Last Build Date: Wed, 07 Nov 2007 10:47:23 -0700Copyright: Copyright 2007
Wed, 07 Nov 2007 10:47:23 -0700
Bea (Beatrice) was sometimes my Sunday school teacher when I was young (though most of the time it was her husband who tried to manage us). She was much later my colleague in education. She was always a shiny person, but her radiant glow began to shine profoundly when she chose to go into Special Education for behaviorally disordered elementary kids.
She entered the field at a late age, somewhere in her fifties, as part of her midlife crisis in which she left her husband and church. She got into saving the kids and they got into loving her as much as she loved them. Her class, out of respect for her, was just about the best behaved in the school (the B.D. unit was integrated into the regular school that I taught at). There was a palpable love in her classroom.
Bea and her partner bought season tickets for themselves and two students at a time (as reward for outstanding behavior) for the Jazz games. The players would meet them and give them shoes and stuff. She had basketball shoes worn and signed by Karl Malone in her classroom.
Bea got sick with cancer in her glands near the hip. She lived as much as she could, going on trips etc. But when it came time to die, she was afraid. When she left the Mormon Church out of a crisis of belief, her whole family disowned her, but she had many good teacher-friends who spend many hours at her bedside. I was one of them.
She wouldn’t allow somber pity or any negative ki in her room, instead insisting on an upbeat, joking, laughing crowd (there were always three or four people with her). Hospital staff said they loved to be in that room and would make excuses to go there on “official” duties.
Well, of course, I was the class clown and I made her laugh constantly. There were times near the end, when, even in deep coma, she would laugh at my foolishness.
She knew of my martial training in Aikido and had taken enough classes herself to know of its curative powers, so during the fearful days while she was still awake and aware she would have me constantly give her Kiatsu into her feet (one of her feet was a phantom foot since they had cut off her leg at the hip).
We talked about her fear and I told her about “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” which I had just read. Being a born-again atheist, the notions of reincarnation and conscious death were a great comfort to her.
One day she asked me to take the role of Lama and to coach her through her leaving. I was only thirty or so at the time, but I knew of the power of positive ki so I agreed on one condition. That condition was that she would go through me on the way out.
I didn’t delude myself (and still don’t) with being a holy man capable of magic, but I had studied enough Tai Chi, Aikido, psychology, shamanism, hypnosis etc. to know that as long as she believed in ki power then miracles were inevitable.
The day of her death came and the room wasn’t cheerful anymore.
I had since ceased to need oral language to talk to her. I stood as much as I could and sent ki into here feet to her head.
I was feeling very congested, bent over like I had stomach trouble at her “moment” and told my friends in the room that she was having a hard time getting out.
I coached her but when she reached the light it was her best friend who told her it was ok to go.
All at once my body opened completely. I threw back my arms and arched my chest upward and Bea’s essence shot through me. What went through me was best described as love (although I don’t think that word is adequate). In a state of ecstacy I told everyone that she had left. Nobody heard me.
For some stupid reason I was surprised that everybody else wasn’t in rapture.
Thu, 11 Oct 2007 09:00:15 -0700
Internal martial mastery requires a very difficult existential choice and then that vital choice requires acceptance. We come to see that the quest to conquer the small self is the main martial issue rather than conquering others.
Choice is active (yang) much like desire. Acceptance is passive or yin. More like the kind of gratitude that deems one worthy of grace. Choice is what we do. Acceptance is something we allow.
We must make choices at every moment, to be sure. But the simple choice for ethical martial artists is to accept gracefully the internal results of grace.
Ethical internal artists choose to train in an illuminated manner while others train just to defeat people. When we choose internal or soft art, at first it appears to train us to defeat others. But that’s just a metaphor for the inner work we have to do which is the harder battle.
After we choose martial art over martial brutality then we must accept the silence it leads to. In other words the choice is to begin searching ourselves for that which Plato called “the good” and then we proceed to the profound. That matter of choice is the first step.
To choose (with enough sincerity and discipline to succeed) to be a monument to the light is a life-altering achievement but choosing to be the conductor of the light is not the final goal. The light always rests on our shoulders but the next choice is the one that allows us to transcend common martial art.
Grace is not something we can obtain or possess by struggling after it. Grace descends upon us. It’s always pouring over us. It’s always available. That’s its nature. Grace is not a periodic thing like romance or any other emotion. Grace is always offering us the goal of the spirit but we fail to receive it except on extraordinary occasions and in certain situations.
Grace chooses us and it does so constantly. Grace is infinite and we decide to accept or pass it over. The hard part, the part that’s worth pursuing, is not obtainable or pursuable. It’s something we learn to accept because of our training in fearlessness.
Tue, 25 Sep 2007 06:55:12 -0700
Garrison Keillor, in an editorial, compared the writers Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The contrast is interesting because each man had a poetic vision of the world that we may take into our training. Each view reflects a similar dichotomy in our martial education.
Emerson took a humanistic view of life. He said, “Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm… this is the one remedy for all ills, the panacea of nature.”
Our chosen martial art will lead to black belt and beyond only when we enter the dojo with a special sort of enthusiastic commitment. We take this burning itch to each practice session, and we infect each other with excited discovery in our relationships with our comrades.
Keiller went on to a different angle that we can apply to our martial art training. “The purpose of all great art is to give courage and thereby cheer us, just as the purpose of education is fundamentally cheerful—to draw us out of gloomy solitude and into a conversation with other scholars.”
Does this fundamental, educational, attitude reign in your dojo? Is the dojo an enthusiastic environment under which education and loving collaboration are possible? (It has been shown that learning only comes along with such enthusiasm).
Is courage (the courage to stand for what’s right) part of your education? I don’t mean the courage to fight and defeat an opponent but the courage to forgive and love the opponent as well as yourself.
“We must be lovers and at once the impossible becomes possible.” Sound like Ueshiba? Do you participate in the world (greater dojo) with the kind of love quoted above by Emerson and constantly spoken of by Ueshiba? Do you know that the love you develop for your classmates and Sensei lead directly to love of all people and things (even enemies)?
Keiller made the point that “Nothing is so cheerful as the urge to commit art.” I love his term “commit art.” Instead of committing violence, commit love and beauty (art).
Another quote by Emerson that we should take to heart is this one:
“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it… Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
We must, as the wisest have advised, come to each class, approach each technique with a clean mental slate. Leave your preconceived notions outside of the dojo and take delight in the moment of discovery. Love must come to life moment-to-moment--new and always freshly exhilarating.
The contrasting view, the one espoused or exemplified by Thoreau, comes only after the Emersonian conditions persist. Thoreau became a recluse, famous for his statement that we each have to march to the rhythm of our own, decidedly unique, drummer. He said that the masses lived their lives in a state of quiet desperation and if we’re to escape this doom then we have to find our own way. He was not a cheerful or optimistic man but he knew that the existential reality is that we make our own meaning. He made his. We make ours.
Thoreau’s point leads us to realize that at the highest level our martial art becomes our own with our own personal inflections. We may even find that our innovations stemming from the faithful following of the principles and traditions and accepted ways to perform techniques lead often to a new thing altogether. Such self-knowledge leads all masters to their own art. Ueshiba, of course, gave birth to Aikido after enthusiastically studying an anthology of martial and mystical arts. We probably won’t make such a grandiose discovery but whatever it is, it will be our own.
Thu, 20 Sep 2007 11:36:18 -0700
"This is the great mystery pagaent, waiting to be noticed, as it lies before us, yet also living in the works of our greatest men of art.
To make it serve the present hour, we have only to assemble--or reassemble it in its full dimension, scientifically, and then bring it to life as our own, in the way of art: the way of wonder--sympathetic, instructive delight; not judging morally, but participating with all our awakened humanity in the festival of passing forms."--Joseph Cambell
It just chokes me up, its so beautiful. We are ready, right here in this moment, to participate in the great mystery pagaent as it lives in the essential energy or ki of our greatest artists, including martial artists.
Let's comment on the mystery pagaent--what does that really mean? It's the great mystery, the conundrum, the puzzle, the point of life, the understanding of which enables our enlightenment.
He uses the word "pagaent" to refer to a great display, a becoming of oneness with the phenominal forms. Human pagaentry, like the coronation of a queen or a king, is nothing like the mystical pagaentry manifest in something as simple as the microscopic power of a tree or a rock and the cosmic call to the spirit to explore the Unbounded Universe. That mystery pagaent is the inspiration for the greatest forms of art. It is the goal of art. It is the expression of the inexpressible.
Our job is to make the pagaent serve us in the moment, or to assemble it (reasssemble it, because it always was) scientifically. Now what does he mean by scientifically? What does science have to do with art? Art relies on the forms, the passing forms of life, the platonic forms that make our existence. To make science human, to make science go into the higher aesthetic dimensions, we have to express that dimension which also exists within us. That art, that personal art, is the way to wonder, to existential power, to love, and it must be participated in with everything we have or we will be continually just spectators of the mystery pagaent.
We martial artists also need to address the idea of morality and art. He says, "not judging morally," in other words, there's no judgement--that's the morality. The passing forms are bubbles with neutral values of yin and yang in the foam of the sea of Incontestable Unity. Those things are not meant to be judged. Yin is not better than yang, yang is not better than yin. Everything is part of the essential interplay of yin and yang. Things just are. Any judgement is a moral exposure of your limited self, which belittles you, again taking you out of the pagaent. Art, the great mystery pagaent, demands much of the martial artist on his/her path towards mastery.
Thu, 02 Aug 2007 14:48:04 -0700
Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo, wrote of three levels of training in his book, Mind over Muscle.
The first (and lowest) level involves the most obvious reason people give for their martial training—learning to defend against attack. The second or middle level is to cultivate the mind and body. The third or highest level involves putting your energy (ki) to use for the betterment of society. Kano’s point was that you may have the strongest body or most intelligent mind, but this has no value unless you have used your abilities to do good for others. Kano may have just meant other people, but I believe that “others” has to include all of the environment and everything in it.
Devoting years to mastery in a martial art simply to learn how to defend against an attack doesn’t make much practical sense. You may never be physically attacked. And mastery won’t come as long as this is your primary goal. You can just master the self-defense level, but all levels must be trained equally for true advancement in the art.
A massage therapist said that he spent years perfecting his walk. When asked why he would do such a thing he replied “because I want a perfect body.” The “perfect body” he spoke of isn’t a vanity thing. It’s about creating a body that is fully integrated—all parts working together, optimally functioning, aligned, and coordinated.
The massage therapist’s ultimate goal, however, is to make himself as healthy as possible so that he can devote himself to healing others through massage. If the goal stopped at having a perfect body, the goal would not be as worthy. It would stop at the middle level. The highest level is about ethics, about contribution to society.
The third level is trained on a personal level. Its about the decisions that we make day to day, about how and where and when we use our energy. With a healthier mind and body, we naturally have more energetic potential, more “ki power.” The point of having that ki , is to channel it through your unique powers, abilities and gifts to heal (not conquer) the world.
Sun, 25 Feb 2007 21:55:17 -0700
Human development follows a pre-programmed progression through certain stages. All babies do the same things in the same order. They lift heir heads, they push themselves up, crawl, stand with support and then walk.
It’s not just physical. Emotional and cognitive paths progress simultaneously. As kids learn to move around they learn to judge distances, heights and the effects of gravity and at the same time they learn about separation and attachment. They are separate but connected to the mother.
With language development they are learning more than just words. They learn, through the mechanics of their jaws and respiratory system social skills and how to express feelings.
As they get older they develop social skills along with jumping and skipping. From horseplay they learn how to fall, and from falling they learn that it’s okay to take risks and that they can always get back up--that they can experience conflict and survive.
Development is short circuited by the fear of a parent who interferes with talk like “that’s dangerous” or “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” Getting hurt is part of the developmental process too. When a parent worries the child excessively it internalizes the paranoia and short circuits development.
As adults raised this way we have limited range of physical motion as well as cognitive and emotional or behavioral options for dealing with problems. We didn’t learn that success only comes through repeated failure. Failure is practicing how to get it right.
Martial arts training can step in and help our personality develop where we left off by learning how to deal with conflict and face our fear. We can continue to develop to the full extent of our natural inborn capabilities, including physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual. We don’t reach our potential because something interrupted the process. Martial art training enables us to go back and pull out the stops or blockages and become more fully human.
Moshe Feldenkrais, in his book Higher Judo (p. 40) wrote, “Furthering the development of any function of the body that became habitually fixed, restores harmonious growth of personality…the vitality of the whole organism is increased and a new interest in life appears.”
Mon, 22 Jan 2007 21:10:36 -0700
When I taught 2nd and 3rd graders to draw a certain tree, a lot of them would draw a rectangular brown trunk with a green ball representing leaves on top. It didn’t matter that there weren’t leaves on the particular tree that I told them to draw, or that the trunk had shadows on one side. Most young students draw all trees with brown trunks and a green ball on top. It was almost painful for them to try to draw what they saw rather than what they “knew” that a tree looks like. Eventually I got them to see that the tree in question had a double- pronged trunk, and it came as a revelation to see and draw shade on the side of the trunks and a shadow on the ground.
Another problematic image in their drawings was the sky, which consisted of a ribbon of blue at the top of the page, rather than a sky that goes all the way down to the ground. I asked them “what’s between the sky and the ground?” and they thought I was joking with them.
And then there’s the sun.
My Aikitaiji students do the same thing when following me in form practice. While I’m doing “four corners”, my students are drawing brown-trunked, green ball trees while thinking they’re doing four corners. I may be doing “wave the whiskbroom in the wind” and they’re drawing a ribbon of blue at the top of the page, thinking that they’re right just because I’m not correcting them. I tell them to lighten up in push hands, and they draw a sun with a smiley face while brutalizing each other.
The students who think they know what they’re doing are the worst at correcting themselves. When doing forms with them, I’m often frustrated that they aren’t even looking at me. They’re just drawing away on some abstract idea of “right” instead of watching me for details that may not correspond with what they think they know. Even the master painters learned to draw realistically before going abstract.
Learn to watch the details, and be ready to give up your idea of “proper form” for proper form. Then be ready to give up your idea of who you are for who you really are. Don’t let what you think you know get in the way of knowledge. Everything you think of as yourself is a stick figure with a gigantic head and fingers sticking out of stick arms, drawn by your ego in adult childhood to simplify your behavior for the survival of your flat life. If you can extricate your mind from the flat shadow concept of who you are, then you can begin to realize your true full- dimensional essence.
Sat, 23 Dec 2006 22:36:00 -0700
A tai chi master played host to a shaolin monk. As the master was serving tea, the monk attacked him. The master touched the end of the monk’s fist and sent him into a wall. The monk dusted himself off and asked how the tai chi master was able to defeat him so easily, even when attacked by surprise. The response to his question was “because I’m always ready; always fully present in the moment.”
Once when I was walking into a store, I was at the foot of a pretty large set of stairs. I was preparing to go up when a woman who was coming down caught her heel on the edge of a step and almost tumbled down them. I wasn’t ready to catch her if she had fallen although I was within range. If I had been fully present in that moment instead of lost in thoughts of why I was going into the store, I would have been ready to deal with a possibly hazardous situation.
I was immediately reminded of the story of the tai chi master and realized that I had a ways to go in my internal training.
For martial artists, being present is necessary to be able to notice possible threats, to us or to others. The best defense is to be paying attention, being aware. But this is also important for psychological health and spiritual growth.
The goal of meditation is to clear the mind and just “be”, so that our deeper spiritual self and its wisdom can make itself known.
Psychological health has a lot to do with being emotionally present. In depression, our mind ruminates over past losses and regrets. In anxiety, the mind becomes preoccupied by worries over trouble that may occur in the future. Either way, you’re misusing an organ (our brain) that is meant to deal effectively with the situation at hand. You can’t deal with the present when thinking constantly of past and future, and you can’t feel emotions that are arising naturally from the present moment. The brain and senses give important information about what is happening now. You miss a lot when you’re not fully present.
Sat, 18 Nov 2006 20:31:38 -0700
I was told by one of my teachers that weight-lifting was a terrible thing to do, that it made you hard and top-heavy. Some teachers say not to use muscles, but how do you move without muscles? Muscular contraction is the vehicle of internal energy. Its not that you don't use muscles, its that, if you do the technique right, you don't have to use a lot of strength. But how can you say that strength is not an asset?
Through the process of weight-lifting, learning about how to isolate and strengthen different muscles groups, I've become more intuitive about the way my body works, heightening my overall awareness of mind-body connection.
I have scoliosis, and as a result I have muscles that are in permenant contraction, and others that are completely atrophied. This unbalanced state of the muscles contorts the posture, and blocks the flow of chi through the body. Innapropriately contracted muscles, or muscles which remain tense even when not in use, makes balanced movement more difficult, creates chronic pain and unhealthy mind and emotions. Lifting weights has helped to restore the balance of my muscle groups.
Another interesting point, from a psychotherapeutic perspective, is that emotional trauma can be stored in the body, in the form of permenantly and painfully contracted muscles. Profound emotional release can be obtained simply by putting awareness into these chronically tense areas, and learning how to relax.
When my wife returned from a particularly stressful trip to California, she did yoga postures to help herself relax, but found that, at first, she had flash backs of the tension, stress, and anxiety of the trip every time she began to breath and relax into the posture. By continuing to breath through these disturbing feelings, she allowed her body to release that stored up tension. Soon she found peace again in the yoga movements and meditation.
One of my students got a cranial sacral treatment, and after a particular adjustment, broke out into spontaneous tears over feelings of abandonment. The feelings flooded like a wave and receded, followed by relief and greater relaxation.
Muscular development and strength are considered taboo by some who practice internal martial arts, but the mind and body cannot be separated. An unbalanced body creates an unbalanced mind, and vice versa. Spiritual development is enhanced by physical training.
Sun, 05 Nov 2006 10:42:37 -0700
This is a picture of some encouraging quotes from Uyeshiba, hanging on the wall of my dojo for my students to read. Hopefully they will be able to remember these ideas when feeling frustrated in their training.
"To study the Art is to undertake a process with numerous ups and downs.
Surrender to the expansiveness of life.
Take each class one at a time, then the sweat, joys, disappointments (plateaus) and rewards you experience can developinto an art you can love and call your own."
"The body learns slowly compared to the mind.
The process of learning the Art includes many repetitions, many errors.
Each class will bring out a detail you may not have noticed before."
"Just when you think you have accomplilshed something in the art,
something will happen that makes you feel like you've gone back to zero.
Try not to judge yourself, your classmates, teacher or the Art at this time."
We all have plataeus, that's just a normal part of training. Advanced students have been through several plataeus, and its not unusual to quit the art for a while when feeling frustrated, but then miss it so much you have to come back. If you can make it through these hard times, remembering there is no blame involved in it, this is key in, like Uyesheba said, making the art something you love, something that feels like its a large part of you and a defining characteristic of your life.
What is asked for, taking one class at a time, is a very advanced skill. It take the mind of "no mind" to be able to do this. This is a skill developed over time, and not something the beginner will be able to easily accomplish. A beginner may be able to understand the concept intellectually, but its so much harder to do than to know. You will know it intellectually long before it becomes a part of your body. Once it sinks into you, at a cellular level, then it will become yours.
This thing about coming back to zero is not something you should dread: its the essence of our learning. Every class should begin at zero. Every plataeu is coming back to zero. And in the end, you realize its all just a coming back to a larger, universal zero.
Sat, 28 Oct 2006 19:46:20 -0700
One of the most important steps for mature warriors to take is into fearlessness where they cultivate the mind-of-no-conflict as their general base of reference.
“The principle of non- dissension demands a strong spirit constantly filled with ki and constantly radiating ki back into the universal, a spirit whose ki is in perfect conflux with that of the universal.”--Koichi Tohei Ki In Daily Life, p. 106
Non- dissension (the hallmark of the virtuous) allows free association between all manifestations of ki but conflict or dissent between seemingly competing energies interrupts the ki cycle. The same principle applies to the contention we harbor within ourselves, maybe even more so. At the very least, we should look within for a contentiousness that insulates us from the world, and conquer that for the sake of ki flow.
“There are no contests in the art of peace. A true warrior is invincible because he or she contests with nothing. Defeat means to defeat the mind of contention that we harbor within.” --Morihei Uyeshiba, translated by John Stevens The Art of Peace, Shambhala Publications, 1992 p. 63
Sat, 21 Oct 2006 20:03:59 -0700
Wu Wei is the Chinese concept that behavior can be the result of nature, an effect without a personal causal agent acting in self- interest. It refers to the paradoxical way of doing things after losing the despotic, conscious doer. Wu Wei is behavior originating from a mental state of harmony with all things; not motivated by the rewards or outcomes such behavior will secure. It’s innocent of the desire for compensation in life or for status after death even in the performance of virtuous acts. Wu wei is to surrender to deep nature.
Martial artists who have trained their active selves to feel comfortable and confident enough to stand aside may find their behavior resulting from a transcendent power, one that’s above right and wrong, but they get no credit for it, having done nothing but lose to get it. This resulting state is called “Grace,” and is defined by the paradox of gaining by losing.
“...Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not you must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess,
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.” --T.S. Eliot
Sat, 14 Oct 2006 17:10:03 -0700
Matter itself is solidified movement. Physicists say that vibratory movements compose the smallest units of matter (super strings) that pulse with a frequency that determines the string’s identity. They make up each individual thing, every single person, but as Jean Paul Sartre said, “The diversity of things, their individuality, are only an appearance, a veneer.” Nausea, P. 127
The fundamental characteristic of the universe is movement. No thing or place is ever motionless (not in life or in death). All places, whether they’re filled with “stuff” or seem to be empty, vibrate wildly with quantum jitters, pulsing with an energetic rhythm that permeates and composes everything, substantial and insubstantial alike. Knowing this, martial artists approach the heart of stillness through impeccable movements, because only through movement is movement resolved.
Imagine someone standing in a swimming pool. Every movement he makes generates a pattern of waves radiating outward along the surface of the water. Now suppose that for some reason you have to still the surface of the pool while leaving the bather in the water. Is there any way to still those waves?
Probably the first thing that occurs to you is to have the bather stand still, but that wouldn’t work because no matter how still he becomes the bather still moves enough, just by breathing, to cause miniscule swells or currents.
Obviously, if you get in yourself and try to smooth the surface of the water manually you’ll just add another source of agitation to the pool, stirring it up more. Your own wave pattern would interfere with the other person’s causing higher crests and deeper troughs in the combined waves.
Theoretically, there is a way that one person’s movements could bring the pool (or field of chi) into perfect stillness although it’s not possible for a human to move so precisely. To pull that off something totally unexpected and barely reasonable must occur.
If you were able to bring your movement/wave pattern into perfect, complementary harmony with the other person’s, then on one line (a beam wide) your troughs would cancel his crests and your crests would merge perfectly with his troughs smoothing the surface of the water between you. Movement is the only way to pacify movement, and so “stillness” is not the cessation of movement but the perfect pitch of movement, the tuning of kinetic energy, and we can extrapolate that the same theory applies to the movement of energy.
We begin to investigate such extraordinary, perfect, movement by distilling common movement and then training it into your body through slow, deliberate, form practice.
“On a larger scale, the physical world is nothing but accumulated chi. Practicing Tai Chi in the midst of air should feel just like practicing in water. When you imagine the thin air to be as heavy as water, the air offers a little resistance in your movements. With slow practice you can one day approach the realm of softness.” --Cheng, Master of Five Excellences
Mon, 09 Oct 2006 12:00:12 -0700
When we move so slowly that we don’t have to continually anticipate the step or movement coming up, then we can luxuriate in relatively large gaps in the turbulent stream of consciousness. During long, slow transitions between full frames in the form the mind takes breaks, and during these moments chi can be drawn out of the deep and brought to the forefront of awareness. The mind eventually learns to balance the senses and expand the silence. It begins to take longer breaks from discursive thoughts, and then, during these interruptions in confusion, the chi radiates freely in the silence.
Slow motion balances
Beside the meditative and energetic advantages of ultra slow training, the body’s balancing mechanism gets a real workout and our empty steps become sure. Slow motion form practice defines the postural alignment from which steps originate and finish.
Long ago, a martial master (maybe Cheng San Feng) slowed parts of his martial forms down to create Tai Chi. He must have known that fast and chaotic training is counter- productive.
“Fast action when learning is strenuous, leads to confusion, and makes the learning unpleasant and unnecessarily tiring… " “Slowness is necessary for the discovery of the parasitic, superfluous execution and its partial elimination…” --Moshe Feldenkrais.
Slow form practice, if done correctly, is the best way to find and eliminate the impurities in a movement. “Parasitic execution” refers to the extra, unnecessary add- on movements that suck the life out of our martial forms. Add-on parasites such as hitches, leanings, and wind-ups that attach themselves to a movement, leech power, speed, and efficiency from its intended use, and seriously compromise a movement’s efficiency, drastically wasting chi.
If Cheng San Feng hadn’t had the prophetic, revolutionary realization about the benefits of slow training, there wouldn’t be tai chi, and although many modern practitioners go slowly they’ve missed a very important lesson. The purpose of slow training is to learn to move with near- miraculous speed.
When moving quickly, we can plunge into a movement without balancing on one foot, but not when moving slowly. When stepping very slowly, balance must be impeccable to keep the foot flat, the ankle stable, and the posture upright. The slow, empty step reaches out in such a way that it can be easily retracted if the floor falls away. The best way to judge the empty step is by monitoring how much the ankle of the weighted foot wobbles while slowly stepping. The purpose of perfecting balance is to learn how to move quickly between fixed, balanced points.
Wed, 27 Sep 2006 15:10:18 -0700
When the masters found that their chi was powerful enough to affect the world, they were compelled to express their insights to others because chi power must interact with chi, and wisdom thus attained must (by some means) be shared.
One way that the masters of chi shared their art was by simply modeling it. Through their simple being their imposing power, grace and profound mystical states transmit the message of chi. Merely being present with a great chi artist deepens your soul. When an illuminated work of martial spirit takes form the art stands alone, separate from the master’s ego, simply exuding and communicating the light through its movement, but very few of us pop out of our small selves after such simple but profound contact. To receive such a transmission we ourselves have to be in a state of profound stillness and that’s very hard to come by. Chi radiation alters a recipient’s spirit energy but, unfortunately, seldom rises into consciousness.
A second level of chi sharing occurs when the masters intentionally extends their chi, transfusing it into a student’s energy aura, further kick- starting the chi- generating process. This type of teaching (intentional transmission or transfusion of chi) establishes a deeper relationship between the one who knows and the one who seeks to expand and enhance chi power. At this level the recipient is passive and the profundity of the contact remains mostly unconscious so the vast bulk of students need to be led more consciously to the crossroads of mind and chi.
Whereas the masters’ initial contacts influence the student’s unconscious field, another, different boost is needed to overcome the psyche’s inertia, moving it across the line into consciousness where it’s directly controlled and wielded by the student. He or she now can extend his or her own chi to further power the cycle.
This third powerful jolt that the chi masters employ (part of the oral transmission) engages the students’ intellect by eliciting in the mind certain concrete images or visualizations. The crossover from the unconscious to full consciousness, and then to the physical dimension that “others” inhabit, is facilitated when the master evokes mental imagery along with their chi.
I’d appreciate it if you could post any meditative visualizations that you’ve found useful in generating a blissful feelings from which chi can flow unimpeded.