Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 271
Gather and Release
Tai Chi, like most everything, is composed of mental and physical. You can increase the physical with exercises, and also the mental. One can do physical acts without thinking about what you are doing – reflexive actions – or you can add the intention of the mind to increase results. Gather and release is one of the concepts I use to harmonize the intention with the movements.
Gather means to outreach and attach to the incoming energy, then lead it into the body, primarily the Kua (hip joint) where it compresses the internal springs. One then arranges the body so that the release will be focused where you want it to end up.
All the moves I can think of at the moment, use either a two part or three part gather and release. Any movement that requires a replacing of a foot – e.g. forward step, retreat step, side step, step up, step back, is a three part action, while any moves where the feet don’t move is a two part (mostly Grasp the Bird’s Tail). Let me give a couple of examples.
1. Moving from Commencement to Ward Off Left
The weight shifts to the left leg while the right foot is turned out by pivoting on the right heel. The weight is then shifted to the right leg, and as you do that the left foot rolls up onto the left toes. This is the process of drawing the chi into the right Kua. You should feel as if you could spring or jump forward off the right leg. Phase one – gather.
Next, you step with the left foot forward, touching down the heel. There is much discussion about where and what angle you place the left heel, but for this discussion, it doesn’t matter. The important idea is that this is the “aim” phase which means that the angle the left toe is headed is the angle the body will move to. Phase two.
Finally, the body shifts onto the left leg until the nose points to the left knee, and the knee just covers the toe. This is a result of opening or releasing the stored energy of the right hip. Phase three – release.
2. From Ward Off Right to Roll Back (Lu) into Press (Ghee)
This is a two phase move. The feet remain rooted. When we moved into Ward Off Right, we gathered into the right hip which could be considered phase one of Roll Back. The weight then moves from right foot bow stance into left foot sit stance. The torso turns to the left until the nose points to the left knee, which results in gathering (compressing) into the left kua (Roll Back). Phase two of roll back, phase one of press.
The energy is then released from the left hip propelling the body forward, and as you shift, the torso turns back until the nose points to the right knee. This is phase two of press (ghee).
So, this week move through your forms and see if you can experience either two or three phases – when and where they each occur. It is a fun meditation.