Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 353
Stand in font of a mirror and glance at what you see. Do you think you see yourself? No, you see a reflection of you – not you. When I was younger, I would go to The Fun House, located at the beach in San Francisco. There was an area called the Hall of Mirrors, where each mirror was curved in a different way so that the image would be different – one would make you tall and skinney, one short and fat. One would make the top of the body curve right while the bottom would curve left. Illusions like that. The point is that your reflection in a mirror is not really you.
Now touch someone. Anywhere. Doesn’t matter. What do you feel? Do you feel that person? No, you feel you. There is a point of contact where your energy mixes with the energy of the other, and you feel your energy interpret the experience. With the experience of partner work in Tai Chi, we learn to more correctly interpret the other person energy – it’s force, direction, intention. We learn all that by feeling our own body, mostly our hand, wrist and forearm.
So, try to participate in as much partner work as you can. The partner will teach you even if he or she is a beginner.
Most Tai Chi players don’t push in an effective way. Say they have the right foot forward and are pushing straight ahead with either one arm or the other, or both arms together. What often (usually) happens, is as they push, the rear foot rolls up as if they are walking. Most of the force ends up coming from the front foot. This is not correct in most instances.
Think of yourself as the cheese in a sandwich and you want to escape before you are eaten. You stretch out an arm and place it on a piece of bread on one side of yourself. If you just use one hand, what will probably happen is that the bread on that side will move in the direction you are pushing, and so will the bread on the other side, so you can’t escape.
The correct way to get out is to place a hand on each piece and push both out in opposite directions. It causes the space inside to expand and you can then escape. You are probably asking yourself, “Is this guy crazy.What does a cheese sandwich have to do with Tai Chi?”
Nothing. But here is the point. When pushing straight ahead in Tai Chi, you have one foot back, and one foot forward. The rear leg is bent. The front leg is straight, but not locked. When you push a heavy object, you place your arms on what you want to move, then push forward using the rear leg, by pushing it down and back using the unbending of it. The heavier the weight, the more you push down and back, just like the cheese breaking out of the sandwich. We are actually using the Kua (the hip joint), but that is another conversation.
When we push in Tai Chi, we generally use that move to keep the opponent off balance, not hurt him as we would do with a strike. Keeping that in mind, often the Tai Chi push is done by getting down below the partner’s center of gravity and then lifting. This is done by using the strong rear leg push to upset the opponents balance then transferring the push force (down into the front foot) which results in his loss of root and balance.
So next time you have a cheese sandwich, remember what a good Tai Chi lesson it is.