Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The theory of chi generation in tai chi slow movement

The way I train myself and my students, with good results, oftentimes amazed my friends who train themselves in the gym, oftentimes under private coaches (some are coaches themselves). The question has always been "how can you folks condition your muscles and realign your structure through slow movements without weight resistance?"

"Learn from me and you will know the answer", I always told them. They won't listen. But most likely they will listen when they get older and can no longer endure the tension arising from periodic adding weights in their training regime.In a gym training environment, weights have to be added periodically to stimulate the muscles. If a muscle is conditioned to a certain resistance, training effect will be lost (safe for endurance training).

In tai chi slow movements (or 24 styles tai chi nei kung, my favorite workout routine) a practitioner also needs to add weight. But instead of adding a fixed amount of incremental weight (which will necessary be too much in the beginning), a tai chi practitioner adds weight in a continual process, stimulating isokinetic muscular contraction. He increases the power of his, say, push in one direction; and at the same time he increases his own resistance in the opposite direction - in approximately the same amount. The outward result is maintaining the same slow movement without external weight increase nor observable internal weight increase, because the weights balance out each other.

How to do it need some good practice. The prerequisite is the activation of chi. The key fact is: Chi will be activated when opposing muscle groups contract in similar magnitude. The first step in learning chi generation in tai chi is through the practice of zhan zhuang - with progress being faster for those who understands a simple theory behind chi generation and then consciously (and with mindful focus) acts upon it.

After some initial training in chi generation through zhan zhuang, a practitioner shall practice the a movement form with a definitive move of tai chi - a push (in 24 styles tai chi nei kung, it is called White Ape pushing). The way to do the definitive push is focus on your biceps when pushing out and focus on your triceps when pulling back in. And if you're an advanced practitioner, you can apply the above theory to do slow movement push-ups.

"Is that so simple?" Yes, but you have first to learn chi generation through zhan zhuang (well, don't need to do "one hour this and one hour that" tiring ones as some old school teachers might suggest...)

Master Yu doing zhan zhuang

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