Developing Awareness

In the beginning of this training
Conscious movement is usually slower
Than unconscious reflexive action,
But as the internal (rider) disciplines himself
to use only conscious movements-
even if it means losing encounters at first-
slowly, the trend is reversed
and conscious movement
becomes faster than unconscious action.
This happens because the spaces between
see, think, and do
narrow
as the (rider) continues to practice
only conscious movement.

Page 121 he Whirling Circles of Ba Gua Zhang

by Frank Allen and Tina Chunna Zhang

Horses are not only much larger and stronger than humans are; their reflexive actions are phenomenally faster. Our unthinking reflexive actions are not only much slower than the average horse’s, they also, for the most part, run counter to what works on horseback. I substituted the word rider for ba gau boxer in the preceding quote because this issue of quick conscious movement is of such vital importance to equestrians. If we are to have a hope of truly communicating with our mounts, we have to become both conscious of and quick in movements that are appropriate and constructive to horseback riding.

The first priority for those who wish to be able to communicate with their horse through their hands is making sure that their hands freely follow the movement of the horse’s head. Driving, typing, and texting, unfortunately, tend to produce stiff shoulders combined with weak hands and wrists. The prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome, an unconscious constriction of these muscles and tendons, is one symptom of that narrow focus. Becoming aware of the fine tuning in your arms, elbows, wrists, and fingers takes regular conscious practice so the first thing to do is increase both awareness and circulation in your, upper body, hands and arms. Start by:

• Taking the horse stance (click here) since the intention is to be supple and resilient in the saddle

Continue by:

  1. Letting your arms hang loose at your sides
  2. Making a tight fist with both hands
  3. Relaxing both hands
  4. Extending all your finger to their maximum
  5. Relaxing both hands
  6. Rolling both hands and wrists in complete circles in both directions
  7. Flicking each finger against your thumb several times
  8. Repeat with your hands fisted
  9. Repeat with your hands extended
  10. Lean slightly forward with your arms relaxed
  11. Shake your hands until they feel warm

Next:

  1. Notice your arms hanging straight down and relaxed
  2. Stiffen and relax your arms
  3. Hold your arms out as far behind you as you can
  4. Stiffen and relax your arms
  5. Bring your arms out to your sides so they are in line with your shoulders
  6. Stiffen and relax your arms
  7. Hold your arms straight out in front of you
  8. Stiffen and relax your arms
  9. Circle both arms in large loose circles

Next:

• Put each hand on the opposite shoulder
• Raise your elbows and tuck your chin into the ‘X’ where your forearms cross
• Lean slightly forward from the hips
• Stretch up and forward
• Twist your waist to each side and hold
• Raise and hold each shoulder briefly in each position
• Practice until you can move smoothly through a full figure eight in each direction

Next is coordinating arms and feet. There are eight Palms, or arm/hand positions in ba gau martial arts. Each is associated with a certain kind of feel or energy. We are going to start with four of them:

• Earth Palm is arms relaxed palms down fingers pointing towards each other
• Thunder Palm is arms forward at shoulder level, palms facing out fingers pointing towards each other
• Heaven Palm is arms raised above the head, palms facing up fingers pointing away from each other
• Mountain Palm is elbows in front of the body, wrists held together at shoulder height, palms facing upward

The focus of these sequences is to balance yourself between heaven and earth while in movement which is a very important skill for someone on the back of a horse! So start walking Mud tread circles once more(click here), but now it is time to pay attention to your arms and hands.

Heaven and Earth sequence spiraling inward:

• when your inside foot is settling onto the ground
• Place your hands in the Earth palms down position
• As your outside foot lifts,
• Move your hands into the palms out Thunder position
• As your outside foot settles raise your hand into palms up Heaven position
• As you inside foot lifts
• Lower your hands into the palms up Thunder position
• when your inside foot is settling onto the ground
• Place your hands in the Earth palms down position
• And repeat

Heaven and Earth sequence spiraling outward:

• when your inside foot is settling onto the ground
• raise your hand into palms up Heaven position
• As your outside foot lifts,
• Move your hands into the palms up Mountain position
• As your outside foot settles
• Place your hands in the Earth palms down position
• As your inside foot lifts
• Move your hands into the palms out Thunder position
• when your inside foot is settling onto the ground
• raise your hand into palms up Heaven position
• And repeat

Spiraling inward can be thought of as collecting energy into the earth in the center of the circle, eventually allowing work such as the canter pirouette. Spiraling outward can be thought of as an expansion of energy from the earth into the heavens, increasing impulsion and speed. When you are ready, click here for the Following Hand or head back to the beginning

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