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MORE TAI-CHI LEARNING TIPS by Bob Klein

How to Learn and Teach Tai-chi DVD

1. “The feet are the gateway to consciousness”. When you walk in a natural area, the feet conform to the shape of the ground, which is formed by the geology, botany and weather of the area. As your feet conform to the ground, each joint of the body adjusts to keep you aligned and in motion, thereby also participating in the natural history of that area. Our flat floors deaden the feet and also the whole body and cut us off from participating in nature. So when you step, allow each joint and muscle of the foot to individually settle onto the floor, to help enliven the foot.

2. When you breathe out and the upper body settles downward, its weight sinks through the hip area and into the feet and “root”. When you breathe in and expand upward, that expansion has to pass through the hip area. If the hips are rigid, these transfers of energy cannot take place. Keep the hip level open, like an open pipe, so that momentum can flow through it.

3. The head is part of the body. We do not consider it to be the “seat of consciousness”. The whole body is the seat of consciousness. There is a tendency to keep the head and neck rigid, as if it were a stone throne that the king sits in, ordering the body around and judging the results. “Think” with the feelings of the whole body and allow the momentum, created by your form or chi-gung, to flow through the neck and head. While the head does not flop around, it moves in circles about an inch in diameter. If the head is rigid, the body will be rigid.

4. Release energy at the beginning and end of each breath. If you are not yet familiar with the experience of “chi”, think of energy as momentum. At the end of the in-breath, when the momentum flows up and out, let that momentum go, never to return. Then allow the body to begin sinking back down, drawing into it “new” energy until the end of the out-breath as you sink into your root. At that point, allow the chi (or momentum) to be released into the ground, never to return. When you begin to breathe in again, expanding upward, allow new energy to fill the body from the bottom. If you hold energy within the body, you will not get the health benefits of Tai-chi.

5. At the end of each in-breath, expand the palms and feet. Allow them to relax as soon as you begin to breathe out.

6. Once you are comfortable with the sequence of movements, don’t think of the movement before or the next movement. Allow the form to unfold, as the mainspring of old watches, unwind during the day to move all the little gears of the watch, allowing “time” to unfold. If you have been trained how each part of the body participates in each part of the form, your form will have been imbedded into each part of the body, like a mainspring ready to unfold.

7. Practice one thing at a time. Your teacher may have presented you with a hundred principles and you can’t keep them all in your mind at the same time. Practice just one or two for a while and then switch to another one or two principles. Trust that such practice will add up; that the body will store skill you have gained in each practice session.

8. Don’t “hold yourself together”. Most of us start all bound up, tied up in knots, as if we would fall apart if we relaxed. For each posture, notice which muscles are “holding” more than they have to. Can you allow that muscle to use less tension? Even less? Use the minimum tension possible just before the arm or the whole body starts falling down.

9. There is an intelligence within your body that is greater than your thinking mind. Yield to it. It may be hard to notice at first. The forceful, thinking mind is like the sun, overpowering all the stars in the sky. Yet those stars are still there, even during the day. The “Body-mind” is always there but requires inner quiet to be noticed.

10. Don’t forcefully try to quiet the thinking mind. That is only the thinking mind trying to quiet itself. It is just a trick. Rather, pay attention to the flow of momentum and allow your attention to ride the flow of momentum like a surfer rides a wave. Yield to the momentum. Yield to the breath that helps to create the momentum. Yield to the relaxation that helps to create the momentum. Yielding to life quiets the thinking mind and strengthens the Body-mind.

These principles are described more fully in the dvd series “How to Learn and Teach Tai-chi” by Bob Klein available at:
http://store.movementsofmagic.com/belevi.html

We had a wonderful weekend at the Tai-chi Park (successor to the Tai-chi Farm). There were many workshops on Chi-gung, forms and push hands. This is a 30 years old plus tradition started by Master Jou, Tsung, Hwa. The present incarnation is a 23 acre park in the woods with a beautiful stream running through the property, in Northern New Jersey.

It’s like a Tai-chi family reunion. Many teachers only meet each other once a year on this weekend. We are hoping to start our own traditions on Long Island with Tai-chi in local parks and the first annual Tai-chi workshop at our school (the Long Island School of Tai-chi-Chuan in Sound Beach) on Sat. Sept. 22nd. Maybe we can develop a closer Tai-chi community here.

I am also making plans to give workshops at other teachers schools. Hopefully the teachers can all visit each others schools and bring fresh ideas to our students. If you have similar Tai-chi get togethers in your area, please let me know (631 744-5999).

“EASY EXERCISES FOR AN ATHLETIC BODY”

Our newest dvd includes the zookinesis exercises, “Crane Greets the Sun” and “Waking Eagle”.  They are designed for people involved in martial arts, dance, sports and as a great general exercise.  Each is based on the stretching and warming up movements of these birds after waking up in the morning.

They combine toning, flexibility, fine motor coordination, mild aerobic movements and stress reduction and they are fun to do.  ($19.95 – 55 minutes).  Available from our online store (link on the right side of this blog).

STRESS REDUCTION BREATHING EXERCISE

This stress reduction breathing exercise is part of the Zookinesis system of chi-gung.  Sit in a comfortable chair and place your hands on a table in front of you about at the level of your lower ribs.  As you breathe in, first concentrate on your belly, filling it with breath.  As you continue to breathe in, concentrate on your hands and then the space a few feet in front of your hands.  This is all done in one breath. 

As you concentrate on the space in front of your hands, slightly lift your head.  If at this point (or any other point) you feel uncomfortable, stop doing this exercise.  (Contact us to help you – info@movementsofmagic.com). 

Once you feel comfortable with this exercise, go on to the next step.  Begin as above but after concentrating in front of your hands, lift your elbows slightly, (about a half to one inch, while still keeping your hands on the table), and concentrate on the space on the sides of your body, while you relax your back into the back of the chair.  Your breath will, of course, now need to be slower. (You will need a chair with a comfortable full back). 

After breathing in, just breathe out and relax into the chair.  Take a regular breath and then repeat this special breath. Repeat this exercise from one to six times at one session (at your discretion).  Again, if this is uncomfortable, contact us. 

It may take some practice to get all of this working properly, but the results are very relaxing.  This exercise can eliminate depression and increase energy.  It can dissolve the destructive force of anger and help you to unwind after work.  Please feel free to comment on the results of this exercise in the “comments” section of this blog. (Please remember to consult with your physician before beginning to practice any new type of exercise.)

BATTLE OF THE TIGER AND DRAGON

The battle of the dragon and tiger is a common theme of Chinese art.  Hidden within these drawings is the secret of how to access power unknown in the modern world, especially the power to heal, to find great joy in every moment of life and to free yourself from control by other people. 

The tiger represents external (Yang) power such as physical tension and force over other people.  It is like the angry response to the actions of another person.  Unbalanced anger and tension can affect you by raising your blood pressure and freezing the movements of your body.  Yet a tiger in reality is very flexible and relaxed, even when fighting.  I can attest to the fluidity and relaxation of wild cats due to my many years of experience importing and working with wild animals. 

The tiger is not completely external in its power.  It blends the external, physical force with internal fluidity and relaxation, which is Yin power.  Yin or internal power is represented by the dragon.  Its very depiction in drawings is of a long, swirling, graceful body yet you can see that it has great power. 

The dragon is the power of internal awareness.  When your attention is completely connected to your body, when you are fully aware of the dynamics of your emotions and thinking mind and can keep them in balance, you possess a power that is unstoppable.  If you are acutely aware of what is going on inside of you, then it is easier to understand what is going on inside of other people.  You can see their internal dynamics clearly and thereby be able to avoid being controlled by them.

In martial arts, fluidity allows you to explode your force from your root in the ground (the weight of the body sinking through the legs), up through the hips and out your striking fist or foot.  Your force is explosive, penetrating the outer layer of the opponent (their skin, bones and external muscles) and explodes within their body cavity.

If you are a healer, you can extend your own attention and internal energy (“chi”) into the person receiving your massage, for example, and take control over their behavior of tensing up their muscles.  This allows you to be more aware of and have more of an effect on their bodies than the patient has of his own body.  You can then teach the patient how to become more aware of his body and gain control over his own healing.

Yet if you become too relaxed and your mind becomes too unfocused, you can become “wishy washy”.  You might become too easily controlled by others.  The tension of the patient might cause you yourself to tense up.  You might lose your drive in life.  So even the dragon needs some “tiger energy”. 

Think of the dragon hiding in his lair – a deep cave within a mountain.  It is a vast, empty cave yet you can smell and feel the presence of a dragon within it.  While the dragon is hidden in emptiness you dare not disturb it. 

The tiger’s home is the forest itself.  He wanders about and when tired, just lays down and sleeps right there.  The tiger’s power is “in your face” while the dragon’s power is hidden. 

Yet to be a whole, powerful person you need to blend the two kinds of power.  The teachings of Tai-chi and Zookinesis use movement to train you to blend external and internal power, not only physically, but in relationships, in business and in your approach to life. 

Using relationships as an example, the external power would be how you view the other person using your senses.  How do they look, how do they talk, how do they feel, etc.?  Yet we all know that there is an invisible connection between people which we call “chemistry” and it is not only sexual.  It is a connection among all people.  Much of how we react to someone is a result of the feeling we get through this connection. 

This would be the “internal” connection that is not obvious.  It is the job of proper training to make this connection as obvious and clear as the other senses.  You will then discover a whole new world of dynamic activity of “chi” which is the energy connecting all living things.  Once you understand this energy and how it relates to the “external senses” such as sight, life becomes a lot easier and more effective.

So the battle of the tiger and dragon is not really a battle but a constant dynamic blending of our external awareness of the world and the internal awareness that is missing in modern cultures. 

In the articles below you will find much information about how to develop this awareness but of course, a competent teacher is also necessary.

You may already realize that your personality is more Yin or more Yang.  You may pay more attention to what is going on inside of you or more attention to external activity.  You may be more passive or more aggressive. 

Your power as a human being is at its maximum when the internal and external power is most balanced.  A person who is mainly external wears himself out.  A person who is mostly internal has a hard time organizing himself to actually get anything done.

In the drawings, the tiger’s and dragon’s eyes are both wide open as they stare at each other and you can feel the energy flowing between them.  It is this magnified energy, flowing between Yin and Yang, that we can tap to become powerful. 

Rather than a battle, it is a dance – the dance of life itself – the dance that empowers life.  Ancient art encoded great principles of ancient teachings even before there was written language.  A teacher who is part of a direct lineage of training understands the principles behind the outer appearance of the training. 

Tai-chi forms, for example, are not just a question of memorizing a sequence of movements.  Each movement is a deep reserve of layer upon layer of meaning.  These exercises are the ancient libraries, but you have to know how to read them.

And so Tai-chi and Zookinesis exercises are like the dance of the tiger and dragon.  They are right there in the open but their true significance and power lay hidden.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR SKIN YOUNG

Healthy skin is an important part of staying young and avoiding the normal process of aging.  The ancient Chinese Taoist healing systems describe a secret training specifically used to keep the skin young.  It is an important part of Tai-chi and Zookinesis training.  Since lung tissue originated from skin tissue in fetal development, proper breathing is essential for healthy skin. 

The dynamics of the transition between the in-breath and out-breath are considered to be especially effective in preserving young skin.  I will describe this training below in a way that anyone can practice on their own.  A full program of rejuvenating the skin would also include a special type of massage I call “Zookinesis Massage” or “Tai-chi Massage”.

Following are some simple descriptions about use of breath to rejuvenate and preserve the skin.  You would practice this breathing for five minutes at a time, twice a day.  These suggestions assume a basic training in Tai-chi and its principles.  In Zookinesis training, this is called “Dragon Breathing”.  Mythology is used to describe internal processes.

1. As you breathe in, bring your attention to the inside of your whole skin, as if your skin was a balloon and the incoming air fills the balloon evenly.

2. At the uppermost point of the in-breath, prepare to breathe out by relaxing all the muscles of the body (especially the back). 

3. Just before actually breathing out, take one extra in-breath very quickly and then breathe out.  Even though you think you have breathed in completely, there should be a little more space in the lungs to get that extra breath in.  The extra in-breath comes as you are relaxing the muscles of the body.

4. Then breathe out slowly and continue to relax the body.

5. Take one normal breath in between each “Dragon Breath”.

6. Just before breathing back in for the new “Dragon Breath”, relax the bottoms of the feet, the lower back and the glute (butt) muscles as well as the back of the head.

Pointers:

It is important to relax all the muscle of the body near the surface of the skin as you are finishing the in-breath and are about to breathe out.  This includes the skin all around the head (especially the top of the head) and neck, your back and front of the body.

As you are about to breathe out you should feel as though energy from your surroundings are falling back into the center of your body and then down into the earth. 

When you are about to breathe in, fill the lower part of the lungs first.  Your belly and lower back will expand.  Then fill in the middle and upper part of the lungs.  Fill the back of the lungs as well as the front so that the whole torso expands.

This process will bring energy (“chi”) up from the earth, through your body and out the skin.  It is very important to allow this feeling of energy to move through the skin as you take that extra breath.  Release the energy that has moved through the skin.  Let it go! 

The energy that remains within the body will then sink back into you and down into the earth as you breathe out.  This in turn, will draw more energy into your body from the environment

This movement of energy through the skin keeps it refreshed and energized. 

This process is called the “Dragon’s Breath” because when you transition between the in-breath and out-breath, the relaxation of the muscles causes a feeling of the breath “igniting”.  You feel instantly supercharged.  This is why you must take a normal breath in between the “Dragon Breaths”.  The normal breath calms the energy.  Going from charging the breath to relaxing the breath is an important component of this training.

When you are receiving Tai-chi Massage you are practicing this breathing.  The masseur paces his massage according to your breathing.  This allows the flow of energy in and out of the body to penetrate all the body’s tissues, reversing the aging process throughout the body.  It greatly magnifies the effect of the “Dragon Breathing” to reverse the aging process of the skin.

Another effect of these practices is that the eyes become bright and energized.  You can see the vibrant energy in the eyes of a person involved in this training.  It creates a feeling of emotional calm yet an energized, positive outlook on life.

Dragon breathing is easy to learn and takes very little time to practice. It is also a safe practice.  Before you begin this practice, feel the quality of your skin.  Then feel your skin again every month to notice the improvement.  Also pay attention to the improvement in your attitude, your energy levels – your general outlook on life. It is sometimes hard to remember what you used to feel like before this training

HOW CHI-GUNG WORKS

Chi-Gung is a type of Tai-chi exercise that heals the body by strengthening the flow of internal energy (“chi”).  It is important to appreciate the way chi-gung works in order to practice it properly.  We see examples of the energizing force of nature when we see flowers turn to and reach towards the sun as the morning warms up.  The flower “knows” that the sun is its source of energy.  “Reaching” for the sun is a large part of what allows it to grow.  We know of course that reaching for the sun is a chemical process and can be explained on that level.

We can use this example of a flower to better understand the training of chi-gung.  Your mind (attention, consciousness) can be likened to the sun.  Your body can be likened to the flower, let’s say a tulip.  When we see a bunch of tulips, all opening up and reaching for the sun in the morning, we can imagine each tulip as a part of the body.

When you pay attention to a part of your body in your practice, that part will naturally “reach” for your attention.  Attention and the physical body are naturally attracted towards each other.  In a natural state they are completely integrated with each other but in our modern world our minds are focused on our thinking mechanism.  This is so much the case that the terms “mind” and “thinking” are synonymous.  We can hardly imagine the mind doing anything other than thinking.   

We have withdrawn our attention from the body so that almost all of it can be used in the thinking process.  But the body longs for attention, which is a form of energy, just as the tulip “longs” for the sun.  Without the sun the tulip will wither and die.  Without the energy of attention the body will degenerate.  When we practice any form of chi-gung you are called upon to pay attention to each part of the body, to release any excess tension there and to allow the body to expand with the in-breath and relax with the out-breath. 

Your attention is not fixed in the head or in the thinking process but rises and fills the body with the in-breath and settles into the ground and condenses with the out-breath, creating an ebb and flow like the tides of the oceans.  This releases your attention (your mind) from a fixed position in the body (your head) and from a fixed process (thinking).  Now attention becomes fluid, functional and connected to all parts of the body. 

At the point when your attention meets a part of the body you breathe in, that part opens and stretches, just like the tulip, and the body receives the energy of attention.  When you breathe out, that part of the body relaxes.

There are yet greater sources of energy than your own attention.  There is the chi of the whole flow of nature.  As each part of the body reaches for your attention, it also reaches for this greater flow of energy.

In the chi-gung practice of Zookinesis we are taught that when the body opens up to your own attention, this also allows the body to receive the greater flow of energy from nature.  You are breathing in, expanding the part or parts of the body you are working with and bringing your attention to that part of the body.  When your attention is no longer locked up in your head, but releases and flows to that part of the body, you will feel a greater source of energy that comes flowing in and energizes both your body and mind.  You then feel connected to all of nature. 

This is not a mysterious process but a natural, biological process.  It is our natural, healthy state. 

When your mind and body are connected and the chi energy of nature is allowed to flow, your mind and body start to heal on all levels.  It will heal physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. 

You may have heard that practicing chi-gung by yourself or with an inexperienced teacher can actually lead to internal damage.  The main reason for this is the apparent lack of understanding of the dynamics of attention.

There are two basic modes of your attention – yin and yang attention.  Yang attention happens when you forcefully push your attention towards part of the body.  In yin attention you allow your attention to settle and to be absorbed by that part of the body.  This is an important distinction though it often takes many years of practice to fully appreciate the difference. 

In our culture we almost exclusively use yang attention, except perhaps, when we listen to music.  We allow music to take our attention away.  We willingly let our attention travel on the magic carpet ride of music because we know how good it makes us feel. 

When we pay attention to a part of the body in our chi-gung practice we need to use yin attention. As the body opens on the in-breath it will pull on energy within your body, trying to absorb it.  This will create a movement of energy towards that part of the body.  Allow your attention to settle into that flow of energy, merge with it and be pulled into the body. 

At first the student hears these instructions but can’t make sense of them.  He or she has to be led step by step through a series of internal experiences.  This gradually builds up a feeling “picture” of what is going inside the body.  The teacher explains the principles of chi-gung and what these inner body feelings are according to those principles.  A whole new world opens up for the student as he realizes that the quality of his internal world directly affects how he interacts with the external world.  In this way, chi-gung can greatly improve his everyday life.

Students often fear the fluidity of the attention.  They feel it is like a loss of control of their fixed-pointed minds.  This is why chi-gung practice is slow and gradual and connected with physical movement.  The movement exercises allow you to retain the feeling of control while allowing your attention to become fluid. 

There is also a fear of the greater flow of the chi energy of nature. You may fear losing control when you experience a force greater than yourself. When you realize that this energy is healing in nature, that it connects you with the flow of all life on this planet, you can lose your fear. 

This greater connection to life is physically felt in a very concrete way.  When you feel it you immediately remember having experienced this state of being, even if it has been many years since you felt it last (perhaps as an infant). 

You must then end the conflict between the fixed-pointed, thinking mind and the mind that is connected to the body.  These are not really two separate minds but are two ways in which the mind can work.  Your body obviously continues to work while you are thinking.  The blood doesn’t suddenly stop flowing.  Yet your thoughts can influence the health of your body.  In many disciplines the emphasis is on thinking the “right” thoughts to keep you healthy such as in the many “positive thinking” teachings.

With chi-gung, the emphasis is on allowing the thinking mind to think and allowing the rest of the mind (the “Body-Mind”) to work properly.  We can allow our attention to completely fill the body while at the same time allow it to fill the thinking process.  If the attention is fluid it can operate in many ways at the same time.  If it is fixed-pointed it can only operate well in one mode.  It is only the fixed-pointed mind that hurts the body by pulling the energy of attention away from the body.

When the body is filled with the energy of your attention and of chi from nature, it grows strong and healthy.  You feel that you are part of the whole world and no longer isolated.  Your body is no longer a big lump “down there”, carrying around your brain, but it feels like a vibrant, energized, alive being which it truly is.

HUNTING FOR ATTENTION

I used to spend a few months at a time in the jungles of Central America, hunting for unusual reptiles.  They were used for research programs to study how to develop captive breeding colonies in case the species became extinct in the wild.  When you first walk through a jungle you don’t see the animals.  They are camouflaged.  It takes a while to recognize them.  Once you are used to seeing them, you realize the jungle is filled with animals.

There is a similar problem in working with your attention.  When you practice Tai-chi and Zookinesis, attention is perceived as a force which energizes the body and connects it to all living things.  The development and refinement of attention is a large part of the practice.  But we usually associate attention with the head, specifically the eyes.  To most people, attention just means what direction your head is aimed.

To detect the camouflaged force of attention, the Tai-chi forms require that the head remain in an aligned position with the rest of the body.  This means that you cannot look from side to side or look down to see where your feet are going.  Yet you must pay attention to your stepping so the foot will land up in the correct position.  To do this, you pay attention to the flow of momentum going into the leg, to the feeling of weightedness of the leg and to the way in which the step affects the joints of the body so the body stays aligned. 

You can do this with your eyes closed because you are paying attention to feeling instead of to seeing.   When you begin to step you do not focus your attention on the sight of the foot moving to the floor.  You focus on how the momentum flows through the body and how all the muscles and joints of the body participate in sending out the leg.  Each movement of the Tai-chi form requires this same whole body attention.

The forms also require a certain type of breathing.  You generally breathe in as you move forward and expand and you breathe out as you shift your weight back and sink into the ground.  The timing of the breath must be paced exactly with the timing of the movements.  Your attention must be on the relationship of all the muscles and joints of the body as well as on the breathing. 

When the momentum sinks into the legs, it moves down past the feet into the ground, then circles and comes back up.  When you rise, the momentum flows out through the head and arms.  Your attention follows the momentum as it moves out of and back into the body.

In this way you break free from the attention being disguised as the head and eyes.  You now experience it as a force mediating all the actions of the body and the breathing and connecting you to your environment.

You practice strengthening the attention.  You practice making the attention agile so that it can actively mediate all the parts of your body to keep you properly aligned.  Attention becomes a living force.

Your attention becomes so strong that it cannot be controlled by outside influences that are vying to control you.  These influences may be other people, advertisers, politicians, religions and philosophies.  You remain free and independent. 

You also start to perceive how these various groups are in a battle to control your attention and you begin to understand how people can be made to do things they would normally not do. 

Simply by requiring you to keep your head aligned and to keep your eyes looking forward, Tai-chi starts you on a path that eventually leads to your ability to see dynamics at play in our society, which you never noticed or understood before. 

There are many subtle aspects to this training that yield big results.  It is important for the student to understand these underlying principles.  It is even more important for the teacher to understand them.  If you do not understand then you are learning and you are teaching blindly. 

Once you can detect the patterns and qualities of attention of other people, you can understand them better.  You see how their patterns, which are usually habitual and not free and spontaneous, control their behavior.  You can say to yourself, “That pattern is them.  It is not me.”  You can avoid playing into their habitual patterns of behavior.

The Tai-chi and Zookinesis teacher consciously teaches with these principles in mind in order to lead the student to freedom and to personal power.  One of the purposes of these weekly “lessons” is to remind both students and teachers, of these underlying principles so they don’t think of Tai-chi and Zookinesis as just memorizing movements.

USING INTERNAL ENERGY

The use of internal energy (chi) as power is a very difficult subject to understand and to use in actual sparring. We usually associate power with muscular tension and with forcing the opponent’s strikes out of the way. Internal martial arts systems are based on a different concept of fighting. I was trained in Tai-chi-Chuan (“the Grand Ultimate Martial Art”) and in Zookinesis which is my translation of the particular type of chi-gung training I teach. I combined the two into what I call “Phantom Kung-fu”. The principles of this system are as follows:
1. Move away from the incoming strike and move into an unprotected area of the opponent. You learn to perceive when the opponent is about to strike so that you can move at least as soon as the opponent moves. Your strike is delivered at the same time as his would have landed on you. There is no attempt to knock his strike out of the way. You move your own body out of the way.
2. When you strike, your force should come out of you like an arrow coming out of a bow. The bow (body) has the energy and the arrow (arm or leg) transmits the energy. The arrow does not generate the energy. When you send out the bow, it is a release of the stored energy of the bow. You let go of the string. In the same way, the stored energy of compressed springs of the body, stretched ligaments and tendons and the internal energy which is connected to an inbreath, is what shoots out the force. 
3. Your physical tension maintains the structure of the body; it does not generate the force. Your force is stored in the structure and is released from that structure. If you try to use muscle tension to generate force you have to tighten up the body to maintain your structure and strike at the same time, which in turn, blocks your force from coming out. We train to use our muscle tension to maintain the body structure and to use compression, stretching of the connective tissue, breath etc., to store energy. 
4. The explosion of the outgoing force must have the floor as the base. In external styles, the tension of the body is the base against which your strike emanates. In internal styles, the floor is always the base. The explosive force presses as much into the floor as into the partner. So your legs press into the floor as you strike and release your energy. This results in the upper body expanding spherically outward. It is the structure of the body which channels this force specifically in only one direction – towards your strike. Tension is like a pipe. Your energy is like water or air flowing through that pipe.
5. Internal energy (yang) flows through the yin parts of the body. The yin parts are the front and the insides of the arms and legs. The yang parts are the back and the outside of the arms and legs. We channel force through the yin areas and use the yang areas as the structure. In external styles, muscle force is channeled through the yang parts. 
6. Power comes from the balance of yin and yang. There is a tendency to feel that the more yang you are, the more powerful you are. In Phantom Kung-fu it is the resilient springiness of the body and the connection of body, breath and attention that results in power. We do NOT magnify anger to stimulate us to fight as in some styles. We must stay in a meditative state.
7. Force is generic. We deal with the opponent as force and do not bring emotions into the interaction. We do not view the situation as some big, strong person is about to beat me up so I’d better beat him up first. We view the situation as dealing with force and we use the Tai-chi and Zookinesis principles (Taoist principles) to deal with that force, through neutralization, letting the force slip by or re-directing the force back to its source. This is done with complete calm (in order to be effective). Our attention remains completely connected to the behavioral patterns and intentions of the opponent but we do not allow those behavioral patterns to stimulate similar patterns inside us. We just use his patterns to our advantage.
8. There is no opponent. In this way, you deal with force as you deal with the everyday events of life. You do not view force (or situations) coming at you as an opponent attacking you but live your life second to second through Taoist principles of living in harmony with nature. Each action on your part is an attempt to create maximum harmony. In a sparring situation, that may have to be achieved by striking the other person with force but it is not done with anger. In our classes, when someone does get hit, the person who got hit usually laughs and contratulates the partner who hit him. Yet the strikes are done with great force. (We use padding).

THE CONCEPT OF “SUNG”

This concept in its simplest form means sinking into your root. More specifically, it is the ability of each joint and muscle to drop individually towards the ground. Most people interpret sinking as dropping the knees. Sung means that each joint drops independently of the others.

You feel as if there were a string, attached to the center of each joint, with a small weight hanging from the bottom of the string. As you move, each joint is pulled downward by the weight and then bounces back up. This brings flexibility and awareness to the body.

The problem is that students sink the body as a whole and cannot allow each part of the body to respond in its own way to their movements. The body is essentially frozen, even though they may do a very smooth and slow Tai-chi form. There is no flow of momentum through the body.

There is no “intelligent” interaction of each part of the body with the ground. By releasing each joint and muscle to relax into the ground and then bounce back up, you bring intelligence into each part.

As you practice your form (or any other activity), your attention flows along with the momentum created by the movements of the body. As each body part sinks into the root, the attention must follow each part into the ground and back up. This means that your attention also must not be frozen.

Attention becomes like the tributaries of a river, flowing back into the ocean. The bounce up is like the evaporation of the ocean water coming back as rain to flow back to the tributaries. Your back must be very flexible and active. There is a tendency to maintain a solid back which is then used to move from. A stiff back becomes your floor; you keep it solid so your arms, for example, can move out from it.

This is a mistake. The only floor is the actual floor. The back must be as flexible as any other part of the body. We say “The back must be like the hand”. You are used to using your hand in a dexterous way. The back must be as dexterous as the hand. The same is true for the chest and especially the ribs. I see many people practicing a Tai-chi form with frozen ribs. The ribs must be like the hands.

To develop this flexibility, part of your attention must always be connected to the root. This creates a network of attention to the root so that the pathways to the root are always maintained. I use the analogy of taking a piece of wood and holding it on a slant. Then place a drop of water at the top. The friction will prevent the water from flowing down the wood unless the piece of wood is held very upright. Now wet your finger and trace a pathway, even a winding pathway, down the wood. Then place the drop of water at the top of the path. Now the water will flow down the path you traced. That is the path of least resistance.

In modern times our internal attention has become frozen so there are few such pathways. Sung requires that you maintain these pathways by developing an agility of attention within your body. If you were to learn chi-gung (developing chi flow within the body) without developing the flexibility of the body and attention first, it would be like a sudden downpour on parched earth. The earth would not absorb the downpour and there would be a damaging flood. But if there were a gentle rain one day, followed by the downpour the next day, the ground would have been softened the first day. When the downpour came, the earth would be ready to accept it.

Working with Sung readies the body to practice chi-gung. In Zookinesis training the softening process is incorporated into the chi development process so that both proceed together. At all times, attention and chi are connected to the earth. To get deeper into the concept of Sung, the earth really means the whole world around you (not just in the downward direction). It means being connected to nature.

In many chi-gung classes, you are taught to develop the “microcosmic” and “macrocosmic” orbit (particular circles of energy flow) as the first part of your training. I believe this is a mistake. You are taught to manipulate your energy flow, but in the “correct” way.

In Zookinesis training, we understand that we modern humans are already experts at manipulating our energy flow. What we need is training in not doing that, or what is called, “not doing”. Once we can stop the addiction to manipulating our energy flow, the body will function perfectly well on its own without sticking our noses into it. The emphasis on early Zookinesis training is to release the talons of the thinking mind on the body – to stop manipulating the chi flow. Then just be quiet and see what the body does. Let the body teach you. I use the expression “Be still and know that you are alive”, to borrow a phrase from the Bible.

Then, when the talons have loosened their grip, you work on the connection between the chi flow of the body and that of the rest of nature. This connection has been severed in modern times. I discuss this in detail in my novel, “The Doubting Snake”.

The chi flow of nature does not need instruction. By allowing your inner chi flow to align with the rest of nature, it will work just fine. The modern training of chi-gung de-emphasizes this connection to nature and I believe this is a huge mistake. Sung means connecting to all of nature. Nature is the root. We are, of course, aligning with gravity as gravity is a big part of nature. And so the feeling of Sung is to sink downward. But that should not confuse you that it really implies connecting with nature.

How is all of this done? It is done with the Zookinesis exercises, with Tai-chi forms, Push Hands and all the rest. Unfortunately, such practices often neglect this principle of Sung and so the practices may look pretty but don’t accomplish the goal of rejuvenating mind and body. Allow the aliveness of your body to express itself. You are a community of life – the body, the thinking mind, the memories, the will, creativity, emotions and much more. Each of these is a world in itself. Zookinesis and the training of Sung allows the spirit of each being within you to express itself fully.