Energy and tai chi

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Hocus pocus

When it comes to energy our aim is to keep things scientific. We are interested in the medical perspective and physics. That way the training is grounded in proof and the results are tangible.


There are four kinds of 'energy' that can be explored with certainty and conviction:

  1. Fuel

  2. Energy levels

  3. Trapped (potential) energy

  4. Kinetic (movement) energy


Many people think that energy is the most important concern in tai chi. This is incorrect. Balance comes first.

Better balance = more energy

Tai chi addresses the issue of energy by looking to balance the individual. Our attention is placed on the mind, the emotions, the body and the 'spirit' in which we perform the art.
By using mind, body and spirit in a more healthy, unified manner, the tai chi practitioner becomes energised and feels great.


Modern life puts the mind under immense stress. It is important to reconsider how we use our brains and allow the brain time to rest and recover.
Read constructive books, meditate, find healthy outlets and stop frequently.


Unchecked emotions can cause physical and mental harm. Tai chi encourages clarity, focus, calmness, composure, patience, perspective, context and harmony.
It aims to resolve conflicts rather than sustain them.

Find peace

Students are expected to work on addressing their negative emotions and the thought patterns that perpetuate them.
Tai chi requires us to be honest with ourselves. To observe our thoughts and emotions without indulging them or being critical. If you are offended or upset, acknowledge this but don't seek to condemn.


Everyone develops physical habits as a consequence of their everyday lives. Some of these are healthy, but often they are not. Poor body use puts the organism under considerable duress.
Many health problems are simply the outcome of poor lifestyle choices.

Finding balance

Tai chi addresses physical balance in many different ways:

  1. Healthy skeletal alignment

  2. Optimal body use

  3. How your muscles work

  4. Coordination

  5. Timing

  6. Relaxing your body

  7. Proprioception (relative position of body parts/awareness of how much strength is being applied)

  8. Rhythm

  9. Mind/body unity

  10. Leverage

  11. Kinaesthetic awareness (knowing where your limbs are positioned without needing to look)

  12. Biomechanics

  13. Footwork

  14. Biofeedback

  15. Ambidextrous use of the limbs

  16. Gait (manner of walking)

  17. Ergonomics

  18. Range/reach

  19. Exertion

  20. Activity and rest


By maintaining a pliable stability during tai chi practice, you learn not to lean. An upright, stable body works constructively with gravity rather than slumping.
This uses up less energy...


Imbuing your tai chi with feeling is called 'shen'. This is not to be confused with anger or aggression. Shen is easy to understand - when you do the tai chi - mean it, feel it, be it.
Do not simply 'go through the motions'. Tai chi should be performed with feeling.


Beginners are sometimes under the impression that the sensitivity aspect of tai chi pertains to energy... This is a misconception.
Sensitivity is about presence, awareness, 4 ounces of pressure, 'listening' skills and the nervous system.


Jing is about whole-body power. It is not about 'mystical' energy.
There are two main categories of jing:

  1. Sensitivity jing
    - (see above)
    - this is about you feeling the opponent's actions
    - physically connected via skin contact

  2. Energy release jing
    - power generation and release
    - kinetic energy
    - this is about the opponent feeling the effect of your actions when you make contact with them

Kinetic energy release

There is nothing mystical or unscientific about 'fa jing'. Despite the exotic Chinese name, it is simply a question of body mechanics, gravity, distance and timing.

We live as if asleep, never waking up to the amazing, awesome one moment in our lives where we stand poised over eternity, aware that it is the only moment we will ever have, and that if we donít embrace it we have lost everything.

(Wolfe Lowenthal)


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Page created 12 January 1995
Last updated 17 September 2019