Toronto Workshop Notes (Twist Towel)

by admin2 on 2017/02/01

By Patrick Hanratty

**Due to my computer crashing these notes have been recompiled using my original written notes, which are somewhat incomplete. As such there are some blank spaces, which I’ve indicated with an asterisk. I would very much appreciate anyone filling in those blanks, as I don’t feel confident enough to do so myself.

Taking notes at workshops is a useful tool for making progress, and going over them as soon as possible (at the end of the day and after the workshop) helps to internalize the most salient points. Furthermore, sharing notes, as well as potentially helping other students in their practice, can also engender a need for the note taker to test the accuracy of their personal understanding of Master Chen’s teaching. A testing strategy that I have recently adopted is to imagine that I have to explain my understanding to other students through practical demonstration.

This imaginary process helps to reveal any flaws in my understanding which, unchecked, can and have led to much wasted effort over the years. As a personal example, my lack of attention to the significance of being double weighted and improper use of the kua have been a major factor in my lack of progress in Yilu, and ineffectiveness in push hands.

This lack of attentiveness to the process involved in assimilating workshop information has, in the past, made me reluctant to share my notes. For this reason, I would like to suggest that it would be very helpful to readers of these notes if fellow students, especially the workshop participants, were to add their comments to these notes in places where more clarification or correction would lend weight to their usefulness.

We started the workshop by warming up with the Twisting the Towel exercise and were quickly corrected by Master Chen, who pointed out that we were all using our upper bodies as opposed to our kua’s to move the arms. He demonstrated, showing his elbows glued to his waist and the power coming from the rotation of the kua.

Later in the workshop, he demonstrated this use of the kua using two plastic water bottles marked with two vertical lines drawn in ink to demonstrate the yin yang separation that occurs with the rotation of the kua. He then drew a series of instructional diagrams that expanded on this point, accompanied by practical demonstrations using a combination of students and various props.

The first set of diagrams followed an earlier demonstration of Yin Yang separation using two plastic water bottles.

Master Chen used the first two diagrams to demonstrate the difference between the theoretical aspects of our training, and a more realistic interpretation of what is usually happening.

I have to confess that my memory of Master Chen’s accompanying explanation is somewhat cloudy. For example, observing the first diagram as if viewing it for the first time suggests to me a small degree of rotation creating a lot of power while the second diagram, showing a longer line created by additional dots, suggests more rotation (and extension) to create the same degree of power. Now what comes to mind is statement Master Chen made in this regard…*

He then went on, in the third diagram, to explain the relationship between the dots, the line created by their alignment and their inter-relationship with the directional tension on the knees. Master Chen then followed up with a practical demo using a student with a broomstick….


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

bruce.schaub February 8, 2017 at 11:23 am

I refer back to this video for ‘ twisting the towel ‘ details… thanks for the post Patty very interesting. Master Chen gave me a pretty hard correction in Iowa last time ( meaning he specifically said ‘ Bruce, you need to go write this down, right now ) . ” Don’t ask questions based on the assumption you already understand and can do what I am talking about “. Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to give you that correction, only saying I am reluctant to try to attempt to add anything to your post, and that’s why I would just refer you to this video which is the stuff I am still working on.


Paddy Hanratty March 21, 2017 at 6:57 am

Thanks for the video reference Bruce. I find that I usually miss something in my note taking which makes me reluctant to share. For this reason I invite additional information, in this case in the form of physical demonstration, as a means of further clarification, or by way of filling in the blanks.


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