Tag Archives: partner-work

Ting (listening) in Tai Chi & Qigong.

What is ‘listening’ in tai chi & qigong?
‘Listening’ is the art of feeling, so you know how to act.
Listening is pulling up a weed in your garden; it is sensing, beyond the point at which you are touching.
Listening is having a conversation with someone for whom you have great respect.
Listening is fractionally preceded by relaxation.
Listening is making the body hyper-alive.
Listening bypasses anticipation and expectation. It is being completely in the moment; you have no idea what is going to happen nor how you are going to react.
Listening is the way that you receive information from the outside world – it is the moment between your antennae and your brain.
Listening is working with, not fighting against.
Listening is having no agenda.

Ideally, listening is very light; it is being able to sense and respond to the gentlest of touches.  If the pressure of one hair were placed against your skin, you would feel its direction and give way.

Setting up how to feel it…
Listening is most easily felt when you are working with a partner, but in a different way it also applies to solo tai chi practice.
To feel it, it is necessary to have a partner to help you:-
1) Hold your arm out in front of you, slightly bent at the elbow so that your palm faces you, and have someone touch your wrist either with his fingers or the back of his wrist.  It is better if he doesn’t grip you.
2) Partner does a gentle push directly towards you.
3) Allow your arm to be moved so that there is no pressure at the point of connection.  If there were a soap bubble between you both, it wouldn’t burst, but neither do you disconnect from the push.

Feeling it…
As your partner pushes, there should be no muscular tension.  This is easy, your arm will simply fold with the gentle pressure.
Try to sense the exact direction of the push.  Was it directly towards you, or was it fractionally left, right, up, or down?  Was there any pressure between your wrist and the other person, and did you respond precisely to that push?  This is ‘listening’ and ‘following’.

A conversation.
It is the same as someone telling you their point of view, when you are only focussing on what they have to say without judgement or wanting to interject with your point of view.

And if you want to change the direction of that conversation?
What if you want to redirect that push?  If you stop listening, your muscles kick in and you’re no longer ‘going with the flow’.
When the muscles tighten and you start to operate them individually, e.g. using only your forearm or only your shoulder, the message pathway between the point of contact (in this case your wrist) and the centre that interprets the sensory input (the parietal lobe) is temporarily congested (by the muscular tension) and messages can no longer get through so efficiently.  In effect, the tightened muscles mean that the joints are no longer sensitively sprung, flexible and soft and are therefore partially disabled.  It’s not unlike a plumbing system where the pipes are badly furred up and the function of transporting water is compromised.

Listening to your body.
Listening also needs to take place when doing solo tai chi.  In this case you are listening to your body.  E.g., if you have a ‘dodgy’ knee, you need to use the joint with caution, feeling how much pressure it will take, and in what way it can take that pressure.  It’s no good working the joint very hard in the hope that you’ll somehow beat the pain into submission and it will disappear.
So, you need to listen.  Listening will allow you to change habits that perhaps are not in your best interest to persist with – a sort of ‘intelligent observation’.

And the point is…
Listening is ultimately about relaxation and the ability to read your own tension, pinpointing where it lies, and how to release it.
When doing a solo tai chi form this is equally as applicable as working with a partner.  It’s your own tension that will let you down making your movements more clumsy and wooden.  You’ll know when you’ve got it right because the movements will feel smooth and easy.
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James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan one Saturday a month.

CONTACT:
http://www.taiji.co.uk
http://www.qigonghealth.co.uk
Email: taijiandqigong@gmail.com
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308

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Stepping. Don’t Just Stick Your Foot Out. 

How to step.
It’s a much more conscious process than walking:baby-stepping

  • Feet together
  • Bend knees slightly
  • Bending even more, start to extend a foot
  • Bending even more, place the foot (generally the heel, if moving forwards; the toes, if moving backwards; toes or heel, if stepping sideways).

The main point is that you keep dropping in order to step, and what most people do is to drop, then stop dropping, and then stick the foot out (forwards, backwards, sideways).

Why keep dropping?
This is easiest to understand if you have someone else to help you.
Assuming that you’re about to try to step forwards, you need someone to push gently against your chest (or if fold your arms across your chest, your partner can push your arms).curved-arrow
If you try to move directly into him/her, it’s just a case of the strongest person ‘winning’ – it’s yang against yang.
However, if you start to drop the body, the person pushing you suddenly finds that his push is no longer going in his intended direction; instead of pushing forwards, he is also starting to push downwards, which will help you to root yourself.

Solo Tai Chi form.
Because no one is pushing you when you do a solo form, it’s easy to get lazy and ignore the above. But it is essential that you do exactly the same, imagining that someone were there, trying to move you against your intention.

If, as normally happens in a tai chi movement, you are also rotating the body, this becomes even more difficult for someone who is attempting to push you, as the body now begins to move on several planes simultaneously.  Not only is the body dropping on the vertical, it is also rotating either clockwise or anticlockwise; and if the body is also retreating/advancing as well, it is very hard for your partner to get to grips with where you are and to find your centre in order to push you successfully.

Why do I need to step properly, as I never work with a partner?
You don’t.  But it depends on whether or not you want to experience your body working as a whole – unified.
When everything works together, movement becomes very easy; it feels as though you are ‘moving like clockwork’.  The expression is appropriate because, when one part of you stops moving whilst everything else continues to move, your body is behaving like an analogue clock inside which one cog goes on strike, and yet you expect the other cogs to carry on normally!

So keep on sinking as you step.

Tai chi and qigong classes with James Drewe at http://www.taiji.co.uk/classes. 

2-Person Exercises in Taiji – Maintaining Your Integrity (4)

Continuing … the next point from Blog 1

What’s the point of 2-person work?

  • To understand our own stability is obvious when we’re standing on one leg, it’s simply a case of ‘balance’; but it’s less easy to understand when we’re on two legs, with someone pushing us.
  • Working with a partner gives you the opportunity to understand and learn how to sink your qi.

Change & Testing
This is about stability, muscular interconnection (Peng), and sinking qi,
Generally people find it hard to understand their what they are trying to do when in the role of tester (rather than the person being tested).
James & M.Wang (4)To take an example: You are in the posture of Play the Lute, or Brush Knee, and your partner is holding one or both of your arms and pushing towards you in a specific direction.
When beginners first do this pushing (testing), they often push very suddenly, or very hard, or jerkily, or at the wrong angle – or a mixture of all of these!
But in fact the sensitivity of the tester is equally as important as the sensitivity of the person being tested. It is not a competition, and both parties can learn from the other.
The challenge for the one being tested is to remain comfortable and relaxed, muscularly interconnected (Peng), with the qi sunk, and without collapsing the body.
The challenge for the tester is to ‘help’ his partner.  Both parties should try to feel where the tested person’s disconnection is, where the qi is ‘wasted’, or where the ‘peng’ is dysfunctional… Obvious examples of this are when the shoulders of the tested partner are raised, the chest hasn’t relaxed, or the pelvis hasn’t tucked under.

… Continued in the final blog on “2-Person Exercises in Taiji – Maintaining Your Integrity (5)”.