This morning, I did my tai chi in relatively light style, without worrying about the breathing patterns or being too focused on how much time I spent on doing the form. It’s not possible to do the work at a hard-core pace every single day. So it makes sense to take an easy day now and then. Today was an easy day, therefore. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t working.
It turns out that a gentle day once in a while can teach you things about the internal energy processes that you don’t learn from working a form in the hard-core, physical style. The lack of stretches and stresses on the body gives one a chance to see/feel where energy is supposed to be at each point in the form. But saying this doesn’t provide an example, so let me see if I can provide one.
For example, on a simple movement like Ward Off Left, I was able to feel the way the energy connects across the body. When the left hand and arm are bent into a curve, the energy curves down through the body along the spine to the hips, and then out the right leg and down to the right foot. But the energy of this particular posture also flows the other direction, too. The back side of the hand has to be capable of pressing away an opponent. The left hand by itself doesn’t have that energy or that power; even though I am left-handed, there’s too much feminine (receptive) energy on the left side of the body. Or you can call it airy energy. Or you can call it floating energy… regardless, it doesn’t have enough force to be able to project against an opponent. It does have the energy to be move into position rapidly, but it needs additional grounded or heavy energy to support it.
Where does that grounded energy come from?
Well, in the case of Ward Off Left, it comes from the right foot and right hip and left hip and left hip. And I don’t know the Taoist associations here, but for me this is a watery energy that matches the fluidity of the movement as a whole. The goal here in a martial context is to swing the body forward and place the left hand on an opponent. Backing up this movement up with a great big amount of watery rush swinging forward could easily knock over an opponent, but it also has the potential to knock me over. And I don’t want that. So, that water has to be bounded in part by the left hip, which is an earthy sort of force that acts as a break or a backstop on the energy moving into the left hand. I’m not at all sure that I can feel these elemental associations when my body is moving at a hard, physically-oriented pace. Still, today I was able to sense the subtle fluidity of the movement, and I really enjoyed having that sense of the underlying elemental forces in many of the movement.