First, I want to thank you for your kind words of support. It really means a lot to me.
Ji or Press is one of the four basic energies that make up Grasp the Bird’s Tail. I feel it is the most mysterious of the four, and, when used properly, the most explosive. It is two Yang energies combined. Ward Off is one Yang and some Yin. Ji has no Yin. Let me relate a couple of stories to illustrate Ji energy.
In the year 2000, I was in Rome. The city was so busy with the Millennium celebrations. My wife and I decided to visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. The crowds were tremendous. We entered and were swept along with the the amazing amount of people. The museum is composed of many very large rooms, connected by doors from one to another, ending in the Sistine Chapel.
The first room was vast, and people were crammed together. We couldn’t even see the walls that contained the art we wanted to view. There was a movement, almost too slow to perceive, towards the door leading to the next room. Here was when Ji energy was demonstrated. Ji is sometimes explained by “squeeze”. The entire room full of people was trying to squeeze through this narrow door. This whole process was as close to hell as I can imagine. People were freaking out. There was pressure from behind and nowhere to go. I wanted out of there but there was nowhere to go. One couldn’t go in the opposite direction. This was as close as I have even come to wanting to freak out from claustrophobia. We didn’t enjoy one minute of this museum tour.
Another example. When I was a youngster, I used to take a magnifying glass out into the sun (always sunny in San Francisco where I grew up, ha-ha), and concentrate the suns energy onto a piece of paper, into a very small dot of energy, and burn the paper up. We probably did other more mischievous things with this concentrated energy, but I don’t remember, or choose not to.
The point is that Ji expresses the movement from retreat (yin) to advance (yang), as most movements do, but in a very concentrated way. In Tai Chi, there are two ways to use expansive or Yang energy with the arms – single armed or double armed. I say armed because in Tai Chi we use all parts of the arms as tools, not just the hands or fists. The back of the forearm (Ward Off ), the top and bottom edges (Roll Back, Split) and of course, the elbow and shoulder.
Using two hands spreads the energy out over a larger surface. The thing you are attached to can not easily get away, as you can stick with either or both hands. If the partner advances with one side of his body, you can retreat with one hand while the other can advance and attack (An or Push). With two hands you can push in different directions with either hand following the partners retreat or advance.
Ji or Press usually follows partner’s Roll Back of your Ward Off or Push. He has taken your energy and neutralized it to the side, into nothingness, so you come at his center from a different direction. The power of Ji comes from the two arms working together, but concentrated into a very small area. The back of one arm is attached to the partner, then the other hand either hits or pushes on your own arm so your emitting force is doubled. This energy expression comes from the front foot and leg. That is very important to remember. When using Ji off the front foot, be sure not to lean forward at all. You are very susceptible to being pulled forward over your front root.
Something important to consider about the shape of the two arms in Ji. When rolling back during Grasp the Bird’s Tail, the right forearm attaches to the area of the partners’ upper body – his arm, shoulder, even torso. It is a round shape that can mold to the various angles presented as the partner tries to move in or out. Since it is round the partner cannot really escape the attachment and then, when the time is right, the left palm comes up to press at just the right angle to uproot, or strike.
Try this. Have a partner place one hand on the center of your chest and have them slowly push. The key to neutralizing this push is to turn the body in the direction of partner’s little finger. The hand will not be able to adjust and push to the change in that direction. You must try this so you can experience what I am saying. If the partner pushes with the right hand try turning the torso to the right. Partner should do this push slow and steady. What happened? If you do this correctly, you will experience that when turning so that your right shoulder advances, he will be able to follow your energy and keep pushing. But when you turn so the left shoulder advances, he won’t be able to push. Just do it.
Now allow the partner to place the forearm across your chest and do the same thing. You will find that there is no escape as the roundness of the horizontal arm will adapt and change according to what is needed. This is the beauty of Ji or press.
The point is that by focusing down energy into a small area, the result is magnified. Ji uses two surfaces (usually the back of one forearm and the palm of the other arm) to emit energy. This is usually done in a quick fashion, not slow and steady like a push. When I view most people demonstrating Ji, I see the energy looks like push; the palm of the left arm on the right wrist, starting from the rear foot. This is not correct. Ji is not push. It is much more like clapping the hands together – a burst of energy off the front leg. This is important.
Another important aspect of Ji is the direction of the release and the purpose of the movement. Generally speaking, one either wants to strike the opponent or move him out of the way. Both can be done with Ji, but the move is done, depending on application, in slightly different ways. Let’s examine why and how.
Let’s say you are in Ward Off Right. Your right leg forward. Partner pushes or strikes forward with his left side advancing. You Roll Back, placing your right forearm on his left elbow and your left hand on his wrist. This could be an elbow lock and a throw to the left. But in this case the partner decides to retreat and get out before the lock is set. Here is where you have to make a decision about direction of Press.
Try this with a partner, or use your imagination. The partner is standing directly in front of you with his left foot forward. You have your right foot forward. He either pushes or strikes with his left hand. You neutralize by using your right forearm against his elbow and your left hand to join with his left wrist. Now, your body has to make up it’s mind how to follow up. If you use Ji in an expanding, peng like move, you will only be sending energy into his right leg and he will become stronger. Try this with a partner. So the best use of Ji in this context is to strike his chest with explosive (fa) jing.
If he has his right foot forward and you have your right foot forward, the use of Ji in a more expanding energy, will result in partner being pushed into the hole behind his right leg. Try it out.
Generally speaking, if he is well rooted, you use striking energy. If he is retreating, you use follow and push energy. If he is lunging forward, you use pulling back energy.
Of course, when doing the form, all moves are done in a slow and steady pace, so it takes a lot of practice to learn how to take this quick burst of Yang energy and put it in the form so it appears to be slow and steady. But it is not push. Remember that.
Continuing this discussion of the Thirteen Methods next week. Also:
First Saturday Workshop – May 4, 1 to 4 PM – Studio Push Hands – $30
This workshop will focus on what I call “Studio Push Hands”. We will work on simple partner energy exchange exercises that illustrate Peng, Lu, Ji, and An. Depending upon time, we will start with single hand (each person uses one hand), and move into four hands (each person uses two hands). If you haven’t had push hands experience, this will change your solo form, bringing inner reality. If all goes according to plans, we will continue this study for several months. See you there. One needs some Tai Chi experience. You don’t need to have finished the form. Any style is fine.