Body maps are one of the primary ways the mind organizes sensory data for the purpose of movement. Thinking about perception in terms of body maps is a very powerful intellectual tool. Body maps are also a very powerful tool for kinesthetic learning.
As far as I know, the theory of body maps emerged to explain strange perceptual-action phenomena among people who suffered strokes and other injuries to the brain. For example there were people who could only hold themselves up in a lit room, if you turned off the lights they would fall down. The tension that held their sense of body together was somehow channeled through or embedded in their visual perception. A person can lose the ability to orient and make movement judgements about the space with in their immediate reach, yet maintain that ability for distances of over 15 feet. They call lose movement or orientation components of perception for all, half, or a just a single part of their body. They can lose the ability to use a coffee cup without losing the knowledge of what it is, what’s for, or any other general movement skills. The theory of body maps goes a long way toward explaining the imagination too. It turns out that when we imagine shooting a basket ball all the functions of our brain active when we shoot a basket ball are operative, with the addition of the frontal cortex which acts to suppress that movement. Thus going some way toward explaining people with impulse control problems on the one hand and self-repression on the other. Child developmental problems have contributed to this theory as well. There are children who can crawl perfectly on a single floor pattern or texture but when the pattern changes, say from stripes to checks, they can not cross the line on their own. They just get stuck.
A wide range of body maps for specific aspects of smell, hearing, seeing and touch can be lost, but in a normally functioning person all of these maps are overlapping and interacting. Yet, there are discernible elements of distinct body maps. When you try to drive and park a car you have never driven before, it becomes obvious that your body is mapping what the functional movement and spatial boundaries of the car are.
I imagine that in utero two of our first perceptions are fluid balancing and tactile texture differentiation. I also imagine that these two develop as some sort of base for many body maps which, later on, become essential to moving and seeing. This is weird stuff. It seems likely that these perceptions happen long before any differentiation of a social self, even in the spatial sense. I’m positing here that qi is tactile, it can be understood as a tactile body map, it has a texture which can be differentiated from the texture of air.
So with these explanatory tools I believe we can explain how high level tai chi works. Tai chi functions by bringing to the forefront of consciousness both tactile body maps and liquid rebalancing body maps. Because both of these develop before the self, they are completely asocial. Thus they are a door to certain types of enlightenment where the illusions of social constraint and context turn to dust. Babies put everything in their mouth because lips and tongue are even better amplifiers of texture than finger tips are. When you see the world as texture, as tactile feeling, it becomes something to devour, echoing some creation myths . But I’m not just talking about lips and finger tips, our entire body has the ability to feel out into space. In fact the experience of feeling out into space does not need to include feeling ones own body. When this tactile body map is totally active the sense of ones body loses its boundaries and enters the realm of liquid spatial perception. From there the perception action sequence is marked by feeling the exchange of fluid (yin and yang), the dynamic movement of fluid around the inside of a container. The container is bounded and altered by the size of our active tactile body maps, not our actual body.
When the opponent is fully incorporated into these body maps, there is no social experience of “me” attacking “him,” just an exchange of yin and yang. Thus, I described it in the previous post as “asocial action without an agenda.”
How does this relate to theater or forms?