Packaging Power in Circles
In the old school, we learned three working rules:
1. The principle of non resistance;
2. The water principle; and
3. The circular principle.
Here , our focus will be the
circular principle , though as teacher would explain "There's a bit of non resistance and liquidity to be had in every circle."
Driving to the heart of the matter, the core of packaging power lies
in awareness of how power moves in lines, and how it is stored in circles.
The concepts are so transcendental, that for some, understanding their profound significance becomes a life pursuit.
I'll cut to the chase and start you off by telling you everything you need to know.
The Essence of Power
- When power is stored, it rests in circles.
- When power is released, it manifests in lines.
- When power settles, it starts as a line, and ends quietly as a circle.
Whether you agree or disagree with the above, one thing is certain. It's not complicated!
Therein lies the difficulty. Anyone can read the list and, at some intellectual
level, understand completely the essence of power.
Unfortunately, as is often true in the martial arts, understanding in your head has little to do with the instinctual awareness which manifests as skill.
If you accept that power is stored in circles, your next question should be, "How would I store power in a circle?"
If you have asked the question and are prepared to experiment, then
brace yourself for a journey of discovery.
First, Learn to Relax!
By this, I mean more than just
exhaling and letting your shoulders drop-down. Someone who is truly relaxed , should be able to hear their own heart beat. In unlocking the door to relaxation, I heard one teacher demand his students explain in what way
a healthy liver felt different from one which was not. Yes, he expected an answer! Within the concept of relaxation lies the profound sense of being awake, or aware of what is going on. The foundation for understandimg
power, and how it transfers from circle to line, and back, lies in relaxation, and awareness of what is happening within yorself.
He would have added, "How can you feel and move Chi , if you cannot hear
your heart beat, or have awareness of your internal organs?"
I'm not for certain whether it's necessary to take it that far. Regardless, learning to relax is a topic too broad for our limited space
here. There are entire realms of knowledge addressing the issue, and we recommend you find time to research and explore. Whether thru meditation, yoga, zen, or tai chi, you'll benefit from the journey.
enough time has passed, and you have achieved some skill in relaxing, try to sense where the circles are in your movement. This is no different than learning to walk as an infant. At first, you won't see circles
anywhere. Use that as motivation to look harder. In time, you will see virtually everything which happens within your body originates somewhere, somehow, in the form of a circle.
Once you are attuned to this
circular essence within, try using it to move. This can be something as simple as walking. Take what you already know, then begin to understand it anew. See how circles working in harmony become subject to your will.
What's that you say, "Subject it to my will?"
You're getting the idea, now what next?
For starts, let's consider putting circles into your overall movement.
some basic self defense moves you're able to execute confidently and unearth from within those moves the circular energy which comes into play and energizes the overall sequence.
Demonstrating Cicular Energy in a Sequence of Blocks
Next, explore how a circle functions to release or dissipate power. A circle, for example, allows you
to become the opponent's center of gravity. Once you supplant the attacker's center, you can move the opponent from the center of your own circle in a way no different than lifting your arm, or
moving your own leg. While this feels relatively natural to you, it feels like a wave of energy to the attacker.
How about using circles to reduce resistance. Here, when force is applied against your body, you accept. In accepting, you take the incoming force, and allow it to move on a tangential line, over a
course of circles, with your own center, or dan tian defining the heart of circilar movement. Though you are dissolving the incoming power, resistance is nil, energy expended is minimal, the
movement is entirely natural. The attacker is naturalized and perplexed.
Now that you have some basic grounding in circular movements, let's consider some of the possibilities available to you.
Repeating the Circle:
First, and most basic, is repeating the same circle. This can be something overt, and apparent to the
opponent, or it can be subtle, concealed, so small in fact, it is known only to your awareness. When most people think of push hands, they are visualizing a routine involving the same circle ,
repeating in a plane. Initially, the plane is horizontal. Over time , the orientation of the plane will shift to vertical or longitudinal. With still more practice, the circular plane may migrate to the front
of the defender's body becoming like an airplane propeller. At an advanced level, circles will form all around the body, seemingly encapsulating the body within a shell of Chi, ready to manifest
instantly at any point on any circle in response to any attack.
As your confidence builds in the fundamental continuous movement, you'll be ready for the next
phase , which is disconnecting from one circle, and starting another. In tai chi, the first phase is readily apparent in single hand push hands. The second phase,disconnecting from one circle and
starting another is common in two hand push hands, but can still be found in some variations of single hand push hands. Take a moment and scrutinize the accompanying video.
Various Circular Flows Demonstrated
Of course, the permutations of circular movements are infinite, and we trust much will be
discovered in your own journey of exploration. However, the final two categories of combining circles , should be explored at this introductory level, if only to ensure you have ample basics.
Phase 3 is reversing movement. This is self explanatory. Reversing movement means going from clockwise to counterclockwise right side to left side, up to down, angle to straight, etc.
Lastly, and perhaps most complex, is randomly changing the plane of movement. Part of the hidden power in circles, is in the obfuscation of "signals" revealed to the opponent. Because we
think linearly, we abstract from points in motion to anticipated destinations. Any situation which confronts the oponent with unanticipated shifts of direction, or multiple points for observation, has
the effect of stalling the movement and flow of the impending response. This bifurcation of focus comes under the philosophy of cobra in animal fighting concepts. Splitting the opponent's focus
means the opponent has twice (or more!) as many options to consider, and response is delayed, or frozen as a consequence.
As you begin your experimentation with circles, you'll eventually gravitate to curly Q's and figure
8's. When you arrive at this stage of personal evolution everything will seem unimaginably complicated. Within this field of complexity, you mine for awareness. With repetition and time,
you'll move further along the learning curve. A point will come where you are conscious, or awake to all that is happening. At this stage, you harvest awareness. Before long, you sense a thread
connecting all of the circles into fluid but cohoerent form. You struggle to grasp the essence of this form, it is bigger than anything you imagined, almost like a ship which you're trying to catch in a
bottle. Still, you instinctively feel it is "right". As your awareness of the form integrates within, you begin to see it everywhere, in bits, parts and pieces.
Figure Eights (circles acting in concert):
Even though you are early in your journey, remember this! Figure 8's are the common thread from
where power eminates (and hence rests) in movement. The figure 8 is deceptive because it collects power, and releases it, sometimes doing both at the same time.
Packaging power ultimately means understanding the cosmic flow of figure 8's in all dimensions. Every move, no matter how small or large, whether it be a strike, a throw, a twist or a lock, has
contained within, one or more figure 8's. Being able to perceive this precursor to movement aligns you with Qi, and removes all impediments from its natural flow. Though it may take years, and
you may well have to explore several different paths, you will find this awareness a greatest personal reward, and your movement will be transformed.
You all know the symbol "Yin-Yang". In the Orient, it is referred to as the Taiji. It is an emblematic metaphor for the "figure 8" nature of flow inherent in all manifest movement. Yin
would be power landing or coming in, Yang would be power manifesting, going out.
What more can I say? Best wishes on your journey!
Things to Keep in Mind When Energizing Your Circles
• Always create a base
• Avoid collision of forces
• Mobility and/with stability
• When the channel opens, transfer energy
• Rotational momentum
• Stick and be sensitive
• Transitional flow
• Distraction and mental distance ... know what they mean and how to conjure them
• Be able to focus to the smallest point