What do Catherine the Great, Vlad the Impaler and Kermit the Frog have in common?

They all share the same middle name. ("the"). What do Chi Ball, Aqua Chi and Reiki have in common? They all found they could make easy money with the minimum amount of training and experience. The Chi Ball and Aqua Chi come off the back of T'ai Chi with the magic word Chi attached. I recently saw an advert to become "A Reiki Master in a weekend" for a substantial amount of money by the way. One wonders how anyone can become a "master" of anything in a weekend! The main connection of course is that they all purport to use or create energy. Messing with energies can be a very dangerous process. A well known Chinese Master with whom I studied Zhan Zhuang for a few years and who was a doctor of Chinese Medicine, used to say he spent more time undoing bad Reiki treatments than anything else. Our primal energy (or Chi) flows through our bodies in one of two directions - front to back or back to front and unless you know which direction your energy is taking, you can end up with blockages. Not a good outcome.  In T'ai Chi we expend a lot of time (years) learning and using energies because the energies are many and varied. Probably the most basic and the first of the energies we need to learn is Ting Jin or "listening energy".

You need to work with a co-operative partner. Stand facing each other, feet shoulder width apart and arms extended at waist height. One person should have the palms upwards and the other palms downwards.  Grasp each others forearms LIGHTLY! One of the partners should now very slowly, exert a push with one arm. It can be either arm, but must be light and slow. The object is for the other person to experience the strength and direction of the push and react to it. The strength of the push should be so subtle that it is difficult to tell if any push is actually happening. In other words you are "listening" to the energy. You can now judge how to respond to that push without using strength. Remember that this is a co-operative exercise and you are learning how to respond to an opponents attack. The easiest way to respond is of course to turn the waist away from the push which in turn applies an opposite push to your partner. It is not something you can learn in one session and you need to keep practising it. You need to be Song  throughout the exercise. (I'll talk more about Song (pr. Soong) in the next blog)

You have now learned how to experience and use the most fundamental of the T'ai Chi energies and from now on, each energy, particularly in push hands, will become easier to learn and understand. You may not become a master, but you will at least have an understanding of energies and their uses.

That's all for now.

Alistair Sutherland
Principal Instructor.

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