Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My piano lessons

I was onto music in college. Like other college eager amateurs, I got my fair share of awards in major competitions...for amateurs of course.  We thought we were different, and we were invited to perform in different stages....again for amateurs. But as life went on, one by one, most of us dropped out of the game within a few years after college.  Reason?  We simple didn't have enough time to keep up with our progress, without progress, any interest will die!  By the way, it is the same for chi related practices that I talked about in this blog.

At middle age, surprisingly many of us would like to pick up our instrument again.  But most didn't.  Reason?  We simply can never go back to our previous level of proficiency, which becomes quite evident after a few months of diligent practice.  The only way to gain back some dignity is perhaps to choose an instrument that we have not been proficient in, and that's what I did.

My original instrument was Chinese bamboo flute.  I did play a second instrument, the piano, that I learned for 2 years before I decided that my time could be of better use.  So I picked up the piano again a few months ago.  Not exactly one, but a modern electronic keyboard.  Like any new relationship, better forget the past.  So I browsed the web and the local Tom Lee music shops in search for new books.  One of the books I bought I found very interesting.: a technical piano text by Wayne Hawkins of the jazz faculty at the University of Kansas, called "Piano Aerobics", that I talked about in a previous post.  Its technical lessons together with its advice on how to train one's muscles for playing the keyboard are very helpful.

In the area of chi-kung, I can add the following advice.  One key area of training to play piano well is to have separate singular control of one's fourth and the little fingers.  For quicker progress (a middle aged player will desperately ask for it!), chi-kung can come into the picture.  The way to do it is to direct chi from one's torso, via one's shoulder joint, through the arm, reach the tip of the finger that one chooses to practice with.  Chi is used to link the muscles all the way from a finger tip to the torso.  In zhan zhuang lingo it is called "Muscles as one" (肌肉如一), here implemented in a localized manner.  It can best practiced with the "Embracing One" (抱一式) (or called "Golden Urn", or whatever other names). Under this stance, chi can be more easily singularly directed towards either the fourth or little finger.

The ability to direct our chi from central to far-away or seemingly "hidden" areas can do magic.  It is only up to a practitioner to figure it out for his own benefit.  Who said zhan zhuang chi-kung is boring?

Embracing One - Golden Urn

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