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Asian martial artists often believe that Western people have no hips. This is because many UK adults cannot squat comfortably and have no groin flexibility.
The inability to use the hips appropriately leads to poor usage of the knees and lower back.
'The crouch' is featured in taijiquan. It is an unusual skill that involves using the hips more and the back less. Flexibility in the legs and groin is essential.
The Alexander Technique has adopted the crouch. They call it 'monkey' or the 'position of mechanical advantage'. It is more or less the same thing as in taijiquan.
What it is not
The crouch does not involve:
These 3 mistakes will
adversely affect your fitness and rob you of
Our aim is to be square on the inside and round on the outside.
Square on the inside
This means that the internal framework and network of body parts must be aligned and moving in linear paths of force. Consider this vertical/spine power.
If you skip this stage of your training, your taijiquan will be devoid of power.
There are several different types of squatting in our syllabus. Coupled with leg stretches, core strength and Taoist Yoga, these squats will significantly open the groin.
The training is done carefully, gently - in a controlled manner - without exertion or strain.
Relax the knees
Make space behind the knee joint, as if the knee were moving forward. Do not bend deeply, simply relax. Done correctly, the legs will free-up considerably and the lower back will feel looser.
This is not a squat. You are simply relaxing the knees.
Bending the knees
If you do a frog squat, your knees bend. In typical usage, bending the knees means breaking your connection and root. Relax rather than bend.
Lengthen the front
Lengthen the front of the body by thinking upright. When your body is used mindfully, the muscles of the torso will lengthen naturally.
You will develop a 'corset' of muscles below the rib cage and this will help to support the weight of your upper body.
Avoid lifting the chin. This will shorten the back of the neck and put stress on the shoulder muscles. The back of the neck and head must remain in line with the spine.
Interviewer: "You've said many
times that what you do in the workshops is not high-level material, but more
at the level of fundamentals. If that's true, why can't everybody do it
Mike Sigman: "It is fundamental material, but it involves changing the way the body moves. The tai chi form is done slowly to retrain the way the body moves. At the workshops you see people realise, on a functional level, how to do that - and then they go home and they realise that this means they've got to change everything they were doing: and they can't do that, or they can only do it at best partially. It's very difficult to make a radical change like that: and yet, there are always the small few who catch it, take the time, devote themselves and work it out, and they become our next generation of good people."
Exaggerate the crouch and you are leaning. Central equilibrium must be maintained at all times.
In normal usage, stay upright; as if suspended from above. This is vital for strength. The crouch is only for times when you are going downwards.
In a bow stance, the crouch is used to store and release energy. It precedes 5 bows. The crouch is necessary if the 5 bows are to work successfully for storing and releasing kinetic power.
When striking downwards the crouch can be used.
Deep horse stance
A deep horse stance is only used in two instances:
'Over the thigh' applications in shuai jiao
Taking the opponent to the floor with control
To work successfully
in conjunction with the crouch, the horse stance requires the groin to
By rolling the groin backwards - without a deeper knee bend - allows the taijiquan exponent to apply leverage easily and comfortably. There is no loss of balance or strain. Take care not to lean.
There are countless everyday situations in which the crouch can be practiced e.g.:
Lifting something off the floor
Brushing your teeth
Washing the dishes
Opening the oven door
Mopping the floor
The more you use it, the easier and more natural it will become.
18 April 1995
Last updated 1 June 2001