected. To do well, we have to open all the senses. This practice goes beyond Taiji, but also into the rest of our lives.
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Looking at Crisis
Crisis = wéi jī 危 机
In English, crisis means a time of intense difficulty or danger.
In Chinese, the first character, wéi 危, means “dangerous”, but the second character, jī 机, means “opportunity”. So, at the same time as there is a dangerous or crisis situation, there is also an opportunity to make a change, to create more space, to learn in a different way.
Although we may be limited in our physical practice of Taiji (Tai Chi) right now, we can use this opportunity to make our inner practice stronger. We can focus more on the basics and make them more robust. We can do one movement repeatedly or combine several moves to go deeper into our understanding of the form. Use your creativity to adapt your practice to the situation.
Survival = shēng cún 生存
In English, survival means to stay alive despite adversity.
In Chinese, the first character, sheng 生, pertains to anything that is alive. The second character, cún 存, means to store something precious in order to save it for future use.
So, the way we practice Taiji (Tai Chi) during this crisis goes beyond just "staying alive" but can also deepen our practice for the future. Virtual classes can’t be the same as in-person classes because limited space might restrict our movement of the full form, so let’s use this opportunity to focus on how the qi is moved: In Taiji (Tai Chi), the mind thinks, then Qi moves the body. Qi energy goes where the mind directs it, so the mind needs to be clear about where it is sending it. Also, wherever the body is loose the qi can flow freely, so when the body opens and closes with tension and looseness, the body can feel the qi passage.
In the same way that the hands in Chen-style Taiji’s (Tai Chi) folding move are like ocean waves that come together in a brief moment of chaos which flows into controlled power, we can use this chaotic time and this new kind of practice to deepen our Taiji (Tai Chi) experience. This is something precious for our present and our future.
You never know how strong you are, until strong is your only choice.
Last week, our academy was invited to perform at the closing ceremony to celebration the 2016 China-US Tourism Year at a NBA half time show.
November 2, 2018
A message for our ten USWA members who are representing USA at the 12th PanAm Wushu Championship.
“Today you take on the journey of your dream. You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.
I heart goes with you and remember be humble when winning and congratulate other winners with a smile.