Sifu On Demand is an online training program designed by Kelley Graham to help NeiJia students incease mental and physical capacities. Increased capacity leads to deeper insight. Deeper insight enables higher skill. Our curriculum is evidence-based, using neuroscience and neuroanatomy to bring context to the counterintuitive experiences unique to authentic Chinese esoteric practice. Students directly map the esoteric language associated with high-level internal arts to specific physiological sensations. The poetics of the Taoist Classics become clear. Check our FAQ, join our community and train.
For centuries, NeiJia (Chinese Internal Martial Arts) have provided tools for developing excellent character, high martial skill and deep self cultivation. Train for health and long life. Train for survival. Genuine transformation requires focus, commitment and effective training methods. You provide the focus and commitment and I provide the training methods. If you train, you will change.
Chinese Martial Arts are sometimes divided into two adversarial camps: Internal vs External. It is usually in some kind of advert where I see these terms. Over the years as I have kept abreast of anatomy, neuroscience and related disciplines, I have always looked to resolve what I perceive a false distinction. In 2010, I published a draft definition of internal practice in my FAQ. Since then I have been fortunate to receive peer feedback and continue to refine the definition.
Deep learning is transformative. To move from where you are to where you want to be requires a map, or at least a path. The problem with NeiJia is that, for the beginner, there is no understandable map and the path seems convoluted at best, unintelligible at worst. In UCB Program internal practice, From Standing to Pearls, the progression of capacity, skill and understanding is predictably linear and seems, on the surface, perfectly reasonable. To train the 5 Elements is to break with this surface rationality and embrace the unreasonable.
I feel like I am able to notice the ribs a little more than before when I do step tap but what I've noticed is that I have to keep the shoulders down. If I don't try to keep them down then the feeling in the bottom back ribs is not clear. Is this fine to do now, or is my sensation of the ribs just because i'm tensing some mucles around there in order to keep the ribs down. I also noticed when I did the tortise stepping that it seemed like I could feel the ribs a bit like when I do the step tap.
When I was doing tai chi in college I remember Carlos saying that after you do tai chi for a while you could become ill because the tai chi movements help squeeze the lymphatic system which can make them release old junk that is store inside your body. After last class and the class two weeks ago I felt a little ill afterwards and the following day. Are the new movements we've been going over more likely to release junk that's been stored inside the body?
A few days a go when doing the push pull elbow I felt a stretch in the middle of the upper back right on the spine and inline with the shoulder blades. When I did the standing that spot felt similar to how the transverse stretch feels in the lower part of the body. The next day when doing the standing I could not feel it very clearly but it seemed like there was still some awareness of that spot and also I feel like the shoulders and ribcage had a different awareness than the previous day.
Last week there was one time when I was doing the standing and I felt like I had this sensation where the upper front part of the hip was connected into the front part of the abdomen, maybe it was the master cavity. When I would bend it would feel like that point on the hip was pulled into the upper abdomen part. I haven't felt that again though, not sure if this is just a passing sensation or if that kind of sensation is a connection we should try to be aware of.
In last weeks class I asked some questions about the shoulders and posture and since then I've been thinking that maybe I've been interfering too much with their placement and I've been trying to let them be more natural. This week I've been feeling or have been having an awareness of the shoulder blade or the tissue or space underneath it. I don't remember when but I thought you had said sometime earlier in the training something about the shoulder blades feeling like they just hang off the back.
Most recently my ability to feel or perceive what I've thought of as the back of the U has travelled futher up the back. I thought that the back of the U was from the lower part of the ribs down towards the sacrum but now it seems like the stretch in my back can be felt slightly higher than the bottom of the ribs. When I was standing earlier in the day and I was feeling more of the tissue/stretch it almost felt a little like spine lengthened. Then later when I was doing it in the evening I was noticing that it seems like the higher up part of the stretch was more on the left side.
When doing the standing today I did feel like I had a pushing up feeling in the neck area but it also felt like my body was kind of hanging off from the top of the head. It almost felt like if you put a sheet over a stick, the pushing up feeling was the stick and the sheet draping down over the stick was the sensation of something from back top of the head just falling downwards around the neck and shoulder. Not sure if this is related to the pearls or maybe this is just related to the foot couple and the head neck and shoulders, or maybe neither and it's just a passing sensation.
The slack of which I speak can only be felt after cultivating coupled power and experiencing a bit of 'noninterference' in meditation. Conceptually, this definition is analogous to the slack of a geartrain. Slack for our purposes is defined as the range between 'softness-weakness' and 'strength-vigor'. This experiential range is subjective, and arises exclusively from interoceptive signals received from the deep core stabilizers. A CIMA term for this overall practice is known as 'Jibengong' or torso methods.
Here's my six aspects of minding the slack:
When I was practicing today I did the standing, then did some wash face and arm swings. Then I did the standing. Then I did some of the punches/elbows and windmill kick (not sure if that is the correct name) and then the standing. Then I did the kicks that you just taught and the standing. Each time I would return to the standing the pressure suit feelings in the legs would get stronger.
I had an intersting experience this morning. I was having tightness in my neck and my throat, again (eye roll), and I was unable to get back to sleep so as I was lying there I decided to try to use the mental model of standing, especially the soft eyes, throat, and solar plexus. As I did this, I started to feel twitches and vibrations in my lower lip, the area around my eyes, in my throat, around and behind my strenum, at the solar plexus, and into my abdomen and perineum. These vibrations happened with these tissues softened and released. It felt like a bubbling brook flowing downward.
I noticed while training and looking into the cavities that I could allow that breath to affect the cavities which would produce movement. I was bending and when I inhaled, all of the cavities would fill and I would be stood up and my arms would puff out. As I exhaled, I would return to the orginal position. I decided to see what would happen if i treated this expereince like the Tai Chi breath. I would inhale, I would be stood up and my shoulder blades would spread and my arms would puff out.
In the beginning when I first started feeling the back of the U it was just a tiny horizontal line up nears the back of the ribs that would sometimes feel a tiny pulling down when I would do bending. Then one day after I had been doing UCB for maybe a year I all of a sudden felt the back of the U separate like it was three sheets of something and that had been glued together and then glue finally came apart and now it was a longer sheet of stuff.
I have recently had an evolution in my view/thinking on The Mental Models. My previous approach was to try to approximate the feeling by moving or stretching. I would stretch my foot and along my ankle, knees, and pelvis in a way that would produce the sensations called for. I'm not saying this is not good practice. But, it is not working the Mental Models. It is body work. It will not lead to the transformation Sifu is pointing toward. It will only lead to a limited physcal skill that can't carry us forward to emptiness or the ability to "just move". The Mental Models are MENTAL!
On my journey of undoing I have noticed that at times my upper torso actually feels like it is detatched form my lower torso. It's like two building blocks that are not just separate blocks but they aren't even stacked over one another. They are significantly offset from one another. When this feeling is clear enough I can "better stack" them and my body feels comfortable. I know that this is not the mental model we are looking for. It's just an observation. Feeling my body with this kind of clarity ibecome acutely aware of this kind of intense sense of physiological disorientation.
A couple of days ago I had my wife push against my arms in the ward off stance for fun. She was probably humoring me and not pushing very hard but she did push and it felt like I was able to withstand a certain amount of force without my structure collapsing. With my right arm out it felt like I could feel the force go into my back foot a bit and on the left side when she pushed I could feel my ribs compressing quite a bit. We have not really talked about rooting or grounding much in our training.
This is a weighty topic. When students first encounter the bones, they laugh. Bones don't make sense. I say:
"Bone Training is weird. You enter a strange and uncertain place. With gravity there is no Yin/Yang. How could there be when gravity does not vary? To separate meat from bones requires great and sustained efforts of mental transformation. Your body's state of bony separation never varies. Our expectations are what varies. At this time, to perceive bony cues is virtually impossible."
I have recently began to notice the qualitative difference between the light yi associated with movement and what I normally associate with "thought". With yi, it always leads to movement or change in the body. I feel like it could be compared to wind. Yi is wind when it it fills a sail and the boat is moved along. Imagination is wind as well but it's immaterial to the boat because the sail is not up and the direction is wrong.
I know I've noticed this before I got busy with moving but I was doing the 5 elements some more and I noticed that after I do it when I sit down my stomach feels different, maybe larger or full? Is this just related to increased blood flow in that region or something from the different pressures on the organs? I know sometimes you've said if there is a full belly feeling it can mean that you are disconnected. Is this indicitive or something positive or negative? Or just what happens from doing the practice?
I was practicing the beginning of the san ti shi with the bend and coordinated arm movement. I was trying to not float from the crown point, not sure if I was doing it correctly or not but the thing I was noticing was that when I was unbend and the arms would go down I could feel a stretch or like a rubbing against the lower back/ribs along the side of the back. It was more pronounced on the right side but I could feel it faintly on the left side as well. Is this related to the transverse couple or is this just a passing sensation.
Up until now when I've done the San Ti Shi I've felt a big stretch in the back like I was getting rid of some of those fascia crosslinks and getting more mobility. Today when I was doing San Ti Shi I noticed though that the out reached hand side of the body could feel a closing of the ribs sensation when I was thinking about the elbow rotating inwards and the hand going forward. I also could noticed a connection through the arm pit area with the out stretched arm.
Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, maintaining ease has been quite the transformational highlight during my UCB journey. On the one hand, shouldn't ease be easy? On the other, it seems clear why this should be the case. Afterall, striving and forcing have been my primary path to achievement in so many areas of my life. Frustration arises when these primary modes do not produce the desired results that only come through maintaining ease. I feel my capacity for ease is expanding but I notice my propensity for forcing and striving much more clearly when standing.
When force passes throught the body, there are 5 areas of the torso that respond. These responses each have specific and unique 'interoceptive' characteristics. This is the source of the 5 Elements phenomena. Based on this phenomena, principles have been codified and labeled 'Internal'. Movement that is 'harmonized' according to these internal principles means having clear inner mental expectations and their resultant outer physical manifestation. There is nothing exotic here, only a specific approach to training.
I'm not sure what I did but when doing t he standing I felt some kind of difference in the big toe. There was a feeling like something was pulling from the bottom of the big toe up and around back towards the foot as if the big toe was being lifted up a tiny bit inside. Then I felt a big stretch down the front of the U, when I would breath I could feel the big stretch. I took a quick break after not too long but then when I went back to the standing I didn't feel the toe or the big stretch again.
We have talked about this before where I have had some shoulder pain/discomfort/tension whatever. And it has sort of come and gone and come again. I'm noticing now that it's been moving each time going from the center outwards, now I feel some sensations near the outer part of the shoulder blade. The questions is, is this just the way it works when we are breaking these fascia cross links that have developed over time? Or is it not the fascia cross links but this is just how this type of practice works through fixing parts of the body?
Today I did some planking and back bear, beginning and ending with standing meditation. After feeling some of the most clear switch-to-stitch followed by a very strong and stable non-interference/pearls mental model, my body decided it was time to plank. It was incredibly easy. Yes, there was extreme stretching and even more extreme mental discipline, but the "effort" was nothing. I could only do three total.
When I do the transverse couple I always feel like there has to be this release and/or connection happening somewhere amongst these muscles pictured below.
When I was doing my standing meditation today I felt a stretch inside the right part of what I think is the shoulder cavity. When I was putting my attention on that area sometimes it would move and I would notice that there was some kind of random bubbling or pulling sensation that would only happen for a moment on the inner back near the shoulder blade. The type of stretch feeling in the shoulder cavity feels like the kind of push pull feeling in the feet or in the pelvic like the transverse stretch.
I've noticed my feet naturally supinate while standing. When I straighten them out, it produces stretching around the inside of my knee. I'm wondering what is the best way to address this or if I should allow the supination.
When practicing the back slap bear slap I was feeling a stretch in my lower abs on the side of the body that I was stepping towards while twisting the hips before the front of the chest moves. I don't think I had ever noticed this before and/or maybe I'm doing it differently now. Is this part of what we want to feel when doing this exercise?
Mental models, transformation, self-compassion and 10 step stepping. Free introductory video. Register for access.
Over the decades of training and teaching I have generally held that constant change is important and have tried to avoid the traps of sentimentality and routine. As I am codifying these experiences into something concrete and reliably transmissible, students ask for simplification. I try, but really, I feel that simplifiction is the most compelling trap of all. I'll do it, but will also show how seeking simplification when embracing complexity and uncertainty might be better.
Tonight after I did the goat punches and then I did my standing, I was trying to look for the transverse couple. But instead instead I actually felt a flat stretching feeling at the back where the bottom of the ribs are located. I thought when we first did the stillness exercise the stillness was supposed to be around the front of the bottom of the ribs. Is this stretch of the back of the ribs just something to notice or is this at all related to the stillness and/or the transverse couple?
A few years Sifu was telling me about cold tolerance and how it relates to our training. I can't remember everything he said. Personally, probably for unrelated reasons, I have poor cold tolerance. Less than a minute if exposure to a cold wind can cause me to go into shivers. This is obviously the wrong direction of development. Any pointers on what I'm doing wrong and how to address it?
I was training Standing and working on the foot couple. I activated the foot couple and the whole foot stretches out. As usual, during the short amount of time I can tolerate Standing I could feel the corrections to my foot and ankle alignments that happened and it produced the biggest feeling of stretch I've felt in my foot. It was along the outside edge of my right foot. My left foot and ankle need a lot more work than my right. This stretch was bordering on painful and I could feel my mind trying to avoid that pain and go away from it. I calmed myself and released into it.
If you would have asked how confident I was in my progress I would have said that I was really feeling everything was coming together and that i was feeling more comfortable in my body. Then, the week after Thanksgiving, everything shifted all of a sudden. The biggest thing that changed was my comfort level. Now, I have this "up" feeling at the solar plxus that pushes up on my throat. There are times when I suddenly sense what to let go of and it'll just drop away. Then, after some time, it will return and I don't know or can't feel what I need to let go so that it will drop down again.
A few weeks ago we discussed how doing this type of training can feel like being on the outside of a wheel moving forward. When you are moving upwards and forward on the wheel it feels like progress but when the wheel starts to move downward and backwards you can feel like you are making no progress or moving backwards. This topic came up because I had been having difficulty feeling the bones pushing forwards/backstop/stretch. Sure enough the next day I had more clarity in feeling these sensations again.
I tried to asked this question in our last class but maybe I didn't really articulate it correctly. When I practice the standing meditation it feels like there are small tiny corrections that can be made to make the foot couple or backstop or bones pushing out feelings more clear. Whenever I am able to make some kind of correction it feels like my body becomes more connected. At first it was from the foot to the bottom part of the leg. Then foot to the knee. Now I am starting to feel connected to the hip.
I have been doing this training long enough to recognize the states that my body goes through during the learning process. Right now my body is "in between". It's not what it was. It's not what it's transforming into yet. But, it is in a new and interesting phase. My whole body is perceived differently than before. I have found so much body dysmorphia, perceiving my body in a way that does not reflect reality, is the root of the lack of integration in my body.
Last night I felt like I actually had some kind of real sensation of standing. In earlier weeks of the pratice sometimes while doing the standing mediation I would shift my weight from front to back or back to front very slightly to try and see what alignment would bring out more clear sensations of backstop, foot couple, bones pushing, tissue pulling.
Yesterday while I was waiting for something to finish baking I did some arm swings and then some standing. When I was standing I felt like underneath my skin or maybe between my skin and my fascia there was some bubbling or some kind of pulsing feeling going on, maybe related to my hearbeat but it didn't seem to quite sync. This was going on in the space in between my shoulder blades. Is this the kind of stretch we are trying to accomplish with this warm up or was this maybe just a coincedental feeling.
I have started to experience something interesting. When I Stand and relax my soft tissues they seem to "empty out". This void between the skin surfaces is filled with an empty support that pushes out in all directions and the muscles soften even more. I'm neither light nor heavy. The support in the tissues does not produce a feeling of high pressure. It feels simply full and soft yet there is some power when I move. It's very interesting. I can tell that it's a weak version of something that will continue to increase as I train. I've never felt this before. It's really exciting!
- This from David DeVere's Empty Flower archive -
The following pictorial of Lianhuan Quan was originally written by the late Grandmaster Li Cun Yi. It was published by his student Jiang Rong Jiao in 1930 in the book "Xing Yi Lianhuan Quan." The following information is from the book "Xingyi Lianhuan Quan," translated by Joseph Crandall and used with permission. I highly recommend you visit his Smiling Tiger website. He has a wealth of material previously unavailable in English.
Effing --wham! --ugh-- seems like 2020 has been one body blow after another. All the while thinking: Keep your guard up. Stay on your feet. Keep training. Keep teaching. Change. Adapt. Overcome. Move forward. Keep pushing the skill. Wear that mask. These are not normal times.
There are many different kinds of meditation. You probably know about mindfulness. However, mindfulness training is not really the best for high performance. After 6 weeks of light practice, it helps with conflict resolution and general stress reduction. Mindfulness doesn't appear to assist with intentional learning methods like internal martial arts.
Coupled power will remove 'uproot' from your vocabulary. We are not trees. We have no root. If your body is collapsed, root makes sense. If your chi is stagnant from your collapsed body, root makes sense. The mind-body integration that solves 'collapse' comes from understanding tensegrity and its application to our neuroanatomy. I really can't speak more plainly. Stop uprooting. There is no root to break. All you are really training is avoidance of direct contact with power.
The tensegrity model is great abstraction of our body structure. Neuroanatomy offers deeper insight into movement. Neither approach imparts the specific understanding that enables us to be more powerful and comfortable in our own skin.
Can you get from here to there without a map? Without a clear path you are lost. Mind-Body training without a destination is lost time. The UnCarved Block Program provides a method to transform yourself.
So during training the other night it felt like my breath traveled down my spine to the kidney area into the lower abdomen and filled it up. This would have the effect, if I let it, of opening me up stand straight when I inhale and then come down onto a deeper c shape on the exhale. The kidney area at the sides and lower back along the spine was very explicit.
Wow! I just saw that I've been a part of this community for 7 years! That's awesome and frustrating because I should be so much farther along but.... No judging... I've been working on the pearls training or "pearling" as Connor calls it. For some time I've been able to feel the joints open and close in the legs when inhale and exhale. But, after a ribs of doing the wedgie breath and the chair exercise I stood up and my body opened up in a new way and it felt like the whole back of my legs opened up and we're like balloons that filled and deflated with the inhale and exhale.
NOTE: PT's and other touch-based practitioners. If you want to grow your business of helping and healing, I have built Tai Chi Boost as a certification program to better engage the allopathic medical professional. Frankly, MD's, psychiatrists, talk therapists and other clinicians are completely uninterested in how badass you are in the ring. In fact, your fight credentials and marital expertise will work against you.
Hi: Happy New Year! I've decided to offer handmade neijia training tools. Watch here for limited production runs. Volume is dependent on my time and demand. I will include instructional materials on their use.
Back in February, at the conclusion of the AZ Retreat, Sifu and I went out for ice cream and discussed a number of things. One of the things I asked him about was his opinion regarding the videos about "John Chang" and the Mopai school. I'm not sure if I shared this with Sifu, but I have been acquainted with a former Mopai student who spent time studying with Pak John in Indonesia.