Brennan Toh

How to engage the waist
1) Move the waist first.
a. What it looks like: Have it move broadly right or left prior any movements with the arms or hands. This creates a ‘foundation’ for the move to base itself off of.
b. Result: Less movement of the arms. More solid arm movement. Starting to anchor upper body movement from the waist.
2) Make sure your move is represented on the bottom.
a. What it looks like: When your upper body moves, there is expansion in the bottom. Typically both knees expanding outwards.
b. Result: Body becomes more even, action is created from the waist (and lower) rather than entirely from the top.
3) Lock one kua, in order to turn the joint. Continuing to open through multiple movements. Creates an ‘S’ curve.
a. What it looks like: The kua acts exactly like the shoulder joint, it starts to turn then locks so the other can move.
b. Result: All movement starts from the waist, and is proportionally represented on the top and bottom.

https://youtu.be/vB2QsN-zZkU

Precision is a word consistently used in Practical Method Taijiquan. But what does that mean in terms of practice? One aspect during Yilu is to not only complete the movement, but to know exactly where that move is aiming towards (which is why knowledge of applications is important). It is not enough to repeat the move, but to understand the energy alignment and aim. As our training continues to develop, and we become more aware of additional body parts (ie: to become aware of the elbow, become aware of the hip, etc.), we are able to aim more pieces towards the same objective – making the move more effective as each body part compounds power on the next.

Master Chen and Josh Landau

That same exactness and consciousness of movement is required during push hands. When the foot is being moved, it’s not being moved forward or backwards, but to a very specific spot. The practitioner needs to be aware of exactly where that foot needs to be for that situation, and move it there with purpose.

Every interaction needs to move towards a goal. Too often we push to get a feeling of the other person, to practice getting in a favourable position, waiting for the opponent to make a mistake to capitalize on, etc. This is following our own familiar pattern. Within taijiquan we must be able to change the energy of the interaction without changing the shape.

Efficiency of movement is not changing the position/contact points in order to get into a place that is familiar to us. Rather, it is often to be able to capitalize on the position you are already in. Become comfortable despite being in an awkward position. You have to be able to let go of your ideas on what is a bad position in order to achieve a certain objective. It is often when we feel our body is uncomfortable that our body fights back, getting in our own way of being able to do what we need to do. The mind needs to let go first, train, and the body will follow.

 

http://practicalmethod.com/2010/05/yilu-detailed-applications-1-online-video-trailer/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6dUI7d5GS4&t=258s

Group Positive CircleWhat brings 40 people and 16 disciples to the little city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa? For over a dozen years, Master Chen Zhonghua has been visiting the American Midwest to teach Practical Method and introduce people to Chen Style Taijiquan. Students visited from New York, Texas, Hawaii, Arizona, Colorado, Arkansas, Ohio, California, and Canada to train and learn. Read more

Master Chen teaching in Jimo, Shandong

To link movements together is to become double heavy.  Instead of moving together, each body part must complete its’ designated role to complete a function.  Desynchronized synchronization – first we must learn how to take our body apart before we can put it back together.  Like a machine, the power only comes from every piece doing it’s job.  One thing can only do one thing.  The piston in an engine only moves up and down; it does not try to turn the wheel or to move the car forward.  Within taijiquan, the machine does not fight.  None of the actions of the body relate to fighting the opponent, only completing its’ designated job.

Within a one dimensional movement everything is connected.  For example, as the hand moves forward in a push, the torso also moves forward, typically followed by the rear knee.  In this way, everything moves together in order to generate power, this power is generated by strength and expressed through speed.

A two dimensional movement compounds the power of each body part by creating a non-moving piece. Each piece is able to successively ground off the last piece by creating a ‘wall’ to push off of. To create fewer or an unstable wall is to merge pieces together, resulting in power leaking out of the body or rebounding back. Power is dependent on the stability of the last piece. While we are learning to create this separation, our power is often not consistent enough to maintain the stretch. As we encounter power we revert back to a single dimensional push.  A true two dimensional stretch is to maintain the separation despite obstacles.

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The creation of the non-moving part is a stretch by definition.  Power is a differential; most commonly it is a differential of space by using speed.  Within taiji we are creating a differential using stability, with each piece not merging.  To merge powers is to create an unstable wall

In the previous example of a push, a two dimensional movement would separate the arm from the body.   As the arm pulls or pushes, the torso remains unaffected.  The torso not moving creates a ‘wall’ that the arm is able to push off of.

To be able to move in this manner is to move like a rotary saw.  With a rotary saw the blade does not move on its’ own.  The blade only rotates and spins, while the saw is pushed onto the wood.  The cutting of the wood does not have to do with the blade rotating, it has to do with the wood being pushed onto the blade, or the saw being pushed onto the wood.  The saw must move independent of the blade rotation – if the blade moves forward it is unable to rotate. Similarly, the torso does not move, only remains upright and rotates.  The legs move the body forward/backwards, while the arms cut.

Therefore we must find a method to define the separation of our movements.  Separation of the body applies on both a macro and micro scale.  Not only must we separate in the cardinal directions (top/bottom, left/right, front/back), but also differentiate the role of the hand from the role of the elbow; what the purpose of the front shoulder is vs. the rear shoulder, etc.

Relevant videos:

http://practicalmethod.com/2015/01/no-tossing-separated-movements-online-video-trailer/

http://practicalmethod.com/2014/06/dimensions-5-points-online-video-trailer/

Brennan Toh at the Vienna Workshop 2017

Brennan Toh at the Vienna Workshop 2017

Within Chen Style Taijiquan, an important aspect is that all our movements must be our own movements.  We never move as a result of an external stimuli.  This requires we bring extreme awareness to every body part – those which are moving and especially those which are non-moving.  When we go out with the hand, we must not forget about the elbow; as the torso closes the distance, the hands can’t also be moving forward, etc.  As soon as we engage with our opponent, we naturally want to fight power with power.  This immediate response is something we must eliminate through our training.  Learning to create a stretch within our body in the form and foundations, is to learn how to move past the point of contact.

To never lose control of our body, even when engaging with an opponent, is to change our responses from a reactionary response to an active response.

A reactionary response is to retreat back, and then move in; or to match their push directly with your own push.  A push from the opponent does not result in a fight, or a retreat backwards.  An active response it to decide where to move, and to go their of your own choice – not from the initiation of the opponent.  If we are pushed and the shoulder moves back, we move not because we are pushed, but because we decide to move there.

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Brennan Toh with Shawn Lee

We must change from following the pace of the opponent, to leading our own movements.  Within the rhythm of a fight, when you are able to dictate  your own moves, the opponent will then follow (fall into rhythm).  Movement is not a non-pressured release, but a pressured release like a hydraulic press where it must be evenly matched and paced (led).  The intent of the movement is therefore only indirectly related to the opponent, and the decided movement is not at all resultant from what the opponent chooses to do – they are only an obstacle in place to overcome.  This is a change from passive control over our body to active movement.

To train this, we must train to never close, and to continue to stretch and expand in every movement of the form.  As our understanding of Yilu deepens, body mechanics and details that we were previously unaware of become more and more important.  But before we can focus on the small details, our understanding of positioning of the ‘big pieces’ must be precise – which is why consistent training of the full form is required.  As we continue to train to open our joints, positions and movements that we were previously incapable of will allow us to improve our structure and power.

Video references:

http://practicalmethod.com/2011/07/shoulder-movements-in-positive-circle-online-video-trailer/

http://practicalmethod.com/2014/11/pressure-and-release-indirect-power-online-video-trailer/

On Speed 4

by Brennan Toh on 2017/04/04

Speed is not a function of how fast you can move, but of how quickly you can close distance. As such, speed is not a matter of agility, but of directness.

For example, if I can close the distance between myself and the opponent directly in a linear fashion, I can technically reach the opponent before they reach me. This is because if you can close distance with your whole body, it works as a force multiplier. Not only are you closing distance with one body part (the way an arm would be in a punch), but with multiple body parts. Your lower half is closing distance, your waist is moving closer, AND your arm is reaching out. All these movements together allow for a speed that is quicker than any individual slow or fast twitch muscles on their own. Of course, having quick movements is also of benefit and can work well in conjunction with the rest of the body moving forward.

Read more

Brennan and Josh

Fetch water – the opposite vectors are at the front kua.  Six sealing four closing/seven inch knife – separates at the shoulder.

Read more

  • 15069042_520948524777188_8933773412609238206_oDo the form. A lot. Do it so much you never have to think about the next move, until all the movements and transitions are fluent.  Only then can you work on a specific principle comfortably enough to improve.
  • Finish each move (in the form) and keep going.  Keep going into the next one.
  • We have to be capable of anchoring power on the outside, just as we have to be capable of anchoring power on the inside.  IE: body movement that anchors on the hand (hand doesn’t move), and hand movement that anchors on the body (centre line doesn’t move).  Maintain consistent power on the outside while the inside stays mobile.
    Read more

The difference in push hands 1.5 years training can make.

Notes:

• Taiji works in 3′s, and power, structure, and aim all have to be independent. Read more

More videos from Brennan Youtube channel

10541065_10153075243415369_4300548899028004126_oJohn Dahms and I will be opening a studio beginning September 1, 2015. We are located on the 3rd floor at 111A Rideau Street in Centretown by the Rideau Centre. Class schedules and pricing are to be determined. Let us know if you have an interest in participating in the classes either here, or through private messages. Look forward to seeing you all later!

Contact info: we can be reached at johndahms2@gmail.com or brennan.toh@gmail.com.

Notes from Toronto workshop:

-Make the dot longer to control where they fall. Must add 3rd dimension. Curved line automatically works in 3 dimensions.

-Change of position allows the length to be changed. Do not change the angle. Read more