Finding Your Root is Important but Can You Carry It With You?
Jul 15, 2019
When you train with an "old school" traditional teacher, you learn to "eat bitter."
In China, stories are told about teachers who had prospective students spend a year sweeping and cleaning before learning any of his art.
Xingyi masters were said to have new students stand in San Ti for the first year or more of practices.
Even today, when you train with a member of the Chen family, it is common to collapse from leg fatigue more than once, even during a 12-hour weekend workshop. You will hold stances until your legs burn and shake like you're twerking. And trust me, you don't want to see a 66-year old man twerking.
Good teachers spend a lot of time correcting basics - structure and body mechanics.
Working on the basics of body mechanics and structure give you a solid "root."
Much of your "root" depends on the ground path and peng jin. You must sink your energy and apply the correct mechanics.
Where Good Structure Fails
When I began training with my second Chen teacher, Mark Wasson, I showed him various moves and stances. My structure was okay and still needed improving, but he said something very valuable in our first lesson.
He asked, "What good is having a good structure if you lose it as soon as you begin moving?"
It was one of those enlightening moments like a bop on the head.
Gertrude Stein was an American poet, novelist and playwright. She did not practice the internal arts, but last week, I read a quote from her that brought this concept back to life.
She wrote, "What good are roots if you can't take them with you?"
Gertrude was talking about the "roots" in your life that build your character and make you who you are, but it is applicable to the internal arts as well.
Take Your "Roots" With You
When you do Qigong and calm your mind, does the calm dissipate as soon as you finish your meditation?
You should carry the calm with you. That is your goal. Otherwise, what good is it?
What good is quieting the mind in Zhan Zhuang (Standing Stake) if you flip off the first driver who cuts you off on the highway?
After you open your form, do you twist your hips and kink your structure, losing your ground when you move? Do you fail to maintain peng in all parts of the body? Are you relaxing, sinking your energy, and spiraling in your movement?
Are you maintaining a centered stance?
Are you mentally and physically balanced?
There is an Internal Strength exercise on my website and on the Internal Strength DVD that teaches how to maintain the ground and peng as you walk, while your partner is pushing on your chest.
I recommend watching that again, regardless of which art you practice, and work to maintain that rooted feeling as you move (along with the elements that make up the root -- ground path, peng jin, use of the kua and sinking).
The internal arts are physically difficult. Quieting your mind and maintaining mental balance is equally difficult. Both require hard work.
It is the difficulty and precision of these arts that make them worth studying. And it is time spent working hard on the basics that give you the deep roots that you carry with you.
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