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In my last article on Tai Chi and Qigong techniques, we talked about tracing, pulling, and locking. These three precision hand techniques can help us become aware of and enhance chi flow in the body in even the simplest Tai Chi and Qigong movements.
Precision is an important part of Chi Development, and as you work your way through the ChiFusion Complete Course, you'll find many kinesthetic details in our movements you don't find in most Tai Chi courses. These details are where we apply the precision needed to get the health, stress relief, and Chi Development benefits from practice.
Sometimes, these ChiFusion details focus on "physical" precision - aligning the physical body to prevent injury and to increase the effectiveness of the physical technique. But for the most part, these details focus on "energetic" precision - making sure that the energy system is properly "aligned" for maximum chi flow. And sometimes just a single detail in the course will focus both on "physical" and "energetic" precision at the same time!
In that last blog posting, we used as our example the "single handed", alternating-arms version of the Touch Heaven and Earth movement. In the ChiFusion course, once you are comfortable with the "singled handed" version, we then move on to the "two-handed" full version of Touch Heaven and Earth. And this full version demonstrates how a single detail can enhance both "physical" and "energetic" precision at the same time.
If you are already one of our advanced training students, I'd suggest that you follow along with the discussion below using your Complete Course. So right now, please another browser window and log in to the Complete Course. Go to Level 1, and click on Lesson 2. Then click on "Next Page" to get to Lesson 2B: Touch Heaven and Earth.
Look at Detail #2 in the full version of Touch Heaven and Earth, entitled "Falling Hand on the Inside". In this detail, you are instructed to keep the falling hand in Touch Heaven and Earth closest to the body. The rising hand should be on the outside, away from the body.
When it comes to precision, this seemingly simple detail enhances both the physical and energetic aspects of the entire Touch Heaven and Earth movement.
On a physical level, one of the main goals of all of the ChiFusion Level 1 movements is opening the body. The movements should have an "expansive" feeling, almost like you are filling and increasing your personal space with the movements.
You'll want to aim for the feeling of "stretching" into the movements - without of course the muscle tightening and joint locking that is used in Western stretching. Since the rising arm in Touch Heaven and Earth specifically helps to open the arm and upper body, we want it on the outside to enhance this expansive feel.
As an experiment, try this movement both ways - rising arm on the inside vs. rising arm on the outside - and pay attention to how it feels in the arm, shoulder and upper back of the rising hand. I think you'll feel a greater sense of expansion in the arm and upper body when the rising hand is on the outside.
In addition to increasing the physical aspect of Touch Heaven and Earth, keeping the falling hand on the inside also has important energetic effects.
Energetically, the falling hand in this movement performs channel tracing. You may remember that we mentioned channel tracing in the my last blog post. Channel tracing involves tracing chi meridians or vessels with our hand movements. This is a way of encouraging circulation and/or storage using the chi surrounding the hands as a guide.
In this case, we are tracing down the Ren Mai, known in English as the "Conception Vessel". The Conception Vessel runs down the front of the body. In Touch Heaven and Earth, we are tracing down the Conception Vessel until we reach the Dai Mai Belt meridian that we mentioned in the last blog posting.
Keeping the falling hand on the inside enhances this downward flow of chi in the Conception Vessel. Also, because rising movements have a tendency to "grab our attention" much more so than falling movements, keeping the falling hand on the inside counter-balances the upward-moving hand. The falling hand encourages a strong downward flow of chi in the Conception Vessel to balance out strong rising chi from the rising hand's movement.
In addition to simple channel tracing, the falling hand also takes part in a more intricate energetic technique. This intricate technique involves the coordination of the hands in what is know as "circulation mirroring". Circulation mirroring involves moving one or both two hands in a "mirror-image" of a chi circulation that is happening in the body.
In this case, the two hands are moving in a way that mirrors part of the "microcosmic orbit". The microcosmic orbit, also sometimes called the "small chi circulation", involves the flow of chi in a roughly elliptical path through the torso and head. Specifically, it connects the Conception Vessel mentioned above with the Du Mai or "Governing Vessel" that runs along the back of the torso. This creates an "orbit" of circulating chi through the two vessels.
In this case, we are trying to encourage a rising chi through the Governing Vessel in the back of the torso, and a falling chi through the Conception Vessel in the front of the torso. This up-the-back, down-the front orbit generally has a calming and settling effect appropriate for improving health and relieving stress.
In Touch Heaven and Earth, the falling hand is imitating the downward flow through the Conception Vessel, while the rising hand is imitating the rising flow through the Governing Vessel. Notice that the hands are a "mirror image" of this circulation, as if you were looking at the circulation in a mirror.
In order to mirror the correct circulation we are attempting in this movement, it is imperative that the falling hand be on the inside.
Touch Heaven and Earth makes an excellent exercise for practicing precision hand techniques such as circulation mirroring. Since it is a simple exercise involving only hand and arm movement, it's easy to learn these techniques without the distraction of torso or leg movements found in other movements in ChiFusion Tai Chi and Qigong.
As you can see, just one ChiFusion detail in Touch Heaven and Earth can help you on both the physical and energetic level. This one detail is a good example of "meridian tiao shen" - body tuning skills that help encourage chi flow through the meridians.
So as always, keep practicing, and especially - keep practicing those ChiFusion details!
Wishing you the best in Tai Chi, Qigong, and Chi Development,
Certified Tai Chi Master,
Three-time Inductee into the U.S. Martial Arts Hall of Fame