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Keep the elbows dropped
A major source of problems for students is tension in the arm muscles. If you drop your elbows, and feel the weight of the joint, your scapula/hug will have spring to it.
Joints need to be free to open & close without impediment. Dropping your elbows enables you to possess this neigong without any residual tension.
Dropping the sternum
The chest should not be lifted-up or puffed-up in taijiquan. Nor should it be collapsed. Find where your sternum is and relax it. The sternum only needs to drop subtly.
Relaxing lower back
When you drop the sternum, the lower back automatically bows outward slightly. This is very important for jing in the spine. Experiment with lifting the chest and feel how the lower back shortens.
Hip joints move apart
Dropping the sternum and relaxing the lower back causes the hip joints to move apart by themselves. Do not try to force this to occur.
Bow tension in the legs
As soon as you drop the sternum, the legs will engage. Your feet feel alive and bow tension is established. This will prevent your stances from being ‘dead’ and non-functional.
Sinking occurs within the body with only the most subtle outward sign of movement. Let the lower back relax of its own accord; there is no need to consciously tuck the pelvis under.
Sink into the centre, then from the centre into the ground. Let the back of the knees open naturally. Your thighs will ache initially, then your calves and ultimately your feet.
The hips will now be far more stable.
Rooting is a by-product of sinking - it is the feeling of inherent strength and stability that comes from the muscles and joints relaxing fully. Allow the shoulders, elbows and wrists to become heavy and sink.
If you are successfully rooting then the insubstantial limb will feel heavy and solid when pushed. This is a consequence of relaxed muscle, and is not a 'doing'. Be very careful not to brace or resist.
You should always yield to a push:
opponent does not know me; I alone know him.
you lean at all, the root will be broken.
Wrist and shoulder
The relationship between the shoulders and the wrists is an important one to explore. You must avoid interfering with the natural movement of the human body.
If you can move the hands in harmony with the shoulders, you will not cause unwanted tension in the shoulders and arms. Consider the angle of the wrist joint...
Is it horizontal, with the palm facing forwards or down? Is is vertical/diagonal, with the palm facing towards the body or away?
The angle of the wrist will determine where the hand must be held.
Hug a tree
Bringing your hands in front of the body necessitates rounding the arms:
Palms facing towards the body (vertical/diagonal wrist)
- can be closer
- find your 70% point
Palms away (vertical/diagonal wrist)
- require further extension
- find your 70% point
how the degree of extension and the palm position affects the elbow joint.
If you do not maintain 70% reach, your joint will buckle and that will cause you
to tense-up or collapse.
We want the joint to stay open and springy.
Promoting unwanted tension
If you bring a horizontal wrist in front of the chest, whether facing out, up or down... you will feel immediate tension in the shoulders, chest and back. The arm muscles will also tighten.
Students who lack good body awareness and physical sensitivity seldom realise that their faulty hand position is making their upper body tense.
Look at the human skeleton: the arms hang at the sides of the body. Bringing your hand to the front occurs by bending the elbow joint and rotating using the radius bone.
The wrist is vertical/diagonal and the action is linked to the waist, taking place on the horizontal plane.
The horizontal wrist position must be explored thoroughly in order to find and maintain peng, and avoid tension.
18 April 1995
Last updated 20 December 2020