I began Tai Chi in October 2007. I chose Tai Chi partly because I wanted something where the moves were as complicated as the style of Okinawan karate I used to train in so I wouldn’t get bored, and yet low impact so my body could withstand the training.
By the time I started Tai Chi, I had experienced various sports and martial arts–soccer, athletics, boxing, American football, Okinawan traditional karate as well as mainland karate–and accumulated a host of injuries. More recently I’ve tried Capoeira, Latin dancing and yoga, but didn’t last long–due to past injuries, surgery and other unknown causes, I was in constant pain. I had become dependent on pain killers to get through the day, and I often took them before class during the first several months of Tai Chi, to keep the pain at a bearable level.
One day in class, about two months after I started training, I noticed a lack of pain for the first time while doing the form. With the help of Tai Chi, along with physiotherapy, the constant pain has decreased both in frequency and intensity. 18 months later, while I still take pain killers, they’re usually for the occasional headache.
Sent: Sunday, April 18, 2010 9:02 PM
Subject: “limp hands on outstroke”
“Outstroke” as Ric defines it, is where energy goes out. There is a metaphysical aspect to this… “Outstroke” also has a martial aspect to it, where it is understood to be the position where the body exerts extreme force.
Usually the martial and metaphysical aspects overlap at each “limp hands on outstroke”. However, at my stage of understanding, I have noticed places where there’s energy going out with no apparent martial application. There are also many moves with martial applications that are not considered to have energy going out.
When I reported to Ric about the weird sensation in my wrists at the end of “grasp bird’s tail”, Ric said, “now you understand limp hands”.
Assuming that that sensation had been my first glimpse of “limp hands”, I can say that it is a physical sensation.
The initial “weird sensation” occurred spontaneously. It was unexpected and I did not will it to happen. But now, at ALMOST every posture where there is supposed to be a “limp hands on outstroke”, I can feel an undeniable sensation that is not present at other times.
It feels like the wrist has become one solid but malleable rod of metal, without any joints or layers. Kind of like soft lead. Bent easily if gently pressed, hard and solid if hit with abrupt force.
Furthermore, this sensation was no longer localized to the wrists. I could feel it deep in the neck just below the jaw bone. It is in the same area where you normally feel a contraction in the deep neck flexors. The “soft lead” sensation is strongest there and in the wrists, and to a lesser extent in-between, in the shoulders and arms.
Sent: Saturday, April 10, 2010 1:46 PM
Subject: Weird sensation
As we were following Ric perform the styles in section 1 and section 2, I had a strange sensation which I don’t remember having felt before. This happened as we stretched our arms out and lifted our hands up at the end of “grasp bird’s tail” and “appear to close as if to seal”.
The fleshy base of the palm of both hands felt soft but firm, warm and slightly numb. It felt as if the tissue in that area, several millimetres thick, had turned into a firm, foam rubber-like substance.
At first I didn’t think much of it, but I felt it every time I did the above two moves and not at other times. But as I was walking home after class, I noticed that I could still feel the sensation in the same location. It gradually faded away in the next 20 minutes.
Sent: Saturday, October 17, 2009 3:43 PM
My arms felt extremely light today when we were doing “all pervading ultimate manifests” with the two new girls. I wouldn’t say they were moving automatically by themselves, but they felt light and yet not powerless (quite the opposite) and under control/well rooted. The lightness continued throughout “around the world”. It felt good.
_*Sat 9 May 09*_
While we were having coffee after class as we often do, Ric posed this question: “Follow me–what does it mean?” I explained what it meant to me and Ric seemed to like what I said. The following was inspired by that conversation.
By following Ric I’m able to move with so much more detail than I could if I were practising alone. When I watch Ric and then try to do what I just saw, there would be a lot of omissions. By following Ric, I can concentrate on moving exactly the way he’s moving, attempting to reproduce all its intricate detail.
When I’m practising the form alone, my brain is sending out the signals to move my body. My attention is on myself. When I’m following Ric, however, my attention is mainly on Ric. Instead of my brain telling my body how to move, I try to use the image of Ric’s moving limbs to move my body in exactly the same way. It is as if my brain is putting all its efforts on relaying every single bit of visual information in front of me to my muscles, trying its best not to interfere. The locus of control has shifted from myself to Ric. At this stage I try not only to imitate the superficial movement of the limbs, but also to feel how Ric’s muscles are moving, how his weight is shifting, searching for the thing that propels Ric to move the way he does, so I too can move that way, even when I’m on my own.
Unfortunately, though, when Ric asks me to show him what we just did, my mind often goes blank. As if waking up from a dream, the sense of competency that I had just experienced has all but faded, and I am once again the novice. The conscious connection between the way I moved and my brain is not there yet. So when I follow Ric, I’m also hoping that my “body” would “remember” some of the moves that it’s performing. A type of reverse feedback, where the body is moved in a certain way, and hopefully, the brain would remember how it moved and be able of reproduce it.