Taiji 2019-01-18

Worked on very specific but important corrections to the beginner 8 form.

Repulse the monkey

  • Lower hand is a little kinked – needs to be like a scoop so energy flows all the way through

180 rotation from the first brush knee:

  • From end of brush knee (left), shift all weight back to right foot and lift the left toe and then turn the left foot by rotating the waist not rotating the leg – the leg is turned by waist, which also turns the shoulders and both hands.
  • That same right foot needs to be at a 45 degree already, or I won’t be able to turn completely to the right – and regardless, stop when I feel the need to shift any weight off the right and rely on the “cheat step” to fix the remaining turn
  • Cheat step is a rotation of the foot on the heel (not ball of foot)
  • Make sure the foot that lands to stabilize the “cheat step” is far enough out to not be in the way of the turning “cheating” foot
  • When push from brush knee is complete, weight should be even on heel and forefoot – even a slight lift of the heel from being too far forward is enough to be easily pulled off balance

Internal Martial Art Underworld 2019-01-05

Realization: external movements are guides for internal

Moves like gathering heavenly qi are external movements to help teach your attention/qi to move through the body internally – ultimately the “move” is entirely internal and there is no external movement – these external movements are just to help you get the feeling and understand how to move internally! This completely changes the way I experience and practice these kinds of moves now.

Example from today: of the five loosening movements the arm swings are about dropping energy abruptly down so that it rushes/bounces back up to fill. The idea is to feel the energy fill the body and extend out through the hands. The idea is to learn how to “pulse” energy like this – dropping to have it fill and expand.

Of course, you are also loosening the shoulders and learning to be more song/loose/relaxed/released ( 松 | Sōng ).

Push hands

Noticed how different it is to have one point of contact instead of two: just making a second point of contact with my hand to their body feels like it stablizes the whole system.

Taiji 2019-01-04

8 form

  • Start hands alive middle finger touches leg
  • Bring hands around to front simultaneous with heel lowering to floor
  • Hands only come up to shoulder height before lowering
  • Repulse the monkey
    • Rotate only at waist (no knees)
    • Rear arm not rotated too far away from chest
    • Arm energy extended fully outward as both arms out
    • Bring bent arm further forward, elbow down, fingers to ear
  • First 180 turn
    • Keep outward pressure on knees through whole movement
    • Left foot lift toe all the way up and shift weight back before turning
    • Left foot and both arms move at same pace during the actual 180 turn


Important note on how to read this journal

Important Internal Arts Note: A lot of my notes about xingyi, taiji and other interal arts will not make sense if you don’t have an experience with internal energetic work. The idea of placing a basket over a tree behind your partner, for example, will make no sense.

If you are curious about this next stage of work, start with standing post (Zhàn zhuāng | 站桩) work. Once you do some standing and sinking practice or find someone who can show a few things these metaphors/intentions/ways of adjusting awareness will make more sense.

I just wanted to make this note so people weren’t trying to figure out how to make physical gestures based on what I’m describing. Of course, see also “the purpose of this journal”.

The purpose of this journal

All of my friends and senior students of (zìránmén | 自然门) in China kept journals/logs of every session of training. (They were often training twice a day when everyone was in town.) These little notes were a great way to keep an eye on refinements when (Shīfù | 师傅) dished them out, and we often shared what we learned through our notes. Just for fun I’ll throw a few of my daily notes up here, both to keep myself on track and to perhaps provide a resource for others.

Internal Martial Art Underworld Day 2

Second day training with a small private undground group of internal martial arts practicioners. The group is quite a weird and wonderous little crew and quite a range of skill levels. Primary focus is around i-chuan and taiji.

Today’s learning moments (that I can remember – it becomes a blur at hour three.)


  • Standing leaning against tree on one side. As he pushes into my shoulder on the other, push back the same amount (energetically/intention) in both directions. Then do it just remembering the feel of the tree there – respond to the push into my chest, shoulder, back as though I was pushing against an equal force from the opposide side.


  • Really staying loose with hands and arms. Nothing to do there.
  • Always keeping contact
  • In 4 square practice – hand comes to elbow – not forward of elbow or they can bend in and attack with that elbow
  • Watch my center line – I’m leaning all over instead of staying straight up and down

I-Chuan practice

For everything done with i-chuan

Everything is done with the “ready to go energy”. (When someone says ready, set… the energy of the moment before muscles move – that. Keep that energy throughout the body. Keep this energy throughout the exercises.)

Hands are always alive – slightly extended but not tight – with energy going out through them and extending far beyond fingertips. (Although another suggestion was to have intention of always reaching for a point just 5 inches past fingertips.)

The Practice

I’m trying to get details on names in Chinese but had to scrape these from the internet and not sure they line up quite right and don’t include actual characters and tones. 🙁

From internet scrape: Ju, Bao, Peng, Tway, An, Hua, Ti and closing with Jia So Su

My notes from today:

  • Ju is the first: rising.
    • Palms facing one another
    • Extending energy beyond fingers (always)
    • Focus on hand energy extending outward – all else completely loose – structure will follow
    • Elbows down. Shoulders dropped.
  • Then there is a setting down. Like placing a basket over the top of a tree in the distance beyond the person.
  • Slight outward press with hands, extening long beyond fingertips (Tui).
  • Bao (the “hug”)
    • In application later: draws and traps the other person
    • First finding place where comfortable – hands back and forth until not too far, not too close
      • Feeling “fullness”
    • When someone else touching, connect through both of you, absorb towards yourself and imagine/have the intention of moving both of you drawn towards each other without physically moving
  • Sinking. Palms down.
  • Offering a gift – extending forward and rotating hands upward
  • Lifting water bucket
    • palms facing each other
    • intention of about to lift using feet
  • Then hands out wide and low – feel like being filled like a sail – then take that energy and focus it very slightly more compressed on sides and forward
  • Ending with hands behind back, backs of hands against kidneys, still energized, and leaning forward on the toes and chin down

Other exercises

  • Hands palm down, then coming up to strike upward with wrists (hands slightly dripped) as body drops, then reverse: palms sinking with body rising
  • Same but forward and back – forward until on balls of feet and palms down just beyond body on the sides – then coming forward and body back

Taiji 2018-11-12

Notes from class on basic moves:


  • Shoulder only tips in and forward is a tiny twist/ wind up – not a tilt forward

Brush Knee

  • Shoulders! Relaxed!
  • Back hand follows straight line forward but elbow comes inward as all goes forward
  • At end arms both same level of straight but not straight

Cloud Hands

  • Low hand extend until elbow dissapears

Taiji 2018-11-06

Notes from class. Working on refining details of basic movements.

Brush knee

  • Hand goes stright from ear to front of face – not in and around face
  • Shoulders relaxed (always – esp. for me)

Cloud hands

  • Step out is 3rd line step, bring together is only 2nd line step close (feet not pressed together)
  • Hands pointing parallel vectors up and down
    • Top hand in front of mouth and pointing 45 deg up
    • Bottom hand in front of hip and pointing 45 down
    • Hands express continous line from shoulder – do not bend up or down, energetically alive and open, maintaining “roundness” of bubble
  • When switching hands up and down, elbows stay put
  • With stepping out, then dropping to heel and switching hands, do not lower body or head – keep at same height – also does not shift weight yet
  • Hand switch – low hand always comes up through inside

I Liq Chuan Notes

Got in another I Liq Chuan class with one of my favorite teachers. Really wish I lived close enough to go more often. Extrememly powerful compliment to Taiji and push hands. Where Taiji offers large movements and practices that will ultimately deliver mindfulness, I Liq Chuan goes stright to the core and focuses on small, intense, deeply mindful movements. I come out feeling like I really know my body and the way to move someone else around much more deeply. And that I need more practice.

  • For Absorb: Condense in dan tian, expand through legs
  • For Project: Expand from ming man
  • Turning – knees stationary, opening one hip and closing the other, drives the shoulders
    • Project/expand first to full extension, feel the center pole, hips lead turn of body exactly around that pole

Nothing new, but somehow working this subtle edge really caught on today and sometimes taking another note helps capture that memory and learning.

Taiji Notes

Here are a few quick notes on corrections from my Taiji teacher today:


  • Overall: Use toes to grip slightly
  • Overall: Turn feet in slightly, about 10 degrees (similar to Ziranmen)
  • Bow first with brush knee before moving forward at all with strike
  • The step is touch heel, then land forefoot
    • Subtle and not so big
    • The step shouldn’t require any body movement – comes from back bent leg and simply placing foot
    • No body movement forward at all until:
      • foot is planted
      • toes lightly gripping
      • slight outward pressing of knees to keep legs activated

Push Hands

  • Step out to 4th line stance
  • Intro to freestyle then looking for contact points – but contact is not an “attack” – it’s just an attachment to get started.
  • Slow gentle leverages by defender can shift a contact point of an attacker to where they no longer have enough contact to make use of it. Example: their hand to my hip, my arm simply points straight down in front of my body and slightly, through leverage, moves their grip off to one side. They are still touching hip, but can no longer push on it.