During a recent spell of bad weather, I was looking for Tai Chi that I could practice in a small space, inside. Of course, Ba Duan Jin and Nei Kung are good for that. But also, silk reeling exercises are an excellent workout, especially for the legs, as well as good practice for improving all of the Chen empty-hand forms.
Chen Bing explains the most basic silk reeling exercise in a short video that has English captions: Chen Bing one-hand outward chan si jing.
An article in Wikipedia explains the principle that gives this kind of exercise its name, Chán sī jīng (纏絲精). Chan means winding or spiraling, and si means silk or thread.
“The name derives from the twisting and spiraling movements of the silkworm larva as it wraps itself in its cocoon [and the action of reeling the silk for thread]. In order to draw out the silk successfully the action must be smooth and consistent without jerking or changing direction sharply. Too fast, the silk breaks, too slow, it sticks to itself and becomes tangled.”
Chen Xiaowang lectures and demonstrates at length (45 minutes) in his video on silk reeling. English subtitles help, though I’m sure we miss a lot not understanding the Chinese. It would take a lot of patience to work through this video; I confess I haven’t done it. Yet.
For a great crash course, Jesse Tsao demonstrates a number of silk reeling variations in a short clip on YouTube from his full-length video on silk reeling, available on his Taichihealthways website. The full video is excellent, well worth the small cost. I have a number of his instructional videos, and they’re good—all in English, too.
Here are eight variations I used from those Master Tsao demonstrates:
- One hand outward (across the top palm down)
- One hand inward (across the top palm up)
- Two hands inward (like Brush Knee Push)
- Two hands outward (like Cloud Hands)
- Two hands outward (opening)
- Two hands inward (closing)
- Two-hand blocking left and right
- Forward and backward (like Dao Juan Gong)