So many years have passed where I just barely missed the opportunity to train with Fong Ha. This year, fate must have been working because were finally got a chance to connect. Fong outlined the following sections for practice:
Be Mindful. Do it effortlessly.
Mindfulness is defined as ‘an awareness of one’s thoughts, actions or motivations’ [via wikipedia]. When we stand in zhan zhuang, are we comfortable? Are we exerting too much effort? Is our breathing calm, are we in harmony?
The three gems of qigong: (1) Harmonize the body, (2) Harmonize the breath and (3) Harmonize the mind.
Each day of the workshop began with roughly 1 hour of cultivation time, aka silence time. On the second day, we were treated with a second session of silent cultivation time… 🙂 This time can either be spent sitting or standing, whichever one prefers. Each session starts with the three harmonies listed above: body, breath, and mind.
While sitting, if you feel the inclination to stand, then stand 🙂 The eight postures of yiquan were covered as well as some hands on corrections by Fong. I was actually surprised at some of the corrections as my elbows were raised more than I had normally done or my forearm was adjusted at a slightly different angle than I had normally practiced. Once adjusted into position, it was up to my internal training discipline to harmonize the posture 🙂
Throughout the workshop, there was a strong emphasis on internal training and self awareness. Internal training is how we feel. Do we feel calm and comfortable? Do we feel good and full of energy? If not, adjust accordingly. Self awareness is believing that our body is inherently capable of adjusting itself into equilibrium, we just have to quiet our mind enough so that we can listen.
Fong gave a great analogy relating to cooking about fire and a pan. Consider cultivation as the fire and our body/mind as the pan. With these two basic ingredients, we can cook an unlimited amount of dishes (chinese, italian, steak, etc). Likewise, manifestation can take the form of yang taiji, yiquan, karate, etc.
A yiquan exercise called Shi li is basically moving, but without stepping. Are we able to maintain the body integration and central equilibrium when we move our upper body? An example would be to rotate ‘the ball’ in the standard zhan zhuang posture in various elliptical paths (ie, over-under, expand-contract, etc).
Moca bu builds upon shi li but includes stepping footwork. The basic idea of moca bu is that we should be able to stop at ANY given point and still have our own central equilibrium. This includes forward and backward stepping patterns. Generally this is done with one of the 8 yiquan postures, but over time can incorporate some of the shi li work with the moca bu stepping.
Again, all manifestation builds upon cultivation.
Utilization and verification combines everything learned in the cultivation and manifestation sections. This section primarily consists of various 2-person partner exercises. An example exercise would be to allow the body to internally harmonize oncoming forces (ie, person pushing on my shoulder). Additionally, the standard taiji push hand patterns can be used or the yiquan sensing hands activity can be used.
3 additional principles were introduced that relate to this section:
- Don’t lean on others and don’t let others lean on you
- No collision
- No separation
Don’t lean on others basically means to not give up your own central equilibrium. Don’t let others lean on you basically means do not allow others to affect your central equilibrium. Simple, right? 😉 If we lean against a wall, we are giving the wall our central equilibrium. If the wall is taken away, we fall. So care must be taken not to lean on others.
If someone leans on us and we fight back, that is using force and results in collision. The goal so practice is to be effortless … So basically, we do not allow others to lean on us and we do not use force, hence no collision. Practically speaking, if someone pushes my chest and I fight back, that is collision. If someone pushes my chest and I either step back or turn away to not allow the person to push me (aka lean on me) then I am not in conflict with the person, I am not using effort and I maintain my own central equilibrium.
Note, that when I touch someone, I am touching their central equilibrium. As long as I am in contact, I can feel the other person’s central equilibrium, hence no separation. The tricky part is the idea of no separation applies to BOTH parties in the exercise.
Overall I had a great time and I am glad I attended the workshop. What I really enjoyed was getting exposed to another perspective of taiji. We have all read about being relaxed and using no force, but what does this really mean? I am grateful for the opportunity to learn what this means, but I am even more grateful of being able to *feel* what this means from a kind and generous person like Fong Ha. I would highly recommend his books and DVDs or even better, his workshops for anyone interested in learning more!