Do we ever get sick of each other? Yes! We live and train together all the time and it’s expected that we sometimes prefer to be alone or in the company of others off the mountain. However, our core group is tighter than ever and we’ve been challenging and supporting each other to meet our goals.
Using the YMAA curriculum as a base, we’ve been testing through the system while also breaking down some drills and adding others. We’ve increased the passing grade from a 7.0 (YMAA international standard) to an 8.0. There is always the constant struggle to balance quantity and quality. With one year remaining, time is short.
Our training duration is over 8 hours per day and we now spend 4 or 6 hours with partners, depending on the day. The intensity is different from solo training. Partner training can be more tiring in some ways because we’re constantly exchanging energy and analyzing our faults. The discussions at the end of each topic have been monumental in our progress.
We’ve been diving into the Taiji drills like nobody’s business and broke them down into progressions. Some of them are broken down even further.
Centering: pre-centering drills, stationary, stepping (linear), on bricks
Push Hands: Yang side stationary, Yang side stepping (linear), Yin side stationary, Yin side stepping (linear), Yang-Yin sides stationary, Yang-Yin sides stepping (linear), Yang-Yin sides stepping (angling) + application set ups
Taiji (Yin Yang) Symbol: Yang side stationary, Yang side stepping (linear), Yin side stationary, Yin side stepping (linear), Yang-Yin sides stationary, Yang-Yin sides stepping (linear), Yang side Bagua stepping, Yin side Bagua stepping, Yang-Yin side Bagua stepping
Peng Lu Ji An (Ward Off, Rollback, Squeeze/Press, Press/Push): stationary, stationary cross body (mostly focusing on Lu), stepping (angling), switch sides stepping (angling)
Lu (Rollback): Da Lu (Large Rollback) neutralization (stationary), Da Lu neutralization + Peng (stationary), Da Lu stepping, Da Lu + Ji, Xiao Lu (Small Rollback) + Ji, Xiao Lu + Da Lu + Ji
Other: coiling, plucking, intercepting, sticking (adhering), bumping
We often go back several steps to refine individual components. There IS improvement, but the deeper we go, the slower the progress feels.
We recently finished learning one side of the Taiji Fighting Set. Next semester, we’ll learn the other side, Cai Lie Zhou Kao (Pluck, Split, Elbow, Bump), add Borrowing Jing, and more.
All of these drills will eventually lead to free Taiji sparring. To get a taste, sometimes we’ll mix everything and see what happens. It’s not pretty, but at least some reactions and reflexes are beginning to manifest.
To improve, we’ve had to both slow down to refine and speed up and give each other more trouble. Sometimes while going slow, I start to feel like I’m getting it. Then I remind myself that it looks like “Taiji Dancing.” With more speed and less mercy, we see if we really do have it. The eventual goal is to apply everything with “no mercy.”
We alternate between Shaolin and Taiji training days. The Taiji days used to be the “easy” / active resting days. Ha!
Peng Lu Ji An
Stationary: Step 1 is slow as we develop the feeling. We gradually give each other more trouble, particularly on Lu (Rollback).
Stepping: This looks a lot more cooperative than it feels. Challenges include: applying the techniques at the optimal angles, maintaining proper distance to neutralize, and coordinating the upper and lower body. Quality improves with Listening Jing and overall sensitivity, which come with experience.