Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wu Style Taijiquan Qigong

I’ve learned that Wu style taijiquan has something called the 24 Forms. This is the qi gong set of exercises for the style. I’ve been introduced to the first 10 of them. The first 5 (at least) can be practiced as simple warm ups (our 5 Warm Ups that we learn in the very first class), and I am told they can also be practiced as qi gong exercises. In fact all of the 24 Forms can be practiced in a variety of ways. Over time, I’ll learn more about these and the range of how they’re done.

I have been shown one zhan zhaung form that resembles the wuji posture. I haven’t received a lot of directions about it, but the one thing that is different is that the hands are closed. Fold your fingers over your palms, with your thumbs outside of your fingers, pointing down. The purpose of this hand form, I am told, is to keep the energy circulating within the body rather than rolling off the ends of your fingers. Also the idea is to build pockets of heat up in the palms.

Building up heat in the body is a recurring theme I’m seeing in the Wu style. When doing the form, you are weighted 100% on one leg, and then the other. You’re pushing a lot of blood around your body, and really get warm. Even in winter, we tend to be pretty sweaty after doing the form in class; and during the summer, some of the advanced students are drenched.

I’m going to begin to introduce standing into my personal training again, doing it their way.


andi said...

Hi Rick

Work on those warm-ups - they'll pay you back handsomely in your form work and in pushing hands. Over time (I've been doing this for three years) you'll find you get looser and looser and looser!

We've only just begun looking at the 24 forms - it's rather the opinion of our teacher that they're something it's better to learn later on: not to suggest that your teacher is incorrect in teaching them of course! We've done various items from them at various time in the past but not really worked on them as a group. Our teacher doesn't really class himself as a great expert on Qi Gong, but we have another teacher who comes to the class who is, and so we do about an hour of it with him every couple of weeks. Right now we're doing the 37 forms with him! The most regular Qi Gong we do is to end with the Pa Duan Din set when we remember to leave time for it at the end!

In case you're interested, our 2.5 hour weekly class is split into three sections:

Either Qi Gong or Sabre Form
Warming up with the auxilliary exercises and Doing the Form
Pushing hands or applications or sometimes something else!

Rick Matz said...

My teacher has classes all over the area, but there is a main location. I go to one of the classes there once a week.

The way it’s laid out right now, is that everyone, beginners and on going students, warm up together for 30 to 45 minutes. This consists of Tai Chi Walking, the 5 Warm Ups, and what I’ll call Arm Swinging. In some places, this is known as the Constant Bear. Basically just rotating your hips in either direction while your arms swing loosely. I don’t know if this is actually one of the 24 or not.

Sifu Wu said that as a group, we really need to work on this, to attain the relaxation and looseness necessary to do the form correctly and reap some of it’s benefits.

The next hour or so sees the students split up into two groups. Those who haven’t learned the 108 standard form work on that, on one side of the room; and the ongoing students get form corrections on the other side. Last night, we worked on Wave Hands Like Clouds, Single Lotus Kick, and Double Lotus Kick.

Then all together, we take about 30 minutes and go through the 108 standard form. Those who haven’t learned the whole form drop out when then get as far as they can.

The beginners leave, and the next hour is for the on going students who have already learned the sequence of the 108 standard form. What takes place in this hour could really be anything. Usually there is at least some push hands practice. I’ve also done some breakfalls, more form corrections, and recently, an introduction to a few of the 24 Forms.

I will only claim Tai Chi Walking and the 5 Warm Ups (plus 1). Prior to beginning Wu style Tai Chi, I spent a couple of years practicing zhan zhuang exclusively. I decided that when I began Wu style, I’d do it their way, and set aside any other martial arts exercise, including ZZ, that I ever encountered, until re introduced to it (if ever) in it’s Wu style incarnation. The standing practice is something that has always resonated with me, and as I’ve been introduced to that one posture, I’m going to latch on to that.

Total time is 3 hours.

I think if I practice my form together with the supplementary exercises (and you’re right – I can feel myself getting looser by way of the 5 Warm Ups already) diligently, I’ll be prepared so that if I come to class regularly, over time, I’ll get exposed to a good sized piece of the Wu style of Tai Chi.

Rick Matz said...

Besides Andi and I, are there any other Wu style people out there? Anyone? Anyone?

andi said...

There are 10 of us in Down Ampney if we all turn up...

From what I understands, Sifu always thinks that people are not loose enough! Mind you if you watch him do the arm swinging one on the DVD he's pretty much right as so far as I can tell his arms have no weight, and probably no bones either.

It took us (the 5 of us who started at the same time) about 2 years to get to the point where we could do the whole form. We used to learn a new bit each week and during form practice at our class the system is that you drop out when you get to the point beyond which you don't know. You feel sooooooooo good the first time you stay in all the way.

Rick Matz said...

The looseness shown on the DVD is unreal. Certainly something to strive for.

Igor R. said...

Which DVD?