Don't Rise to the Occasion -- Sink to the Occasion
I have been thinking about something all wrong.
When I prepare for something special, like a demonstration or especially a workshop like I attended a few weeks ago with Chen Huixian, I have approached it with the wrong mental attitude.
I often think that I need to prepare myself, get my body stronger and be able to "rise to the occasion."
But what I need to do is "sink to the occasion."
Let me explain.
I practiced Laojia Yilu two nights ago. Actually, I practiced three movements from Laojia Yilu. And then I isolated my practice to just one move.
I spent a lot of time on Hidden Hand Punch, and the sinking and spiraling -- not in the punch itself, but in the movements leading up to the punch, when your hands sweep low and outward, then spiral inwards as you close into the right kua, one hand flat and one in a fist.
Practicing the internal arts is like practicing the piano, or any musical instrument. My body is my instrument, and sometimes, you have to isolate a piece down to a very small section and work on your form and technique.
In Chen style Taiji, there is a real "art" to being smooth, with spiraling movements and sinking that is connected through the body.
I want my movements to appear relaxed and flowing. I want to sit deeper into "the chair." I want the spiraling to be fluid and connected from the feet, through the kua, through the torso, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands.
And throughout all that, I want my body mechanics to be perfect, with all movement strengthened by the ground path and peng, Dantien rotation and proper use of the kua. Of course, you can't really do the movements well without using all these concepts plus whole-body movement and the spiraling of silk-reeling.
When I train with a high-level person like Master Chen Huixian, I recognize that I take it easy on myself in my own personal practice.
The seemingly effortless way she moves, spirals, and sits into the kua does not come from genes or her family name. It comes from relentless practice, year after year. And it comes from practicing old school, where pain is a requirement for progress.
When I accompanied my former teachers to workshops with Chen Xiaowang, Ren Guangyi and Chen Xiaoxing, those masters would make my teachers feel like beginners.
When you study with really good people who are at the top of their game, you either will be discouraged by seeing the quality of their movement or you will be inspired to push yourself harder.
I am always inspired. So right now, I am working on sinking deeper, moving more smoothly by connecting all the body mechanics in a relaxed but internally strong way, and forcing my body to withstand more discomfort.
I am isolating one or two movements at a time, because if you get one or two movements perfect, if there is such a thing, you can then carry that to the next movement, and the next, and the next.
I am also doing this with my Xingyi and my Bagua. This concept applies to any art that you practice, or any skill for any job.
I am being harder on myself in pushing my old body to meet higher standards.
My goal is not to be prepared to "rise to the occasion" the next time I attend a quality workshop, or put on a demonstration, or be faced with a self-defense situation.
I want to "sink to the occasion."
I want my training to be so top-quality, and my mechanics and techniques so good, and my body so strong, that meeting a challenge is beneath my regular standards.
I don't think you should expect any less from me. Or from yourself.
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