Neurons & Intent

A common obstacle facing Tai Chi students is differentiating intent from body movement.

When most students perform the form their intent is not clearly delineated from their physical action. This leads to the inability to use intent over reliance on strength alone.

Why is it difficult to separate intent from movement?

Reading The Body Builders : Inside the Science of the Engineered Human has given me the answer. When you think of doing something the neurons in the processing areas of the motor cortex fires and triggers the desired movement.

However, these neurons fire so fast that for most of us it is difficult to detect that length of time between the neurons firing and the corresponding limb moving. The time between neurons firing and movement beginning is but milliseconds so you can imagine how short a time this is.

Given this is the case how then can Tai Chi players train intent?

This is where the specialized intent training of Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s Yang style Tai Chi comes in. The conceptual models for training intent allows us to experience a time lag, at least long enough to feel when intent begins and when movement triggered by intent comes in.

In this way we can truly separate mind and body. Incidentally, this fulfils the principle of using intent rather than strength and explains clearly why Tai Chi is boxing of the mind.

It would be interesting to one day use science to study this neglected aspect of Tai Chi. Who knows what we may discover that can not only improve our Tai Chi skills but be applicable to other fields such as medicine.

Qi Sphere Fajing

Tai Chi fajing using the palm to express the energy of the Small Qi Sphere (小气球) used in Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s style. Note the after-effect.

Rootless

This is a demo of ………… I’ll have to view back the longer clip in our SKD FB learning group to see what topic we were talking about here.

Anyway, the background is that our use of high stances gave Stanley’s Hung Gar buddy the impression that our method is so-so.

So here was an excellent opportunity to let Stanley acquaint himself with one side of the argument. It would be good if he were to go check out his pal’s stance work for comparison.

I would call this method the stance of no-stance. You can see Stanley taking a look at how I was standing as he couldn’t believe it that I wasn’t standing in a low stance, or even in a stance.

I didn’t tell Stanley to cooperate by not pushing hard so that I can look good. I just let him push however he sees fit. You can see how he changed his position towards the end.

This outwardly rootless method is a result of training the bell body method of Grandmaster Wei Shuren. I present a simplified way of doing it in this post here.

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Of Small Chi Sphere

Yesterday I wrote about Large Chi Sphere. Today I will write about Small Chi Sphere.

If you have read TaijiKinesis Vol 2 : Learning the Taijiquan Form you will find under 5.6.1 Palm on page 46 a beginner’s introduction to this topic.

In some Tai Chi styles / schools you may be required to be a disciple or be willing to cough up the big bucks to learn about such secret principles. However, I teach this from Day 1 because it is part and parcel of what makes Yang style works.

Mind you, knowing about a principle and being able to make it work are two different things. You need a lot of practice to assimilate the Small Chi Sphere principle into your movements.

Beginners tend to keep losing the sphere in the early years of their practice. This is expected. You just have to keep at it until you get it.

To keep the learning simple we just have to keep plugging away at three steps, day in, day out, until it sticks. This means that everytime you use a palm in the long form you must abide by the following :-

i) Step 1 – round the tiger mouth

ii) Step 2 – round the Palmar region to activate the Laogong (劳宫) acupuncture point

iii) Step 3 – round the fingers’s structure

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Holding a palm this way when playing the form can intensify the power of your strikes and I’m not just referring to palm strikes here.

This is particularly when students undertake the learning of the Kai-He form because by this stage they would have spent a lot of time cultivating the Small Chi Sphere palm structure.

The Small Chi Sphere is part of a process of training power generation in Tai Chi. It is not the only process but it is one method that can pay dividends if you take the time to cultivate it.

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Energetically Yours

There are numerous fajing models in Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s book on the 22-form. You can say that its practically raining fajing in the chapter entitled Internal Work, Force Methods (内功劲法).

My favorite fajing model is the Large Chi Sphere method which is shown below :-

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I feel that the Large Chi Sphere fajing model is the easiest for beginners to pick up. The best part of the news is that they do not even have to learn Grandmaster Wei’s technically super difficult 22-form to get this skill.

So far I have taught this model to my current students who are learning the Yang Chengfu 108 form. The Large Chi Sphere model is not even gender bias – both ladies and gentlemen can do the fajing as long as they remember the step-by-step procedures.

Below is a photo of a student applying the Large Chi Sphere model in Ward-Off posture from the 108 form :-

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Can you see it? No?

Let’s add in the Large Chi Sphere into the picture and see what we get…….

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Clearer now?

Such intent models used to be kept secret and taught only to sons or close blood relations. In order to keep the art of Tai Chi vibrant and relevant today I am passing such information on.

Learning the model is but the first step. Assimilating it into your movements and learning to use it naturally and instinctively are hurdles to overcome to master Tai Chi.

As I say mastery of Tai Chi is not impossible. You just have to know what Tai Chi is about and it begins by asking the relevant questions to move your learning and understanding along.

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