Foundation-The Interface Between Ourselves and the World

Generally when we look at a system we can isolate it from its surroundings or we draw a line, a boundary.

“This is where the system ends, and this is where it begins.”

We can look at the main connection between itself and the outside world as the foundation. The part of the outside world to which it connects, is its foundation.

When building a building, the foundation is the first part made.

(The plan comes before the foundation, and the idea before the plan so we could say that the idea is the foundation for the plan, the plan the foundation for the making of the building.)

The foundation is usually a part of the earth, or it provides an interface, a solid link or connection between the earth and the building.

The metal framework continues that link upwards.

If we look at the earth and the building as two separate ideas we could say that the earth, particularly the small square parcel of land that the building is going to sit on, is the foundation in the relationship. It provides stability so that the building can be made and while the building is being made. It continues to provide that stability afterwards.

Relationships with the Inside and the Outside

If we look at ourselves in the context of our relationship with the earth, the earth provides stability so that we can walk run or even stand still. Because of the earth’s size, and the gravity that is a result of that size, the earth provides a foundation for us to change. We may change it in some small way, in the context of individual entities, but for the most part, it remains stable so that we can create or experience the change that we desire.

Looking at ourselves and the earth what we have is a relationship. In that relationship, change can occur easily, change that we desire can occur because the earth is stable.

Within the context of our body, we can say that our body is a relationship, actually a whole bunch of relationships. We can divide our body into two parts, the lower body up to the pelvis and the upper body, from the pelvis upwards. We can call the lower body the foundation, the upper body the expression and we can also use a third part, the center, in this case the pelvis, since it connects the two. We could go deeper, the feet, lower legs, thighs, pelvis, lower back, ribcage, neck, head, shoulder girdle, shoulders, arms, forearms and hands, these are parts and where they connect relationships are formed.

Depending on what we are doing, one model or the other may be more useful at the time.

Foundations or References for Change

Whichever model we use, if we are trying to create or understand a change that is happening in our body, in each relationship we can use one part as the foundation for the other.

Our feet and lower legs can be the foundation for our thighs and pelvis. In this case the thighs and pelvis are an expression. We could look then at the thighs as the foundation for the pelvis and the pelvis the foundation for the lumbar spine. In this case, because we are starting from the ground up, each lower part in the relationship, each part closest to the earth, closest to stability is the foundation and the other part is the expression.

Generally, the foundation is the part that stays still, stable while the expression is the part that moves.

With a foundation we have a point from which we can measure and create the change that we want to create. If we are looking at a relationship then a foundation gives us a reference against which to measure the change that occurs (if any.)

Generally, one would hope, when creating a foundation for a building, say a simple one, the top surface of the foundation is flat and level. Not only that, any mounting points, structural elements are set distances apart from each other.

Engineers create this by first digging or marking one point and using it as a reference to locate other points. Meanwhile these points and the foundation act as reference for the first part of the building. Once that is up, the floor below and the floor above can be used as references for the floors that follow.

Which reference used can depend on convenience and facility, which is the best to use at the time? Which makes it easiest to create the change that we desire.

Absolute and Relative References

If you’ve ever written web pages where even a few links are involved you are already used to this idea. If you know the page you are at and the relationship of the page you are going to you can write a full link or a short link. For example, if the page you are lining to is in the same directory of the same sight you can simply reference the file name.

But if the page is being used as a template or copied elsewhere then in that case you’d want to use the whole address.
In spread sheets we have the same flexibility.

We can reference cells based on the cell names, using the a1 cell as the master reference, or we can reference cells based on our current location, two cells down and one cell to the left. (Absolute and relative referencing)

The address that we use provides a reference, a foundation for the change that we wish to create whether linking to another web page on the web or another cell in a spreadsheet.

Creating Stable References

Generally, in relationships with the earth, the earth is the bigger party, it is also relatively stable and immobile and so it is the obvious candidate for the label of foundation.

In the case of our body, doing something while standing, we can make a part of our body stable, immobile, a foundation for the part that moves.

So while standing we can make our feet, ankles, lower legs strong, so that we can do what we want with our upper body. Our foundation may just be our feet and ankles, or it may include our shins, knees and thighs, and even our hips and our pelvis.
If we look at just our lower body, we can look for the foundation within the foundation, say the feet, ankles and shins, while the thighs and pelvis are the expression, relatively relaxed.

And then our waist, ribcage, neck and head can be the foundation for whatever we are doing with our arms.

Working from the Center Outwards

Another way that we can create a foundation for our body is to work from the center outwards. In this case our spine, pelvis, waist, ribcage neck and head can be made stable to provide a foundation for our arms and legs.

In this case our foundation is at our center.

Once our center is firm, we can adjust our connection with the earth to suit.

This could be like building a mobile home, carting it to its new site, and then setting the foundation to suit the mobile home. Depending on what we are doing, one point of view may be more useful than the other.

We could also look at the earth as one big ball, globe or planet. Rather than thinking about the small patch we are in contact with we could think about the whole of the earth. Then in that context, the earth’s center is the foundation for ourselves. It is the point which gravity pulls us in towards and it is the point that we stand up and radiate outwards from.

Choose Your Starting Point

Whether thinking in terms of center or foundation, the most important thing is to be clear on which is which so that you have a reference for the change that you are trying to create.

If you haven’t got a reference then that can be the first change that you can create. You can pick some part of a relationship to use as a reference and if it is less than ideal then change it and choose another.

Getting More Flexible-An Engineering Approach

Problem Solving

Many people turn to yoga as a way of dealing with a problem or problems. For myself the problem was that I was inflexible. I turned to yoga erroneously thinking that I could do it for three months, get flexible, and then get on with what I really wanted to do (run, skate, martial arts.)

I spent five years in university to learn one simple thing. In order to fix a problem you gotta know what it is. Prior to that it helps if you understand what you are working with. If you don’t understand what you are working with or what you are trying to do then part of the problem solving process is acquiring that understanding… in other words learning.

Its ten years later… or maybe 12 (time flies) and now I’m finally getting on with what I want to do. Part of the reason it has taken me so long is that in the process of making my body more flexible I’ve also been learning to understand it. Its so much easier to fix something when you understand what you are working with. I also had to learn what flexibility was. I had to define it. Then I could work towards acquiring it.

Flexibility Defined

For this article I’ll define flexibility as the ability for a muscle or muscles to relax and to be lengthened. The part that relaxes is the belly of the muscle, which is also the same part that contracts.

When a muscle is relaxed and then lengthened (or lengthened and gradually relaxed) the connective tissue within the belly of the muscle is stretched.

Flexibility is a quality of the connective tissue with our muscles. The more pliable our connective tissue is, the more flexible we are. The better we are at controlling our muscles, being able to relax as well as contract them at will, the better we can access this flexibility.

So to stretch and improve our flexibility, part of what we need to develop is control and part of that control is the ability to relax at will.

So one part of flexibility training is learning to relax the muscles we are stretching.

Learning to Relax

Part of learning to relax is learning to feel when muscles are relaxed and when they are engaged.

We can learn to feel our muscles by using and experiencing them. As an example, if we want to learn to feel our quadriceps, the large muscle at the front of the thigh that straightens the knee and helps to flex the hip, we can practice straightening the knee and allowing it to bend.

If we do this slowly we can feel the various groups of fibers as they activate (and as they relax.) Of course to do this we have to put our awareness in our knee and thigh, we have to focus on feeling our quadriceps. (And of course to do that we need to know where our quadriceps is and where its endpoints attach to.)

If we do the movement repeatedly and slowly we can notice changes in sensation and then we can differentiate the sensations that indicate muscle activity and those that indicate that the muscle is relaxed.

Another way to see if a muscle is relaxed is to shake it. So for example, if you roll your thigh from side to side and the quadriceps are relaxed, the muscle will “roll” from side to side. First experiencing this feeling and then memorizing it we may then make it easier on ourselves to find the sensation again, i.e. relax our muscles.

To learn to feel when a muscle is being stretched we can slowly move in and out of a stretching position and notice the changes in sensation.

By moving slowly we maximize our ability to keep the muscle we are stretching relaxed. By moving in and out of a stretch repeatedly we can learn the sensations that indication stretching and we can also enjoy the sensations that accompany the release of that stretch.

(As an aside, some of us enjoy these sensations more than others.)

A Stable Foundation for Relaxation

So that we can relax and then stretch another requirement is a stable foundation.

If we are standing on firm ground it is usually more easy to relax than if we are on ground that is moving or otherwise unstable.

In our relationship with the earth, if the earth is stable then we can relax. If the earth is unstable then we probably tense up in one way or the other.

Looking at the relationships of bone to bone and bone to muscle within our body:

  • If the two bones two which a muscle is attached are aligned with gravity or otherwise positioned so that they are stable then the muscle can relax.
  • If one bone is moving but the other bone is stable then depending on the type or intent of the movement that muscle can relax or slowly lengthen and then relax.
  • If both bones are unstable then chances are that any muscles that connect those bones will tense up.

To relax muscle (so that we can lengthen or strengthen) we can position our bones so that they are aligned with gravity or otherwise supported. So that we can relax and stretch we can make sure that one of the bones to which a muscle we want to stretch is stable and then we can focus on moving the other bone relative to the fixed bone so that the target muscle is lengthened and stretched.

Weight Control

Something to be aware of and this is further understanding, is that the parts of our body have weight. If one part of the body is stable and the other part is allowed to move, then chances are that the movement of the moving part is being assisted by gravity.

Because of this weight, any muscle that is potentially being stretched may tighten up to resist being stretched too fast or being stretched beyond breaking point. If a muscle is active or engaged, it can’t be stretched. So we need to overcome, prevent or counteract this mechanism.

If we control the rate at which the moving part moves, it may be  easier to avoid this automatic contraction. We can do this by moving slowly and gradually and even repeatedly.

As an example, in a standing forward bend lets assume we want to stretch the back of the thighs-the hamstrings. If we are standing then our legs will be the stationary element and we move our pelvis by tilting it forwards relative to the legs to stretch the hamstrings.

Since the hamstrings attach to the lower leg bones we can focus on making the feet, ankles and shins stable. Our hamstrings then have a fixed point so that they can lengthen. However they also are dealing with the whole weight of the upper body (pelvis, ribcage, head and arms) hinging at the hip joint. Our hamstrings may tighten to prevent being overstretched. However, if we use our hands to support the weight of our upper body, we can give our hamstrings time to relax. We can use blocks if we can’t reach the floor and push our hands down so that we push our ribcage up.

Since our goal is to lengthen the hamstrings we can slowly lower the ribcage under control by slowly bending the elbows. Better yet, we can bend the elbows slightly, notice the hamstrings and feel when they relax, and then bend the elbows some more.

Once we are practiced with this we may find that we can relax our hamstrings and keep them relaxed without using our arms. Instead we slowly relax our hamstrings to the point of complete relaxation.

Once they are relaxed we can then use the weight of the upper body to help lengthen the connective tissue and stretch it.

Using Weight to Stretch

In a standing forward bend if we want to use the weight of our upper body to help lengthen our hamstrings, we can grab our elbows and let our arms, head and ribcage hang down from our waist.

In a seated forward bend, if we want to add weight to stretch our hamstrings we can engage our back muscles to straighten our spine. We can even think of bending it backwards slightly. If we engage our spinal erectors to keep the spine straight (or bend it backwards) then we have the weight of our ribcage and head helping to tilt out pelvis forwards and lengthen our hamstrings.

Better yet, doing the opposite of before, if we lift our hands off of the floor and reach them forwards we can add even more weight to our upper body (instead of taking it off.) But so that our muscles don’t tighten up in defense, we can do this slowly and smoothly so as to keep our hamstrings relaxed. Then the weight of our upper body can be used to help lengthen the connective tissue within them.

If we understand our body and what flexibility is we can go about stretching in an effective manner.

We can position our body and provide the muscles we are stretching with a stable foundation, we can control the parts that move so that the muscle we are stretching can relax and stay relaxed, and prior to that or during that, we can practice activating and relaxing muscle tissue so that we can feel the sensations that are associated with both.

The Science and Technology of Taking a Dump

(Why is it that I Often need to Go to the Bathroom While Swimming?)

Notice what happens next time you go to the bathroom for a number two (rhymes with poo.) Notice your abs tensing and a downwards pressing feeling. Each time you push, does your lower back feel like it is being pulled forwards?

The supposed ideal position for doing a number two is to squat. I’d modify and say that “Make sure any articles of clothing are clear of the drop zone.”

I’d also modify that further to say “Make sure that you exit orifice is directly over whatever receptacle you are using whether a hole or a porcelain “squatter.”” 
(I once had the pleasure of observing a miss placed “exit article” half on and half off the edge of porcelain. I got a distinct impression of texture which I unfortunately carried back with me to the dinner table. (The impression, not the item. I was at an Italian restaurant in Taiwan at the time.))

Anyway, with those basic guidelines out of the way, in a squat the front of the hips are closed, so that the knees are close to the chest. We can simulate this while on the bowl by slightly pressing down into our feet and leaning forwards so that our buttock are  no longer in contact with the seat or just touching it.

Feeling the Psoas

psoas side view

psoas side view

One muscle of main importance in this position, and especially while taking a dump is the psoas.  Within the belly cavity, its fibers reach forwards and down from the front of the lumbar spine to the front of the pelvis.

Some of its fibers may partially support the rectum. If not directly then via connective tissue which acts or looks like a downwards sloping hammock for the rectum. When contracted, the psoas may help to till the rectum forwards helping to put it in the ideal position for offloading our payload.

(Bombadier to pilot, bomb bay doors open, bomb positioning mechanism in place.
Pilot to bombardier. Roger that.

Because the psoas can be used to pull the lumbar spine forwards actually causing it to bend backwards, we can counter this tendency, or the body naturally counters this tendency, by engaging the abs. See if you can notice this for yourself. Each time you push, do your abs engage? Does your lower back feel like it is being pulled forwards?

If you can feel your lower back being pulled forwards as if from inside your body, that just may be your psoas activating.

The Diaphragm (The One we Breathe With)

One other sensation to look for, and another key player is the diaphragm. (Sensation is generated when it activates and presses downwards.)

Positioning bombs ready for release is fine but we need some sort of release mechanism. With bombs in an airplane we simply leg go, however if you’ve seen a b52’s bomb bay doors, those doors are huge. Generally the opening for our own bombs is a little smaller. So we have to push.

Push It Out, Push it Out…. Way Out

Where does the push come from? Well, our abs are already engaged. In doing so they help to squeeze inwards on the abdominal organs. Further push pressure can come from the diaphragm pressing down.

Women use this when giving birth and women and men can use it when pushing out a number two. This is our release mechanism. Next time your squatting, or sitting, see if you can feel a downwards push and better yet notice where it is coming from.

Now one of the cool things about all of this is that most of the same components are used when we breath, or can be used with breathing. Basically our abs and diaphragm can be used as pumps. In the case of air they can be used to create a vacuum to draw air in, and then used to push air out. In the case of a number two they are solely used as a push pump to push stuff out.

When breathing we can use our diaphragm, pushing it down to increase the volume of our lungs to draw air in. This action pushes down on the abdominal organs which cause the belly to protrude. Then we can use the abs to push these organs in and the diaphragm up to reduce lung volume and push air out.

Together we can simultaneously use the abs and diaphragm to squeeze the abdominal organs, which means we squeeze our intestines, and rectum and guess what comes out!

If we more finally tune our ab control, we can pull just our lower belly in so that our upper belly expands. If our abs are relaxed just enough then when our diaphragm contracts it can push the ribcage upwards. If in addition we expand the ribs we’ve got extra power for drawing more air in.

I Practice My Kegel Exercises Every Day!!!
(I’m even practicing them now)

So what was the point of talking about taking a dump?

A while back some guy name Dr Arnold Kegel became famous because he taught women how to orgasm by doing simple exercises that helped them tune in to their pelvic floor so that they could contract, relax and orgasm at will.

He taught them how to learn both sensitivity and control.
One description that is commonly used-“Use the same muscle that you use to control the flow of pee.

In a similar way, we can use “number two” time to feel our diaphragm, abs and psoas or to practice feeling them, or at least to practice putting our awareness in the right place so that we can get used to feeling them.

This sensitivity can be used to improve body control both on and off the pot.

As an example, on the pot if you are having trouble squeezing stuff out, you might focus on a downwards sensation in the lower belly. Focus on the feeling rather than thinking about the feeling. You may notice actually movement as a result.

An analogy could be that the bombay doors are stuck so the copilot has to go back and unwind them manually. Likewise, if your bomb bay is jammed up, put your awareness down there to help get things flowing.

(Bombs away. Roger that, returning to base.)
(Credits roll with a picture of an airmen coming out of the commode, toilet paper trailing out his pants.)

Noticing the sensations of our diaphragm, psoas and abs engaging while on the pot, off the pot we can continue to feel and control these muscles while breathing, doing yoga or tai ji or while having sex… or while doing anything else that involves the body.

The Connection to Swimming…

So why do I sometimes want to take a dump when doing lots of swimming or underwater swimming? And why did I bother mentioning it? I actually did think it was interesting at the time. Two days in a row, when I went swimming, while I was swimming, I felt the urge to go to the bathroom. I put it down to the action of my legs and hips helping to loosen my bowels. And that may in turn have been part of the inspiration for this article.

Doing the Dance of Shiva Slowly

In any exercise that we do, we can focus on feeling our body.

By practicing feeling our body, the parts and how they relate, we allow energy to flow because to feel our body we have to position it just right.

In anything that we are learning to do we can focus on using our senses to “feel” what we are doing.

Doing math we can use our eyes to see equations.

Driving we can sense the traffic around us.

While in a conversation we can listen to what our partner is telling us.

In the process of feeling our body we position it in a way that feels good or we notice where we feel tight and ask ourselves what can be done about it.

So when we feel our body we aren’t just feeling it, we are responding to what we sense.

Sensation is the Flow of Energy

Initially, we can use our mind to direct our senses, to help us notice what our senses are telling us.

This is like learning to drive and finding out where the speedometer and rev counter are and what they are for. (One tells us how fast we are going relative to what is around us, the other tells us how fast the engine is turning relative to it not turning.)

The feelings are the result of electrical signals that pass from our sense receptors to our brain.

When we feel we are allowing energy to flow. When we finally tune our position so that we can use our senses we send signals from our brain to the appropriate muscle control centers. This too is energy and by fine tuning our positioning we again allow energy to flow.

Better yet, by directing the way we use our senses and the way we control our body we direct where the energy flows to and from within our body.

Elements we Can Sense and Control

What is it that we can learn to feel and control?

We can learn to feel the parts, ideas or elements and how they all relate.

  • We can learn to feel the weight of our bones and how our bones relate to each other.
  • We can learn to feel our muscles and whether they are active or relaxed on in the process of activating or relaxing.
  • We can learn to feel tension in our connective tissue generated by any combination of muscular activity or relaxation or caused by the weight of one bone or another hanging down.

Smooth and Slowwww

So that we can learn to feel the parts of our body, discrete and identifiable bones and muscles, we can practice moving slowly and smoothly and we can focus on feeling and controlling specific parts of our body at a time.

We can focus on basic body elements or we can focus on sport/movement/activity specific movement elements that relate directly to what we are trying to do.

We can also focus on doing clearly defined movements so that it is easy to guide what we are doing and to check what we have done. This is where the Dance of Shiva comes in.

The Dance of Shiva aids in

  • clear thinking,
  • concentration,
  • improving body awareness,
  • equalizing/balancing left/right mobility and range of motion
  • develops or improves mind-body coordination
  • and a few other things besides.

It’s a tool for thinking creatively, for seeing potential and realizing it.

The Dance of Shiva

My own practice of learning to feel and control my body has evolved from my study of yoga, tai ji and the Dance of Shiva.

I’ll talk about the Dance of Shiva in this article because it is relatively simple to begin with and can be learned easily from a book or video.

Plus, practicing it makes learning and doing things like Yoga and Tai Ji easier.

Simple Elements

The Dance of Shiva has 8 basic positions for each arm.

These 8 basic positions can be combined by using both arms at the same time. As a result there are 64 different arm position combinations. (8×8….)

The nice thing about these positions is that they are well defined and simple.

In four of the positions the palms face upwards, as if balancing a small bowl or cup of lobster bisque. (1, 2, 3 and 4 in the picture at right.) In the other four positions the palms face outwards as if holding a spoon or sword but the palm and fingers are flat…. (kind of makes it hard to hold but we’ll forget that for now and move on!)

(a, b, c and d.)

Simple Ideas

The simple idea of Dance of Shiva is to learn how to connect each of these positions to every other position.

If we include connecting a position to itself then we have 64×64 movement combinations.

That is quite a lot of movement combinations but… they are all based on 8 basic movements. I didn’t mention it, but there are 8 basic movements that can be used to connect any of the 8 basic positions to each other.

One of those moves is a zero move.

Why the zero move?

In any situation we always have the choice of doing nothing and that is one way we can think of the zero move, the possibility of doing nothing. We can also think of the zero move as the move that contains the possibility of all other moves.

So how many movement possibilities are there?

64×64 because from any position there is always the possibility of doing nothing!

Zero is potential, non-zero is realizing that potential.

Plus, when using both hands together, if we want to connect two positions that are different by only one arm positon then we need to only move one arm. The zero move takes care of the arm that doesn’t move.

The zero move also makes the math neater.

With the Dance of Shiva we practice seeing potential, perhaps even creating it, and we also practice realizing potential.

And rather than wasting time by thinking about what we can’t do we practice focusing on what we can do. And it all starts with 8 simple positions and 8 simple movements that join those positions.

Sequences of Movement Combinations

With 64 different movement combinations, we can create sequences of movements that repeat four times to bring us back to where we started. By practicing these sequences (called Warps) we can practice the movements of the dance of shiva in a logical and structured way.

This trains us to think clearly about what we are trying to do. With a clear idea of what we are trying to do we can easily check if we are doing or have done it correctly. The sooner we spot any mistakes the sooner we can correct them.

And because we can check each move as we do it we can practice the benefits of checking as we do as opposed to after we’ve done.

Checking as we are doing or while we are doing, mistakes are a lot easier to find and correct before they become big problems. Not only that, we don’t have to look for the source of the problem.

(And that is a large part of what problem solving is, finding the source of the problem.

Only when we know what the problem is can we then go about fixing it.)

Practice Feeling

Learning Tai Ji or a Gong Fu routine (or even Chinese calligraphy) we can learn the basic structure of what we are doing. We can think of this as the choreography or even the script (to a play that we have a part in.) Once we’ve learned the script or choreography or sequence of moves we can practice feeling it.

The nice thing about feeling is that we can vary it slightly depending on what is happening at the time.

What we have learned begins to become alive within ourselves.

By focusing on feeling, and on making micro adjustments based on what we feel we have the opportunity to maximize the flow of energy within ourselves.

Once we’ve learned a movement patterns, a sequence of moves, we can use this movement pattern to practice feeling our body.

As an example, all positions have the palm facing either upwards or outwards.

To begin with we can practice feeling our hands and making sure that they are facing upwards or outwards.

From our hands we can expand our awareness to our elbows and shoulders.

We can feel these parts and position them so that it is as easy as possible to put our hands in the required position.

As we get more comfortable with both the sequences of moves and with feeling our body, we can expand our awareness to include our head and ribcage.

We can practice positioning our ribcage (and thoracic spine) so that it is easy to use our arms and we can position our arms so it is easy to use our hands.

Finally we can expand our awareness to include our waist, pelvis, legs and feet.

What we have then is a way of practicing using the whole body to do what we are trying to do.

This whole body awareness can then be used in any other activity that we are doing. And if the awareness we learned from the dance of shiva is lacking with respect to some other activity that we want to do, then at the very least we have a framework for filling in the pieces that are missing.

Once we can feel one part, or many parts, those parts become references for feeling anything that they are connected to.

Training the Mind

By the way, the Dance of Shiva can be done standing or sitting. It can be done while sitting in a chair. It can also be done in the head or on a piece of paper.

As well as helping us to learn to feel our body the Dance of Shiva is an excellent way of training the mind.

Because we define the movements and the positions, there is no ambiguity as to what we are trying to do. Instead we can focus on doing it and feeling it.

We can learn to connect each position to every other position without ever worrying about what is possible or not possible. Instead, it is all possible and all we have to do is choose.

The Point of Feeling is Flowing

So what is the point of feeling our body in anything that we do? So that we can flow. For myself, by focusing on doing the sword form that I am learning slowly, I can feel my body as it moves.

The better I feel it then the easier it is to move quickly and accurately. Rather than trying to remember the moves I am feeling them. And because I am feeling them my movements have a liquid essence. They flow. And it feels really good.

I used to be focused on memorizing Dance of Shiva and then on doing it quickly.

This does have some benefit but I think true benefits, true inner skill or gong fu comes from feeling the movements.

Carrying this sensitivity into the world outside of our practice, we can then become more sensitive to both ourselves and what is around us.

We become present. Life becomes more joyful as a result.

Practicing slowly we can feel our body and then carry that feeling into doing movements at any speed including fast.

Then we are doing gong fu-practicing with inner skill.

Gong Fu Learning-Learning Gong Fu

Practicing Wing Chun with a friend this morning, my friend said that the first step is to learn the choreography, the next step is to understand the reasoning or purpose of the particular choreography and then the next step is to practice the choreography that we’ve learned with that understanding in place.

So at first he showed me the movement pattern and I tried to learn it…. not very well. Then he explained what we were doing with each movement, or trying to do. I would punch his face. He would block and counter punch low. I would slap his punch down and counter punch to the face again. He’d slap my punch away and then use his other arm to move my attacking arm further out of the way.

With this understanding in place we practice again.
It was then easier to do the movements.

With the first step, trying the choreography, we have a peg that we can hang our understanding on. With the understanding we then have something which guides the way we do the choreography.

While he said that there are only three steps I’d suggest that there are actually only two and they keep on repeating. You can start with choreography, and then listen to the explanation so that you understand then do the choreography again. Or start with the understanding, do the choreography and then listen to the explanation. Or you can simply do these steps over and over, each time deepening your understanding while at the same time getting better at the choreography.