Yang Chengfu supposedly told his students to stop hanging on to him as he was not a meathook. I would reverse this and advise students not to be a meathook and try to hook me!
Why I say this is because I was trying to teach a student to change into Grasp Sparrow’s Tail by moving his right arm inwards, up and forward. I offered him constant pressure to work against. When he began to move his arm up that was when it felt like a meathook trying to carry my weight.
If you apply the logic of leverage you would know that trying to carry a heavy weight is not as efficient as finding a way to lever it. One way we can do so is to soften our body so that it can create a non-resisting, empty path to reduce the pressure exerted by the opponent on us.
You then lead the opponent’s pressure into the path of emptiness. The opponent can respond in various ways when you do so. However, for the purpose of learning we will assume that you are not going to wait for him to react. Instead, you will seize this opportunity to counterattack by bringing your right arm up, out and forward.
One problem area in the movement occurred during the moving up phase. This was when my student was not applying leverage properly hence his arm felt stiff and resisting instead of powerfully enveloping and in control.
The solution is to mentally let go of one’s strength. If the mind is willing the body will obey and the immediate effect is that the opponent’s pressure will be reduced. You can then take the lead to guide the opponent’s arm in so that his line of attack is contained.
Next, you then change into a counterattack by first bringing your arm up. This is where you need to be aware of your body parts (OK, this reminds me of another joke which I will tell in another post here) particularly the positions on your arm because you need to actualize the concept of Peng jing which as defined by the Tai Chi Classics is like the water supporting the boat from underneath.
So you mentally set your mind, relax, bring up your awareness then you can begin to bring your arm up. As you do so you need to constantly check and recheck if you are adhering to the critical principles.
Your partner can also help to give you feedback; if you suck he should tell you so, not say you’re doing great. Tai Chi is difficult enough to learn as it is without our training partner mollycoddling us.
If you get it right your partner will feel as if his root is floating. If he tries to resist his root will float even more.
If there is a secret to doing this movement easily it is that you must apply Rollback before you begin to Peng. So this is a good reason for you to work hard on your Rollback. As I would say to students the process of Master Tai Chi Today is not difficult as long as you know what you are doing.
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