Since our last discursion, practicing with a real-life master of Chen-style taiji, I’ve been having fun with the novel I envisioned at the outset of the New Dharma Bums project, and the evolving form of it. Discovering a world turning as I go is the most enjoyable part of writing, the invention of imagined story, time and characters. It’s not like the news and exposition writing that paid my salary over the years, but a creative adventure in literature that is a reward itself. Or so it goes.
I’ll enjoy this writing adventure a while longer as I absorb new information and experience into it, and will share. Most immediately, I will take you on an excursion into the mind-body rap of Adam Mizner, a modern master of Yang-style taiji and of marketing the martial art. His Heaven-Man-Earth international training corps is growing into many U.S. communities, and in cities around the world.
Adam’s visit to the Washington, DC, metro area in July is part of a global tour through Europe and across the United States. Originally from Australia, he trained in Thailand and throughout Asia, and now spends most of his time in southern Europe, creating an online training program that further expands his global reach. He promises to follow this globetrot with a long retreat, so I am pleased to be among the lucky ones to experience his touch.
Shifu Mizner’s touch is renowned for its internal power – being so soft and “empty” that it can send you flying across the room. If that seems counter-intuitive, imagine how it feels to push someone who deflects and absorbs your pressure and sends it back a thousand-fold. This is the internal power of taijiquan, which is expressed in the ancient classics as “Four ounces repel one thousand pounds.” Adam explains and demonstrates in this video:
The key is to relax your body so completely that you are sung (soong), a Chinese term explaining a level of relaxation that is largely unknown in western cultures. You don’t just lie back and relax into sung, you have to work at it. As a reward, in the martial art, you have the ability to “stick” and control an opponent, as Adam demonstrates.
This same sung that allows remarkable martial feats also is responsible for the health benefits that many seek through taiji. As we’ve explored in previous blogs, you achieve this heightened sense of relaxation with mindful breathing exercises, whether moving (qigong) or standing (zhan-zhuang). Adam promises to teach other methods to heighten the empty, yielding yin energy and combine it with the forceful yang energy to produce a “supreme ultimate” force. At the heart of the internal martial arts is qi, energy you sink into your center (dantien) and then mindfully flow through your body to repel an opponent.
But you really don’t know what it is until you practice with others in push-hands exercises. I have felt the sensation in others, in workshops or individually working with teachers across the country – including with another Australian, Mark Rasmus, a martial artist who taught meditation to the young Adam Mizner. But my push-hands experience is limited. I hope to work with Adam and other workshop participants to feel that sensation for myself, to be able to truly relax into sung, sink the qi and to feel the generation of internal power as a result.
In this, my 29th year of practicing taiji, I have much to learn. Stay tuned.