Butterflies or Six Inch Knives?

One of the basic ideas of internal martial arts is that joints can open and close (kaihe). I talked about this in these two posts from last September. Joint Pulsing 1 and Joint Pulsing 2.
The elbow, like all joints, opens and closes quite easily.   In order to think about something it really helps to have words and metaphors which describe it.  Since the elbow is something we rarely talk about, we also rarely think about it, and so for most people the opening and closing of the elbow joint is a completely unconscious process.

When I gained awareness of my elbows opening and closing my martial arts power tripled.  Now you might think I'm exaggerating, you wouldn't be the first, but honestly--before I had this awareness life was gray, after gaining this awareness opponents started flying off of my arms.

Here are two ways to practice that may help you gain awareness of your elbows:
First imagine that you have butterflies on your elbows, happy, light, delicate and beautiful.  Practice moving about, do the form, even gentle push-hands, with out knocking the butterflies off your elbows.

Second, imagine you have six inch long double edged knives projecting out of your elbows; happy, light, sharp, and beautiful.  Go straight to push hands and imagine you are joyfully cutting your way through your opponent.  Be generous with your cutting techniques.

Here is a link to an article I just re-wrote about wearing Compression Straps on your elbows.