Originally written by: Ian Macrae
Maple Ridge Workshop July 25th and 26th, 2009
(A loose transcription of notes, not an organized article)
This month our workshop was in Pitt Meadows Heritage Hall. Our regular use of Thornhill Hall was preempted by the Disabled Games. What a nice big clean beautiful hall this was, notwithstanding that the A/C wasn’t working and it was almost too hot to do. Well, actually, it was too hot, so we didn’t work quite as hard as we usually do.
Saturday morning we worked on deep analysis of the proper body motion and mechanics of doing circles. The wrist and ankle joints are not joints for the purpose of Taiji – do not bend the wrist or the ankle. The hand and ankle do not move when doing circles. The wrist joint is locked at all times when doing a circle. The apparent movement of the hand is caused by movement of the body. By not moving your hand you force your body to change the position of your hand, which is the correct order of things. The hand changes its position in space because theof the various joints in your body causes your body to change its position and your hand comes along with the body changes. Likewise, the is not supposed to be moving around. Watch Joseph doing and observe how still his body is, how stable his is, how there is no non-related motion.
The circle is an infinite number of dots or points. You have to ask yourself if you are doing a circle to make dots or making dots to create a circle. Joseph waved a sword in a circle around a person’s arm and it never touched the person’s arm. Then he made a series of straight line adjustments of the sword and it had multiple contacts with the arm. The series of straight line moves caught the opponent’s arm and caused an effect on the arm, but in the end you could see that the series of straight line moves resulted in a circle. Think about this as you count the beats of the circles you do with your own arm.
Remember when doing circles that it is elbow in, hand out. If the opponent is pushing on your elbow, or has traction on it, as you go out, don’t fight that. It is so easy to want to fight that pressure. Instead you let that pressure and the opponent’s intention and attention continue there without conflict and move your hand past it and apply your energy at the end of your fingers, hand or forearm. Expand the shoulder to hand triangle without moving the elbow where the opponent is wanting to fight, and thus you are fighting your own fight and ignoring the opponent’s fight. The opponent’s pressure on your elbow became your way of controlling and distracting the opponent while you fought the fight elsewhere. When the elbow is coming in, its intention is towards your rear foot.
When doing circles, feel how your elbow wants to rise and how your elbow and shoulder want to push. Don’t let your elbow rise or shoulder push, it is your hand that is supposed to float out. When the elbow is coming in, there should be no fight in your hand.
We practiced two person drills focusing on opening up some space when you are caught by the opponent and at the same time taking away his good angle. Joseph has always instructed us that we have to take up the space or slack before we can cause an effect on our opponent. The opposite of that is that if you are caught you have to recreate the space that your opponent has taken up, before he does something to you. If for instance your arm is caught and you can leave your arm exactly where it is but step back a bit without retreating or moving the caught part, maybe as little as an inch, maybe more, your body alignment changes in such a way that your opponent becomes the one caught, or at least you have regained your proper alignment and structure. Instead of stepping back, sometimes you can just expand your body or stretch your body, or get longer, or do a littleor twist, and regain your alignments and structure so that your opponent is caught. The question of who is caught by whom is like the balance on a teeter-totter – when the two people are exactly balanced, one can just incrementally shift his weight or body to gain the advantage. It is critically important that you don’t retreat the caught body part when doing this. If your elbow, for instance, is caught, don’t let it retreat while you are working on creating space – you are in a sense creating space between yourself and your own elbow. When your elbow is caught, it means the opponent is caught too, but that he just has a better angle, so by not retreating your caught body part but by getting longer or whatever to adjust, your angle becomes better than the opponents and now he is caught. Retreating your caught body part loses the entire connection and you have to start over. Keep traction on the opponent by not retreating that caught part of yours but using it for traction.
When finding your space, or working to take up space, you have to find the correct angles or alignments, too. The concept of speed-angle-timing comes into play. When the angle is correct you have more power. When the space is taken up you have more speed, because the distance is less. Hong called speed “acceleration”.
We discussed and worked on “Zhou”, which Joseph translated as ‘traction’ and said has been mistranslated as ‘adherence’. Joseph put his hand on your arm, without gripping it. The traction allowed his other skills to have an affect on the opponent. The traction held the opponent’s body part in place. Joseph called the ability to apply the traction a ‘synthesis of skill’ in which various energies and skills, includingenergy and the ability to properly align, come into play, too. He says that zhou is a very important concept and ability. It is not a gripping, but an application of skills causing the relatively flat hand to have traction to hold the opponent’s body part in place while you do something to the opponent. It could be on your leg or shoulder or arm, it is a principal not an application to a specific body part of the opponent.
All moves must be proportional. For example, you don’t just throw your fist out and punch somebody. You put your fist on the opponent by adjusting, but the move of the fist itself can be no bigger than what is caused by proper jointand expansion. The action, or the blow, if you will, is caused by proportional movement of the kua, knees, and other body joints – it is caused by correct movement of the body and joints and thus the strike can only be proportional to those correct body movements. This is the same for a kick or any other action.