Author Mike Sigman to neijia list 30 Jun 1995
In reply to some private email, the reason I shy away from explaining exactly how-to on some things is that I've seldom seen good results come from these explanations. It's sure to be partly my fault, but topics like Reeling Silk are difficult to explain in words.
That said, I'll make an effort at trying to explain *part* of the training of Reeling Silk exercises (perhaps the main part).
The obstacle to real progress in the below will be if you don't know how to fully relax while you're maintaining a peng path. Many people can set up a peng path (many can't, but think they are).... however most people use more muscular tension by far than they need.
The angles of joints are important in establishing a peng path. There is an old saying that Qi won't go through bent joints.... of course, in this case qi is referring to the physical manifestation of qi, what we're calling peng-jing.
If someone is setting up to push with their peng strength (see figure below), we could examine two general cases. If the angle (a) under the shoulder is fairly obtuse (say around 90 degrees or so), the the peng path can go from the back leg up to the mid/lower back, through the armpit and arm to the hands. In this case the peng path is through the body and if the person is careful, almost no tension is used.
_ (_) / /a\__/ / |\ | \ / | / | ^- ^-
If the angle (a) is fairly acute, then the peng path must change... because the peng path should always be the shortest practicable path to the ground. In this case, the peng path goes from the back leg to the hips/lower-back area and then straight to the elbows and then to the hands. Again, the least possible tension should be used...*however*, to support the structure (not the load), there will certainly be *some* maintaining tension in the back and some maintaining tension in the shoulders (as little as possible). I have an excellent video showing Cheng Man Cheng using just this sort of tension, for all of you naysayers. :^)
For beginning study, we would prefer to use the first example, where the arms are relatively straight. The main reason for doing so is that we can better train the waist and legs if we force the arms to remain relatively extended.
So, using the first example, if we roughly maintain this posture and cycle through the movement exactly like we are doing Push in the Yang-style Grasp Swallow's Tail, we can practice a Reeling Silk exercise. The trick would be to have a partner push into your palms with no more than say 2 pounds of force.... you must cycle back and down and into their force *without ever losing a good peng path and without using any noticeable muscular effort*. Keeping the peng path in your hands (or any part that is involved in the application of the moment) and using the peng path to cycle your movement is one of the essential ideas of all movement in the internal martial arts.
Now let's get a bit more sophisticated. If you're standing in a *slight* horse stance (don't bend the knees very much at all), have a partner put weight downward of 2 or 3 pounds. Using *only* peng driven by your leg and waist, roll your shoulder in a circle, up, backward, down and around.
_ _ (_) (_) __=__> _= / | \\/ \ / | \ \ \ | / | /-" "-\ / O O O | | \ | You | \ Partner ^ ^ --
You should not use any local shoulder muscle to effect this move! At first the motion will be gross and exaggerated. Concentrate on keeping the feeling of the solid ground in your partner's downward pressing hand. You will notice that as your shoulder cycles, the leg cycles and also the dan tien area will automatically describe a circlular rotation. Naturally, as your body skills increase over time, the motion of the shoulder will look much more natural... ultimately, the only real giveaway to this particular Reeling Silk exercise will be an accompanying rotation of the Dan Tien.
Similarly, other exercises of the Reeling Silk ilk (or other neigong) follow this same idea of movement with and involving the manipulated peng path.
I can't tell..... did this description make any sense?
The method of using constant peng as described in the shoulder moving exercise is the same way that the peng jing is used in a taiji form, Bagua walking, Taiji Ruler, Xingyi Neigong, etc., etc. Of course, the additional factors of connection, contraction, down-weighting, and the natural movement of body winding in the Reeling Silk movement were all glossed over, for simplicity's sake.
However, just paying attention to the use of peng that was described.. that's the threshold skill. No matter how precise a form is in its postures, without this sort of movement it is not done as an internal martial art or as an internal form of movement. After you are familiar with this type of movement, you can readily tell who moves correctly and who does not. First you should judge whether this type of movement is present; only then should you bother to worry about the precision of someone's form. Having had this discussion with accomplished chinese martial artists (who did not even know each other), I have no worries about making this statement.
This is one of the main reasons I decline to judge forms in tournaments. First of all, few if any competitors are demonstrating on this level. Secondly, the ones who *are* trying to use some of this are losing because the judges mostly have no idea about it, either.
Personally, there was a time when I realized that it was better bite the bullet and go back and relearn all that I thought I knew. I knew that if I didn't take the one-time loss-of-face and relearn, I would forever be able to only fool beginners.... and would have a forever loss-of-face to upper level people. We all have to learn, sometime.
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