Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Correct Posture in Classical Tai Chi

Continuing with good posture, today I am pleased to publish a guest post by Mr. Jim Roach. Mr. Roach is the senior student of Dr. Stephen Hwa, who in turn was the senior student of Yang WaBu. Yang WaBu was a direct student of the founder of the Wu style of Taijiquan, Wu Chien Chuan.

Mr Roach publishes many thoughtful articles on Classical Tai Chi at his blog. Please pay a visit.

Regarding posture and speaking only for  the postures of Classical Tai Chi, it uses a very, very small frame or what one calls step size. So, stating that tucking  is incorrect is not applicable in speaking of such small or even compact frame of Classical Tai Chi . In addition, tucking the rear end will not round the shoulders if one stretches the top of the head up.  As though suspended from above, the cervical vertebrae are stretched up.  It also goes without saying that  one will see the buttocks not tucked under in statues which are portraying a static posture.  In Classical Tai Chi, the tuck is not static or a frozen portrayal of posture, it is fluid… The tuck and stretch can be done in both aspects of a Tai Chi posture, when one "sits back" and when one "leans forward" (figure 4 & 5).  The sit back tuck however is deeper.  The skill one learns  is to remain fluid between the 2 postures, not trying to maintain a frozen rope, tuck then relax/release, tuck, then release/relax in the midst of shifts in the weight.

Regarding posture, it is interesting that the  showing of martial applications” in Tai Chi, many of them are on Youtube,  still  end up tilting the body forward (ox-plowing posture) after each of their applications.  It raises some interesting  questions for students to ponder: I'm wondering what does that say for the well held axiom in styles  of Tai Chi that the body needs to constantly be held perpendicular to the floor at all times?  What is this difference so pronounced between form and application?  Someone who owns a large Judo establishment once stated to me that "the human body can only form a straight line if it is held perpendicular to the ground".  I said, "ok, I'll bite...why?"  She said it was because "we have hips".  Included with that was the statement, "I know because I studied Tai Chi for several months with someone".  Think of the implications of this...

One also does not “push off” when walking in Classical Tai Chi, that generates much momentum thus raising the question:  If Tai Chi is constantly extolled as being a defensive and not offensive martial art, what is the need for a lot of momentum?  The energy for movement is coming entirely from the legs with such momentum.   We pull with the front or rear foot depending on which direction we are headed.  In what is considered “normal walking” even as we see them in various cultures, the push off is used no matter what one can say about the tuck or lack of tuck.  Also, one simply finds it very difficult to tuck the behind when generating more and more momentum, consider the lengthy steps of normal walking or what one Neurosurgeon called “controlled falling”.   In a smaller frame or smaller step where one pulls the body forward, it is much easier to tuck the behind.  In fact such tucking is an integral component of generating internal energy in  all movements…how else is it to reach the legs from the torso?

Finally, my teacher, Master Stephen Hwa states:  “ In one of the early writings about Tai Chi, there is a sentence “the body has to be straight like a flag pole”. The Chinese word “straight” has two meaning, one is “straight”; the other is “perpendicular”. The latter is the argument used by some to justify that the body has to be perpendicular to the ground. I have not heard any functional justification for this body posture. The posture of body leaning forward and forming a straight line with the back leg (see picture above at left) does require the practitioner to be mindful of his center of gravity to make certain that it stays at or behind the ball of the front foot. If it reaches the front toe, its too far forward and easily tips forward by the opponent’s pulling force. As such, some students are uncomfortable with this posture in the beginning until he or she can master the placement of center of gravity."

"It is also important to “tuck in the behind” by tightening the stomach muscle. If a person has a very large girth or heavy upper body in contrast to lower body, than one can only achieve the right position of center of gravity with smaller step size."

"The sit back move requires you to fully tuck in the behind by energizing the abdomen and at the same time you have to be able to turn at the waist with ease and with power to ward off opponent' s attack", Figure 9

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