Inhale and Exhale of Each Posture

Last Sunday was arguably the most fun I've had since I joined the American Chen Taiji Society! The second of four workshop intensives that my teacher is offering to cover martial application of the postures.

There were lots of the questions about transitioning from one posture to another as we reviewed the opening Yilu postures in detail. Tony talked about how students can get too focused on correct placement and movement from point A from point B, but neglect the infusion of tension/relaxation, expansion/contraction. In his demonstration, I could see the "breath" of each posture - how this infused kind of motion is like watching the entire body inhale and exhale as it moves out of one posture and into another.

As I learn more about the Yilu applications, the more shocked and in awe I feel. You mean even *that* tiny move has an application?! I don't even put in that level of thought into my outfit. I imagine the maddening level of practice and development it took to get this level of practicality into a packageable form.

There was a lot of collective positive energy (and laughs) as we practiced in pairs - pushing, deflecting, thumb-locking and head-butting. Push hands and applications is essentially how we respond to conflict and oncoming threats.

For any folks who are conflict-averse (like myself), taiji applications are chipping away at my squeamishness, and I'm learning to approach conflicts with strength and certainty. Otherwise, my default behavior is to laugh my way through - which I did, right before Tony knocked me down with the oblique posture and head butt. ;)

I got repeated feedback that my pushes weren't "real" pushes, just empty ones. Yes, my partners were asking me for a real push! I wasn't giving them enough to work with. Focused intentions from both sides is what allows for successful applications. We also practiced precise timing - the window of opportunity in our partner's move for us to deflect? Waiting to feel the connection of a push, and not rushing my reaction.

From the workshop, I got to see how these applications are defensive and offensive - how the deflections aren't only to block, but open and create that window of opportunity for an offensive move: a split second to remove their guarding arm out of the way to "go in" for a strike. Tony noted that these moments of vulnerability also happen when the opponent is in the midst of their own oncoming offensive move - like when taking a step or storing.

It was this nuanced level of instruction that made it a great morning - especially for those of us waiting for the chance to get into the nitty-gritty of Sifu Tony's "vault" of taiji knowledge. The group was curious and thoughtful - and it was just plain fun.