Lesson 2 of 2
If you’ve been training the spherical material from Lesson 1, then you’re probably beginning to develop some idea about how to open your body in a spherical way. Fully embodying spherical principles in your forms takes years of dedicated practice, so don’t be in a rush.
The trick is to balance the energies that either open or close in the six directions (up, down, forward, back, left and right)—not the physical range of motion. When the energies are balanced you open up the space in the central equilibrium.
Developing Incredible Physical Balance
Just as the tightrope walker holds a pole for balance, there is a sense of expanding energy/physicality both left-right and forward-back. In this way all turning in bagua and tai chi comes directly from the central channel.
Balanced spherical energy and turning on the central channel is what gives you the sense of solidity. When you shift your weight fully onto one leg (keeping the alignments in that leg correct) and take a step, you have the time and capacity to make that step deeply connected and smooth. This eradicates a lot of disconnection many energy arts practitioners experience. You won’t lose your balance and fall into the step, which destroys most—if not all—of the internal content.
Tai Chi + Bagua Exercises Require Good Timing
A lot of technique comes down to timing. When you are in balance you have the time to focus, remain calm and smoothly execute each step while internally connected. When timing is off, you experience a stress response whenever you lift up a leg. The goal in internal energy arts is to reduce stress not cause it!
Look out for the combined turning and stepping moves in your bagua and tai chi forms to practice this technique. Whilst turning on the central channel—either closing or opening—and stepping, look for an equal shrink or grow in your spherical energy.
Create a Seat for Your Mind
When you open up your centre and stay in this central equilibrium, you create a seat for the mind. When out of balance, your energies pull your body and mind one way or another (normally forward as our overly yang culture focuses on what is in front, ahead and in the future, rather than what is here and now).
So, by default when your energies in the six directions are balanced, you more easily find central equilibrium and the seat for the mind opens. Naturally, your mind will be drawn there. Notice when this happens and stay with it as long as you can. Of course, always avoid strain or force and follow the Rule of Thirds. Progress at your own pace in your own time, and you will create a sustainable practice.
Two Reasons Your Seat Is So Important
The mind being seated in the centre of your body with the balanced sphere around you is a major component of all the internal martial arts, and it’s absolutely essential in bagua.
First, by nature bagua is a spherical art. Second, without the sphere, you cannot make the fast multi-directional turning, changing and stepping that gives bagua its signature.
Keep Your Spine Erect in Qi Gong, Tai Chi + Bagua
Whenever you perform an an movement—the downward force where the hands normally drop as the body opens—in tai chi or bagua, make sure you don’t collapse the upper spine. I see this happening a lot. As the hands push down, the connective tissue pulls on the neck and distorts the spine, which is not good.
On an opening an (like the end of Brush Knee in tai chi and Cutting Down in Bagua’s Single Palm Change), raise the spine as the hands sink and stay in the central equilibrium.