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Taiji Class Notes #4

by Jeffrey Pratt, February 28, 2009

Hi everyone, time for another look at the Push Hands class in Boston.

We had a decent turn out with twelve people attending. I think the class went well. The big event of the day was learning that Mark Klein had tested in front of Dr. Yang and received his instructor’s stripe, three cheers for Mark. He deserves it; he is a very dedicated practitioner who shows a tireless pursuit of his understanding of Taijiquan. (I am very grateful to have him in my class, keeps me on my toes.)

In class we did the following:

• Warm Up

• Qi Gong

  • Taoist and Buddhist breathing practice.
  • Yong Chen breathing
  • Lao Gung breathing
  • Four/Five Gates breathing to enhance our Fa Jin and the central energy line.

• An energy pattern Fa Jin

• Rollback and Press

We have discussed the Four/Five Gates breathing previously. So I’ll just say I find it more enjoyable and rewarding the more I practice it.

We spent most of the class working on Fa Jin from the An energy pattern. We started working it solo in a stationary fashion. Then we moved to using the heavy bags. This week the group was slightly better at the proper focus for their strikes, more of the bags were vibrating. (Good job everyone.) We also started work on interception in the An pattern. A new issue cropped up once we began working with a partner. Many of the individuals participating collapsed their Peng on the transition from interception to counterattack. It is easy to focus too much on the counterattack in these two person drills. It is paramount that you keep the Peng intact it helps keep the range correct and protects you from the opponent’s response as you close the distance.
Once people settled into the new intercept drill things evened out a little, mistakes got less frequent and the only real issue was a tendency for people to lose their root while moving. I was happy to see some of the senior students begin analysis of the drill and find some of the short comings, chiefly a tendency to line up on the opponent’s root prior to counterattack.

The big question to come out of this session was:

“Is it OK to intercept an incoming strike with the palm of the hand and/or the inner forearm?”

I believe Brian Muccio asked this question.

The answer is no; even if the person intercepting uses a Yin coil to catch the incoming attack the chance for damage to the forearm is great. Anytime you intercept you are going to take a small amount of damage. The other person is hitting you after all. If the strike comes in on the soft tissue (Yin) of the body then the damage will be much greater. Also when the arm is held with the palm of the hand out it is structurally weaker than when the palm is turned in, so if you deal with a force coming in the chance of the limb collapsing is much greater. (We all know this from Push Hands.)

We finished the class session working on Rollback and Press. This drill is proceeding in fits and starts. Most people now have the basic idea or they can at least tell me that the important point of the drill is attacking along the correct angle. What I am seeing is more like rams butting heads than skillful push hands. This is particularly distressing in some of the more advanced people. I think we all need to remember some things.

  1. Neutralize the intention not the physical manifestation.
  2. Flow with the opponent; don’t fight against him or her.
  3. Keep your root; keep your center down.

A lot of people are having difficulty neutralizing their partner’s attacks. This is because they are waiting too long. They are trying to neutralize the manifested power. If you wait until your opponent’s power is manifest, i.e. they have finished their stance, then you are too late. This isn’t Centering or Fixed Step Push Hands. People are using the truly great strength available in their legs to power the attacks now. Additionally they are stepping in to close the range. If you wait until the physical is manifest then you are too late. The trick is to neutralize them when they commit to the attack but before they fully manifest their power.

Questions on Rollback and Press

Brian M. asked what I thought was the most important aspect of this drill.

I think the continuous flow and evolution of technique is the most important thing that Rollback and Press offers. You need to have all the fundamentals down for it to develop correctly, but once you can flow with the event and not fight against it you can start adding in other attacks techniques. That is what Rollback and Press leads up to; free form sparring.

See you next time.


PS. I am covering the Taiji form class this Saturday for Bill if anyone is interested in going.

Jeff Pratt began his study of Taijiquan at YMAA Boston in 1987 and has reached the rank of Instructor (3rd degree) in the YMAA system. He specializes in Pushing Hands, which is advanced two-person practice in Taijiquan. Jeff is also a disciple of Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming. He has had extensive training in the spectrum of disciplines comprising YMAA's Taijiquan program.

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