Warps, Change and Little Ideas

Dance of Shiva Warps are a way of practicing change. The change is in the form of the Warp Algorithm itself.
Instead of the same movements, each movement is different… to an extent. We use the same moves over and over again but from different positions. So it is a way of practicing to handle change on a small scale.

Handling Change

Driving a car or riding a motorbike, we learn a small set of skills or ideas, braking, accelerating, steering, changing gears.

On a road with traffic, we use those skills according to what is happening at the time. We sense changes in the road or on the road and we make changes so that we stay connected to the road. We notice intersections, cross roads, on roads, off ramps, rest areas and we act depending on how we feel now and where we are going to.

In the Dance of Shiva, we can think of the movements as the idea elements that we can use to practice responding to change.

The change comes in the form of the algorithm that we have memorized. Although the algorithm is memorized, it has to be repeated four times in order to return the hands to home (to where they are going) and in addition there are 16 different starting positions we can use so that if we are practicing them all one after the other, the feeling can be the same as trying to handle external change. Because there are 64 possible arm positions, at any point in the algorithm we have to know where we are within the algorithm as well as where our arms are and then based on where we are in the algorithm we decide where to go next.

With enough practice, all movements of the algorithm become familiar, they become a part of us in the way that the basic movements are a part of ourselves and so we move on to the next algorithm so that we can continue to grow.

Generally, with driving, riding, or any other activity that we do regularly, whether work, passion, hobby or past time, the more experience we have doing it and handling it in different circumstances, the better we get at it. And the better we get at doing it in any circumstance. The experience helps us to understand the essence of what we are trying to do as well as the options for doing it.

Part of our experience may be that we become familiar with the little tiny details of what we are doing and that familiarity with the details allows us to become more flexible in the ways that we can do what we are doing.
And so one way of making experience more efficient is to try various combinations and prior to that pick smaller and smaller elements so that we have greater and greater flexibility. Then working at understanding those elements in different circumstances.

Driving the same stretch of road over and over again, even if the patterns of traffic are different every day, we eventually gain enough experience that we can handle all possibilities on that road. We know the ins and outs. If our goal is to improve our driving, then we try out different roads or even tracks, different settings so that we constantly grow, constantly improve and get better.

If we get down to the basics, driving is a simple set of skills that can be used in a variety of circumstances. Driving in different settings is what enables us to practice those skills in all their possible combinations.

If we look at using the brakes, gear box, accelerator and handle bars from another perspective, we can say that we have speed control and steering. With steering we learn to handle right turns and left turns. There are various types of turns and various sequences. The better we become at speed control and turning the bike the better we become at riding in any circumstance.

Looked at from yet another perspective, both of these functions, speed control and direction control, are a result or our interface with the bike or car. The better we can control our body and use our senses the better we can ride the bike or drive the car and the better we can handle change while doing so.
Dance of shiva is a way of practicing working with elements in different circumstances. It is also a way of learning to break down or think in terms of systems/complexity and the small/simple ideas that make them up. In addition it is also a way of practicing sensing the body and controlling it.  As a result practicing the dance of shiva allows us to do anything else with more sensitivity, control and intelligence so that we gain experience and understand faster. It can aid in learning, doing and understanding.

Doing the Dance of Shiva Slow and Smooth

Slow Warp Warm Ups (Horizontals)
Slow Warp Warm Ups (Verticals)
Warp Math
Slow Warp 1 from 1-1
Slow Warp 1 MCL from 1-1

I’ve recently discovered that doing the Dance of Shiva slowly feels really good. It gives me time to feel what I am doing.

My inspiration for doing it slowly comes from a number of sources, one of the main ones being Tai Ji.


Tai Ji

I’ve been doing Tai Ji for a number of years now and what I now find is, that having learned to feel the movements while doing them slowly, it is easy to carry that “Feeling” into doing those same movements fast. In either case, instead of thinking about what I have to do I feel it. And I adjust what I am doing when I need to so that what I am doing feels good.

While learning to do a Gong Fu sword form which is supposed to be done fast, I’ve been practicing the movements slowly to get the feeling for them so that once I have the feeling I try to then carry that feeling into doing the movements gradually faster and faster. Any time I notice a movement where I don’t yet know the feeling, I simply practice that “segment” until I get the feeling and then I try to string the movements all together again.

The overall feeling can be like riding a wave, allowing the energy of one movement to carry me into the next movement, and so on until the whole routine is done.

This doesn’t come easy. I’ve had to practice. As an example, to learn the sword form, I first play the relavant section of the DVD, watching the same piece over and over again so that I understand what I am supposed to do and so that I can then try to mimic it when I go to the park to practice. Often times I’ll think I understand the movement but I’ve forgotten to look at some key element, perhaps the direction I should be facing in, which foot steps first and where, or even what I am doing with my sword hand and my free hand.
However, I’m now getting better at knowing what to look for. Once I’ve got the choreography mapped out, then I can start to feel the moves, making adjustments according to the way the moves feel each time I do them.

Eventually I get to a point where I can practice in such a way that it feels like my whole body is involved-in such a way that I can feel my whole body in each movement. That doesn’t necessarily mean every part of my body moves, but it does mean that each part of my body supports what I am doing whether that part is stationary or dynamic.


Relaxed and Smooth

Generally, in order to maximize my ability to feel my body I try to be as relaxed as possible given the position or movement that I am trying to do. If I deliberately engage any part of my body it is to provide support, positioning bones relative to each other and the forces acting on them, so that other parts can relax. Staying relaxed and smoothly connecting one movement to the next, I can then use the weight of my body or the weight of the sword, or momentum to carry me from one position to the next.

Smoothness is another important aspect of body learning to flow and flow itself.

Being relaxed is important, feeling the body is also important, but when we move, smoothness is how we transmit energy, how we allow the energy of what we are doing to carry us from one position to the next. Smooth is efficient, and it can also be beautiful. Smooth and Slow leads to Smooth and Fast.


Feeling What we are Doing

Applying this to the Dance of Shiva, if we practice doing it slowly and smoothly we can focus on feeling the movements and positions as we do them. As a result we become present. Doing something fast is another way of becoming present, especially if you have to focus on what comes next. However, if we learn slowly first, then we can carry the smoothness that we learn from doing slowly into doing it quickly. As a result we are less likely to suffer injury or be sore the next day.

In the videos my friends and I are doing the movements slowly. For my friends, the movements are still relatively new. However, because we are doing the movements slowly they have time to feel the movements even though they are still beginners.

As for myself, because I am focused on feeling what I am doing there is little or not sense of “when is this gonna be over with.” All I’m focused on is what movement is next so that I can do that movement smoothly.

Doing the movements slowly, over time we gradually realize the best path for each movement, the path that takes the least energy while still maintaining the shape or intent of what we are doing. And this path may be different from day to day, depending on our body and the environment, but if we now the feeling that we are looking for then we can find the place of smooth movement anyway.

Using slow practice to practice feeling our body, as we practice longer and longer sequences, we can keep the transitions between movements smooth. Better yet we can start to involve our head, neck, ribcage and spine into our movement. The better we can feel what we are doing with our arms the easier this is to do. The next step from there, apart from simply practicing doing it faster and faster, is to add the legs. But for now we can focus on feeling our arms, and in addition our breath.


The Breath

The breath is a movement that we can learn to feel. In the video’s my friends and I do a very simple breathing technique. While exhaling we allow our spines to bend forwards slightly and we allow our ribs to sink down. While inhaling we gradually straighten our spine, at the same time pulling our head and ribs up. Breathing slowly and smoothly in this fashion it is very easy to feel our ribs, head and even the parts of our spine.

The feeling feels nice.

Once this rhythm has stabilized we can then add arm movements, using both our inhales and our exhales to do one movement each.


The Positions

The four horizontal positions are shown below in the first row of pictures. They are the same for both hands. The are named 1, 2, 3 and 4. The four vertical positions are shown in the next picture and are called a, b, c and d. I’ve included them here so that you can recognize them in the videos, and so you can follow along if you wish.

For more details on the positions click here.


The Movements

There are seven basic movements from each position. They are called: Forwards, Backwards, Transquarter, Change Forwards, Change Backwards, Change, Change Transquarter. We can use these movements to connect each position to every other position.

In the videos the sequence is designed so that we we practice all of these moves from each position. So for example, from position 1, we do a Forwards move and then we return to 1 using a Backwards move so that we can then do another move. Then we do a Change Forwards followed by a Change Backwards.

For more details on the movements in general click here.


Sequence Tables

The movement sequences for the first video are in the first row below while those for the second video are in the second row. The left hand column for each table is the movement while the right hand column in each table is the position the arms are in after each move. Notice how after every two moves the hand returns to the starting position.

If doing these movements, I would suggest getting comfortable with the choreography first and then once you are comfortable, focus on feeling the position of your hand, elbow and shoulder while doing the moves. If that isn’t enough, focus on feeling your ribs and spine at the same time.

Try to make the movements feel as connected as possible while also having a clear idea of each position as you move to and from it.


Warps and Warp Tables

Warp 1 from 1-1
Warp 1 from 1-1 MCL

Once we’ve learned the basic movements and positions with one hand we can learn to use both arms at the same time. Slow Warps are one way of practicing positions and movements that use both arms at the same time.

A “Warp Sequence” consists of four movements that we repeat four times in order to return the arms to the position from which they started. In the two tables to the right, the left hand column of each table shows the warp sequence for Warp 1. Each of the other columns represents one repetition of the same warp sequence, going from left to right.

Notice that the bottom table is the mirror image of the sequence in the top table. The actual Warp Sequence for Warp 1 is
CF-T, CF-CF, CF-B, F-CF
which is what we have in the Table 1. This is read from left to right and applied to the body from left to right. If we read or say the exact same movements (and their accompanying positions) but apply them to our body from right to left, then Table 2 is the result.

The advantage of using the same sequence is that we only have to remember one set of movements, then all we do is mirror the movements, from left to right, for a balanced practice.

In the first Slow Warp video my friends and I apply the formula from right to left. However, while watching and doing, you can mirror what we do so that you apply the coordinates from left to right. Then in the MCL (Mirror Cross Link) video, we do apply the coordinates from left to right. You then do the opposite, from right to left.


Warp Math

Now you may have noticed in third video my friends and I writing the tables out by hand. This is one way of practicing or understanding both a Warp and the movements that make it up. Plus we can then use our table as a cheat sheet.

You’ll notice that I write from right to left. That is because I’m writing out the Mirror Cross Link Table while my friends took turns writing out the Warp Table.

As a final note, in the video we are writing out the warp table for Warp 1 starting from position a-a. In the other videos, we are doing the warp and its Mirror Cross Link starting from position 1-1.


Videos-Large Size

Slow Warp Warm Ups (Horizontals)
Slow Warp Warm Ups (Verticals)
Warp Math
Slow Warp 1 from 1-1
Slow Warp 1 MCL from 1-1

Shiva and Chaos

Shiva and Chaos

One of the notions in Chaos theory (and I’m still reading up on it so take what follows with a pinch of salt) is that simple patterns can be repeated over and over again to create complex systems. My reference is James Gleick’s

Chaos-The Amazing Science of the Unpredictable.

In it he talks about the reason that our DNA, or DNA in general can store so much information is that information for creating the parts of our body is encoded in patterns that can be used over and over again at different scales.

This “scaling effect” is apparently apparent in organs like our liver and in the structure of our veins and arteries.

In plant life, one researcher showed how smaller pictures of a fern could be layed in to produce a picture of a bigger fern.

(I may need some proper references or at least web links here.)

Anyway, reading all of this I became quite excited because it occured to me that Dance of Shiva can display this scaling effect. It offers an infinite amount of possibility just from a few simple moves.

Warp 1

Allow me to use the Warp 1 sequence to illustrate. In this sequence, there are four movements, (where the movement to the left of the dash is that of the left arm and the movement to the right that of the right arm):

  • Change Forwards-Transquarter
  • Change Forwards-Change Forwards
  • Change Forwards-Backwards
  • Forwards-Change Backwards

We repeat this sequence of movements 4 times to return the arms to the position from which they started.

In the table, each column represents one repetion of this sequence. The movements are highlighted in blue in the column on the left. We start at position 1-1 (top left red square,) and move to b-3, 3-d, d-c and finish at a-4. The next column or repetition starts at a-4 (the second red square from the left.)

The red squares represent the position the we finish at after each repetition. If we look closely we may notice a pattern, a relationship between one stopping point or check sum and the next.

From 1-1 to a-4 the left arm does the equivalent of a change, from 1 to a. From a-4 to 1-3, it does a Change again. Then from 1-3 to a-2 it Changes back to a. Then from a-4 the arms return to 1-1. The right hand undergoes a similar repeated transition. It moves from 1 to 4 to 3 to 2 and back to 1 again (1-1, a-4, 1-3, a-2, 1-1.) It does the equivalent of a Backwards move.

We can thus think of this sequence of movements as equivalent to a C-B move.

(I actually selected each Warp so that their equivalents where all different.)

If we were so inclined we could create any number of warps using any of the pairs of movements to create C-B equivalents. We could also use sequences of other than 4 moves.

Now, suppose we did any four movements at random. What could happen? We could figure out the equivalent single move for those four random movements. More to the point, for any number of moves we could figure out the equivalent single move and it would always be one of 64 possible movements (They are all shown in the table above.)

Why 64? Because there are 64 possible positions and so to join any position to any other position including itself we need 64 possible movements. The movement that connects a position to itself is a zero move.

So what does this mean? If we have the freedom to do any number of moves, then we can always find different ways to do the equivalent of any of the 64 movements. There is infinite potential, all based on a few simple moves.

Leading with the Mind

Practicing
Life Skills

Most of the things that we can practice with the dance of shiva can be applied to anything we do. They include:

  • learning to break complex tasks into simpler ones,
  • sensing and choosing options,
  • knowing what we are doing before we do it.

One of the advantages of the Dance of Shiva is that it provides a good way of practicing any of these skills. Plus you don’t have to figure out how to practice them, you can simply get on with practicing them.

Warps
and
Clear Ideas

One of the things we can practice is “leading with the mind” or “leading with a clear idea”.

In the more advanced practices (I call them “Warps”) we can memorize a sequence of moves. An example would be “CF-T, CF-CF, CF-B, F-CF.”
(CF=CHANGE FORWARDS, T=TRANSQUARTER, B=BACKWARDS, F=FORWARDS.)

This is a “generic” formula that can be used to start from any of the 64 different positions of the dance of shiva. Repeating this formula 4 times returns the arms to the position from which they started. So that we use each of these moves from each of the 64 positions we need to practice this formula from 16 different positions.

When practicing this sequence or any other sequence, before we “do” each move we can first see it with our mind.

As an example, starting from position 1-1 the first move is a CF-T which takes the arms to b-3. With enough practice we know the positions so that they are easy to see with our minds eye. As a result we can see our hands in position b-3 before we actually move them there.

From our new positions we can then see what the result of the next move is before we do it. From b-3 we can “see” that the CF-CF move will take our arms to 3-d. Having seen with our mind we can then move our arms there.

Rather than moving automatically and then checking where we are once we get there, we use our mind first and then follow with our body.

Move Mind
then Body

If we move first (automatically) and we move correctly, our hand position shows us where we went. That is not a “bad” thing. However, if we think first then we have to use our mind to draw up the memory of where our hands should go. Rather than relying on our body to give us the answer we use our mind and then we use our body.

We can learn to use our mind quite quickly in this fashion. Rather than waiting for our body to give us the answer so that we can check it, we use our mind and then check that our body has done the move correctly.

This is exactly like the kung fu movies where the adverseries see the fight and what they do in it before the fight actually begins.

Inner
Skill

Another term for gong fu is inner skill. I like to take this as meaning seeing with the mind first and then doing with the body. Practicing “inner skill” with the dance of shiva we develop our ability to think fast.

Thinking fast, we can do quick movements knowing that we are doing the movement correctly, or we are able to correct ourselves while we are doing the movement if we spot that we have made a mistake.

This “leading” with the mind lends itself immediately to what we do outside of the dance of shiva.

Do we know what it is that we are trying to do? If not what is it that we are trying to do. We can then spend time figuring it out rather than wasting time by doing something we don’t need to do. Then once we are doing something we can do it quickly, efficiently and like a martial arts master.

Practicing Warps, if we use our mind to know where we are going before we get there we can then lend additional brain power to monitoring our arms as they do the movement (since we already know where they are going.) We can make our movements more precis, more exact.

We then not only train our brain, we also train its ability to control the body while training the body at the same time.

To try out a warp (don’t worry, this is for free) click here.

Sincerely

Neil Keleher