Monday, June 14, 2010

Feel Your Chi Between Your Hands?

The typical instruction on how to feel your chi between your hands typically isolates feeling to the hands; feeling a magnetic force or a pressure between your hands. What does this have to do with Taiji, Bagua, XingYi and developing internal strength?
The "Feel Your Chi Between Your Hands" exercise is both a dead end and an opening. If I focus only on my hands and play in the chi paradigm, I could imagine I'm compressing a ball of chi. And then what's next? Feeling others' chi? Feeling plant chi? "Feeling" I'm cosmically connected because I can "feel" all this chi? From my past experience, this road did not result in building the internal connectedness of internal strength and so to me, this exercise, this 'parlor trick' in this frame leads to a dead end.

On the other hand, when I switch paradigms, and use the basic physical set-up of the exercise as the starting point to noticing the kinesthetic connectedness of my hands, forearms, upper arms, upper body, with my intention to... , keeping my practice grounded in my body, in a way that is verifiable, then this becomes a practice with potential to help me develop a sense of kinesthetic-intentional integration, a sense of connectedness, to build what is described by others in the internal martial arts community as "internal strength".

So let's try this exercise in a different paradigm. Begin as usually suggested with elbows at your sides, hands about waist height and body width apart with palms facing each other. However, without externally, physically moving your hands or arms, now manifest the intention to alternately move the hands together and apart. (If it helps, imagine compressing a ball between your hands and stretching a rubber band looped around your wrists.)

When I first started playing with this, I first noticed a feeling like a pressure in my palms and on the inside of my forearms when "squeezing" and on the back of my hand and outside of my forearms when "expanding". For lack of precise terminology, let's call this the "fascial plane activating". After playing with this a while, the feeling for me now is stronger in my hands and forearms as compared to my upper arms and upper body where it is more subtle.

When practicing this, there is a tendency to engage the muscle kind of like a white crane movement; wings closing and opening. I try to back off as much as possible (remember: relax, structure, balance) and maintain the feeling at the intention level and noticing connection with the intention.

It's only subtle if you haven't noticed it before. With practice over time, what was subtle becomes obvious. Continue playing on the edge of subtle.

Related articles:
The Third Feeling
Functionality and Wujifa


  1. I can see the temptation to cultivate repeatable feelings of this nature and give up good structure in the process as you describe. In my study of sensing hands, there's a quality when you are deeply connected to your partner's real estate that feels like nothing but an extension of peng or connection thru aligned structure, but you have complete control of your partner's body especially if you follow the grain of movement. It's this kind of nothing feeling of connection that is interesting. One would think it should be a lot more. Experience tells me that one, at a sensory level, feels less rather than more or it's just that I'm sensing things at a level that vibrates less?

  2. Hey OldtaichiGuy,
    I don't know about sensing vibrations (sinusoidal waves) in people outside of breathing and pulse. What exactly is the kinesthetic feeling of "vibrate less" compared to "vibrate more"? And what does this have to do with internal connection?

    An article on Wujimon, , discusses three sections of practice: Cultivation, Manifestation, Verification.

    If you "verify" with someone of equal or lesser internal strength, then this to me is not valid verification as this approach opens the door to self-deception and ego aggrandizement. It is best to verify with someone at least a step or two ahead of you who can adjust your structure to feel more weight in your legs and help you feel more connection internally.

    Regarding the kinesthetic feel, these are tricky to pin down (this is how internal strength feels) because "the feeling" is always changing. I've noticed various feelings; 'like nothing', stretchy, twining, tingling, expanding. These are mere roadsigns.

    Thank you for commenting!

  3. Mike.
    Sorry for not being rigorous in my descriptions. Your tips on "verify" are sound. I hadn't been clear enough about that when doing sensing hands. The ego thing is huge and to constantly 'lose' by playing with better people is a lesson I'd had better learn. Yesterday, I was playing with one of my betters and it just came down to relaxing the elbow to firm the connection. She was good enough to point that out.
    I've practiced for decades without getting the comprehension of what makes the internal skills spring out. Only in the last year have I been able to grasp a little of what whole body connection was about. After years of strengthening the legs thru forms, I usually could get some result by diverting the load someone would put on into the ground and returning it. But that's not about anything, is it? Thanks for your feedback.

  4. It's so difficult to know what you are (or anyone is) kinesthetically experiencing from a written description. Talking lends itself to creating impressions, rightly or wrongly, of one's practice.

    Even in this blog, readers may get impressions of my capabilities and may or may not be correct in their assessment. Touching hands, for even several seconds, is the best way to verify.

    The bottom line is always verify, verify, verify. Visit one of the traveling masters; Chen Xiao-wang, Joseph Chen, Chen Bing, etc., and ask them to test and verify your groundpath.