Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Weighted Pivot

In my practice recently, I have been focusing on distributing my weight across my entire foot - while still simultaneously keeping the weight centered in the middle of the foot - which allows me to be more stable. Applying this to the form has meant that I have had to become more aware of the weight transfer as I transition from one posture to the next and allowing that weight to settle into the entire foot.

Where I have found this to be particularly challenging is with weighted pivots. For example, in the first part of the form, when transitioning from 'brush left thigh and press forth right palm' to 'brush right thigh and press forth left palm', you start by pivoting on the left (front) foot.

To do this as a weighted pivot, you first shift the weight in your left foot back to the heel and then twist to the left, pivoting the left foot on the heel and keeping energy in the right foot so that you remain balanced. The net result is that the pivot opens up both hips.

My problem is that, with my weight initially spread across the entire left foot, in order to shift my weight to the heel, I have had to shift my entire body weight back - essentially doing an unweighted pivot. After talking it over with Mike, it turns out that you actually can do this without shifting your weight back - how you do it is during the initial twist to the left, you let your left hip close, which allow you to shift the weight in your left foot to your heel without shifting the rest of your body.

This is an important point because its a manifestation of what we are training in both the form and push-hands - explicitly how the joints work together so that you can redirect your energy/weight where you want it.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Applied Taiji: Hiking in Moab

I recently spent 4 days in Moab, Utah at an offsite for work. It was pretty fantastic - 13 of us went and we went on 3 hikes, each getting longer and harder. Only four of us finished the final hike. it went from 8am to 6pm over 15 miles of up/down in 100+ degree weather - I drank 5.5 liters of water that day and was happy and exhausted at the end of it. Afterwards, a friend of mine asked if I thought that my Taiji training helped with hiking and, after some thought, I realized it had helped in a variety of ways:
  • The obvious direct benefit of Taiji is that doing the form every day has improved my muscle strength and endurance - spending 30+ minutes every day in a crouched position has that effect (not to mention the training effect from going to class).
  • A less obvious benefit is that, while training the form, I work on relaxing muscles that aren't being used (and only using as much strength as necessary from the ones that are) - we refer to this as 'loosening'. For long hikes where you have to carry a lot in your pack (e.g. 6 liters of water weighs about 14lbs on its own) its easy to burn energy unnecessarily and being mindful of this makes a big difference as the hike wears on.
  • Related to the previous point, as I train the form, I practice keeping my center of balance as I transition from one posture to the next. This is an important this skill in hiking particularly as you traverse uphill/downhill terrain - being aware of your balance and knowing how to shift your weight efficiently makes the hiking easier and that pays off as time goes on.
  • Finally, towards the end of the 3rd hike, about three miles out, I hit the wall - my legs felt like lead and climbing was a challenge. It's easy to get panicked in such a situation but one of the things we learn in two person training is how to relax, particularly when things are getting bad. In this situation, I focused on the basic principles to relax more and expend the least amount of energy necessary to get the job done. And that did the trick, I managed to finish those final three miles without incident.
And, for those of you that are interested, here are some links to pictures from the hikes: