Renegade Taiji : Article 1 : Basics
Since I am teaching Taiji now openly / publicly and not just to a few of my own students I have been meaning to slowly document the methods and principles as we progress through them. Taijiquan is a complex training system that takes time and measured practice to progress through and as such I am starting at the very beginning. If you have trained for years this may be a simple list of things much like Yang Cheng Fu’s Ten Important Points, useful for review or perhaps a different perspective on something already known. But if you are starting out for the first time, with myself or someone else, hopefully these few things will help keep you organized and at the very least inspire thought or questions. I know every time I look through my journal I find more to ponder about the art!
Terminology is important in training and teaching the art as how we think changes our bodies and our responses to various principles and movements. Some of the terminology for the very beginning of training with me are as follows:
Posture: The method of standing we tend to do that is directly related to sexual attractiveness and not necessarily efficient movement or power.
Alignment: The lining up of the skeletal structure versus gravity so the muscularity of the body can relax and be used for work rather than engage to simply remain upright. Alignment also refers to using the skeleton in this way versus power from an opponent.
Stand Tall Like the Monkey: The Taiji method of standing upright and allowing for good alignment, relaxation and engagement of structure (below). Standing Tall Like the Monkey (STLM) is referring to the opening of the back fo the neck (jade pillow), extending the head upwards, tucking in the chin, sinking the chest (breastbone), reaching backwards with Da Zhui (C7 vertebrae) to create a good alignment, tilting the pelvis and dropping the tailbone to point between the feet.
Structure: The relaxed engagement of the connective tissues of the body allowing the muscle to relax (sung) so the tendons and ligaments bear a good part of the weight of the muscle. Coupled with the innervation (nervous system engagement as a result of the intent) of the entire fascial suit (ideally) to create a mobile and soft body.
Principles (Level 1)
Dantian moves first: The pelvis (eventually Dantian) is the origin point of all movement in the body which then ripples outwards through the torso to the extremities.
The Six Harmonies follow the origin point of movement: The three pairs of joints move in succession as the movement from the core of the body ripples outwards- hips and shoulders, knees and elbows, ankles and wrists.
You Have No Knees: The knees must only move forward and backward as if they were on rails attached to the feet. The knees therefore only move directly above the feet and do not roll or twist inwards or outwards.
Hands Out, Elbows In: The elbows must always, with a few exceptions, remain closer to the body than the hands.
The Stone Tablet: At foundation levels of Taiji training the centre of the chest and the lower Dantian (pelvis) remain attached to one another as if they are both part of a single stone tablet moving in unison.
The Wrist Does Not Cross Centre: The wrist of either hand should not cross the centreline of the body. That is the line on the bodies front surface that bisects it. Should a hand need to move to a position that seems to cross the centre the spine likely should be turning to keep this rule.
Shoulders in your back pocket: Keep the shoulder blades (scapula) pulled downwards as though you were trying to lower them into your back pockets. This helps to keep the shoulders down while the head is up.
Staying in Place: This refers to not moving the joints in a limb like the arm and rather letting the movement of the torso move the arm through space. At the beginning this may look very awkward and mechanical but it will train the body to move the arms by moving the torso rather than by moving the arms themselves without the torso.
With all of these we can begin working on how to move and stay in a decent position physically. Next up will be silk reeling!