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Exploration of Yang Moves
discussion, analysis and exploration of moves in the Yang Form

Grasp the Sparrow's Tail

A Path Well Trodden

A small bird is visualized in/on your left hand; it takes off and your hand raises up gently beneath it and your right hand (which is 'high' and palm down holding a circle on the right hip)... travels a little forward and then in an arc downwards to finish (just for now) along side your right hip.

To those well versed and practiced in the Yang Long Form, the sequence that begins the form and reoccurs another eight times throughout the whole long form:

grasp the sparrows tailGrasp the Sparrows Tail - Ward Off Left
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Ward Off Right
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Rollback
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Press
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Withdraw
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Push and then ...
Single Whip

... come to be known and referred to as: "Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Short".

In part one this sequence is followed by 'Lift Hands' and 'Shoulder Strike' - which points the practitioner towards the east (Dragon).

In part two of the Yang Long Form this 'connecting' sequence of (to abbreviate even further) 'GST Short' is followed by the sequence of Fist Under Elbow, which is performed only once within the whole of the Yang Long Form.

Grasp the Sparrows Tail Long sequence ends with Wave Hands In Clouds then Side Single Whip.


Of the nine performances of this sequence within the three parts of the Long Form; six are 'Short' therefore three 'Long'.

To the practitioner, that is, one who practices; this little sequence within a larger sequence is performed so often that the practitioner may attain through that practice the high level of proficiency that is "doing it without thinking about it".


Meditation
The visualization associated with 'Beginning' is "the Sun rising slowly above the horizon" and the purpose of practice is to train the body to react instinctively and without thinking - or at least without making any calculation of gain or loss. The Sun comes up, the Sun goes down. The Moon comes up and the Moon goes down. That's it! No calculations are really necessary to the Tai Chi practitioner. Other calculations, theories and equations may be important to people involved in other 'walks of life', but such contrivances are unnecessary vexations to the Budoka.

The form (or at least as much of it as you can 'remember' - without thinking about too hard) ought be practiced so often that to simply stand in 'Preparation' for just a few moments is enough to instigates some kind of a sub-concious process of calming, centering or settling. There really is nothing metaphysical or cosmic about this process which is perfectly able to 'cause' physical and emotional sensation and in fact these practices are the bed and table of tried, tested and established elements of most meditation practices.

It has long been of assistance for meditators to follow some routine, to settle into exactly the same posture every time. Some don the same robes or cloths every time, some always face in the same direction or at the same thing and so on. In most cases where there is purposeful intent to meditate, incense is burnt and ritual is either created or followed. Attention shifts from what is here to what is not. These 'preparation's' described are not in themselves 'meditation', yet they are vital aids to 'set the tone' or get you in the mood. Be advised - trivial aids set low aims, yet complicated rules are impossible to follow. The "Middle Way" is recommended and in Budo Martial Code the phrase that points to this is (simply) "Walk the Path" (Do not yearn to be on some other path).


Connecting Heaven and Earth
The sequence begins the Part One of the Long Form, follows Wrestle Tiger Return to Mountain in Part Two and Three and regularly repeats throughout is called "Grasp the Sparrows Tail Sequence".
It is so intricately interlaced with the whole form that to the regular practitioner it becomes a familiar friend with a certain character and form of its own. The whole sequence is designed to first and foremost 'connect' Heaven and Earth and familiarize the practitioner with the cardinal directions of north, south, east, west - the surroundings - and includes just one brief look over right the shoulder (Rollback) to where the Tiger rests.

The repeats of GST throughout the form is in effect just like the main theme of a symphony, or if you wish the catchy chorus of this weeks number one! Either way, each have been crafted to be memorable without the aid of a name of their own; and if you can hear one of those 'hooks' in your head right now you have instantly proven yourself to be a certain kind of connector of Heaven and Earth.

Of the nine performances of this sequence within the three parts of the whole fom; six are 'Short' therefor metaphorically branch off there at Single Whip; and the other three are 'Long' therefore the sequence does not end until Wave Hands In Clouds and Side Single Whip have also (in that order) been performed.

The GST sequence would start off with the ward off left and ward off right moves below:

2
ward off left
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Ward Off Left (facing north)
3
ward off right
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Ward Off Right (facing east)

The continues: (At the start of Parts Two and Three, wrestle tiger & return to mountain makes the GST sequence start from the rollback, missing out the two moves above) and thus carries on:

3b
rollback
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Rollback
(facing southeast)
4
press
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Press
(facing northwest, going forward)
5
withdraw
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Withdraw
(facing northwest, arms moving back)
6
push
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Push
(facing east)



Visualisation
The Ancients had it that the sequence of postures and the associated 'visualizations' of any and all Tai Chi Form ought not ever be written down. Time has eroded that ideal, but Tai Chi is not unique in its need to adapt to this changing world.

Tai Chi is riddled with 'visualizations'; there are thousands of them, but the only one that will work is yours.

 

 
A small bird is visualized in/on your left hand; it takes off and your hand raises up gently beneath it and your right hand (which is 'high' and palm down holding a circle on the right hip)... travels a little forward and then in an arc downwards to finish (just for now) along side your right hip.
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