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.
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 dor 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 bodies 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.
When 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 as circles working in harmony, 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.
Take 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.
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
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 oponentwith 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 eventuallygravitate 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