Its been about a year and a half since starting the Practical Method, and after putzing around with so many different conceptions of posture, movement, and skill; finally something clicked in. Even though Master Chen Zhong Hua and most of his students have this dynamic quality to their moves, it doesn’t mean much force is being used. After weekly going about trying to replicate such moves, fast, slow, hard, and soft, I kept noticing day in and day out that I was still using too much force. Every little extra bit of force added into the form build momentum, and by the time you reach the end of the form it is a great cascade. Because of the building momentum, my form became blotchy, forgetfull, and broken apart. The fluidity between the forms became stop and go, as I had to put the brakes on continually between movements. In putting the breaks hear and there, the momentum would manifest in a different way, and upward rushing of yang, where my mind would jostle and then say to its self, what do I do next? Did I do that? Did I just do a movement 3 steps ahead. The mind wants to cut corners all it can, especially when it is racing ahead.
Finally when it was suggested to do three yi lu to one Ehr lu, was it then that I could see my extremes, and then I could start slowing things down. I could feel the excess, and only discipline in completing the moves could I finally make the form continuous.
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I first encountered the Practical Method in the lonely winter of Japan, where I lived in rural Wakayama, with a Ukelele to strum the cold weather out. Japan has mild winters, though too cold to practice Tai ji, I turned to Youtube for hints and fascination. Having learned from Dr. Wu, many varying styles, I became interested in Chen, because it was the one I had the least exposure to, also it being said as the original form, I knew I had to learn it. Flipping through the channels of Chen, I encountered the prolific, Chen Zhong Hua, teaching from western pacific Canada. He was one who had broken down the old forms from its present flourished forms to a simple elegant dynamic force. His demonstrations are powerful and unique. One cannot but be amazed by the power of this beauty. At that time, he had a small youtube following with some blogs by fellow practitioners. Quickly his following grew, and his presence became international. I did buy his DVD of his form, but found it difficult to follow through. I left it on my back burner, as I came back home. Two years had passed, and again I remembered about that time that I was fascinated with this style, there had to be a practitioner back here in the states. Only finding a small group in Milwaukee, and one person in the far west suburbs, I tried to follow through it again, but failed miserably. In a strange coincidence of things some time later, a posting by a fellow acupuncturist, Yaron Sideman, who practices a form of Chinese Herbal Medicine that has a similar regional root, Huan Yuan, reminded me of the Practical Method. I reached out again, with my interwebs, and stumbled finally on someone, Spencer Jones, who recently had studied in China intensively the form, and lives in Chicago.
So far, its nothing like the Tai ji that I have learned, finding it a lot more rooted than any form I’ve done. I have only completed the first form, and I am eager to continue.
Spencer Jones teaches in Ukrainian Village, out of Bend Yoga on Damen.
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