Negative Circle and Focus

by todd turik on 2018/04/01

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My bitter / sweet story is something many of us can relate to and maybe it is somewhat relevant to Master Chen – at least now I can empathize to some degree.  The bitter aspect I am about to impart relates to frustrations that we may have all experienced in one way or another at some time in our practice. Perhaps the sweet part is that we are all in it together.

The time and setting were St Patrick’s Day weekend at Maple Ridge workshop.  I came to the workshop with many questions and I wanted to go over corrections in both Yilu and Erlu, as well as field some questions about the foundations – especially those we don’t typically practice but are listed on the website.

By the end of the day on Saturday I had new information on aspects of foundation moves which I hadn’t seen before – these were golden.  I also got some corrections with both forms and during this time, was also told I need to just watch and not to ask about how we used to do something.

On Sunday morning, I followed Master Chen as he gave demonstrations to individuals or small groups.  He also gave me some private instructions including how I need to extend and stay on line; no matter what the position of the body, the other body parts must extend on the same line.  I was also given feedback on opening the back, activating the upper body, and remaining connected while staying on the same line.

The biggest lesson for me was in relation to the negative circle.  Master Chen had given another mini demonstration to me and one other person on the following:

  1. Twist bicep and pull hand across.

  2. Take up space to your opponent (adjust any gap by coming in).

  3. DO NOT MOVE shoulder to elbow.  Extend the bicep forward on the same line.

  4. DROP HAND ONLY while keeping shoulder and elbow in place.

  5. Once arm is near alignment -> stretch the whole arm out.

The third and fourth point were the focal point of this lesson.

Just before lunch, Master Chen had gathered everyone and sat us down while asking me to teach what I had learned earlier that morning.  I had demonstrated these aspects of the negative circle as best I could. Master Chen asked if there were questions. Here is a rough play out of what came up:

Question: “What happens with the kua when you are doing that?”

<arg> My response (somewhat jestful): “Just do what I do.”

Next question: “What about the center point?”

<ARG!>

    “Never mind about that!”

Why is it when we see something we pay attention to something else or distract ourselves with other details?  These questions may as well have been: “What is that orange crocodile doing wearing roller skates?” Never mind about that.

The REAL questions from my perspective on this, are:

Question: “What happens to the shoulder and the elbow at the turning of the joint?”

Answer: The shoulder and the elbow do not move.  That means the relationship of these two is held in place.  You can extend them on the same line.

Question: “Master Chen had said to me that I need to drop my shoulder at that point – Is this right?”

Answer: The shoulder cannot pop up.  It needs to stay in place. Also, the relation of the shoulder to the elbow must stay the same.  In other words, they can drop together but the opponent cannot feel as though the elbow or shoulder are being pushed into them.  This would be fighting at the contact point.

Question: “I have “tennis elbow”- what can I do if I am not very flexible when it comes to that fourth step?”

Answer: The likely best thing to do is to do it again and again with the range of motion you have until the joint is more flexible.  This is grinding of the joint. Perhaps the best thing is to put yourself up against a small tree and hold your bicep to the trunk and move only your hand (step 4) again and again.

So what can I take from this Shakespearean-like play?  It is both tragic and comical – true. But it’s best not to forget, there are lessons within all of this.  I have tennis elbow. I have a history of high shoulders. Conceptually I can get decent marks. Practically I fall short and continue to have much to do. But it does not help to get distracted and to put focus on what is not the focal point.

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