Aaron’s Notes – Iowa, July – August 2017
Before Master Chen arrived:
Match power, add one, without shifting or changing power levels
One way to match power is to adjust the back kua until the knee is pointing back, no shifting or disconnecting.
If you don’t have an opponent, use a wall or a tree, something that won’t move. Practice pushing to get alignment.
20x a day for ~2 months, practice stroke the beard by pulling up on a bar. Pull with power, without changing the hands. The back foot should come towards the front foot.
Then practice movement without the bar
Separate, but good question to ask. When pushing with an opponent, what is the angle that I need to stretch in order to go around?
Brennan: Finishing the move
While doing the form, settle into each posture, then expand the joints.
Sink and stretch until the joint rolls over
Expand until you can’t go in a circle, then find whatever way you can in order to expand more into the next posture.
find what’s free
Do all the setup for the final movement, then do that movement.
e.g. single whip
set up the torso, legs, knees, etc. only then make the final arm change.
Suggestion during push hands, wiggle the kuas to find what’s free, or where you can go next.
Master Chen arrived:
Take the opponent’s move to the end. Complete it, then add one.
The snake swallows the elephant.
The foot / ground consumes the rest of the body
The result is teh isolation of each piece of the body
the hand needs to be aligned to the elbow,
which needs to be aligned to the shoulder
which needs to be aligned to the dantien,
which needs to be aligned to the kua
which needs to be aligned to the knee
which needs to be aligned to the foot
At the end of the stretch (setup), add one. If the setup isn’t there, the movement isn’t useful.
The process of alignment is like holding up a 50 lb ball. You have to align to support it.
Set a demarcation line in push hands. If peng (one of the results of training) isn’t present, the move isn’t useful.
Pulling the bow:
Keep the energy (tension, pressure) on their dantien, however they may move.
The hand is attached to the body (through the back foot to the ground) like a whip on a handle, or a dog on a leash.
Don’t fight the leash, untie it. Do setup then use the handle (your foot) to crack the whip.
At first the middle is in the chest, then in the dantien, then a spot on the floor. You can move all around this middle point to protect it, but you can’t move it.
Navigate (use alignment of center and extremeties, not fighting) the other person using their middle.
The elbow can overcome the top (even if they’re very strong up top).
If they can move their body, then the kua needs to come into play.
If they’re very strong and grounded, then the knee needs to come into effect.
Act like a rope to gain position (climb), be the stick to transfer power (by rotating)
Train the motions (postures, formt) into the body. Once you’ve done that you can start probing for weakness.
Use the short of the long:
Look for the oval of their power.
Bisect the long line of their power at the shortest point
only move the bottom
Once you catch the opponent, all moves must be towards yourself.
When caught (it doesn’t really matter who caught who)
move in (hips move in, not the back)
The front is aiming, power comes from the rear.
Like with a bow
We all deviate from our aim when we power up.
Aim, stretch, extend.
Don’t move the pivot.
This is intent, and should always be connected to the center
Set up their line, maintain it as an illusion.
Then you can add your own bow (or line) to it.
Where should you put the pivot?
Have multiple, decide which to use.
From the pivot back is power
Front the pivot to the front is motion (or stretch).
There is no “movement” of power. It’s either there or it isn’t.
The example of the Chinese typewriter/keyboard (which needs to move a lot to make one character)
compared to the English typewriter (where you just press a key).
Make the body like the English typewriter, where there’s a fixed motion for each “finger” (or body part).
This is a closed circuit system (people outside the circuit can’t see which “key” is being pressed).
This is physically occuring inside, not just medatatively “internal”.
Actual movements of the body that you can’t easily percieve from outside.
It’s like indoor plumbing. You can’t see the movement of the water from outside, but the water still comes out when you turn on a faucet.
Or a light switch, electrons moved, but to an observer it just appears that thte light came on.
3 points to a lever.
Move the ends, and have the middle be strong.
the foot and middle are somewhat fixed (to other body parts).
The hand is not, and so it’s not a good lever (it degrades fast).
In old Eastern Germany, look at the very old houses, and those built after WW2.
The old houses are solid (doors are very heavy, open and close without making a sound).
The ones build after WW2 are very wobbly. Stuff breaks all the time.
Our bodies are similar. If they’re solid, only what we want moves. If they wobble, everything degrades quickly.
Foundations, yilu, and alignment checking in push hands can fix the wobbles.
The method that leads to skill. Basics and applications should become the same.
There is a central action (dantien rotation), and modifiers (shoulder down, elbow in).
The dantien is like a ball with handles on it. It can’t move on its own. The kuas can take action to move it.
1. Spin the ball with hands (pretend ball, don’t use a real one).
after doing this for a while, spin the dantien with kuas.
2. Start a kiddie-go-round with the kua
3. Elbows and kua to middle (step to cheat)
Positive circle to center
negative circual meets at opposite (back) kua
either way, pull it all the way across on the center to the other kua.
At the end of a movement, extend into the next movement. Find the end of the opponent’s movement, then peel from it.
Like a door.
Motion – no power at that point.
No motion – power can be at that point.
The hinges don’t move. The end of the door swings.
Don’t change what the opponent is doing, add to it
Can be done by adding a line
Or adding to their line
Steering wheel analogy:
The steering wheel is used to navigate.
You can do what you want as long as the steering wheel stays on the axis.
You can pull it out on that axis, push it in, or steer around on that axis.
As long as what you’re doing doesn’t leave the axis.
Do what you need to for your body to go down.
Give it all up (fall if needed) for your body to go down.
If there’s effort in what you’re trying to do, your body hasn’t gone down far enough.
They will pop when your body has gone down far enough.
Get the opponent’s attention by fighting them (or pretending to)
The attack should come from a different dimension
All our practice is to reduce the setup time
Likened to a stage magician, a lot of their practice goes into making the technique they use un-noticeable.
Make your arm the stick
When learning, touch or hold your own arm to help get power.
This can help develop the power chain.
When you get it, move the hand back one spot (hand to elbow, elbow to shoulder, etc).
Once you get it at that spot, move it backwards one more.
Be symmetrical (perportional, not necessarily in the same direction) with another body part.
The middle must be dead, otherwise the pivot moves, and you’ve lost power.
When stepping, the toes should grab like a climber’s hands. Clench your toes when stepping.
Pull vs. lift: practice with an elastic attached to the ankles. Pull, not lifting.
Separate the bones from the muscles
Small muscle movements are better for this
Make the bottom bigger
Into a pyramid, not an inverted pyramid.
Put the touch onto the floor
Just like catching a very heavy ball or bag (see 50 lb ball note above)
Step backward, then step in when receiving a push to the belly.
Like catching a heavy ball and returning it
Same thing with drawing water, pressure on the kua right before a 3 count
1, 2, draw water, 3 and other person pushes into kua
Power is fake
its a percieved effect, based on engagement (real) and resistance (real)
If I don’t engage, or give you a chance to resist, then you don’t feel any power.
The back is the motor
Arms and legs like the blades of a food processor
Use where the other person tosses (where there’s a crevace)
remove (take away) space, they will doss themselves out.
1. Enngage if they push arms
Extend them (like white crane)
2. Don’t fight
Pick a number, and go in on that contact
When a lock occurs its as good as the ground
Look for the other floor (your feet)
go through the middle
Slide in on a push
Starts with a collision
ends like scissors
Any phyical training starts with rough power
then gets refined
has to start with power.
Anything suspended in air cannot press down, can only pull (example is the hand)
Upper body secures the lock
Lower body drops
You need someone to practice with
You need to start with a real pivot
Use something real, create a lever against it, and practice pivoting.
At the end, aim is what is needed
The action is smaller, function is the same
Sensitivity in push hands is actually a lack of sensitivity.
You do the form without noticing that the other person is there
More yilu and push hands
make the movements innate in the body. Train it until its what occurs by default.
Book learning of physical skills is effectively worthless
Intent is real movements, done so small as to be insignificant.
Elbody in with the hand spiraling out at the same time
Elbow goes to center
The pivot doesn’t move
The body should become like a bicycle chain
move one, and they all move
Become a tornado (see paper notes)
Master Chen’s coffee cup
Master Hong’s pipe
Practice with something in your hand that makes your mind do something else.
Keeps the taiji mechanical, not emotional
Find your own item to separate the mind from what the body’s doing.
Should be something that can be spilled or toppled (cup, pipe)
Taiji is a mirror of life
Make the hand and elbow into one, extend, don’t bend it.
No movement in taiji makes you smaller.
Even elbow in is a stretch and rotation.
push or pull
If a->b =10,000,000 and you can only handle 100, its effectively limitless.
If you’re between them, you are a demarcation.
push and pull have to do with position and direction, they’re the same force.
If you feel jammed, change the push into a pull (e.g. hand where wrist is held tightly, if you can’t push through, let your fingers be pulled from the other side)
This is called threading (a needle).
Set up a fake (lossy) resistance. Try a couple times to set up a feeling of resisstance.
Then pull from their back, along a very slightly different line.
Get on the edge, change the push into a pull on their back.
This is referred to as fighting from behind.
If you are accurate, timing isn’t needed.
If you’re less accurate, timing is required.
If it comes down to a toss up between training skill or physical ability, train the skill.
Skim / climb:
When touching someone (for entry), be like a boat on water (or a hydroplaning car).
Be on them, but don’t get stuck.
Practice hands sliding.
When contact occurs, just hug.
Find a hole, and move into it.
Water: When it finds somehting hard, it just goes around it.
Lever: when a pivot meets a point, it levers around it
A gyroscope is a a connecteed lever
Rotation is a continious lever
The lever can be like all of these, depending on what the other’s energy & resistance are.
Like magic, there’s a technique (method)
and a lot of time spent practicing that method, the presentation and approaches.
The strongest from the opponent becomes the pivot
Make them commit
Follow the drill
follow the instructions given
Practice a specific element for 2 sessions a week, for 20 years, and then you can probably use it.
Training it taking that which is uncomfortable (positions, postures, etc), and making us comfortable with them.
When we’re comfortable with them, then our opponents will be uncomfortable.
The more correct the training, the more uncomfortable it will be for the muscles of the untrained
All the important parts (knees) must be locked, or disappear
All the joints should be suspended (stretched) like a bow and arrow.
right hand on opponent’s belly, gripped by opponent’s hand
left hand (thumb to index finger) on opponent’s bicept, pressuring (pretending to fight)
left fingers should curl around to point behind them, opponent should step to the right
can change sides
Chen Fa Ke’s signature move is the spear-fighting in turn left to turn right. (single whip)
Hong’s move was buddha’s warrior points the morter, after heel stepping out.
Both would use them to launch people.
Powerful, keep angles separate and from influencing each other
one compressing down, the other pushing from the right. Niether should influence the other.
Don’t allow the angles to converge or to mess each other up. Keep them “clean”
Paper between rollers
Once you can keep lines of action, you can create separate motion arcs (think positive circle).
elbow in is one arc, kua motion is another, together they create a third line, pointing out from the kua.
This should be like a paper caught between rollers. If the rollers match, the paper will be spat out.
The rollers have to hit and roll at the same time. Like hitting hands with a slight upwards or downwards deviation.
If something substantial gets into the gears, it may jam the rollers, and they may throw themselves (or you may throw yourself).
push hard into someone’s belly
they should respond with matching pressure, and a slight deviation (3-7 degrees)
it can be at any direction (up, down, right, left)
Practice to get this into the body
Like learning the alphabet
you can’t practice words, phrases, sentances or paragraphs, until you have learned the letters.
Without touching, it’s hard to see motion.
Put dye into a bucket of water, and then shock the water (kick or put the bucket down hard).
The dye shows the water’s movements.
Practiced applications from the first move in the form
Exercise for 6 sealing, 4 closing
1. Backwards with back foot, 45 forward with hand
2. Forward with front foot, 45 forward with hand
3. Step forward with front foot, 45 forward with hand
Lock the ends, expand the middle
Lock the middle, expand the ends
Focus on separating the center from all externalities (appendages)
focus on not moving in yilu and drills
3 main ideas
The principle is indirect power
the concept is yin-yang separation
the practice is in with elbow, out with hand
Spiraling movement is a more modern term for these ideas.
Snake exercise (water drill from before)
Feel for where you can get in. Climb up (not physically clamber, but go up the extremeties towards the center)
fists to the left (from erlu)
lock the hands
expand them from the middle (kua)
How to stop what they’re doing
Don’t worry about how to prevent someone from doing something
learn how to do it, and you’ll know how to “stop” it.
Questions around movements (what to ask instead):
1. Can you do it?
2. Can you do it better?
Swallow and spit out
elbow in (two fingers from the other on arm)
very light push in
we’re very much in the hand. practice this to get more into the elbow during elbow in
Lock the arm across the other’s body
let them rotate the shoulder around
Both sides pull into the center as you step to a 45
both sides push out (from hands) (heel, back, arms)
Goes with the climbing drill
Get longer than the opponent
stretch them out (indirectly)
/ \ legs, center goes down, legs go out
if the legs come in, the center goes up.
Dot to line
Tear the dot into a line (using rotation, elbow in, hand out, shoulder, kua, ground)
the line then spreads (swallows)
e.g 6 sealing, 4 closing knee and foot switch.
Catching a ride:
Elbow to knee, kua to other side, then back to foot.
Same speed, then as one picks up another gear, it gets carried along for the ride (goes further in same amount of time).
(movement right before stroke the beard, where one arm stays fixed, the other goes back quickly).
When you can replace a point with another one that is identical in another spot (on yourself, or on opponent)
Replace it exactly, with something identical, just elsewhere, you’re getting close to free fighting.
E.g. keeping the same force when switching feet, or being able to hold a line, while moving elsewhere.