Yesterday, when my new Silk-Reeling Energy ebook was released through Amazon's Kindle, a couple of friends gave me grief for believing -- they thought -- in an invisible mystical energy that can't be measured by scientific methods.
I laughed, because the use of the word "energy" throws off a lot of Westerners. Let me clarify. And as I do, I will show some photos of a self-defense application for one of the exercises that are described in the Silk-Reeling Energy ebook and on the Silk-Reeling DVD.
When the Chinese talk about a certain energy, such as the 8 Energies of Taiji, it is a bad translation when we think of it as a scientifically valid energy. Actually, it is a method or particular skill that helps you strategically handle external force that is applied to you -- a punch, for example.
Think of it like a good baseball hitter -- my hero Pete Rose, for example. Pete was not a gifted athlete, but he worked and practiced, even taking batting practice long after his other teammates left for the day. The result was a particular skill when he swung the bat. That could be called "bat jin," or "bat energy." The same would apply to a skilled carpenter who has a particular way he swings a hammer, based on years of practice building skill. There's nothing mystical about it.
So "energies" in Tai Chi, including peng, liu, ji, an, cai, tsai, kao, shou, and others -- are different strategic methods and skills used to handle external force directed at you. Some require you to deflect the force, some attack it, some grab and pluck it, some require shoulder or elbow deflections or strikes. All of the energies include peng.
Silk-reeling energy is a spiraling movement that you practice in your forms, particularly Taiji and Bagua, but also in Hsing-I, the way we practice it. One of the exercises on the DVD and in the ebook is the Single Elbow Spiral. It can look a little silly to the uninitiated, rotating your hand and your elbow, but the photos here show how it is used in one instance -- when someone tries to put you into a joint lock called an armbar.
As my partner executes the technique, I spiral away from the direction of the force with the elbow, spiral down over the crook of his elbow, and then change directions to put him into an elbow lock. This type of movement, combined with fajing, can break an attacker very quickly. It's a close-up style of fighting that embodies the best of Taiji and Bagua -- taking his force, relaxing and deflecting it, and then countering using proper internal body mechanics and spiraling.
Silk-reeling energy, like all of the skills of the internal arts, are not intended to make you one with the Universe. The basic intention is a skillful physical strategy for overcoming an attack. Every movement in Taiji and Bagua is a silk-reeling exercise. As you practice your art, look for the spiraling in each movement, how it comes from the ground, and how each part of the body is involved in the spiraling.
I love these arts. My own understanding of silk-reeling and its relationship to the other "energies" has grown in the past 15 years or so, and I pass along what I learn through my website, DVDs, ebooks, and this blog. Thanks for reading it.
The Silk-Reeling ebook is available through Amazon Kindle.