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The long Yang form provides a demanding workout for your body without any of the strain associated with gym work or athletic activities.
Slow, controlled movement is physically quite difficult.
It requires your body to engage the appropriate support structure in order to remain balanced and mobile at all times.
The various form movements offer a varied range of scenarios to explore your body's capacity to unify and move as one physical unit.
Being balanced is not easy; you must be aware of poor alignment, and feel where the optimal position of stability can be found.
Neigong is about increasing the amount of internal work performed by your body. It also encourages deep muscular support.
Rather than depend upon the joints, you rely upon the larger muscles of the torso and legs. Subtle considerations and changes within the body create more energy-efficient movement.
Large, external actions are replaced by smaller, subtler ones.
'Doing' is replaced by 'allowing' and your body works more creatively with gravity.
Make your strength equal all over your body.
Your muscles must be able to contract, stretch, relax and become firm in harmony with each other.
Your strength must come from inside you and then radiate out.
When moving, slowness excels over speed.
Be relaxed rather than impatient.
Your movement should be slight but your spirit should be full.
(Wang Xiang Zhai)
New students often think of tai chi as just being about qi and mystical energy flow. This is foolish and somewhat childish.
Tai chi requires your body to be used in a physical manner. As such, your bones, joints and muscles need to operate in a strong, healthy manner.
The placement of your feet, and the position of your pelvis and hips are all important. A poorly aligned foot or knee will create difficulties.
An unstable pelvis will torque the knee joint. Strong, healthy muscles are vital. Flaccid muscles will not support your joints.
When students are asked to adjust a badly positioned foot, they typically respond, "But that is the way it has grown - it just goes like this."
They are of course correct, but that does not mean that the habitual position is healthy.
The muscles of the legs and feet are responsible for the placement of the bones, and faulty muscle use can be corrected; slowly and patiently.
We live in a lazy leisure-oriented culture. Most people are not in any way fit. Many people have chronically shortened muscles or stiff muscles that are not appropriately exercised.
Often muscles are exercised in an abusive manner.
Our syllabus builds your strength up slowly and gradually, increasing the demand and range of strength required.
A series of challenges will extend your ability to use your muscles without tensing or tiring.
The tai chi will increase your muscle size to a certain degree, but mainly the muscles just become more toned and dense.
If you want to deliberately grow larger muscles, you will need to do a lot more training than average and perhaps work with heavy weapons.
Over-training is not encouraged by Sifu Waller because it can over-work the joints and is unnecessary.
Remember that tai chi is not really about muscle-building; any growth is simply a side effect of doing the standard training. Tai chi is not designed to bulk-up your muscles.
It is not body building.
Exaggerated scapula usage and closed movements can lead to over-development of the back and shoulders and a weakening of the chest, stomach and abdomen.
Ideally, the front and back of the body must balance one another, creating a strong, upright posture. Unusual breathing methods can also potentially be a problem.
An exaggerated use of the abdomen and sides when breathing from the diaphragm can lead to a 'pot belly' appearance, where the muscles of the lower abdomen are too large and abnormally shaped.
Let the breath be internal, and ensure that any conscious breathing practice is barely discernable from the outside.
Whole-body use is not simply an expression, nor is it purely intent or qigong. For each and every tai chi movement, the muscles of your body must work in unity to produce the effect.
Not just the shoulders or arm. Not just the waist. You must feed power through the frame using every muscle of the body combined.
This is far harder than it sounds but well worth the effort. Your muscles must never tense. They need to remain soft and loose, with a very subtle stretch.
Unify the body to share the work
Imagine if there was a job to do and the work went to just one person. Now imagine if that same volume of work was shared by an entire team of people? That is what whole-body muscle use is about.
Operating with good use
could be described as doing everything with the minimum possible muscular
effort. We want just enough tension in the muscles for them to do what is
required at any given moment, no more and no less. 'Maximum output from minimum
muscular effort' would be one definition of the most efficient use of the body.
created 17 April 1996
Last updated 07 November 2018