This morning, I decided to focus on sinking into my hip joint using Dantien energy. Wow, what a difference that made! It came from my teacher Diane mentioning during the form last week that sinking into the hip is what moves the leg back in "Step Back and Repulse Monkey".
Previously, I had just gotten my hands in position, and did what I tell my students to do: "walk away from your upper hand". While that is not a bad strategy, it really misses this whole other level and it's time to bring that into my form work.
So here's how that works in Repulse Monkey. You still get your hands in position, forward hand out, palm up, rear hand by the ear, relaxed into a position where the fingers are relaxed, sunken and pointing into that little dip between the upper and back shoulder bones. Now, using your Dantien, sink everything into the hip of the leg that will move back and rotate it back. That brings the leg back with it and also sends the upper hand out and brings the former upper hand back with the leg. Rotate the energy back to centre, let the elbows settle and there you have it, one repetition of Repulse Monkey.
Do it again and again. This is not easy to do! It will take some practice.
Ok, let's get the breath involved, too. As you sink the energy into the hip/groin joint, breathe in (Yin) and when you rotate to move the leg back, send the opposite arm out, and come back to centre, breathe out (Yang).
Now do this for every other part of your form! Figure out how to sink into the hip/groin using the Dantien to send the energy there and then down to your root and simultaneously, send it out from the root to the upper or forward hand, or leg if it's a kick you're doing.
It took me almost 5 minutes longer to do the form because I was practicing so deeply into that. And the form felt completely different. Which is as it should be when you are incorporating a new awareness of movement.
It requires a concentrated awareness, which brings us back to zen practice and how zen and Tai Chi and Tao are all the same. You have to practice them.
Here's to deepening your practice. Play hard. Be aware.