Three Things We Learned in Class 12/10/14

1. This week we explored the “Diagonal Flying” posture and how to maintain your root and coherence throughout. Of course, the basic principles are the same as in every posture, but Diagonal Flying presents some unique challenges.

RB in Diagonal Flying

RB in Diagonal Flying

First of all, it is about as wide open as it gets in William C. C. Chen’s 60 Movements. The power is issued from an extended right arm that is reaching like a backhand in tennis. I love this move in push hands because no one expects that much power and lift from an outstretched arm. And for good reason, if you try executing this against a 250 pound martial artist using only your shoulder muscles you are looking at a likely injury. Any muscular tension in the shoulder will block the effective expression of the move. You have to trust the tensegrity of the structure and that requires song.
In this video, I show one way of checking for jin. Bruce Spierer does Diagonal Flying and I ask him to stop at various points to check his root and coherence. If the connection is not there, the structure will fold like a house of cards with only a slight pressure. You can see here that he is able to withstand considerable force almost effortlessly. This does not mean that the posture is flawless, but it does show that the foundation is solid.
2. Activating the kua.
In the above video, I talk about releasing the kua a little to establish a “platform.” In the past, I have have simply said, “Release the kua.” This was a huge breakthrough for many (including some longtime pratitioners) who had no awareness of the importance of the kua in every movement. We as a culture do not emphasize it, but it is essential to effective t’ai chi.
The new discovery is that this is a two-part process. First, you must activate the kua and then, you either release it to load or energize it to express the energy. This is a whole new level of internal awareness, but astoundingly powerful once you get it. The problem many encountered with simple “releasing the kua” as one-step process is that the kua never really engaged. Thus, it didn’t really support.
Operating a stick shift in a car provides a good analogy. (Google “manual transmission” if you have no idea what I’m talking about.) You put in the clutch to disengage the engine for a moment while shifting the transmission into the appropriate gear. Then you slowly let the clutch out to re-engage the engine in the new gear. When I want to load up what will be my weight-bearing leg, I must first release the kua (put in the clutch) to begin the shift. Only when I feel the kua correctly aligned (shift lever in proper gear) do I continue to load up the leg (let out the clutch).
When done this way, you will feel the support of a firm foundation throughout your movement.
3. The “Sweet Spot”…it’s new every time.
The biggest challenge in learning this new technique is getting over the idea that once you have identified the “sweet spot” that now you “know” it. You don’t. The sweet spot is not an “It” to be located in space and time and associated with a particular posture. It is a way of identifying the fleeting relationship that your body-mind has with a particular structure at a particular moment. That is, if I try to stand in a bow stance the same way I did yesterday and expect the same results I will miss the mark. Good form puts us in the vicinity of the internal connections, but that’s when the work actually begins.
You recognize the sweet spot by how it feels, not how it looks. And the closer you are to the real thing…well, it starts to feel like nothing at all.