New DVD Coming June 30 -- the Chen Tai Chi 38 Form
Tai Chi Self-Defense Applications Workshop was a Lot of Fun!

Getting Back to the Basics of Internal Strength

Last night at practice, some students and I went over basic ground strength exercises from the Internal Strength DVD. These are among the first things that my students learn, both in my classes and in the online school.

It was good to revisit these exercises. If you're doing the internal arts such as Tai Chi, Bagua, or Hsing-I, and you haven't been taught how to establish and maintain the ground path and peng jin throughout all of your movements--even while walking--then you're not really doing the internal arts, you're just moving in a way that looks like the internal arts. Unfortunately, most of the tai chi folks I meet around the country are just moving around. When you push on them they collapse. It's easy to see that there is no peng, no ground, no silk-reeling going on in their movement.

Internal Exercise 13-AThe development of internal strength gives you the iron inside the cotton, but it takes practice and someone to show you how it's done.

In the photos here, I show one of the exercises that we practiced last night. In the first photo, Tom is pushing on my chest. It isn't a hard push, just enough for me to establish the ground path to my rear leg.

In the second photo, Tom changes the angle of his push and I have to adjust the ground to stay with him. This is step one in learning to adapt to another person's energy as it's coming to you. Manipulating the ground and peng jin are Internal Exercise 13-Bcrucial, and they must both be working at all times, throughout all tai chi movements (and bagua and hsing-I).

Sometimes, depending upon how much he changes the angle, it only takes some micro-adjustments in the dan t'ien and through the body to maintain ground. Sometimes it requires more adjustment, such as moving the feet or pivoting.

We didn't make it through all 25 exercises in the DVD, but we worked on quite a few, and at the end of the class one of the students, who has had a hard time learning how to maintain ground and peng and whole-body connection, did the stepping forward three steps movement from the Chen 38 and he looked a lot better because he was focusing on maintaining ground and peng as he walked.

Tomorrow, I'm putting on a workshop in Moline, Illinois on the fighting applications of the Chen 38 form. We'll tape it for a DVD, which is coming out on May 30. It will be fun to see some of the "external" students trying to use relaxed strength and whole-body movement to produce power. In the meantime, my core group of students here in the Quad Cities will probably work more on the basic ground exercises on Monday.

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