Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi: Basic Training

A basic element of Tai chi training in the Yang style is its martial aspect. When I studied with Gary Torres who taught from the Guang Ping Yang system, I learned a lot about the basic martial aspects of Tai chi training.

Here we go. (My current comments are in italics.)

* Limits of elasticity as a function of speed demonstration. Gary held a yardstick in the air like a pool cue and points it at a tissue that is hanging from between my thumb and forefinger. He slowly uses the stick to push the tissue. The tissue is soft, yielding, relaxed and moves with the stick. But when he pushes the stick so quickly so that it shoots across the room, it tears a hole through the tissue. The tissue became hard, rigid, unyielding and broke, tore. As the speed of the attack increased, the tissue (body) reached a point where it could not yield and stay whole.

A similar demonstration can be done on a long human hair hanging from you head. Push or brush it slowly with your finger and it is soft and yielding. But snap the hand quickly through it and it tears out from the head.

* The internal martial arts teach you to relax. Why? One reason is because this increases the body's limit of elasticity. The more and deeper the muscles and the mind behind the muscles can relax, the more likely the body will remain whole in an attack and the greater the speed of attack the body can withstand without injury.

* Need to learn all three; Xing-yi, Ba-gua, Tai-chi. Each teaches you something about the other. The common thread is that they are all internal styles.
  • Xing-yi chuan ( 形 意 拳 ; xíng yì quán). Teaches fist work. This is elementary school level.
  • Ba-gua chuan ( 八 卦 ; bā guà quán). Teaches foot work. This is high school level.
  • Tai-chi chuan ( 太 极 拳 ; tài jí quán). Teaches waist work. This is university level.
*There are three types of energy in the body:
  1. Li - muscular energy. I can feel this when, for example, I lift a heavy object. Only I can feel Li. No one else can feel my Li.

  2. Qi - "life energy". It is the energy we get from food, water, air. It is the energy produced through metabolism. No one else can feel my qi. Only I can feel my qi.

  3. Jing - stored qi expressed with breath and intent. I cannot feel my own jing. Only others can feel my jing. Groundpath + jing = extreme hardness.
* Question: How to train Jing?
Answer: Stand in any stance with arm outstretch and "locked" with palm touching the punching bag so that no muscular body movement will be able to move the bag. Now, move the bag with only your breath. Take a breath in, then begin to slowly exhale and then suddenly, quickly expel a burst of air (and only air, do not move) with intent in direction of the bag to move the bag. The air-burst doesn't need to be a great volume. Focus on the sudden "violent" exhalation from the diaphragm.

Train only this everyday for fifteen minutes until the bag moves. Then train until the bag moves an inch, then train until it moves a foot then train until it swings to the rafters. At this point, your speed of attack has now exceeded the limits of elasticity of the body. Most bodies will simply break under this attack just like the yardstick and tissue example.

On the other side of the coin, you need to train sensitivity to this kind of attack. Since this kind of attack is not muscular (which is comparatively very slow), but rather is directed by intent, you need to become sensitive to intent. Not just this intent, but all intent. Does the person standing there intend to harm me or just call me bad names? So as you go about your normal daily business, include developing a sense or feel of others' intent.

He then demonstrated an impulse without breath which felt short, hard, surfacey, and with breath which felt deeper, went through. Need to know what level of impulse is safe for demonstrating and which is deadly. There is no in-between.

* Tai-chi trains sensitivity at all levels. Start with training physical sensitivity. As the physical sensitivity develops so too does sensitivity to intention, for example: A) feeling where the opponent wants to go (and getting out of the way), and B) feeling if you even have an opponent.

As the sensitivity becomes more "etheral" this starts opening you up to seeing people's energy patterns. Ultimately, each one of us is walking around naked, exposed to whomever has the sensitivity to see. Developing sensitivity also develops your ability to injure and heal people.

Regarding sensitivity training exercises...

* The telephone book exercise. Open a telephone book somewhere in the middle. Place a hair on one page. Cover the hair by placing another page on top of it. Touch the page covering the hair with your fingers. Feel where the hair is. Add a second page covering the hair. And repeat. Develop a sensitivity of touch. Can you cover a hair with the entire phone book and be able to locate the hair?

* The pole exercise. Let one end of pole rest in crook of arm/wrist. As walk around its center, change hand and arm postures. Don't let the pole drop.







* The Ten Point Checklist. Consider these "the rules". Each one is a leg of the principle for power; each depends on the other. If any single one of these is missing, then the integrity of the whole is compromised. If any rule is broken, then that point is the vulnerable point:
  1. Head held upright
  2. Tongue on roof of mouth
  3. Ears listen inward
  4. Eyes focus outward
  5. Back straight
  6. Chest relaxed
  7. Move from center (tan tian)
  8. Elbows down
  9. Pelvis sunk - not tipped forward or backward
  10. Knees over toes.
* If I can entice you to break a rule, then I will exploit that to my advantage. For example, if I can get you to lean forward, then I can easily do pull back. Or, if you arch your back and tilt the head, then you'll lose your power in your arms. Or, if your pelvis tilts, this unbalances you.

* Order or Hierarchy of Attack. (A slap/tap means to slap aside the opponent's attacking hand and then hit. A slap is a 'bu' and a hit is a 'bam'.):
  1. Speed
  2. Speed and trickery
  3. One slap/tap
  4. One slap and trickery
  5. Two slaps/taps
  6. Two slaps and trickery
  7. Three slaps/taps
* The old masters would practice and look/listen for your training rhythm: Bu-bam. Bu-bu-bam. Bu-bam-bu-bam. Bu-bu-bu-bam.

* Focus on rhythm. Don't worry about strength. That will happen naturally. It will evolve out of proper alignment and speed.

* * * * * *

This is the second of a four part series presenting what I learned while briefly studying with Master Gary Torres from January to September 2000. Gary learned from Peter Kwok, the founder of Peter Kwok's Kung Fu Academy in the Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi lineage. Gary is the head of the Phoenix Dragon Kung Fu Academy.

See also:
Gary Torres: Journal Notes #10
Guang Ping Yang Tai Chi: Martial Stances

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