Taiji Day 220: Distinguish Energies

Today, as I shifted from doing Five Golden Coins to Eight Pieces of Silk, I realized that the two forms have radically different energy signatures, despite the fact that Eight Pieces has variants of four moves from Five Golden Coins. There’s half a dozen reasons why it should have a similar energy signature: they’re both qi gong routines; they come out of the same working tradition; they’re similar physically; they both have parallel breathing patterns; they’re both done at about the same speed; they both have physical health in mind, particularly internal organ healthiness; they’re both about improving one’s balance in the vertical (as opposed to moving, dynamic balance, which I think of as being more related to the tai chi form that I do last — and which so clearly has its own energy to it, that I’m excluding it from this particular discussion).

I’ve done the five postures of five coins longer than I’ve done Eight Pieces, so maybe it’s just the sense of familiarity that comes from long practice.  But I get more of a workout from Five Coins than Eight Pieces.  My heart rate goes up, my breathing pattern changes, and my ability to project forceful motion even while moving slowly is much improved with Five Coins.  Meanwhile, the Eight Pieces movements — even when they’re the same movements! — are much more tentative, and require much more forethought than the Five Coins.  It’s like, the Five Coins are pre-programmed; I hit a button on the remote, and the station comes on.  The Eight Pieces involve some fumbling:  there’s a coherent pattern, but it’s not automatic. And the result is a smooth but not forceful energy.  I never come out of Eight Pieces sweating harder than I went in.

I did the tai chi form in 11 min 37 sec this morning.  So I’m hitting that “something extra” window pretty easily, without much forethought besides starting the timer.  That said, the tai chi form has a much different energy signature than either of the two qi gong forms that open my practice — and it’s changing all the time.  That’s the part I have a hard time getting over.  One day it will be powerful and forceful. The next it will be weak and mostly internal.  One day I can project power; another I must receive it.  With the same moves! Day in and Day out, always different.

It’s like, I walk the two blocks from my house down to the river every morning (and I should do that; but this is a metaphor, not truly reality yet).  The two blocks of the town are distinctive: each has its own character and nature. And those are Five Golden Coins and Eight Pieces of Silk.  They’re always the same, even when the weather is different.  Eight Pieces looks and feels this way; Five Coins looks and feels that way.

But then I get to the river of the tai chi form, and it’s always different.

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