Greetings. Perfect Spring weather here in Port Townsend. Clear, sunny days, and the nights are starting to warm a bit. Great time to go outside and play your Tai Chi. We continue looking at the Thirteen Methods, and a little tid-bit on energy and the body.
Cai – Pluck
Cai (sometimes spelled Tsai) is one of the supporting energies of basic skills of Tai Chi Chuan. The four we have already examined – Peng, Lu, Ghee, and An, are the building blocks of our practice. They are like the foundation, walls, roof of our Tai Chi house. Essential. Cai, with its other supporting cast – Lieh, Jou, Kao, are like windows, porch, furniture. They make the house more liveable but aren’t necessary.
Cai, sometimes known as Pluck or Pull Down is best exemplified by Needle at Sea Bottom. It is like reaching up into a tree and pulling the fruit off. It can be done with one arm, or two arms working in unison while the body steps back. When the partner advances, we retreat using Roll Back, Push Down, or Pull Down. When the partner retreats, we advance using Push or Press, Elbow, or Shoulder.
The Pull down is accomplished by the upper body bending at the waist, and for application, it would be done with a sharp, snapping motion, which could easily cause a whiplash, so be careful when practicing this move. The stance used should be Ding Bu on Toe (empty step), all the weight on the rear foot. A common problem occurs, when applying Cai, that the weight shifts onto the forward foot when bending. That makes it easy for the opponent to resist and pull us out of our root and over the forward foot.
Another common problem is using the arms by themselves to pull. It should be done with the torso bending – keeping the back straight. The back should not bend. It dissipates the effect of using the torso to pull.
Activity and Rest
It is a fact that every action of our body requires energy. Our basal metabolic rate is the base amount of energy our bodies require to exist. When we do work, a chemical reaction occurs using stored energy and leaving behind waste products. It is like burning a log in a fire. We end up with heat and ash. Or burning gas in an automobile leaves carbon monoxide and many other chemicals. There is nothing yet discovered that will use energy and not leave some waste.
Our bodies are the same. We use energy and have some waste to deal with. If the chemical residue is not eliminated, the results range from a dull ache to a complete shut down of the system. Rest allows the body to move the toxins out. Tai Chi is designed to allow periods of rest following periods of work, and usually, when playing Tai Chi, half the body rests while the other half works.
There are also two very important periods of rest that I call the top and bottom of a roller coaster ride. It is the moment when up changes to down or down changes to up. When Yin changes to Yang and Yang changes to Yin. It is the moment between inhale and exhale. It is the crack in the wall to the infinite. It is the moment of enlightenment. Seek this moment out and gently stretch it with awareness. Your body and mind will find renewal.