Internal Arts IA

martial arts , health enrichment, development of consciousness

Followup:”Matching Power”, Where is the Center

Posted by Editor on March 19, 2007

Our last post, “Practical Application of Matching Power”, gave rise to the following comments and discussion with an astute observer, who appreciated the content. He raised some very interesting points which

led to some further investigation of the principles, and practical value, of Chen Zhonghua’s demonstration and teaching shown in that video clip. We will designate his comments with “Q”.

Q:

THIS IS GOOD STUFF!! I like this and like how it talks about developing gong, to be able to use in any technique. However, seeing this, I can’t help but think of the “don’t lean on me, I don’t lean on you” idea. Nevertheless, I was quite impressed with what he showed and explains. It kinda goes against the common notion of not countering force with force, as this method does use a ‘rooting’ force?

Internalartsia:

Can you clarify what you mean by “leaning on me, leaning on you”?
Regarding “rooting” and “countering force with force”, I suspect you might be missing some significant aspects of what he is demonstrating. It is not about “rooting”. It is about center, sensitivity, coordination of different body parts, separation of yin and yang, and coiling energy connected through the center, from the ground all the way to the finger tips. The opponent cannot “feel” Chen Zhonghua, or “touch his center” because Chen is harmonizing all those variables, which creates a “center” which the opponent cannot find, and therefor, cannot control. Then with any slight move Chen Zhonghua makes, delivered by any body part, the opponent’s center is dislodged by that move.

Q, In Reply:

Regarding “leaning”, It almost looks like CZH is allowing the other guy to ‘lean’ on him.
This makes sense from a ‘body as gears’ perspective as we’ll need a little bit of force to get the gears going. Just noting how this goes against the ‘common’ notion of push hands training.

What you have written about countering force, rooting, and center, that brings to mind another angle that makes sense to me. CZH is following his opponents until he ‘leads them into emptiness’, at which point he takes control. However, this ‘leading’ requires a great amount of sensitivity and coordination as you describe above.

Internalartsia:

Yes. You could say that he is “leading them into emptiness” to the extent that he is letting them “into” his center. But this in no way goes against correct taiji training, only its teaching has been confused. What you describe as “body as gears”, is the functional skill of joint rotation and adjusting balance of all parts of the body, to maintain center, in a manner which does not allow the opponent to locate or control center. What you observe as “allowing him to lean” is a practice to learn, and to gain more sensitivity about what your center is and how to really “defend” it in the taiji way. So you can see, it is by no means countering force with force, it is the opposite. Your perception that Chen is “leading into emptiness” is more appropriate. Because Chen Zhonghua always knows where his center is, and is in balance and control of his movements harmonizing around that center, his opponent only finds that “emptiness”.

You might say that one is making one’s self more vulnerable, allowing the opponent to “come in”. But every time someone “plays” in this way, he/she is developing greater “sensitivity”, and “awareness” of center—-this is the real meaning of “investing in loss”. The video reveals that this is a concrete practice, based on mechanics and functional skills which have been developed, to allow for the ability to move from center in this way.

Q:

The part about ‘rooting’ is referring to how he does not take a step or move his feet. This could mean that his center has not been compromised to the point where he’d have to take a step. Again, this takes quite a bit of skill to achieve and is a pretty cool exercise to train this method.

Internalartsia:

Yes, so “rooting” is not really the right term. It is a function of balance, with joint rotation maintaining correct relationship of body parts in connection with center. Chen Zhonghua is teaching that to his students all the time, so it is not some unattainable “high level skill”. It doesn’t have to take 10-15 years, as others would imply. He constantly emphasizes that the whole thing comes down to correct function and usage, which is always explicitly taught in the method.

Q.

Thanks for elaborating further on the point of the exercise. I think I
understand it a bit better now.

Internalartsia:

Thank you very much for your insights and observations. Perhaps other readers would enjoy joining in?

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4 Responses to “Followup:”Matching Power”, Where is the Center”

  1. chenquestion said

    >>Because Chen Zhonghua always knows where his center is, and is in balance and control of his movements harmonizing around that center, his opponent only finds that “emptiness”.

  2. chenquestion said

    Sorry, my comment got cut off after the quote. Here’s what I wanted to ask about:

    In taiji, it’s often said “all movement must come from the center”. This is portrayed as the key to the much-desired “whole-body movement”. But if the movements, however refined, are generated from the center, they can be traced back to the center by the opponent, correct?

    In contrast, you’ve described movement AROUND that center; not connected to or proceeding from it. “Harmonizing” suggests actively balancing a dynamic relationship of many parts. Sorry, I know I’m just rephrasing what you already said. But what this sounds like to me is, though the opponent may engage the various moving (rotating) parts – by “coming in” – and try to act upon them or wade through them somehow, he will be led astray, unable to locate the one point he needs to effectively unbalance the Practical Method practitioner?

    I don’t have any special observations to offer, but I am good at spotting patterns and in this video clip as in numerous others, I take note that Chen Zhonghua’s movements are very, very precise. Though without any rigidity. I know that Hong Junsheng was well known for always emphasizing exact precision in movement.

  3. chenquestion said

    Afterthought: I now feel very ill-at-ease about having used the phrase “not connected to it” (the center that is). As if things were moving independently. I know Chen Zhonghua differentiates between parts “moving” and “being moved”. You said there was connection “through” the center. So what I get from recent discussion on this blog and on Practical Method is, all parts moving, each part has its own independent center, the whole is coordinated (harmonized) around the one point/ultimate center which does NOT move. Power is not generated by the center; but the center is the hub of power and movement. If I’m doing little more than unfocusing this discussion, please excuse. These are challenging concepts! I’m trying to correlate what was said in the Kua interview also. Thank you.

  4. Editor said

    Hi Chenquestion,

    You have raised some very good points here, and demonstrated a thoughtful understanding of the details and mechanics of movement, as they were considered in the post. I had been preparing a reply to correct the misunderstanding shown in you previous comment. Then you corrected it yourself, identifying the exact significant point I had prepared to address! You have hinted at the key distinction: to say movement “through” the center is very different from saying “synchronized joint rotation”, in co ordination with a “fixed center”. Chen Zhonghua’s teaching is addressing the precise body mechanics which can illuminate these distinctions in a more objective framework, so that the vagueness of language no longer hampers our progress. Certainly this process will continue to evolve in upcoming books and videos, and on his blogs at practicalmethod, and pullupachair

    It is not easy to write about these things, so it is rewarding to see that someone out there is beginning to grasp the ideas, as you have indicated in your follow-up comment. This discussion is worthy of further consideration, so keep posted for a new post on the topic, within the next few days.

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