Mok Kim Hoe: Is it possible to have one post about the fundamental Taigong (anus contraction) and Seng (rising up the spine)? What’s your recommendations thought process / thought that should be avoided when practising that? Looking forward.
Me: Probably the rising up of the spine is the key concern to learners as it has been made equivalent to accessing Idea (nim tau) at the top end (at the head). Accordingly, Taigong has been given the same weight because it is the start of the rising up from the bottom end.
EXPLANATION: What does “rising up the spine” actually mean? Let’s forget “rising” for the time being. In your pre-WingChun days, the activity of the spine was confined by its neighbouring muscles due to them contracting, here or there. That is, joints between vertebrae are not free to expand, and hence the spine is not free to act. The Wing Chun training is to set the spine free, to allow it to autonomously expand as you will. Thus, what is described as “rising” (directional) is actually just “expanding” (non-directional). It has been regarded as an “upward” movement simply because there is no room at the bottom end (roughly speaking, the tailbone meeting the anus) to accommodate the expansion, while at the top end there is no restriction on “sticking” the head upward (into the air).
How to gradually train the spine to expand? An immediate answer: It occurs whenever ANY of the vertebra joints is set free. This can be translated into: It is not a fixed rule that you have to start from a particular position (like the anus); whichever vertebra(e) that can be freed by soften-melting the neighbouring muscles allows spine expansion to be worked on right from there. However, especially for beginners, it is quite hard to access any vertebra as desired in this way. Instead, allowing some contraction in the anus (which is easy to make happen) can give a well-felt base point that can help trigger working on the expansion bottom up. And as such it is perceived as “rising upward”. Put it simply: Taigong is largely just a means to help out. The anus area should, on the contrary, also be fully softened (no contraction) in the end. It is easy to understand: contraction prohibits expansion; contraction anywhere should be taken away. From this perspective, insisting on feeling the rising from the anus upward vertebra by vertebra until the top end is not necessary, even undesirable at more advanced stages, and may easily derail the spine training, resulting in pulling up with force. In fact, retaining contraction of the anus will hamper the connection inside, downward to the legs. (This deserves a separate post for further elaboration.)
CONCISE GUIDE: There are several centre points along the spine that are typical (pivotal and direct) to start with: the lower centre point (near the belly button), the upper centre point (around the solar plexus) and the neck centre point (connecting to but below the neck). Try to access them by soften-melting the corresponding neighbouring muscles towards them, but not relaxing/dropping muscles down to the floor. When doing so, you don’t ignore the spine as a whole. Instead, keep the intent of extending (but not forcing) the spine along its full length up to the two ends (the head point and the tailbone/anus) so that it is always active in every part. On top of this you carry out the soften-melting exploration.
SIMPLE INTENT: Keep the whole spine active up to the two ends, then soften-melt neighbouring muscles to the centre point being explored.