Unite upper & lower

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There is a serious tendency towards slumping in taijiquan: relax does not mean 'collapse'.
This habit can put some serious strain on the knee joints, forcing the soft joint to take the entire body weight.
The knee is a weight-transference joint, which means that it is good for brief bending and releasing but not prolonged squatting.
The upper and lower parts of the body must unite in movement and stillness; and this cannot occur when the lower body just collapses into the knee joint.
This particular neigong is concerned with tying the legs into the centre of the body, so that your movements can start and stop as one.

Joints & vertebrae

Joints are for flexing, not for sustained holding. They must be allowed to store and release as part of the movement - with no forcing at all.
It needs to be a soft action.
This is the beginning of what is called 'folding'.

The centre, not the joints

The ankles, knees and hips should work with the pelvis, just as the wrists, elbows and shoulders should work with the scapula.
The vertebrae must be gently stretched without forcing, and allowed to bend and straighten as each movement requires.
Everything is directed by the centre and moved using soft tissue.

Soft tissues

Relying too much upon the skeletal structure is a mistake in a movement-oriented art.
It is the muscles that move the bones.
The facia, tendons and ligaments ensure that everything stays attached.


Your body must be connected via the musculature, not the bones.
Any gaps in your structure will be caused by slumping into the knees, spine, hips or a tilting of the head, ribcage or pelvis (and through locked joints and contracted muscles).
When you can feel the soft tissue moving your body, you will start knitting together the entire body.
That process of unity is the purpose of neigong.

Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness.
Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness.
Thereby you can be the director of the opponents fate.

(Sun Tzu)

Bend sincerely

The spine can be connected to the legs using the musculature.
We draw deep into the centre and use the muscles to pull the leg up as the back flexes.
This generates power for knee attacks and can uproot an opponent. It should be practiced until you can perform it softly.

Moving with kwa

If you can feel the kwa moving, it is possible combine a number of neigong for the second stage of uniting upper & lower.
In a bow stance, use the kwa to spiral the lead leg back towards the centre.
This serves to draw the thigh bone and squares the pelvis; it leads the energy up from the ground and into your hands.
It also lays the foundation for what may someday become centre-directed jing.

Soft connection

Soften this newly-formed connection.
There should be no sense of tension in the muscles and the joints will barely even move.
You will actually feel the muscles themselves drawing the bones forwards and backwards; producing a fresh degree of internal awareness.
All of the work is now being performed by the soft tissues. This will someday evolve into deeper skill within your neigong training.

An initial unity

When you can move the entire body as one unit, neigong is present.
This initial sense of unity is a precursor of the future. Train it carefully: practice doing less, being soft and feeling rather than doing.
It is the beginning of your connection in taijiquan.

Going further

Uniting upper & lower is a lesser neigong and only represents a starting place.
The neigong ahead will intensify this connection and encourage a more fluid uniting of the framework.
Be wary of falling back into old habits of collapsing the knees, slumping the body or leaning.
Students are apt to do rather than allow.
Doing has its place, but our aim is for the body to follow the Chuang Tzu maxim:

If the belt fits, you no longer feel to be wearing it...

This will not come about through impatience, over-training, tension or forcing of any kind.

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 17 September 2019