Modern students, particularly those who are desk-bound in their daily work, tend to have very tense shoulder muscles and a slumped posture. It can be very difficult to get them to achieve an active relaxation of those areas. Do not try to fabricate the feeling by leaning forward, forcing the shoulders forward and down, or sticking the neck out. Raising the shoulders and pushing them forward violates the traditional stipulation ba bei, where ba means to stretch and straighten, while bei refers to the back.
The arms tend to be overused in many athletic endeavours and underused in the internal arts. The goal is not to move the arms as if there is no range of mobility in the elbows, but to decrease the use of the arms in favour of increasing the co-ordination of the arm expansion and contraction with the expansion and contraction of the body as a whole. It is important to remember that the early practitioners of the internal arts in China were either farmers, or professional bodyguards, or teachers of the martial arts. They were already physically strong from years of working in the fields or from years of training. They didn't need building-up the way most modern students do!
The wrists should remain relaxed throughout all the movements, and while it is desirable for a variety of reasons to understand Yin and Yang in those joints, particularly for martial purposes. It is even more important to avoid tension, particularly in the palm and fingers. The fingers should be gently curved but not stiff and separated gently from one another. The palm should be curved and "soft."
If the wrong kind of focus is obsessively directed to the palms and fingers, sensations such as trembling, heat and redness of skin, as well as feelings of fullness or tingling can follow. These sensations can be symptoms of enhanced Qi flow, but are nothing special in the sense that a student should not chase experiencing such phenomena while practising. They can also be symptoms that you are overdoing certain aspects of your training and that your limbs are protesting.
As to which came first: the hands or the body There is a strong thread in many traditional bagua styles of having the hands lead the body into position—as opposed to being pushed into position by the torso/waist and weight change, as is usually done in our bagua. However, body following the hands is not always inappropriate, depending on the martial situation. It can be fascinating to try to explore how the various styles explore and label a common set of body mechanics and posture. In Erle's forms and methods the waist will normally feel and act as if it powers and leads the action of the arms and hands. In practice, this should be almost simultaneous.
Was this article helpful?