ZenMindSword posted an entry on his blog outlining a ‘Pumping Metal Iron’ puzzle. The gist of the puzzle is to try and unbalance someone if a biomechanically and structurally inefficient posture using White Crane Spreads Wing. The inefficient aspect is the position of the right hand and elbow. Keeping the right hand near mouth level and fingers pointing up with a very bent elbow, try unbalancing someone. For more details of the puzzle, do check out his post linked above. I wanted to repost my experience in his comment section here:
Finally had a chance to give this a try. I got into position as described above (note, slightly different than how I normally perform WCSW). I then asked my partner to slowly push me and to do this continually while I adjust.
The first thing I noticed was I began to feel tension in my thigh instead of my arms, shoulders, and hips. To me, this is a good thing as I’m able to redirect the energy partially down, though not all the way down into the ground. I had to readjust a bit to get the tension to subside and redirect down through the right foot (weighted side).
As I began to try and push, I noted that I wanted to incline my right hand forward and pull my elbow back. I tried again, readjusting to keep the right hand pointing up. Neither position worked and my partner noted muscular force in my push.
I switched and tried with a weighted left leg. Structurally, I felt more stable but was still unable to shift my partner. I then played around a little and tried pushing shifting the weight from right to left leg. With this, I was able to slightly unbalance my partner, though nothing fantastic. In this scenario, not much muscular tension was noted by partner, however I believe this is mainly due to having a sound structure and using gravity and momentum to do the pushing.
Lowering my stance did not really help with pushing, just assisted in absorbing incoming force. Again, inclining body forward mainly assisted in absorbing incoming force in my own scenario. However, while in this stance, I began to mentally try and project myself forward while maintaining my current shape. I tried picturing myself behind my opponent. While I felt much more stable this way, partner was not unbalanced.
I asked which felt better, with my fingers pointed up or inclined. Partner noted fingers pointed up felt better, meaning felt less isolated muscular force. To me, this make me think the mind intention is able to easily unify the body with the hand in this position. Quite contrary to what I would normally think as it’s structurally less sound than the inclined fingers position!
My main goal was to try and project the push, not from my hands, but from my whole body moving forward. Instead of trying to project energy from hand, I tried to first project energy from both hands forward simultaneously and then connect the projection with the chest and then slowly try to unify projection connecting the legs. This resulted in almost creating a ‘wall-like’ imagery of myself with the whole wall moving forward.
While it was fun, my partner noted at the end, “It’s not gonna help by looking at me that way either” 🙂 I guess in my mental projections I was doing funny looks with my eyes trying to ‘see through and beyond’ them.. heheh 🙂
First off, I never really considered trying White Crane Spread Wings (WCSW) in this manner to try and unbalance my opponent. The normal application is to block a low kick and high punch at the same time, or block a low kick while giving a left shoulder stroke attack. But what about the idea of just holding the posture and then trying to unbalance.
Doing this puzzle caused me to question how I look at applications as I never considered this scenario. How often do we practice the mental applications? We often hear how taiji unified the body and mind, but most of the applications I’ve done and seen only really deal with the body aspect. While it’s true that most of these applications are often considered ‘fake’ as noted by FormosaNeijia’s, The Myth of the Deadly Old Man, but playing around with this whole intention business really opened the doors of possibilities for me.
There’s something about this intention stuff, I’m not really sure what or where it will lead, but there’s something there… The funny thing is my first foray into ‘intention in taiji’ was via Chen Style Silk Reeling. “Where is the Mind?” is a common question asked by student who ask questions. What I mean is, where the mind goes, the qi will follow. In Chen, this results in the mind going from dantien -> back -> shoulder -> elbow -> hand -> elbow -> waist -> dantien and continue. By thinking in this way, the physical shape can be corrected to synch with the mind.
In Yang, for me, there’s less physical shape to work with, resulting in a bit more mind work. Where is the mind? Where is the intention? Where is the projection? Due to the movements being physically simpler than Chen, IMO, there is much room for mind/mental training. Yet another layer is peeled away ….