* Question: Why is it that when I ask you questions you never answer the question I asked but somehow your answer does answer the question in a bigger way than I could have imagined?
Answer: When a student asks a question, always look at what the body is doing first. The verbal content (data) is secondary. Read the body (feeling). The words the student asks may be filtered by the student's conceptual framework and may not be related to the adjustment the body needs.
* Question: I notice a lot of tension in my lower back. How do I get that to relax?
Answer: To help loosen the lower back, do the head hanging exercise.* Question: I can see now that you do the (Chen Xiaowang) zhan zhuang closing circles differently than I do. What's going on?
Stand upright. Feet parallel under hips. Point toes in so toes and knees touch each other. Without bending at hip socket, slowly roll head and torso forward as far as possible. Let head and arms hang. Push butt up. When you come up, sit down and push up from heels and roll up. This will also contribute to developing your kua by relaxing the muscles in the back. Release these to get the butt to drop.
Answer: There are three levels of the closing circles as you shift side-to-side.
- Beginner. Just circle the hands. Follow the path of your large intestine.
- Novice. Do side-to-side with kua and just let the hands go up and down.
- Intermediate. Do side-to-side and the up and down are really both down and down. (The up is the dan-tian rolling up, in and down. The net effect is a down.)
* Question: Not having a language for the internal kinesthetic feeling terrain sure makes it tough to learn using existing skill sets and compare notes with others. What's your take on this?
Answer: The value of having no words for new feelings is that this is a great place to play. Once you assign a word/concept, then a method arises. Remember, the method is not the truth...
(As a guy so deeply wedded to data knowledge, I'm slowly coming to appreciate the beauty and volatility of the kinesthetic transmission of this feeling-knowledge.)
* Question: I read lots of books and websites and many authors are using words that sound to me like they are describing the feeling of internal strength. How can I know if their descriptions are describing the same feeling I'm working on?
Answer: When people do a quick, informal demonstration, as in "Hey, show me what you're talking about." they reveal what has or has not been built into the body. Once you have full body internal connection, it's easy to see who has or doesn't have it. A lot of people don't really have full body connection and yet, they can talk-the-talk.
* Question: For people who hunch, like me, can't this be corrected simply by keeping the shoulders rolled back?
Answer: Rolling the shoulders back, like the military "attention" pose is a temporary and superficial fix. People who use this method may appear to correct their hunch but may in fact have a sophisticated hiding method and they still keep the weight in the shoulders and not sunk.
(From my own experience, I've stood a head taller than my classmates since kindergarten. To try to fit in and feel part of the group, I developed a hunch to feel shorter. Incorrect Tai chi instruction reinforced this bad posture.
When I got into Wujifa zhan zhuang, I discovered that an external postural "fix" of rolling the shoulders back does not address the underlying emotional issue that built and maintains the hunch. I've noticed this in other school brothers as well. One's height has nothing to do with hunching.
Rolling the shoulders back without resolving the underlying issue that built and maintains the hunch is like putting lipstick on a pig. No matter how much it looks like Miss Piggy, it's still a pig.
It takes a lot of effort over time to address the underlying emotional issues that contribute to and maintain a particular physical structure. Don't expect to resolve these subtler structural issues through tai chi form classes or seminars.)
* Question: How do I self-teach? For example, I notice my deltoids tilt forward. If I correct this by rolling them back, then I notice my head feels tilted forward. If I push my head back, then I notice my deltoids feel rotated forward, etc. I get stuck in a loop. How can I learn from this?
Answer: If you get in a loop like you describe, then you are probably applying a medicine to a tight area that is not letting go. In this case, change your focus. There's a difference between noticing something to fix (being self-critical) vs noticing opportunity.
* Question: How can I continue developing on my own?
Answer: See the next step only. Don't get stuck in wanting to work five to ten steps ahead. Know where you are. Notice the opportunity presented to you. You are where you are and that's where you start.
* Question: What's the best way to handle insights that come up during practice?
Answer: Insights are great but you need to use them as a basis for experimenting and building-in the results.
* Question: I'm still not clear on the difference between principles and methods.
Answer: See Steven Covey's "Principle Centered Leadership" and compare that to his "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People".
Principles should hold true in all cases. If not, then it's a rule or method. The framework gives you the application.
* Question: So what's a simple way to understand the difference between data and feeling?
Answer: Stand up. Now, explain how you stood up. Standing up is the doing, the feeling. Talking about the feeling after the fact is the data.
Also, there are no words for the level of kinesthetic feeling we work at. If you assign words like "stretch" and you don't know the feeling we assigned this word to, and if you have associated a different feeling with that word, then when you hear or read "stretch" you think B when really we mean A.
How can you open every joint in your body? What is that feeling?
* Expand and contract are not opposites. Expand is not relax. Expand is part of structure. Expand is peng. Expand then relax with expansion. Always practice expanding. Practice eccentric movement.
(This is another example. You read these words. You interpret these words through your own interpretive filters. You "think" you know what I'm talking about. You may or may not be correct.
I go to Wujifa zhan zhuang class. I watch my instructor. I get adjustments. I feel certain kinesthetic feelings. I don't have words for these feelings. We use words in class the concepts of which approximate the feeling so we have a common language. I record these words and my body remembers the kinesthetic experience.
You sit at your computer and read these words. You did not attend class. You did not experience the kinesthetic feeling. The best you can do is guess what feeling I'm trying to convey. Feeling and data.)
Introductory article explaining this "Journal Notes" series: Zhan Zhuang Training Journal
Previous article in this series: Connecting Intention and Body: Journal Notes #66
Next article in this series: - Wujifa Kua Movement: Journal Notes #68
Make sure to visit Wujifa.com and the Wujifa blog.
And stop by The School of Cultivation and Practice.