Internal Arts IA

martial arts , health enrichment, development of consciousness

Focus for Form Practice at Beginning Intermediate Level

Posted by Editor on August 30, 2006

During a class of private instruction, this past weekend, we found some focus techniques which proved very effective for helping a student progress in his practice. Hopefully, readers here will be able to benefit from exploring these concepts. Please feel free to share any experience you might have in applying these ideas: any flaws in the focus points, confusion, need for clarification, whether they are applicable if your style is different, etc. We feel from our experience that these points for focus have real promise for helping students progress from beginning intermediate to higher intermediate level. It may be useful if input from different experiences with these points can be viewed from different angles, to further refine the strategy.

The combination of focus points presented here came about somewhat spontaneously, as the right combination which happened to work for this particular student. This being his first private lesson, we had the opportunity to zero in on weaknesses which had always been present in his form, but were not enlivened in his recognition with enough impact for him to make the necessary changes to get to a better level of performance. He had trouble getting his stance balanced and rooted, difficulties getting aligned for the proper path to flow in his circles, problems with rotating around the spinal axis, as opposed to side to side, and other obstacles to his progress. We both discovered that this combination of focus points had a tremendous impact, in helping address many of the problem issues at the same time. It appeared to result in a major breakthough in his grasp of the requirements of better practice. That is why we want to share the strategy here, to see if it works for others, and if some of you out there might share, if you have ideas how it can be expanded or improved upon.

Our student has been practicing for about two years. He comes for weekly instruction. He practices every day, for about an hour to an hour and a half. He works on circles, standing, qigong, and form. He also practices with a partner each week. He sometimes studies the form videos, to try to correct more details of the form. This background is relevant, because the focus required for these points is far too complex for beginning students. Before attempting to do the form while monitoring multiple aspects of structure, one should have lots of prior experience monitoring one specific point of focus during practice of the form. Before attempting the following training angle, one should already have some understanding of how to maintain a decent structure, with central equilibrium, balance and root, and steady movement. Also, keep in mind, we are using this format with Hong’s Practical Method of Chen Style. This means some emphasis, such as elbow positioning may be a little form specific. But our take is that this combination will work with other forms also, if fully understood —- another reason to put it out there for more of you to investigate and evaluate. With these caveats in mind, let’s look at the points.

1. Shoulders and hips are always level.
2. Maintain awareness of the spinal axis being the center around which the entire move is rotating, with bahui always pulling spine up, and tailbone always pulling spine down.
3. In all circles, elbow leads in, fingers lead out, with the coiling continuous from start to finish of the move.

Those are the points, which helped the student so much. We could elaborate to a great extent on the details, if there is interest from you out there. So please let us know what you think.

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3 Responses to “Focus for Form Practice at Beginning Intermediate Level”

  1. wujimon said

    Hi IA.

    Very interesting account and background info of the student. I actually like the way you present the material, very scientific in flavor 😉

    Point 1: do you think this is an issue most commonly encountered with folks from the HJS practical method line? I could see this being an issue in how the movement is achieved by the knees moving up/down and not side to side as most commonly taught in other styles.

    Point 2: Is a great point and I think very central to all taijiquan styles. One thing I question is does this mean the spine should always remain perpendicular to the ground creating a right angle? I ask b/c in some other styles (chen/wu) there’s could be a slight lean forward but it’s commonly explained that the spine is still straight in regards to those 2 points.

    Point 3: Physically, the move is still the same whether going in/out, it’s just the intention is shifting depending on action, correct? Ie.. intention on elbow when moving in, intention on finger when moving out, yet physically there is no difference in movement as the elbow and hand are connected by the frame of the body.

    Thanks for sharing and taking the time to respond.

  2. […] Focus for Form Practice at Beginning Intermediate Level […]

  3. Hi Wujimon,

    Great points and penetrating questions, requiring a lot of thought. Check out the next post for further considerations.

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