Learning becoming a part of you

I was doing some push hands today, trying to work on integrating the spiral movement of silk reeling force into the movement pattern of push hands. It became obvious to me that you ability to do this is directly proportional to the amount of silk reeling exercise you’ve done in the past, not how well you understand it. It’s not just an idea that you can intellectually grasp, then apply instantly. With an opponent to deal with you have no time to think how you’re going to use spiral force to deal with their incoming pushes and attacks, changes in weight distribution and changes in force. There’s simply no time – it has to be a feel thing.

The equation is simple. The more silk reeling exercise you’ve practiced in the past the better you’ll be at putting that spiral feel into the myriad of changing circumstance you encounter in push hands. Your only option, if you want to get good at it, is to practice it every day until it the learning becomes a part of you.

Wrist usage in Tai Chi Chuan

Following on from my last post about using the waist, I’ve been thinking about wrist usage in Tai Chi Chuan. According to the Classics, all movements in Tai Chi Chuan are controlled by the waist. “The waist is the commander of the whole body. If you can sung the waist, then the two legs will have power and the lower part will be firm and stable”, wrote Yang Cheng-Fu in number 3 of his 10 Important Points.* However, what about the wrist?

Try as you might I don’t think anybody can direct their wrist and hand movements solely by turning their waist. At least, I can’t. The arm can be directed by the body, sure, but the wrist needs a certain amount of autonomy. The key thing is that the movements of the wrist need to be natural and not over exaggerated.

Moving the wrist in Tai Chi Chuan movements relates directly to the Chan Si Chin, the “Silk Reeling” exercises found in certain style of Tai Chi Chuan. Silk Reeling helps you understand spiral movement, and the way that the wrist moves directs the arm in terms of the physical side of spiral movement.

Having this awareness of ‘autonomous, yet influenced by the body’ wrist movement throughout the form might help you develop your Tai Chi Chuan practice, so give it a try during your next practice session.

* Of course, there’s more to it than this – your mind actually controls what the body does, so the waist may be the commander, but it is itself under the command of the mind. As it says in the Mental Elucidation of the 13 Postures by Wu Yu-hsiang “The Xin (relates to ‘mind and ‘sprit’) is the commander, the chi the flag, and the waist the banner.”