Saturday, August 4, 2018

A(nother) Tai Chi Workshop with Adam Mizner

This summer, Sifu Wu was away once again for an extended visit to China so I decided to take the opportunity to find a Tai Chi workshop focused on push hands.

I figured I'd go anywhere I could find something interesting and, after looking around for a while, I found that the folks at Santa Cruz Tai Chi were hosting Sifu Adam Mizner for a four day workshop (July 14th-17th) just an hour away in Santa Cruz.

Some time ago, I happened into a workshop with Adam Mizner in New York City (described in this post) and, even though I was only there for a day, it was a great experience so I signed up for the workshop (which was good because it filled up quickly).

The workshop was 5 hours of training per day, split into 3 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. The morning sessions focused on solo training with emphasis on loosening, qigong, and zhan zhuang. The afternoon sessions (after the first day) focused on partner training based on the secondary four energies: cai (pluck), lie (split), zhou (elbow), and kao (shoulder).

I got a lot out of the workshop - it's given me a lot to think about - but I think the most interesting part of the experience had to do with the solo training.

On the first morning, Sifu Mizner started with some loosening drills, including squatting down. Flexibility has never been my strong suit and squatting down is particularly challenging - after squatting for what seemed an eternity but was probably about 5 minutes, I eventually had to stand up and my legs felt like they were made of lead. It struck me that burning out my legs in the first few minutes of the first day was probably not a good way to start a 4 day workshop but I took a breath and squatted back down for another eternity.

We then went through much of the loosening sequence in this video, which involves standing still while being bent over for long periods of time and this effectively burned out what was left of my legs.

After that we did 5 postures of zhan zhuang:
  1. open stance, arms at side
  2. open stance, cross-wrists
  3. commencing stance (heels together, feet in V), arms at the side
  4. empty stance on left leg, strum lute
  5. empty stance on right leg, white crane
Sifu Mizner suggested that, in general, you should only practice zhan zhuang a maximum of 30 minutes a day and he recommended holding each of the 5 posture for 5 minutes. For the workshop, we held them a bit longer.

By the time we got to the zhan zhuang training, my legs were so fried that in the first posture they were burning and shaking but I somehow managed to hold the position. And I managed to do this for the next two postures as well but, when we got to the one-legged postures, that was it for me - I could only hold them for a short time before needing to take a break and move.

After the solo exercises of the first morning session, Sifu Mizner explained that the point when things are getting difficult and the mind is telling you that you need to move is exactly the point when the training really begins. He went on to say that the body can usually do more than the mind thinks and, at the time when you want to give up, if you can instead hold the posture and release the tension, that's when you get the real benefit of the training.

After the first day, I figured my legs would get more and more tired throughout the rest of the 3 days (which they did) and I didn't know how I'd be able to get through the stance training but, amazingly, each day I got a bit better and, on the last day, I managed to hold all of postures without taking a break. I hadn't expected that at all.

Since the workshop, I've been pushing myself more in my own zhan zhuang training. I'm not doing half an hour a day and I'm not working towards that at the moment but I think it may be worth extending my zhan zhuang practice over time.

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