Check out the latest info and research from Coach Chris' explorations in the Subject of Internal Power.
In this method we use the front and back of the Lower Dan Tien or Taren, in harmony with one another. It is this complimentary harmony of opposites, a pair of actions happening simultaneously but in opposition that gives this method its name. It is not a singular direction or motion but a 'Pair' of actions creating 'one' result. The Ming Men and Qi hai are the origination and termination points for the harmonized opening and closing in of the torso we will talk about in this post.
Sometimes referred to as the ‘back bow’ the idea with this training is to utilise the length of the body vertically. following the tissues of the axis and those associated with the spine. The utilization of these structures can be seen throughout the upwards and downwards practices of the Internal arts and the action here is a really strong producer of power and direction in the adept.
It is, however, very common for practitioners to only focus on one side of the body when performing action in the Axis. They will curve the front of the body, tensing the stomach, to create forward and downward forces with no consideration for what the back half of the body is doing.
Pairing, and the idea of action always containing at least two things, is the way around this singular power focus. If we think of the Classical Tai Chi symbol, the depiction of one thing containing the interplay of opposites we come across a very useful model of what should be happening in the body during Pairing. For instance as one side of the body is closing, let’s say towards the Qi Hai, the opposite side is opening away from the Ming Men. This open and close, although working from and two these two areas of the body should create action all the way to the fingers and toes.
When combined with the arms and legs, we can actually use this pairing action to create upwards and downwards as well and forwards and backwards motion, all the while never moving outside of our base. or giving up our centre in any direction. There is no over commitment in any direction because the action of open and close is harmonious and inside our structure rather than created by the momentum of our mass. Think of it like a Bow Being drawn, when the string is released it does not fly away from the Archer! There is an equilibrium at play.
For Pairing to work well the body must be threaded together via connection and stable in all directions. The open and close have to be completely simultaneous, much like a wheel turning no part is left behind. In fact all parts of the Body should display Pairing. We can look at the concept with a larger viewpoint taking into account the 5 major parts of the body (arms, legs and spine) or move it to a smaller scale, like the forearm ... Event to the Depth of the forearm!
Using Aikido's Kogi Fune exercises to show how Open and Close could be utilized
Image Credit and rights - Master Koichi Tohei and heirs
This idea of simultaneous opposite action was hinted at by some of the famous internal arts masters.
“The divine is not something high above us. It is in heaven, it is in earth, it is inside us.”
“If there is up, there is down;
when advancing, have regard for withdrawing;
when striking left, pay attention to the right.”
T'AI CHI CH'UAN CHING
Attributed to Chang San-feng (est. 1279 -1386)
“In motion T'ai Chi separates;
in stillness yin and yang fuse and return to Wu Chi.”
THE TREATISE ON T'AI CHI CH'UAN
Attributed to Wang Tsung-yueh
More on the subject of Pairing coming up but if you would like to learn some exercises associated with this concept, or watch one of the lectures on this subject head over and sign up to the academy - Click here.
At its most basic level the cross body connection allows us to actively utilize the opposite sides of the body in harmony with each other. If you think about someone walking naturally, swinging their arm forward as the opposite leg is forward, this is a classic example of this cross body connection in use. But this attribute of body motion and the associated tissues has a deeper reaching consequence for the internal artist.
Whole body power forms the bedrock of the internal arts. Our abilities to move every part of our body in harmony is as fundamental to the health benefits as it is to the martial effectiveness found in these styles. In this article we will explore one aspect of this whole body work, which I call the attribution of effort technique.
In the internal arts we often use the term ‘Bridging’ in relation to contacting with the partners arms. But there is another use for this term that relates to the connection of the arms to the torso and it is that connection that we will explore in this post.
The Arm or upper body bridges are the front and back connections of the arms into the torso and are one of the major development focuses for the Internal Martial Artists. They are perhaps one of the most important areas of focus for practitioners due to the common misalignment and systemic tensions from poor posture or lifestyle that can manifest in them.
In the internal arts there is a method for identifying the relationship and the role of our major body joints known as the '3 external harmonies' or sometime the '6 harmonies' depending upon the tradition. These are the Wrists to the Ankles, The Knees to the Elbows and the Shoulders to the Hips.
There are several idea's linked to this association. But two of the major ones explain how the joints align with each other and then their related role within the body.
In terms of alignment, operating outside of our natural joint position or range of motion is a very common cause of joint problems and postural misalignment. People used to leaning on one leg when they stand still will develop problems in one hip and a lopsided gate. Having an acute sense of the position of our major joints in relation to their counterpart will help us to recognize these very clear problems and adjust our posture accordingly.
But we can go slightly further with this awareness and talk about the actual Role of the joints themselves.
So first we say that the Shoulders and hips are 'Mobility' joints. They control the overall mobility of the limb. If you want to touch something in front of you, it doesn't matter how much you can move the elbow and wrist if the shoulder is locked in the down position.
Grab hold of any high-level Judo-Ka and try to drag them around the mat and you notice one clear attribute, stability. In the grappling arts especially, the skill of stability is a core component of the training methods and one of the main attributes that is built.
Stability can be thought of as our ability to maintain control of our posture, position, motion, and mass, either when we move ourselves or when we move in association with a partner or opponent.
Opening and closing the body in harmony is one of the key methods of many internal arts, indeed it stands as fundamental to some of the Chinese Systems. I call it 'pairing' as this open and close happens simultaneously as a pair of opposite directions within a single action. This simultaneous harmony of opposite action is well described by the Taiji symbol (often called the Yin/yang).
One of the methods I use to help people visualize this process within the torso is to think of two cogs, one located in the lower abdomen (lower dantien) and one in the solar plexus area along the Sagital Plane.
These cogs are meshed so that action in the lower cog results in action in the upper cog. The lower cog is always the driver while the upper cog simply reacts to its action.
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