I've had a couple of people say that they want to study the dance of shiva with me.
My first suggestion to them, before they spend all of that money (while my classes aren't expensive, I do live in Taiwan) is to learn the 8 basic positions of the Dance of shiva.
These 8 positions form the basis of the 64 complete positions.
The second suggestion is to learn the 8 basic movements after the positions have been learned.
These 8 movements form the basis of the 64 possible movements from each of those arm positions.
8 basic positions, 8 basic movements. Memorize them. They aren't that hard.
They form the basis of all the Dance of Shiva arm positions and Movements.
If you memorize them, you have taken the first few steps to actually learning the dance of shiva (instead of just copying someone who is doing it.)
But even 8 positions (and 8 movements) can seem like a pain in the ass. So lets make it even easier to learn.
To make it easier lets start with the positions and break them down into two groups.
The first group of positions has the names 1 to 4.
1 is the obvious starting point. It's like a reference position for the other 3 positions.
When learning anything, when doing anything its always handy to have a reference. In a lot of instances this is like having a foundation when you are building a building.
1 (or sometimes zero) is where you start, and often times where you return to.
The nice thing about position 1 is that it is clearly defined. It's also easy to recognize.
Just hold your hand out to the side palm up, just slightly higher than the top of your head with fingers pointing directly outwards. The elbow is bent, and if you want to be really anal it's bent at 90 degrees with the upper arm horizontal (elbow at shoulder height) and forearm vertical.
But that's dressing.
The most important point is that the palm faces upwards at just above head height with fingers pointing outwards.
Position 2 is the next logical position to learn. And just as its name follows that of position 1, the actual position itself is relatively easy to move to from that position.
Simply sweep the hand forwards and inwards and down so that the hand ends up palm facing upwards just in front of the belly. Fingers point inwards and the tips don't cross the bodies center line.
Position 1, position 2, repeat each position a few times, moving forwards (from 1 to 2) and backwards (from 2 to 1) a few times. Repeat it with the other hand while you are at it. Say the names of the positions as you move in to them.
Position 3 is next.
For this position point the fingers backwards then outwards while keeping the palm facing up.
It's like a behind-the-back high five or back-hander.
Failing that, it's simply a position where the hand is held palm up at about belly button height with both the point of the elbow and the finger tips pointing outwards.
Now move forwards from 2 to 3 and backwards from 3 to 2 a few times. Then move forwards from 1 to 2 to 3 then backwards from 3 to 2 to 1. Say the names of the positions as you move into them and then repeat with the other hand.
Got the hang of it?
Ready for position 4? If not, practice 1 to 3 a few more times. Then from position 3 move your hand forwards and up. Keep the palm facing upwards as much as possible.
Finish with the hand at the same height as it was in position 1 but with the fingers pointing inwards. Keep the palm facing upwards.
This one is easier to do if you have a mirror to check your position. As with position 2, keeping your fingers from crossing the center line of your body.
For fun, move from 4 to 1 by pointing your fingers back and then out to the side. Move back from 1 to 4 and then forwards from 4 to 1 a few times. Then practice moving back from 4 to 3 and forwards from 3 to 4.
Now call out positions at random, from 1 to 4, and move one hand or the other into the position you call out. Check.
If you need to, count of the positions from position 1. Randomize again and make sure that you can easily remember each of the four positions.
You might not be able to do the position fully. That's fine.
The important thing at this point is to know what the position is that you are aiming for.
Part of practice is to work towards being able to do the position as defined.
Note that an added bonus of having learned these four positions is that you've also done two of the 8 movements, Forwards and Backwards.
How would you define the Forward movement?
Does it join adjacent positions or non-adjacent positions?
Is the movement from 1 to 2 Forwards or Backwards?
Note that from each of the above four positions it is possible to move Forwards or Backwards.
A Forwards move from 1 can take you to only one position. That is position 2.
Likewise, a Backwards move from 2 can only take you to one position. That position is 1.
So something to note about the dance of shiva is that the names are non-ambiguous and unique.
The position names define a single clearly defined position. The movement names define a single clearly defined movement from each position.
A unique name maps to a single movement and vice versa.
A single name maps to a single position and vice versa.
Note that the names aren't the movements or the positions. But they point to them.
If you memorize the names and the movements, as dictated here, then whenever you see those names whether individual or in sequences, you know what they mean.
Are you ready for the next 4 positions? If not, take a rest and come back when you are.
Here again we have a reference position. It is position A.
This reference position is kind of arbitrary. The point is, it is the one that has been picked. And it's the one that we are going to use. The most important point is that we have some reference point. It makes it easier to figure out where we are and where we are going.
For position A, stand with your arm reaching forwards, elbow pointing out and palm facing outwards also with your fingers pointing forwards at about shoulder height. Rest your arm by letting it hang down. Move it back into position A slowly and smoothly. See if you can connect the relaxed position to position A (and back again) with a smoothly connected path. Repeat a few times with each arm.
For position B, swing your forearm down and then back, bending your elbow so that your fingers point back at your chest with your elbow pointing forwards and palm facing outwards.
Repeat a few times moving forwards and backwards between positions A and B.
Then practice moving _____ from B to A and then ____ from A to B. (Which is Forwards and which is Backwards?)
For position C, from position B move the forearm up as if flicking your nose. Then move it forwards so that the elbow straightens.
Position C is like position A but the position of the elbow is different.
Now your elbow points in but the palm faces out.
When moving from B to C and back again try to keep the palm facing outwards at all times (or as outwards as possible).
Now go ____ from C to B, then ____ again from B to C.
Now move _____ from A to B, then _____ again from B to C.
For position D, from position C move the arm down and back keeping the elbow straight and the palm facing out. Stop the arm when it reaches back behind you, at sternum height. This is position D.
Move Forwards and Backwards a few times from C to D keeping your palm facing outwards.
To move to position A again just circle the arm up and forwards, keeping the palm facing out.
Move _____ from A to D by reversing the arm movement, swinging it up and back.
Practice the ____ move from A to B, from B to C, from C to D and from D to A. Practice the ____ move from A to D, from D to C, from C to B and from B to A.
Practice any move in isolation and remember to say the name of the position as you move into it.
Call out any of the Letter names and move one hand or the other into that position. Check your result. Count from position A if you have to.
Repeat till you can move into any of the positions without error (or at the very least, so that you can sport an error when you make it.)
Then practice all 8 positions, randomly calling them out and moving the hand into that position.
Do the palms face out in numbered positions or lettered positions?
Do the fingers point forwards or backwards for numbered positions or lettered positions?
Do the fingers point outwards or inwards for numbered positions or lettered positions?
What are the two reference positions?
Do the palms face downwards in any position?
Do the palms face upwards in position A?
Do the palms face outwards in position D?
So now you have the 8 basic positions. And as a bonus, you already have two basic movements, Forwards and Backwards.
The idea of the Dance of Shiva is to be able to connect any position to any other position with a single move.
So from position 1 we should be able to move from 1 to 2, from 1 to 3, from 1 to 4, from 1 to a, from 1 to b, from 1 to c from 1 to d.
From 1 to 2 is the Forwards move.
From 1 to 4 is the Backwards move.
From 1 to 3 is a movement called the Transquarter.
For this movement the fingers stay pointing in the same direction.
From 1 to 3 keep the fingers pointing out. Likewise from 3 to 1 (also a transquarter).
From 1 to A the move is called a Change. For Change movements simply joint the two positions with a smoothly curving path.
The remaining three movements are combinations of the Change move with the Forwards, Backwards and Transquarter movements.
For completeness we should also have a designation for the zero movement, where the arm stays in position 1.
Note, for convenience the following abbreviations are used: F, B, T, C, CF, CB, CT
From 1 to A is the C move
From 1 to B is the ________
From 1 to C is the ________
From 1 to D is the ________
If you aren't sure about these last three, try mentally switching B for 2, C for 3 and D for 4. Then add a C to the front of the movement.
Movements are simply means of joining positions to each other.
With Forwards and Backwards move you can connect adjacent positions, positions which are right next to each other. However you can't connect non-adjacent numbers to numbers or non-adjacent letters to letters. For that we have a move called the Transquarter.
We also need moves for connecting letters to numbers and vice versa.
The most basic move that connects letters to numbers and numbers to letters is the change. All other movements are simple combinations of Changes with Forwards, Backwards and Transquarter moves.
So, what movement do you think joins 1 to b?
It's the same that joints c to 4.
What movement do you think joins 1 to 3 or a to c?
What's the name of the move that connects a to 3 or 1 to c?
What's the name of the move that connects 4 to c or 1 to d?
And what joints 1 to a or 3 to c?
Try practicing a CF move starting from 1. Then practice from A.
Try practicing a CB move starting from 1. Then practice from A.
For the T and CT, practice from 1 and 2, A and B (repeat twice or more)
For the C, practice from 1, 2, 3 and 4.
So these are the basic positions and movements for one arm. They are the same for the left and right arms.
To make dance of shiva more interesting, the next stage is to learn positions and movements using both arms.
Positions and movements now use a two part code.
For example 1-1 is the position where both arms are in position 1.
3-2 is the position where the left arm (reading from left to right) is in position 3 and the right arm is in position 2.
F-F means that both arms move forwards.
CF-F means that the left arm (reading from left to right) does the CF move while right arm does the F move.
Note the idea of having a clear reference. In this case the reference is the first part of each code. It is anchored to the left arm. It might seem obvious or not worth thinking about. However, if you are aware of it then you can switch it.
You could anchor the first digit to the right arm.
So you have 64 movements. How do you go about practicing them all?
It might help to divide the movements into groups.
Lets look at single movements.
There are movements that need 4 repetitions to return to the start position. Then there are movements that require only 2 repetitions.
These could be thought of as 4 rep or 2 rep movements.
Movements that are 4 rep are F, B, CF, CB.
Movements that are 2 rep are T, C, CT.
There are movements that stay in the same plane. Then there are movements that change plane each time.
Movements that stay in the same plane are: F, B, T.
Movements that change planes are: C, CT, CF, CB.
So now we have two means of grouping dance of shiva movements.
Movements either have 4 repetitions or 2.
Movements either stay in the same plane, S, or change planes C.
Focusing just on 4 rep movements:
Both arms can do Same Plane moves e.g. F-B.
Both arms can do Change Plane moves e.g. CF-CB.
One arm can do a Same plane the other a Change Plane move e.g. F-CF.
A similar grouping can be used for 2 rep movements:
Both arms can do Same Plane moves e.g. T-T (actually this is the only such combination.)
Both arms can do Change Plane moves e.g. CT-C.
One arm can do a Same plane the other a Change Plane move e.g. T-C.
Then there are groupings where one arm does a 4 rep movement and the other a 2 rep movement:
Both arms can do Same Plane moves e.g. T-F.
Both arms can do Change Plane moves e.g. CT-CF.
One arm can do a Same plane the other a Change Plane move e.g. CT-F.
Both arms do 4 rep movements and both arms do Same plane movements.
Both arms do 2 rep movements and both arms do Same plane movements.
Both arms do either 4 or 2 rep movements and both arms do Same plane movements.
Both arms do 4 rep movements and both arms do Change plane movements.
Both arms do 2 rep movements and both arms do Change plane movements.
Both arms do either 4 or 2 rep movements and both arms do Change plane movements.
A reason for grouping similiar moves together is that they all have a similiar feel making subsequent moves in the same group a bit easier to learn.
Another reason for these groupings is that it can give you clear cut goals to work towards. These have been grouped in what is perceived to be easier to harder, but you could start with the harder moves and move to the easier moves. Or you could do them in any order you please. The important point is that movements in the same group have the same rhythm making it easier to act without thinking, and making it easier to spot errors.
One very important point to note is that no one move is more important or better than any other move. They are all movements.
The more movements you learn the more options you have. This could be equated to flexibility.
The more movements you learn the greater your flexibility (particularly if you can do all movements equally well from all positions.)
Say you learn all possible movements. What then?
Then you can learn sequences of movements.
And actually, there is nothing to say that you have to learn all movements first before moving to sequences. You could pick a sequence of moves, learn the movements for that sequence and then practice them as part of the sequence.
In fact, you could develop a set of sequences that include all possible movements, without any needless repetition.
For more on the positions and movements of the Dance of Shiva using both arms, you can download the Dance of Shiva Ebook, Dance of Shiva videos or both ($22 ebook, $40 vids, $48 ebook and vids)Buy the ebook, vids or both ($22/$40/$48)
You can also buy directly on the gumroad page by pasting the url below into your browser: