The Ta Mo transformation of the Muscle and Tendon.
By Jeronimo Milo
Translated by Mariano Rodriguez Cevallos
The transformation of muscles and tendons alike is one of the oldest Chinese Martial Arts practices. These external exercises of Chi Kung arrive at our hands after more than 1500 years of traveling between Temples, masters and Legends (some true, some fictional) which make its creation even more great.
Before we begin, lets read some useful descriptions from the dictionary.
What´s the muscle?
Its an organ made by fibrous bands. The muscle function is to create tension. When a muscle is activated by it motor neuron it tends to shorten. Only the muscle by itself can create traction.
The muscles can be contracted, relaxed or stretched.
What´s a tendon?
The tendon is a cord dense and fibrous tissue that attaches muscle and bone. It carries the energy all over the muscle, activating bony poles, generating movement in the body.
When the fibrous bands contract, tension is generated, at the same time tension acts over tendons creating movement. This tension can be momentarily or constant.
Its the capacity to create control over muscles, in a way that muscles not required for an specific task sould stay inactive and that ones that are required be activated at a minimum level, only necessary to reach the wished result!!! (Coville, 1976, p.177)
What´s Isometric muscular contraction?
They are those contractions producing muscle tension but without any shortening of the muscles (even though there is little shortening in the fibrous bands and tendons there is no movement on the bones).
What´s Isotonic Muscle contraction?
It´s when we create tension on the muscles and bones move.
What is Chi?
We could define Chi as the force that fills the Universe.
Living things in the planet posses it. (Human beings, trees, birds, etc.)
This force travels through a network of cords in our body.
When the flux of Chi is normal, the body works in harmony, when this flux is interrupted, sickness apears. The same happens when there are excesses or deficiencies of it.
Some less conservative people assure that Chi is the Bioelectricity of our body.
Chi is stimulated by breathing, food and exercise. It is felt, powered and directed by the mind. The absolut absence of Chi would mean the lack of life.
A little bit of history - A prince in China
It is said that the prince of a little Hindu village called Sardilli (also knowned as Bodhidarma), traveled to China on the year 526. Back then the Monk exchange to preach the Buddhist philosophy that came from India was very common.
Upon his arrival at China his name become Bodhidarma a Dharmo and after that adapted to the region phonetics transforming into Dharmo a TA Mo.
TA MO is considered the first patriarch of the Chan Buddhism (A new type of Buddhism brought by TA MO, that later on was knowned as Zen Buddhism in Japan).
[/¿b]The Shaolin Temple
It is said that TA MO was rejected at various temples because of his new perspectives of Buddhism. This ideas where disturbing for people and they continued practicing Buddhism as they were.
His search would end when he arrives at the Shaolin Temple (wich was created on the year 495 a. C., where they only did religious practices and translations of old texts).
But the search would not end within him. TA MO would be rejected again there, and after that he retired to meditate near the Temple for 9 years.
The Legend says that he meditated all the time, even in the presence of a furious Tigers, and when he began to fall asleep he took off his eyelids.
It was such the tremendous effort that he made, that the monks within the Temple opened their doors to him and accepted him as their new guide.
In the beginning
They said that the first thing that TA MO observed was the little physical resistance monks had in regards to committing the extenuating meditation practices he brought.
This monks were really weak!!!
TA MO developed two systems that were the most known because of their influence in Martial Arts: 1) The transformation of muscle and tendon. 2) The Marrow Washing
Many people quote TA MO also as the creator of the Shaolin boxing. But the most probable thing is that years later the monks themselves mixed the Chi Kung practices created by TA MO with the classic styles and the military styles that with the passing of time were integrated to the temple.
How are this exercises?
Whereas you can find differences and variables on this exercises, generally they are known as a unique set of 12 movements. Some find them similar with the typical yoga exercises and use this as another proof of the Hindu precedence of TA Mo.
The technique changes with each school, some make isometric energy, others move energetically their arms or use their palms, and there are those who exercise it as soft Chi Kung, using only the stimulation of the mind.
In 1500 years an exercise can suffer a lot of improvements and modifications. They can even result in a special style, or become the heart of an existent one.
In our school (the school of Master Chan Kowk Wai) its worked first in a slow manner feeling the change in the position of the muscle and tendons, and afterwards in a fashion more energetic focusing at the end of the movement (at the moment of "impact"). Acquiring in this way improvement in regards to health, muscle and tendons, and also a potent punch. It is done in series of "49" punches. The first thing a pupil asks is why this numbers, the answer is pretty simple for Master Chan: "Cryptic meanings".
Development and Cares
It is said that TA MO originally created the set of Muscle and tendon transformation (which is related with fire and works from outside to inside) along with the Marrow Washing (another set of exercises related with water, created to strengthen and renew the bone marrow)
One of the reasons that these two exercises are combined is because the excess of the transformation of muscle and tendons set change create the body into too much "Yang" (Positive, strong, masculine), and this would create an acceleration on the natural process of decay of our body.
Also the indiscriminate practice of this set of exercises can create our muscles to hipertrophyate (growing of the muscles) creating compression in our energetic cords stopping the natural flowing of our energy.
That’s why the Marrow Washing was originally created as method to compensate the effects of the Yi Jin Jing and exercise the muscle and tendons as much as the bones.
Some say that the original treaty of the Marrow Washing is lost.
Likewise some different versions of this exercises arrived to our days. Some making emphasis on the internal part and some other different exercises (weight lifting with the genitals or Chi Kung Forms)
If you work Yi Jin Jing alone, it is recommended not to make more repetitions than you should and to work with it breaks or for seasons. The irresponsible practice of it can create typical problems like unnecessary growth of the muscle, tensions and contractions.