Monday, November 10, 2008

In the Zone

A very busy weekend. Friday night, I attended a seminar by Rick Barrett entitled "From the Inside Out: Deepening Your Martial Arts' Practice" at the New York Open Center.

Rick is a popular tai chi instructor in New York and a renowned push hands champion. He has put all his years of experience into his very fine book, which was discussed earlier, "Taijiquan: Through the Western Gate." Rick's seminar went through much of that material, with practical demonstrations and lots of class participation.

Right off the bat, Rick told us how he liked to "give it all away," and not make a student suffer for many years before he'll share his insights.

He then went through several demonstrations on what he calls "energetic coherence," which is basically the aligning of the otherwise chaotic energy flows in the body/mind. This is easily demonstrated by various push tests, which are similar to the routines the Ki-Aikido folks use to demonstrate the power of ki. I forgot to show Rick aikido's "unbendable arm," which is right in line with his methods. I'll have to mention it to him sometime. I'm sure he'd appreciate it if he hasn't seen it already.

Participants learned how to use energetic coherence to increase their ability to hold their arm against opposing pressure. There was also much talk of rooting, with everyone learning how to use proper posture and energy flow to become much more stable. This is a sure way to be a hit at martial arts parties.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable and instructive evening. Everyone seemed pleased with it.

The next day, Ruth taught a nice class as usual. We focused on ushiro ryotedori attacks. I was able to use extra time needed going around nage to really stay focused.
Sunday's class was a real treat. Tobias taught in his clear, strong style, as always, and we again spent most of the time with ushiro ryotedori. I was partnered with a fellow who is a very good aikidoka, though he likes to practice a bit on the slow side.

I have to say, that was just what I needed. Slowing up allowed me to put all the principles I've been trying to work on into practice. I was able to make sure I was centered, relaxed, extending with connection. Most of all, I'm having a great time on the balls of my feet! It has made a world of difference (at least in my own mind).

Of course, I wouldn't want to practice that way all the time, but it's good to practice at varying speeds. The slower practices allows me to use my energy more in the way I'm supposed to (coherently, we might say), rather than being scattered when I am trying to control a maniac uke. Also, I am able to use my energy properly, rather than just trying to keep up the pace.

Though I hate to say it out loud, I find myself a bit more "in the zone" these days. I think the tai chi is helping, just as I hoped it would. I'm looking forward to the future!

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