How the Form Begins
Preparation - Beginning ...
Pivot right heel, cat stance left, hold circle right
hip, step with left ...
Your left hand goes up (leading with the thumb) and
your right hand goes down ...
You visualize a small bird in/on your left hand;
it takes off and your hand raises up gently beneath
it and you 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.
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - W
ard Off Left (facing north)
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Ward Off Right (facing east)
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Rollback (facing southeast)
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Press (facing northwest, going
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Withdraw (facing northwest,
your arms moving backward)
Grasp the Sparrows Tail - Push (facing east)
The next posture (Single Whip) faces you towards
This is the sequence that begins the Part One of the
Long Form, follows 'Wrestle Tiger Return to Mountain'
at the start of Part Two and Three and regularly
repeats throughout. 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. This sequence is a form of sorts
in its own right, yet when performed as a part of the
whole it all but vanishes. 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". The same applies with Preparation -
Beginning. Of all sequences this one is sure to be the
most practiced, therefor (and at this end of the process)
the least thought about.
Satisfied and Surprised!
Newcomer's come expecting all sorts of things from Tai
Chi. Many have expectations of 'weird' physical sensation.
I don't knock this, it is understandable and indeed
I would suppose that 'connecting' with some other power
(able to leap tall buildings with a single bound etc.)
was one of the things that I hoped for from Tai Chi,
maybe even yearned. I suppose that was so, but I have
forgotten now. My observations since is that those who
expect the most are always the most disappoint, and
those that practice are the most satisfied and surprised!
For those that practice the first surprise and/or weird
sensation is that following proper Perpetration and
an appropriate period of calming - the hands/arms seem
almost to 'rise' themselves with no conscious effort
on the part of the practitioner. 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 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 contravenes are unnecessary
vexations to the Budoka.
The form (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 that is perfectly able to be the cause
of physical and emotional sensation - and 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.
Those preparation's just mentioned are not in themselves
'meditation', yet they are vital aids to 'set the tone'
or get you in the mood. 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).
To those less practiced in meditation the use of incense
and so on as precursor is valid as that - cue or prompt,
however, the meditator is advised to remain alert and
does well to remember the Zen adage that "When
the finger points at the moon; contemplate the moon,
not the finger".
Ultimately those who diligently practice meditation
may (if they so choose, some choose not) dispense with
any or all aids and simply 'meditate' upon or 'in' whatever
is [any conditions].
Sparseness or doing without/simplicity is not uncommon
in many cultural, spiritual and religious practices.
The excess of the most opulent and wasteful are well
known, but so too (for the opposite reason) are the
simple ones. The prominence of Zen and Taoism in Budo Martial Arts practice must be recognized as highly
influential. Between them (noting also that they are
each product of different times and separate cultures)
Zen and Taoism effectively cover the extreme's of nonchalance
and hostility with regard to "outside form".
The visualization of 'Beginning' sequence is 'the sun
rising above the horizon'. Your hands are thus 'lifted'
and it is suggested that you "set a higher goal".
For the Grasp the Sparrows Tail sequence the first visualization
is that as the small bird alights from one hand - the
other grasps or strokes it's tail as it fly's upwards
'Beginning' is the first and last therefore the one
and only time within the whole form that weight is distributed
evenly between the feet. This posture signifies connection
straight up and down - between Heaven and Earth. The
next, 'Grasp the Sparrows Tail' signifies the more complete
connection diagonally between left and right, bottom
and top. As the sequence unrolls the practitioner is
familiarized with the cardinal directions of north,
south, east, west - with 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
Of the nine performances of this sequence within the
three parts of the whole form; 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.
Words and phrases not compatible to Tai Chi have been
used here and indeed it is an accepted matter of fact
that as far as Tai Chi is concerned words only confuse;
and the more the words, the more the confusion. I have
instantly proven that!
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.
Before you right now is "me talking about Tai
Chi", this time using the web; one of the thousands
of 'new' novel and challenging ways of getting in touch
with each other that technology unrolls endlessly before
us these days. None of these new fangle tools of communication
should really compromise or threaten Tai Chi anymore
than all that has gone before, because like before,
they make no difference or have no effect upon the 'spirit'
of Tai Chi which exists far beyond words and closer
Tai Chi is riddled with 'visualizations'; there are
thousands of them, but the only one that will work is yours. Try to not confuse the issue with words that