Tai Chi Y2D109: Slow way down

This morning, mindful of yesterday’s visual cue, I did an experiment.  Instead of working through the two qi gong forms in my usual way, sixteen repetitions of each movement, I did only one repetition of each movement — for about two minutes each.  I set a timer to ring a bell every minute, and I held each ‘end posture’ for one minute, and used the next minute to move from one posture to the next.  Five Golden Coins thus looked like this:

  1. Starting posture: hands at rest but lightly positioned away from body (1 min)
  2. Raise right hand, lower left hand to protect tail bone (1 min)
  3. Switch hand postures (1 minute)
  4. Stand in raise left hand, lower right hand to protect tailbone (1 min)
  5. Shift slowly to carry ball posture (1 min)
  6. Pluck apple from tree on the right (1 min)
  7. Shift to pluck apple from tree on the left (1 min)
  8. Pluck apple from tree on the left (1 min)
  9. Shift to ‘carry ball’ posture (1 min)
  10. Extend right arm, bend left to bend the bow (1 min)
  11. Bend the bow right (1 min)
  12. Shift to bend the bow left (1 min)
  13. Bend the bow left (1 min)
  14. Shift to ‘carry ball’ (1 min)
  15. Shift to the “join earth” part of “join earth to heaven” (1 min) — GOD this one hurt!
  16. Shift to the “to heaven” part (1 min)
  17. “To heaven” stance (1 min)
  18. Shift to “Carry milk to sky” (1 min)
  19. Carry milk stance (1 min)
  20. Shift to the “to sky” part of “Carry milk to sky” (1 min)
  21. “To sky posture” (1 min)
  22. Shift to “carry ball” posture (1 min)
  23. “Carry ball” posture (1 min)

Wow. What usually takes me 4-10 minutes took almost a half-hour.  I couldn’t do Eight Pieces of Silk this way afterward.  I had to just do it the usual way I do it — sixteen repetitions.  But my Eight Pieces of Silk was a lot slower than usual. And my tai chi form took almost forty minutes because I was moving with this outwardly-slow, gentle speed that left me trembling and slightly sweating by the end.  I don’t think I’ve had this serious a workout from my daily tai chi in months.

The key, I think, was performing Five Golden Coins in such a radically different way than I usually do.  It was exceptionally challenging — and this may not make sense, but it was also not especially difficult.  That is to say, the act of doing the work was not physically hard, but the sensation of energy and transformation was exceptionally interesting, and there was this temptation to move on before I was supposed to.  Some of my motions were jerky, when a bell rang early or later than expected; but the work was there, and being done.  I’m mightily pleased with myself.

I think this is a workable strategy for moving into a more serious phase of my tai chi — to do one or the other of the qi gong forms at a very slow speed, governed by a timer and bell, and then use that deliberately slow work to help change my time perceptions around the movements in the main tai chi form.

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