I wrote earlier about Continuous Cestus Combustion. That's when you can consciously turn on the entire cestus area of both arms, which extends from (and includes) the inner elbow, full forearm, inner wrist, palm heels and backs of hands, hands, knuckles, fingers, fingertips. Everything from elbow to fingertips is LIT UP and PACKED OUT with internal power.
Internally you should feel kind of like this (no physical tension though please!!):
Your cestus should feel literally electrified, packed full with a radioactive plutonium charge.
I know there's a lot of misunderstanding about this, because most people (no matter if they've been teaching Tai Chi for 25 years or if they are Aikido yuudansha or whatever) simply do not feel it. Thus it cannot be understood. So my description above will be taken (on the high end) as some kind of metaphor or image or philosophy or concept - or else, on the low end, as a muddled semblance of an attempt to describe a purely phyiological something or other.
Often somehow at this point "blood" gets dragged onto the table as a red herring. Nope, not blood, the light up of the real internal power is like 10x or 100x faster than any blood pressure and/or circulation reaction. Besides what would having a little extra blood in your hands do for the great ancient fighting masters? Not that I stress combative applications, but the methods in my books are derived from combative regimens of the masters.
But even though most will not have the slightest idea what I'm really talking about here, I know from personal correspondence that there are something like a baker's dozen out there who have somehow worked through enough of the drills to actually begin to experience this Continuous Cestus Combustion tangibly. Those are the ones I'm talking to here, everybody else should stop reading now so you don't get all irritated and befuddled and offended and get your dander up. That wouldn't be good for your blood pressure.
I'm not going to repeat all the drills that get you to that point. For that either get my books or if you are all horrified at my SEO/shilling, read prior blog posts and check my free Youtube channel. What I'm talking about today is a way to intensify your practice, a way the goes beyond or maybe I should say goes "around" the drills or forms or standing or whatever you do in your internal practice sessions.
Think of a typical practice session. Maybe you do some joint rotations or shakeouts, something not really "internal", then maybe you do the Cat Step Shiko or the Constant Bear or the Inner Activation Santishi or maybe all of those and more. Then maybe you do other drills, like staff or technique stuff like Xingyi 5/12. Then maybe you do a Tai Chi form hopefully ZMQ37 but whatever. So in other words, you have a "practice" that you typically do, maybe anywhere from 30 mins to an hour or more per session. If the details above don't fit you that doesn't matter you get the idea. You have a certain time and place blocked out for this general kind of work.
So here's the thing, at the very beginning of the session, no actually before the beginning of the session, just before you even enter the practice space, I want you to TURN ON the Continuous Cestus Combustion. This may be hard for many of you because even if you've experienced it a few times, you may be thinking of it more as the final output of a session more than the starting condition. But try. If you cannot do that right at the start, then these posts are just too advanced for you, forget this for now and continue as you have been. But if you try and you find: Whoa! You are able to light it up! Then good, you can continue reading here.
So you light up the whole area from inner elbow to fingertips, sparking this very specific, tangible and unmistakable condition there. Now, let's consider your overall session. The meat of the session may be your actual performance of whatever drills, standing, technique(s), form(s), etc. But "in between" those "serious" actions, you have to move around a little, right? Like, you walk over to turn on the light, reach out to the switch. Or you move a towel from a chair to a table. You pick up a stick, staff or sword. You put down or move a stick, staff or sword. You might change clothes or shoes at some point.
The key thing is, for every single action you take, using either hand or both hands together, you consciously maintain the C3 stage in your cestus (everything from elbows to fingertips, all inclusive). Hold that charge, keep the combustion perking, even while you tie your shoes or anything else with your arms, hands or fingers. Yes, you mind will need to partly focus on the activity you are performing. That's why this is good training because despite that you must somehow keep the current, the charge, alive. This training is like the mortar between the bricks of your warmup, drills, technique, or forms in a session.
Activities may include (but NOT limited to) things like these:
- on/off shoes; tying/untying laces
- changing clothes, on/off jacket, etc.
- light switch on/off
- space heater on/off or anything other ambient switches/buttons
- moving/replacing small items of furniture to clear area
- picking up/replacing drill implements/weapons of any kind
- moving mats, rugs, towels etc.
- jotting any notes if that's something you would do anyway
The above is just the tiniest sampling of the possibilities. And obviously, the above are things you may do throughout your day anyway, even when not engaged in a training session. So clearly you can at some point begin to generalize into the common cliche of "training in daily life". But please be a little thoughtful as you begin to generalize.
I say that because everywhere you look these days, the terms "mindfulness" and "awareness" pop in your face as big fat profitable cliches. There are whole sections of bookstores and online lists and blogs and just no end of vague amorphous blather on this topic. I don't know how to say this strongly enough, and I know it won't be strong enough to counter the wave of mindfulness sludge, but anyway here goes: I am not talking about 'mindfulness' in the "bestseller list" sense. Make no mistake. I am talking here about a very specific energetic condition and phenomenon. Of course, you need some degree of awareness and concentration on what you're doing to achieve and maintain that condition (the Continuous Cestus Combustion), but it's not a cultic zombie thing like the Zen retreats where I've seen people all stoned out on making awareness every step or living each breath or whatever goop. THIS IS NOT THAT.
There's also a related fashionable thing these days, what we might call physicalized mindfulness training. This emphasis has crept into many systems via the influence of Yi Quan, where they want you to mentally track every little change in your position and condition, every little twitch or tremor, as you stand or move, every little muscle entrainment or release, every mental touch on a nerve fiber.
This of course sounds very cool and attractive but I'm sorry to tell you that what I'm talking about here isn't this either. Most people doing this kind of work still haven't experienced the actual power because not matter how subtle and sophisticated, it's still physically focused. And, how many times do I gotta say it, the internal power though associated with the body isn't really physical, even in the above sophisticated sense. Furthermore, this kind of physicalized micro-awareness protocol is really more like the bricks than the mortar, in the sense that if done right it requires your full mental and physical engagement. But the work I'm talking about here. "Holding the charge" of Continuous Cestus Combustion is more like turning on the ignition in your car (and of course noticing and re-starting if the engine dies).
You spark it up with just a mental touch on your inner elbow, inner wrist, maybe a brief mental brush on your palms and a very slight/light finger extension. Then BLAMMO it lights up. It's not such a mental big hairy deal as the full physicalized micro-awareness protocols, and anyway it's a totally different, very specific and very tangible phenomenon.
Yes, some focus is needed, but some minimal focus is needed to drive or do anything. Nobody makes an all-absorbing cultic philosophy around driving as a spiritual practice (no jokes please). It's just a specific thing that you do. It is specific, tangible, real and clear. This CCC thing is the same. If you haven't got the ability to engage this way yet, don't jump the gun and assume I'm talking about the general cult of mindfulness. I am not.
On a practical level, it is true that you will probably need to move a bit slower than normal as you do things from the list above in your training session, just to keep the charge. There is after all a mental component to this. But at the same time, your mind is also a little bit engaged in the task itself. Learn to hold that charge no matter what. And don't worry too much about the rest of your daily life until you're able to do what's described in this post. This is a little hothouse test thing. It will get you ready for wider scope later, but for now there's no need to go around all zoned out trying to do this consciously all the time. It will be amazing and gonzo enough simply to realize the reality of this, even within the limited confines of your training session.
Now, another question that may come up for you: why cestus (forearms and hands) engagement, specifically? What about the rest of your body? After all, if we think in combative application terms, then any body part should be good and useful for whacking the enemy: shoulders, head, chest, hips, knees, feet - anything goes in a fight right? That's true, but this is more like background training, we are training the energy attribute. And the key feature of the ARC (Accumulate, Rebound, Catch) energy architecture of the human body is that the cestus area is the terminus. Of course not really the final terminus because the power flows in circulation. But the hands are the final and farthest extent, then it turns around. So here's the key point: if you can keep the charge in your cestus (forearms and hands) at some stage you'll realize that your entire energy body is engaged in feeding or supplying that farthest terminus.
So the reason this practice focuses on the hands is not necessarily that we prefer to whack people with our hands, but because it is the way to guarantee that all points on the energy track feeding up to the hands are all clear. This practice calls the power up and out from your dantian and feet and routes it through everything into that last segment. This this work has more bang for buck than focusing on other parts. Of course in your more formal training you can work the energy into and through any area, as described in many sections of my books.
Anyway if you are able to generate the charge I'm talking about, try this at least a little bit next session. If like most readers you are not yet able to generate (much less sustain) the charge, don't fret it just keep on with the basic drills.