INTERNAL POWER from FEET to HANDS
Training Video (2 hours)
INTERNAL POWER from FEET to HANDS
Training Video (2 hours)
Posted at 02:50 PM | Permalink
Basically the Zhang Zhuang PINNED (ZZP) that I've described as the most powerful Tai Chi nei gong exercise of all is primarily a teaching tool. Almost training wheels, in a way. It forces you to identify, isolate, and intensify the work of the Beam (inner hip through upper leg to top of knee; the asymmetrical load-bearing side of any ZMQ pose, circled in red for Single Whip above) and drain the rest of the pose of all physical tension. That hugely ratchets up your internal vibration.
But it gets better. Once you've caught the knack, the inner feeling, of the Beam, then you apply that everywhere, to all the other drills, poses, transitions, standing - anything and everything. All the drills of the SLO Suite (as shown in the new video) ultimately depend on your getting the knack of identifying and isolating the Beam so that the given drill can maximally intensity the energetic output.
For example, many readers here know about the Countersink Principle that I introduced in the Surge book. But even most of those who've actually tried it are probably responding like: 'Yawn. That's nice. And?'
This kind of response just tells me you haven't caught the knack of this Beam thing yet. When you understand that the Countersink is dropping straight into the Beam, sharpening its angle and increasing its work in a softly gradient way, you'll start doing it with the right mind. And then, Countersink with Beam awareness will totally blow you away energetically.
Some recent emails make me think I need to explain even further or deeper the concept of Single Leg Operations (SLO). I'm pointing to something here that's a lot deeper (and more fun) than just the commonplace "you've only got one leg" thing. SLO isn't meant superficially as just 'kicking' or as a flamingo type of one-leg physical pose.
The SLO principle operates all the time in Tai Chi form, whether moving or standing, whether visibly supporting yourself with (apparent) two legs or one.
It's quite deep, incredibly fun, but just a little difficult to catch the knack at first. The key idea is so simple to state and not really hard in the long run but just takes some brain rewiring to appreciate at first.
Forget how many legs you may have for a moment. Here's the key: you have exactly one SUPPORT BEAM at any one time, whether standing or stepping. If you can catch the feeling of the support beam idea you can invoke it throughout your practice and then it won't matter which of the drills on the movie you do, or indeed whether you do them at all because once you've understand this SUPPORT BEAM thing you can just do your normal Tai Chi with that invoked and you're good.
But what is the SUPPORT BEAM thing? Let's start with the obvious point that, much as I rail and rant against physical tension, obviously you need some physical support somewhere in any Tai Chi pose or move. Fine. Let's begin with that recognition. How can we work with that toward internal energy effect - the only thing we care about.
What you want to do is drain all tension out of your entire body and consciously concentrate all of it where it needs to be anyway: the support beam.
(1) The support beam is defined as the (physical) zone of muscle and bone that runs from the top edge of the knee joint all the way to the top edge of the pelvis/hip bone, and everything in between, including the femoral head, the hip socket, and inguinal crease. Simple enough?
(2) Equally crucial: the support beam is created dynamically throughout the form (or series of moves and poses) on only one side at a time. It is fundamentally asymmetrical. It has to be or else the concentration of all tension won't be to the smallest possible area.
(3) All tension in the entire body is 100% concentrated at the beam on one side, in feeling if not in fact. As though you are squashing a tough bug with one foot.
So we have defined a special dynamic zone that arises and changes over many times throughout any series of moves, within the reps of any drill, etc. of Tai Chi, including all the SLO's that I've shown in the video. Now here's the super important point: if you think of the support beam as purely physical you'll miss the point. We identify a physical zone here strictly for its energetic effect.
But it begins as physical. Whether in the front (70/30) or rear (100/0) stances, or even the SLO kicks on the video, you can always identify the Beam as centered on the weight-bearing thigh. This point is what all of Ben's teaching is meant to show you. What you need to do is mentally isolate this Beam in every single pose and move and drain all tension from your entire body into the Beam.
That will feel weird at first, almost as though you are deliberately adding tension to the support beam area. And that may feel un-Tai Chi-ish at first. But it's like a candle seeming to brighten when you turn out the lights in the room. You aren't actually adding tension to it, it's just that by becoming aware of the beam, by trying to isolate it in your mind, you are draining tension from everywhere else. Most obviously from the other side's "beam" area (hips, upper leg, etc.) but also from your entire body - while maintaining whatever arbitrary shape the pose or drill may call for. A weird feeling but once you learn to emphasize/isolate the physical work of the beam, in contrast to the mental shaping of all the rest of your body - holy shit the energy that bursts through the body from that is truly out of this world.
But I know how hard this is gonna be for you to catch at first because you are heavily conditioned to think and act purely physically. This is doubly hard because in its basic formulation and first experience it IS a physical phenomenon. It just doesn't END with the physical, it only BEGINS there. Trouble is most people are so interested in the whole 'burning thigh' thing as a physical challenge or at most a challenge to their mental toughness that they toss overboard the whole point of it all, which is the incredible energy that is liberated through the entire body if you can, in every single pose and/or movement, IDENTIFY, ISOLATE, INTENSIFY the work of the Beam.
All the drills on the video are pointing to this one concept. The one that will probably get you to understand this "key to everything" beam idea is the Zhang Zhuang Pinned, fully demonstrated and explained on the video... but whether even all that video stuff and this post is enough to break through, I can't say. But if you can understand it, and work it, the energy liberated through this work is just totally lunatic. That has been Ben's point all along, more's the pity we are so physically focused most of us haven't been able to see it.
All new ~2 hour video, live seminar footage and other teachings of the Single Leg Operations which are the secret heart of the Zheng Manqing Tai Chi Nei Gong power method. Cheap at $9.95, click pic below to get it from Vimeo. There will be no Amazon or other DVD of this. I'm the first to admit this isn't exactly James Cameron production values, but for 9.95, about a half tic more than you'd pay to see some formulaic bilge like Jurassic World, what the hell. Two hours of deep and detailed explanations of the lost internal engine of lower body energy generation.
Contents are listed below the pic.
2. Ben Lo Mechanics
3. Ben Lo Mechanics: Details
4. SLO #1: Shiko
5. SLO #2: Crack Step
6. SLO #3: Cat Step
7. Countersink Protocol
8. SLO #4: Golden Chicken (Self-Support)
9. Zhang Zhuang: Basic
10. SLO #5: Zhang Zhuang: Pinned
11. SLO #6: Separate Leg
12. SLO #7: Heel Kick
13. SLO #8: Lotus Kick
14. Constant Bear
15. 100/0 Back-Weighted Stances
This post will only be meaningful (if at all) to those who were at the class this weekend. I'm sure my conveyance of the Sagawa reverse-engineered shiko was anything but convincing, however for those very few who want to hang in with it, I want to remind you of the following snip from JUICE Radical Taiji Energetics.
Believe it - or don't - but at least now as of that class (or having looked at the YouTube clip) you do know the proper method of it, up to you now whether you can take it anywhere or have any fun with it. The quote below is specifically referring to Sagawa's shiko:
As with everything in this book, the SHELL discussion is nothing original. The idea of a close energy double of the physical body has been common in esoteric circles and mystery schools for thousands of years, and of course is now a New Age staple. It’s also well-known to some martial artists. For example, in his book Discovering Aiki: My 20 Years with Yukiyoshi Sagawa (Aiki Shutoku-e no Michi), Professor Tatsuo Kimura talks about grueling, repetitive Aiki Jiu-Jitsu exercises he learned from his famous teacher, grandmaster Yukiyoshi Sagawa:
I wondered what it was I was training. Then, suddenly, I realized that I wasn’t training my muscles, but rather something inside my body. I gradually understood that something very near the core of the physical body that is not the body was strengthened.
If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding!
How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?
- Pink Floyd The Wall Pt. 2
* * *
(the energy of the lower body is conditioned as a single unit)
In addition to all the dozens of ZMQ-based energy practices that I tried to teach in the seminar, there's yet another that is extremely powerful and in some ways the simplest and most natural. A lot of the drills I covered are variations and extensions of the basic ZMQ poses and these practices to extend the time of the practice and also in some ways require more attention or some variation to the normal flow.
So it's natural that people asked how best to just go through the regular sequence at the normal speed, without doing any of those add-on's that I showed, and/or how best to perform basic standing in ZMQ pose work as zhan zhuang, without the add-on's.
Yes there is an answer to the above, though I did not explicitly cover it in the class. The way to do it is what I call "three zone binding". It's incredibly simple: as you go through the ZMQ form in the normal way, at the normal speed, or as you stand in any ZMQ pose, you just keep your mind softly but very definitely concentrated in just three places, all the time as you're moving, especially as you are (briefly) "in" each named pose as you flow: the soles of both feet and the dantian point (and its closely surrounding area called qihai). That's it. 3ZB is illustrated above.
But I can bet that even if a few of you try this right away, you probably won't appreciate its power right away. It's really best if you do all the other stuff that I did cover in the class for a while, and then when you try this it'll really blow you away. If you haven't done a lot of all that, or worse yet if you don't know the Ben Lo ZMQ form and shaping basics, you might as well forget about this and come back to it in a few years. If you don't know the whole ZMQ form per se, but you've been following the other methods, then you can use any of the 7 demo poses in the PENG book for this work.
This is, in mathematical terms, an undirected graph of three nodes and two edges (don't worry about the missing edge between the soles). Meaning that this work conflates Stage 2 (dantian to soles) and Stage 3 (soles back to dantian) of the ARC segments described in JUICE as Seven Stages of ARC Training. There's no need to incorporate any flow imagery while doing the 3ZB. Just keep the three linked up continuously.
Here's an interesting recent email exchange with a smart reader, reacting to my recent critique of all contemporary Qi Gong programs being totally arm-centric. First the reader's mail, immediately below, then some back and forth with me:
I think your arm waving post didn't factor something in. When you wave the arms you're not just waving the arms. The idea is to relax the tissue between the bone and outer surface of the arm, and twist the tissue around the bone by not collapsing the elbow (and then when
you get really good you rotate the bone and around the issue). After some diligent practice, you can begin feeling a connection into the back, and at advanced levels into the internal organs. It's also not the just the twist. You're also trying to feel a connection between
the spine going out to the fingers along the outside surface of the arm and then later from the fingers back to the spine along the inside surface.
You don't do the feet and legs when you begin because it's easier to learn the correct twisting motion if you just do the arms. If you start doing the legs before you can get a reasonably good twist with the arms you risk injuring the lower back.
So I can't really find fault in a beginning video that teaches arm waving and ignores the leg twisting. It just seems to be a way of avoiding the risk of injury.
BTW, thanks for putting up all those videos. There are a few that I try to do regularly. They're a great help.
Hi X, thanks for your note. You are theoretically right but in practice little of what you wrote matters because 99% of those practitioners are (a) physically focused so even if they do what you said they'll someday maybe feel the physical part but not the energy. Notice how physical your remarks are? That's very little to do with what I'm talking about. (b) They have a huge amount of tension, like yoga people and dancers who have amazon kinetic inner perception but who are totally filled with unconscious tension that they never even realize, which blocks the actual internal energy completely. The only way to experience it is to release the upper body almost totally - don't worry about it except keeping a minimal shape and the power then surges entirely from the feet and fills the whole body. What you wrote about is, for most people who attempt it, 100% physical, filled with tension that they'll never even notice. There are lots of 'spiral' so called 'internal' programs these days but most mean very little because despite the words thrown around it's all being done with a huge amount of tension that is never even noticed.
Thanks for your response.
I probably practice more than the average person who follows a DVD so
I have a skewed perspective, and yes I still have a lot of unconscious
tension, but it does seem to be easing up. I'm starting to feel the
electric field just outside the surface of the body and I've been told
that once you really feel that, you can start releasing a lot more
Great that's good progress but the rabbit hole goes WAY deeper. Basically all that twisting and shaping stuff matters very little. The particular shape or twist of a sponge matters hardly at all. Once you plunge it in the water the whole thing is permeated, thoroughly soaked. But the water rises from the ground up. You can't fill a swimming pool from the top down.
I want to thank commenter Mokk for bringing up and out something that's very widely misunderstood about Tai Chi in general and probably my stuff in particular. Mokk in his latest comment (please read) has supplied a very nice theoretical analysis. Since it uses some of the yin/yang terminology that might seem (though the process isn't at all) overly conceptual or philosophical to some careless readers, I will make one more stab at explaining this through the vernacular.
The real Tai Chi "push" does not use any physical force beyond the 4-oz "nudge" that I talked about in JUICE. If you want to call that a physical push I guess you can, but the key distinguishing point of real Tai Chi is that the physical force of the nudge gesture is in no way adequate to directly account for the physical reaction of the target person. That's the hallmark of real Tai Chi. The guy's own tension blasts and moves his own body.
That said, there are many, many factors that complicate even merely our perception, not to mention execution, of the above. The first meta-factor is of course: Why the fuck even bother with this push shit? Just shoot the fucker. Or at least give him the Glasgow Kiss... Yes yes, I totally understand. But let's put aside the existential and practical stuff, both the high and the low, just for today so I can explain what the actual experience of Tai Chi really is meant to be. We'll debate the ultimate epistemology of it all another day.
One factor that complicates everything is that very few teachers are doing things this way, and those that do generally don't talk about it in this way. That gives rise to 3 errors of concept:
1. Strength: Some people assume that it's just a big guy muscling or massing a weaker one out. Yes, this can happen. It is NOT what I'm talking about.
2. Cleverness: Some people assume that, as often parroted about Judo and Aikido and such arts, that one guy has learned to subtly exploit 'errors' (in almost the baseball sense) of balance, momentum, inertia, and inattention in their partner to throw or trip him, etc. Yes, this can happen. It is NOT what I'm talking about.
3. Technique: Some people look at Tai Chi pushing as a bag of special techniques that you apply on the guy in a predetermined way: lie, kao, zhou, cai, etc. Yes, this can happen. It is NOT what I'm talking about.
So the existence of all those competing explanations really complicates things.
Another complicating factor is that I myself am an imperfect vehicle for demonstrating this. Though I do have the Tai Chi skill and power to show this on most people most of the time, still I'm human (or feline or whatever the fuck, Martian...) , and I'm not a master on the level of Yang Luchan or Prof. Zheng, so sometimes I don't show it perfectly, or even very well at all. Sometimes nervousness, pride, fear, carelessness, or anything else just comes up for me as for anybody, resulting in me consciously or unconsciously trying to 'soup it up' a little, as though my mind/body is too nervous to rely 100% on the energy, as I should, then some pollution of added physical force gets in to the demo. Ironically, that messes it up, resulting either in total failure of my attempt or else not such a clear and clean 'look' to it. Well, that's called just being human (feline?) We are all striving, there is no perfect master since Yang Luchan shuffled off this mortal coil.
But most of the time against most people, even fairly experienced types, I can show it reasonably well.
The biggest barrier to understanding is the physical bias we all have. This is most obvious in the Strength error, but the Cleverness and Technique errors are also examples of the physical bias. Even famous and accomplished Tai Chi teachers and authors just reflexively reach for either the Pincipia Mathematica or Gray's Anatomy to try to conceptualize this stuff and, sorry - that ain't it.
I again resort to the gun analogy: bullet and trigger thing. Imagine a really smart guy but one who just had absolute no concept of a chemical explosive reaction, chemical energy. He would see that every single time you achieve the effect of firing a bullet, there was always a physical finger pull on the trigger. And he would observe that there is no case of your gun firing a bullet without that finger pull. So naturally he'd insist to his dying day that the finger pull actually hurled the bullet out of the barrel. And he'd come up with fantastic engineering diagrams of the internal lever that he postulated must exist between the trigger and contacting the resting shell in the chamber.
And you'd be like "no no no..." And he's say: "OK if you say the physical trigger pull isn't really it, that in a way the physical trigger pull is in a certain sense totally irrelevant, then fine, let's see you fire the gun without pulling the trigger" And you'd be: "I can't but but but ...that's not ..." What could you say, without giving him a course of college level inorganic chemistry? And he'd be like: "Wow your finger must be really well-conditioned! Or else you have mastered some subtle process of applying pressure to the lever... " And you'd be like "FUCK IT that's not it at all!! It doesn't MATTER how I press the %$*&ing trigger physically!! ARRRRGH!!!"
But he still wouldn't get it.
I first acquired this from Ben Lo. I was just like you guys, with all the mis-assumptions above. But one day there was a visitor to class, a big guy, experienced in Tai Chi though not our core ZMQ but he knew the form enough to join the class and the push afterwards. In the push session, Ben was demo'ing on the guy, easily slamming him back into the wall with his patented feather touch. And seeing him, which I'd seen how many umpteen times before, but this time I really LOOKED with some intelligence and I realized OH WAIT HE'S NOT USING ANY FORCE. It kind of hit me. He's just TOUCHING the guy, is all. DOH! Like Ben hadn't plainly told me that about a million times already... From that moment, while I still can't do it perfectly, I acquired this (still and always imperfect) skill.
So, without using yin/yang concepts and meridians (which actually are operating but hard to realistically conceptualize) I explain the way the process feels as the TILT model:
TOUCH (various places on him, lightly, Tailor's Touch, until you...)
IDENTIFY (his tension)
LOCK (his tension with your energy)
TRIGGER (his tension with your energy)
Note that this does require physical CONTACT (it's not ling kong jing) but NOT physical force. I understand it's a hard distinction to grok.
It's interesting that if you casually inspect virtually any popular Qi Gong program, what you'll see is basically wall-to-wall arm waving. Whether it's stretching them, rotating them, bending or squeezing or whatever - it's all about arms! 90% or more of the typical program will be arm work, with may be a little bit of a half squat stance or a step back or forth thrown in to give it a dash of stylish Kung Fu-ishness. There's an obvious marketing/practical reason for that arm emphasis of course - working with the legs is just plain harder mentally and physically than waving your arms around.
Yes, we all want arm power. At the end of the day, your arms need to be fully charged from your practice. That's how you know the power has soaked through the whole body, as the hands are the last terminal.
But that said, the irony is that the way you get both whole body and arm charging is not by working with the arms primarily but by working the lower body, legs and hips. When you explicitly feel and control the internal power there, (and mainly just relax and empty the upper body) it's trivial to have the circulation throughout. The ultimate energy source and controller is always the niwan center. But the method of power development is something like 80% through the legs. Develop and strengthen it there and you'll have it everywhere. (No, I don't mean bracing yourself like a security bar, no. It's an energy thing.)
Sagawa said it straight. Guo Yunshen also made the point (with slightly different numerics) and he was right. But you'd never know it from inspecting the average Qi Gong book, disc, clip, or seminar these days.
Tai Chi students can't help but secretly wonder: WHY should just holding one of the ZMQ Tai Chi poses statically really do anything for you? Beyond just leg toughening and maybe the mental component of that. Why why why?
There's no shortage of teachers pushing the general idea of zhan zhuang or standing training. It's all over these days. So is the ZMQ/Ben Lo standing just another arbitrary example of that? Just another bunch of shapes for standing post practice? So just go with whoever's zhan zhuang rings your bell, from an aesthetic point of view or whichever's physically easiest for you or what?
Noooo! It's not that. It's way deeper, and absolutely specific. There's an energy trick to it, something you must understand about the energy configuration to make it work. While you could stand in the ZMQ poses without this particular engagement I'm talking about, that would be like saying "I think I'll take a drive" then getting into the driver's seat of your car, putting on your seat belt, hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel - but you never actually start the car or put it in gear or actually go anywhere. And if you stand in other types of zhan zhaung, sure you'll get something from it, any concentrated calming practice is good, but you won't get near what I'm talking about.
It's very specific to the ZMQ/Lo framework but in the beginning just a little tricky to catch the energetic knack. Once you get the point of if you'll be like OH THAT'S WHAT IT IS...
Nothing to do with the everyday zhan zhuang which is all over everywhere now. But I've realized how hard it is to get the point of this ZMQ work, so all my stuff in my books and clips, and some additional things that aren't in the books but which I'll teach in the event, ALL that is geared to one thing: getting you to understand the energy configuration that will take the normal-looking ZMQ standing work and BRING IT TO LIFE.
Without the stuff I've covered and that I'll put the finishing touches on at the event, well I don't mean to sound boastful but honestly it really is as one of the great Yang masters said:
If I don't tell you this then even if you practice a thousand years you won't get it.