Wai Chi: The art of water dancing

The Wai chi movement system is a new step in the evolution of standing and moving.  It is a bio-fluid system of movements that can be as subtle as an exploration to self-awareness to a workout session for sculpturing the body physical.  There are many unique attributes that   the Wai Chi movement system is unique from other systems. 1- It works directly with ground reaction force which is a term used to express the positive effect of gravity.  Each movement originates simultaneously from the point of contact of the foot to the ground as well as from the hand initiating the dynamic cycle of the movement.  2- As humans we walk, run and move in a natural contra lateral movement in that the arms and legs work in harmony to execute a cross-crawl pattern.  By constantly emphasizing a hemi-synch pattern of movement, the dominant side of the body lends new information to the weaker side allowing the body-mind to integrate the information in a more holistic way. 3-All movements are circular in expression and combine to circumscribe an orbital sphere around the body. All movements are done with an apparatus that is called The Flo.  It is described as a Polyurethane plastic tube that is as long as the height of the user.  The bag is highly flexible tube with a diameter of seven to ten inches and contains about three to five pounds of water.  Each end of the flo has handles through which the user inserts his/her hands through to grasp the bag.  As the user learns to manipulate the water from one end of the bag to the other, a stream of consciousness invites the user to explore a dynamic/receptive series of movements.  Before long the user establishes a unique relation with the water and moves with a constant feedback from the water.  As the practitioner propels the water to the outer edge of a circle, the weight of the water constantly communicates with the practitioners center of gravity, enabling the user to form a linear style movement to a more complex and fluid like expression of a water dancer. 4- Wai Chi combines the body politics of both East and West encompassing the principles of martial arts from the East to the calisthenics of the  West.  The following movements are the principle movements to this unique and creative system.  These movements, when mastered, allow the practitioner to explore an improvisational series of movements that flo one into another.  The combinations are endless and can be expressed with all types of music, natural surroundings or simply in any given space.


                                    The eight major streams of Flo motion:


1-      Front Flo (Archer’s Pose): With hands inserted through the handle loops, lightly grasp the collars of the flo bag.  Place feet at an open angle about 45 degrees, a little wider than shoulder width apart. This allows the knees to bend easily in the direction the foot is pointing.  From the ready position allow the arms and the bag to move from side to side, that is, the bag and the arms move as a unit. This movement is called feathering.   The knees are relaxed and the water arcs in a half circle from side to side.  There is no sound from the water as it is a still motion and the movement looks like a pendulum.  To activate the water moving through the bag, pull one of the handles away using fingertips, with a slight flick of the wrist and the water will flo through the tube in the opposite direction.  The palms can be placed either up or down.  The archer’s pose is the main movement and is done with palms down.  When the user turns the palms up the movement begins to accentuate the biceps and forearms.  By alternating the movements with palms up and down the movement takes on the pattern of a martial artist doing push hands. The idea of this movement is to move water from one end of the bag to the other, utilizing a full range of motion that is likened to drawing a bow; hence, the Archer’s pose.  Like an archer, the user pulls the end of the bag with one elbow bent and slightly flexed at shoulder level as the opposite arm fully extends to receive the water.  When the water finishes its course to the opposite end, the outstretched arm begins its dynamic phase by bending the elbow in a lower circular motion pulling the bag and sending the water to the opposite end where the opposite arm is outstretched and receiving the water in the receptive phase.  As the water is moving from side to side and the user is comfortable with the movement, attention is now brought to the feet.  The most important cue is that the heels always stay in contact with the ground.  They act to anchor the movement as well as initiate the dynamic phase of the movement.  When the water reaches the end of the bag, the user initiates the dynamic phase of the cycle by simultaneously pushing away from the ground with the foot as well as sending the water through the bag with the hand, at first pushing and then pulling back with the fingertips sending the water through the bag.  Front Flo is a movement that shifts the users’ weight from one side to the other and back.  Eventually a rhythmic sensation occurs and becomes a whole body movement. Breathe in rhythm with the movement. Likened to an archer’s movement, the user turns in the direction the water flows, as if drawing a bow and arrow and taking aim. This is a vertical plane movement.


 2-Back Flo (Behind the seen):  With arms apart in front, step over the bag and place the bag behind you.  From the back position place the feet in a wider stance at a 45 degree angle and have the palms of the hands face one another while grasping the bag with only the thumbs.  The outstretched fingers regulate the movement of the bag.  Like the front flo, begin moving the bag as a single unit with no sound from the water.  This is the feathering movement. Then, initiate the dynamic phase by pulling one end of the bag with the fingertips sending the water through to the distal end.  The back position has a greater reach.  When the water is fully extended through the bag at the distal end, allow the hand of the receiving end to begin the dynamic phase by initiating movement with the fingertips by pulling with a flick of the wrist.  In order for the user to do this movement fluidly he must bend the knees and sink into his posture allowing the water to pass unobtrusively behind him.  As the user becomes more fluent with this stage of the movement, attention is then placed in the foot where the dynamic phase of the movement is also initiated by pushing with the foot against the ground.  Pushing with the feet employs the idea of ground reaction force and allows the body to experience an effortless zone.  The hands and feet work simultaneously together to make it a whole body movement.  The user turns his head in the direction of the flo.  This is also a vertical plane movement.


                3- Rotation (Axis Twisting Pointe):   Having finished the Back Flo, the flo is behind the user.  Lift the handles by bending the elbows and facing the palms forward.  From the right side of the body bring the water to the end of the flo where it falls over the wrist.  Initiate the dynamic phase of the movement by flicking the wrist much like tossing a Frisbee, or a gentle back stroke of a tennis racket, sending the water through the bag and around the users’ body.  The water finishes in the receptive phase on the left side of the body.  By keeping the elbows close the body the water will move more efficiently around the body.  As the user becomes accustomed to sending the water from side to side where the water ends the receptive cycle over the wrist and begins the dynamic cycle with a flick of the wrist, attention is then brought to the base of the body to bring awareness to the feet and contact with the ground.  Rotation is a perfect execution of a cross crawl pattern where the opposite leg moves simultaneously with the opposite arm.  When the water finishes the receptive cycle over the right arm, the upper body is turned to its most extreme position on axis to the right side.  At this position the left knee is bent and the left foot is firmly planted.  The right foot is pivoted on the front of foot to accommodate the turn of the right leg to ease the turn of the upper body.  When the dynamic phase of this movement begins ground reaction force takes place by pushing away from the ground with the left leg while simultaneously tossing the water with the right arm flicking the wrist and sending the water over the forearm and around the body.  When this motion is repeated back and forth, the user is turning about her axis keeping the body erect and twisting the whole body in a graceful way.  This movement is a spinal twist that involves every vertebra as well as hand eye coordination and cross crawl coordination, likened to wringing out a wash cloth.  It is a horizontal plane movement and all horizontal plane movements involve the body to move in a lateral circular way. 


                     4-Transition (Wai Chi):  Transition is a combination of front flo and back flo and has a unique pattern of fluid continuity.  Start in the beginning position of front flo with feet wider than shoulder width apart.  From the right side of the body extend the flo with the right arm outstretched.  With a sweeping motion, swing the right hand across the front of the body and around the head (as if brushing the hair on the left side of the head) to the posterior side of the body extending the arm and flo behind the body and turning the palm of the hand facing up to the most extreme reach of the right side.  Then, with palms facing up, return the flo by bending the elbow, keeping palms up and sending the water towards the left side of the body.  Bring the hand around the left side of the head (as if brushing the hair forward on the left side) and continue sweeping the arm and flo in front of the body to the extreme right side where the movement originated.  Thus far, the above movement constitutes the first half of the Transition movement utililizing only the right side of the body.  In the beginning it works best to work one side of the body to familiarize one’s self with the movement.  The other half of Transition is the following.

                        Starting from the left side of the body, initiate movement of the water by tossing the water from an outreach position and in a sweeping gesture send the water with the arm and hand across the front of the body to the right side

                     and around the head ( as if brushing the hair back on the right side of the head) and continuing movement turning palms up and reaching behind the body to the extreme left side of the body.  With palms facing up, return the flo by bending the elbow and sending the water to the right of the body.  Bring the hand and flo around the head (as if brushing the hair forward on the right side of the head) and continue sweeping the hand and flo in front of the body sending the water to the extreme left side of the out reach position.  Again, it is good to practice the left side movement until practitioner obtains a fluid movement from the anterior to the posterior side of the body and from the posterior to the anterior side of the body.  When both right and left sides are fluent then it is time to combine the two to perform the whole movement of the Transition.

                        To begin the whole movement of Transition, start with the right side of the body at the extreme reach and toss the water in a sweeping motion toward the left side and swing hand and flo gently around the head to the posterior side of the body continuing the flo reaching outwardly with an outstretched arm with palm facing up ending on the outstretched right side.  From a palm up position of the right hand return flo by bending the elbow and bringing the hand and flo around the left side of the head.  As the right hand passes to the front of the body the left hand is then sweeping around the right side of the head behind the body to further extend the arm and flo with palm facing up outstretched to the extreme left side.  Then return flo by bending elbow with palm up and swing the left arm and flo around the right side of the head to the front.  As the flo passes to the front of the body the right hand then sweeps around the left side of the head and continues behind the body to the far outreach to the right side with palm facing up.  This is a continuous movement that alternates on both sides of the body.  The path of the water is like two parallel lines; one in front and one in back.  To accommodate this path the feet must pivot at the heels lifting the front part of the foot while pivoting.  The weight of the body shifts three times on each side of the body by pivoting on the heels. 

                     The subtitle for Transition is called Wai Chi as this movement expresses the fluid style of a martial artist.


                     5-Step and Flo (Truckin’): Begin this movement by placing feet shoulder width apart.  Let the flo work as a unit with the arms and begin by tossing the water forward of the body.  When the flo returns lift the right leg and step through the flo touching the ground ahead with the toes.  The water should travel to the end of the flo and receiving it with the right hand.  At this point of the movement, the right arm is fully extended behind the right side of the body and finishes the receptive cycle.  Begin the dynamic phase of the cycle by sending the water through the flo like an under hand pitch of the hand.  As the flo reaches the right leg, lift the foot from the floor stepping back through the flo to starting position.  Now the arms are parallel with one another and the flo is at its extreme forward position.  When the flo begins its descending motion lift the left leg through the flo and touch the floor with the toes.  The flo continues to descend and the water travels to the end of the flo receiving the water with the left hand.  This movement of step and flo alternates from the right leg to the left leg and back.  When the user is comfortable with the movement of touching toes forward, then begin to extend the foot and touch the floor with the heel of the foot.  In order to do this effectively, the upper body must lean back as the foot is extended.  Eventually the weight of the water and the proper timing of the movement will allow the body to lean back further.  As the practitioner cultivates more coordination through this movement, the leg stepping through the flo can be lifted to any challenging level.  The only sound of the water is at the receiving end of the movement.


                     6- Overhead (Full Circle): This movement is quiet. There is no sound of the  water traveling through the flo.  Arms and flo work as a unit.  Begin by placing the feet wider than shoulder width apart with feet pointing straight ahead.  The flo acts as an extension of the arms and at all times moves in unison with the arms.  Starting from between the legs, vigorously toss the water forward with both arm and send the flo overhead and around the body.  As the water descends behind the body, bend the knees to receive the flo coming forward between the legs.  The bending knees allow the flo to keep from splashing in the groin area and gracefully complete the circle of movement.  When the water is forward between the legs initiate the return phase by pushing away with both feet while pulling the flo with the arms sending the flo on its return journey to the starting position.  Looking at this movement laterally the water travels a full circle around the body, propelled by pushing feet lightly away from the ground while simultaneously pulling with hands and arms.  Inhale with a full breath at the starting point and when the flo is at the zenith overhead then exhale for the remainder of the cycle.


                     7- Heart to Heart (Catch and Release): This movement is the front flo in the horizontal plane.  To begin, grasp the flo entrapping the water near the right handle with an open hand between the thumb and fingers.  Close the hand and contain the water like a balloon.  From the right side of the body with an outstretched arm, toss the water directly in front of the body by releasing the hand from a closed position to an open position and with a flick of the wrist, send the water through the whole length of the flo circumscribing a half circle in a horizontal plane.  As the water reaches the end of the flo to the left side of the body, the left hand opens to receive the water and catches the mass of water.  At this point the body is turned to extreme left with right foot pivoting on the forward part of the foot to accommodate the turning.  This movement is called heart to heart because each hand pulls away sweeping to and from the heart location.  As the practitioner gains confidence with the movement, the water can be tossed quite vigorously by exerting greater force from the flick of the wrist, or slowly move the water with a gentle toss of the hand.  To master this movement in the horizontal plane naturally becomes the movement of catch and release. The practitioner can perform the same movement in the vertical plane mimicking a golf swing.


                     8-Figure 8( Magician’s Crown): This movement starts by doing the previous movement of heart to heart.  While the flo is being tossed in the heart to heart pattern, from the right side of the beginning phase, toss the water forward and as it passes centerline, direct the flo with both arms in a parallel position around the head and allow the water to continue its course to the extreme left side of the body, ending exactly like the catching phase of heart to heart.  Looping the flo over and around the head forms a figure 8 in a complete movement.  In the beginning, the movement is done mostly in the horizontal plane.  When the practitioner masters that part of the move, the movement naturally evolves from a horizontal plane to a more elliptical plane to finally a vertical plane of motion.  In the vertical plane the movement begins with the right arm tossing the water from behind the body, upward to where both hands come down together on each side of the head while the flo is turning the body on axis toward the left side.  The flo will come over and around the head and continue its course behind the left side of the body completing the first half of the cycle.  Then from behind the left side of the body,  toss the water vertically with the left hand and send the flo over and around the head with both hands meeting on the side of the head.  The flo will turn the body on axis and the water will naturally return to end the full cycle behind the right side of the body where it originated.  The feet pivot at the heels while shifting the weight of the body.


                        These are the primary movements of Wai Chi, also known as the flo motion movement system.  These movements give birth to all other movements performed with the flo.  From stationary  to dance, from linear plane to multi plane, the patterns formed by doing these movements  will eventually circumscribe a sphere around the body as it educates the body to become familiar with one’s center of gravity, relative to the Earth’s center of gravity all in a liquid field of motion.