Tai Chi and Qigong Part 5
Thursday, April 02, 2015
I am going to denote some of the elements that I consider important as far as the physical movements involved in Taijiquan and Qigong. Please note that most of these observations will apply in someway to any taijuquan form or qigong form, but there may be some difference depending on your style or your instructor. There are some basic stances or postures (this is a convenient term in Taiji because taiji is actually a continuous movement activity, except for the beginning and end; there are not actually postures or poses such as yoga has). Many of these will be common to do different styles, however there may be slight differences in how they are preformed.
The differences do not indicate that one form or style is correct and others are incorrect they are just different and it is up to the student to determine what works for him or her and/or how the differences make a diference.
I recently visited an evening tia chi session; it was just before Christmas and the instructor had considered canceling; however, because I had indicated I would drop in he went ahead. It turned out that there was only the two of us. This allows us to talk and explore a little about each other’s forms. We both do a Yang form of Tai Chi. There are a number of similarities and also a number of differences I noted.
I do many “Weighted Turns”, he teaches to never do “Weighted Turns”.
A “Weighted Turn” is a movement that turns a foot while the weight is primarily on the leg of the turning foot. Weighted turns were common in old tai chi form and some qigong forms, but many modern forms do not use them as they are often considered to be hard on the knee. I suggest that they are not hard on the knee if executed correctly, and are terrible for the knees if executed in correctly.
If this risk is correct why bother?
My answer is that the pressure on the front of the heel stimulates the KD1 Yongquan (Bubbling Spring) point and that this valuable at an energy level. They also allow a turn without shifting the weight form leg to leg and this has some movement implications. Paul the instructor I was visiting demonstrated the movements from Single Whip to White Crane Spreads Its Wing. Single Whip is typically done towards the west and is there is a turn to the north leading to the White Crane. When Paul executed this turn he shifted the weight from the left foot (front foot) to the right foot (back Foot) before turning the left foot north. When I execute this movement I do a Weighted turn on the left foot keeping the weight in the back of the heel of the left foot and my central axis is over the left leg. He suggested I should take the weight out of the left foot before doing the turn. I noted that I do the weighted turn deliberately, and that I believe it actually has a benefit energetically as it stimulates the KD1 Point. I also noted that I understood the concern about doing weighted turns and that he could physically check my knee as I did the turn to see if he detected strain. I demonstrated that the weight was in the left heel, the turn was from centre and the thigh and lower leg turned together without undue torque on the knee. He accepted that with bear feet on a fairly smooth this might be true but expressed doubt about his in shoes on grass or concrete. I also noted that his turn required that he transfer the weight from left to right and then back into the left after completing the turn. From a Martial point of view this was needless movement and also tended to telegraph a lot of information. He noted that he had a discussion with a friend who did energy work and who had also made a comment about heel pressure stimulating KD1. Paul conceded he might have to do a bit of thinking about this.
Please note, I am not trying to say that his way was worse or better than my way, only that we did the same movement differently and it is up to the student and/or teacher to understand the implications around the differences.
For some people the Martial Aspects of the movement may not be a concern as their practice does not focus on the Martial Aspects of Taijiquan. There trade off between risk of damaging the knee and the stimulation of KD1 may be worth considering for those who do Tai Chi for the health benefit.
Some school or associations have no interest in the Martial Applications and discourage their students from having any interest in the Martial Applications of Tai Chi. The combative focus is viewed as no longer needed and negative hold over from a time when violence and a need to be able to defend oneself was necessary. I have a bias that the Martial Aspect of Taijiquan is helpful for understanding what should be happening at an energetic level and that part of the healing benefit is related to the correct movement of energy through the body; therefore, I have a bias that the Martial Aspects are useful even when you are only interest in the health benefits of doing Tai Chi.
Other common differences include things such as speed of exaction, size of movement and things such as kick and leaps. My form has some leaps and has both slow and fast movements. Some forms have removed leaps and fast movements. When I get to presenting my form and some of the movements some of you may want to understand these differences and make adjustments according to your own form. Paul and I discovered several points of departure as well as many points of concordance.
Other differences that may come into different styles are the depth of stance (bent the knees are) the width of some stances, the type of step used.
When we step out in tai chi or qigong we can transfer the weight to though the foot in various ways. We can lift the foot heel and toe together; we can roll onto the heel or toe before we lift it. When we place our foot we can place heel and toe together, we can roll onto the heel or toe. We can also place the foot empty (that is with no weight) or with weight. Different styles may do similar movements with different steps.
An example of this is Waiving Hands Like Clouds. This set of movements occurs three times in the Yang Long form. It is typically done moving from East to West facing North. Some forms do each of the sets almost the same, some introduce a cross step. The type of step may also be different. I had a friend who showed me his form and he did the movements with a rolling of the weight from the back of the foot to the front of the foot before picking up the foot. In my form the foot is always lifted heel and toe together. Lifting the heel and toe together requires the weight to be completely in the standing leg before you pick up the foot. This may affect the width of step and certainly alters the muscles involved in the movement.
Most forms will also provide guidelines for the relationship of hands and feet, knees and elbows, hand and centre line, openness of hips and shoulders, relaxed state of movement (Sung). There will also be some standard stances such as the begin (Wuju), bow stance, single whip stance, Heel stance, toe stance, Waving Hands Like Clouds, Snake Creeps down, etc.
My hope is that I am laying the ground work for understanding the rest of my notes, and for evaluating how you might use what I have to present about Tai Chi and Qigong based on my experience in a way that will allow you to assess how my comments might apply or not apply to the form(s) that you do.